So, the grandchildren (and parents) were visiting last Sunday and we walked through the orchard to see if there was any new growth. I was so excited to see peaches on the newer trees that have not produced before and apples coming along, too. Once again, I am hopeful that we will have a good crop of fruit. Tom is being diligent about checking for disease and damage. We even have blueberries and blackberries, at this point. We are cautiously optimistic and will be checking on a regular basis.
We are looking forward to a good season for 2013.
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|Weather 1, Shade Tree 0|
So, here we sit on Saturday morning on what should be a very busy time getting ready for a fun day at the orchard. So, here we sit. It is pouring down rain and not an end in sight. All of the prep and planning for naught. We are trying to find a bright side and we will be hanging out at the store if any brave souls venture out this way. I guess one bright side is the store looks great. Katie has worked hard cleaning, painting and stocking, getting ready for today. She has been invaluable to us and we appreciate her more than she will ever know.
Looking out over the farm on this rainy morning, everything is so lush green. I have to stop and be thankful for where I live and what we do. I wouldn't be anywhere else. So, go ahead and rain. In the big scheme of things, it's a blip on the screen. We are looking forward to a good season at the orchard this fall. We're already one step ahead with a spic and span store all set and ready to go.
Oh, OK. I still wish it would stop raining....
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|Weather, Weather, Weather|
So, I know the success of the orchard is totally dependent on the weather and it has been a strange weather year so far. Yesterday was a bit bizarre. I was in Kansas City and our flight was held up for several minutes while we waited our turn to be de-iced. In April. It was quite disconcerting.
Now we are hosting the first annual apple blossom festival this Saturday, April 27. You plan and prepare and buy STUFF to get ready and the latest weather forecast is 70% chance of rain. We are doing every kind of anti-rain dance we can think of and then some. We have been so excited and nervous since it is our first festival. We want everything to be perfect and we have plotted, planned, replotted and replanned. And it's supposed to rain.
I think I will just will it not to rain. Yeah, that's what I'll do. That should work.
Hope to see lots of folks out to the orchard on Saturday. It will be a fun day rain or shine.
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So, we're going to try something new this year. We are having this apple blossom festival on April 27th. We got to thinking that no one gets to see the orchard at its prettiest - when it is in full bloom. The trick was to schedule the festival when the trees are in full bloom. It is definitely an educated guess. We had hoped to have it the weekend before, but too many life events kept getting in the way, so we pushed it to the 27th. I think we lucked out due to some late cold weather. As of this date, the peach trees and pear trees have blossoms, but the apple trees don't yet. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they won't start to blossom for another week, but even if they start later this week, they should still have blossoms for the festival.
Katie Woodard, our neighbor and orchard assistant (for lack of a better term) has been wonderful in doing most of the plotting and planning for the festival. We have been lucky to have her for the past 3 seasons. She will be leaving us for the full time job she has been planning and praying for the past 3 years. We are so proud of her, but will miss her dearly. We know she will still be around on a limited basis, but it won't be the same. We wish her the best of luck as she pursues her dreams.
We have our first non-family wedding booked for September. Our daughter got married here last June and it was beautiful. We are so excited to host this special event. I hear everyone, including the bride, will be wearing cowboy boots - perfect for an outdoor wedding on the farm.
Tom and his helper, Dalton, have been pruning and hope to finish this week. the orchard is looking so good and we have been working hard to ensure we will have plenty of healthy fruit. Tom has been studying and talking with experts about making improvements and we are confident the hard work will pay off.
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So, I'm not so consistent with my blogs. I'm going to try and do better this year.
We lost just about all of our peaches when straight line winds came through the last week of May. It was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced and I have been in a tornado. Several of the younger trees (mostly apple) were blown down, too. Most of the peaches, which had been looking so good, landed on the ground and one of our mature peach trees was cut in half. The peaches that managed to stay on the trees, looked like they had hail damage. They were not pretty and there was not enough to even call it a crop.
On the other hand, apples are looking pretty good still. There are a few trees that don't look great, but we are pretty excited about this year's crop. We have had several years of not much, so we are hoping that things will continue like they are now. I'm trying not to get too excited, but I can hardly help it.
It has been a big year for us. We finally took the plunge and started remodeling our old farmhouse. As of this writing, we are not completely finished, but it is getting close. I have heard, and now agree, that remodeling a house is a true test of a marriage. I am happy to report that I still love my husband. There have been some tense moments, but we have not killed each other. I think that says a lot. We are trying to stay focused on the end result and that has helped. I think we are going to be very happy with it.
We have been adding to our operation every year and this year is no exception. We have purchased more picnic tables which will be great for our school groups as well as regular visitors who like to bring a picnic lunch out and spend some time with us. We hope to have a few more things for the kids to do, too. More on that later. Our store inventory will be expanding and it looks like fried pies will be a regular item! Yum!
It's going to be a good year. Hope to see you soon at Shade Tree.
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We are completing our 3rd week of being open and it has gone well. We had our first group on Thursday and had a great time. Thanks to the Ft. Campbell Home School Group for visiting!
We are still struggling with pick your own. Not only because we've been hit with a fungus called black rot that has affected about 1/2 of the apples in the orchard, but because of a few bad apples that come to pick. That's all I have to say about that.
I so enjoy the small children who come out to visit. They seem to enjoy our dog, Huck, as much as anything. He is very patient with them and sometimes is a bit intimidated. He is such a gentle soul and I can't imagine our farm without him. He stays at the orchard store all day, laying outside by the picnic tables. He sneaks into the store every once in a while and we have to shoo him out. Yesterday, he sat right at the front door looking into the store. He didn't cross the line, but got as close as he could. He is my shadow and follows right behind me if I leave the store for any reason.
Huck with one of his new friends, Jude
I hope the day we had yesterday will continue to be a typical Saturday at Shade Tree. Lots of families, many who stayed for at least an hour or more. We will continue to try and find more fun things to add to the play area. It is quite rewarding when folks want to come and hang out at the farm with us.
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|Off and Running!|
Wow! Our opening day on Saturday was a huge success! We are so appreciative of all who came out and spent some time with us at the orchard. Tom made cider twice and we gave away the jug of cider each time in a drawing. We had the petting farm all day and everyone enjoyed visiting with the llama, miniature donkey, snow goose, miniature dwarf horse, dwarf goat and cocker spaniel puppy that is for sale. All of the animals are rescues and they will be coming to visit again several times during the season. I am excited to support their efforts in giving these wonderful animals a good home.
The day was even more special because so many of our family members came to support us. Tom's daughter, Jennifer and my daughter, Carrie both worked hard all day and were a major reason for our success. I can't forget our neighbor Katie and our dear friends, Danny and Nelda. All jumped in and helped where needed and we couldn't have done it without them.
Thanks to Whitt's Barbecue for being on site all day and to my friend, Sharon, who demonstrated weaving all day. I was supposed to be spinning, but found very little time to sit down for any length of time.
Watch the special events page for upcoming activities on Saturdays throughout the season.
We hope to have some apples worth picking in a few weeks. A few families came out yesterday and were able to find quite a few worth picking. I was encouraged with what they found. We had been thinking about doing away with pick your own, but families love coming out and letting their children experience the orchard and actually pick an apple from a tree. It's a wonderful thing and I hope we can make it happen this year. We will have to be selective with what trees can be picked, but I think we will be able to do it. Keeping my fingers crossed, for sure!
Looking forward to the rest of the season!
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|Heat, Heat, Go AWAY!|
I can't decide if I hate the extreme cold or the extreme heat the most. There is so much to do around the farm and it's just so miserable after about 8:00 in the morning! I walk every morning and it's usually pretty nice, but then, I'm usually out by 5:45 and I have discovered that is the best time of day on the farm. Often there is a fog resting on the fields and in the orchard - so pretty. The heifers in the field right by the house have gotten used to me and don't run from the fence when I walk by. I have to watch our mighty dog, Huck, as he hasn't figured out what a
We look forward to opeing day on August 13. We have decided that we will not be doing any pick your own on that day as we are not sure how many to expect and we don't want the orchard trampled the first day we're open. People want to come out and have the apple picking experience and I hope we can do that, but we want the orchard to stay in tact and the trees undamaged. It is a dilema for sure (my spelling probably is one, too).
The next week will be busy as we get the store and the farm ready to open for the season. I am looking forward to it for sure.
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The peaches are about gone and that is good. Tom took a load down to the farmers' market Saturday morning and just about sold out. With only 3 trees producing right now, we are pleased with the crop we had. Next year, we should have about 50 trees producing, which is exciting.
I walked through the orchard yesterday and most of the apples look so good. We do have one variety that has withered on the tree again this year. There are about 5 trees that are ruined. Tom had the county extension agent come out and looked at them. He sent photos to a fruit expert who gave us some info that I hope will help the situation. In spite of that, we have a good looking crop of apples. There are some apples on the trees in the second phase of the orchard and that is most encouraging. I even picked a few of those apples yesterday. We're going to have pears, too! They look so good.
We are planning a big day for August 13. I hope to have several activities going on that day. It will be hot, but I think it will be a fun day to kick off the season. I have a lot of work to do at the orchard store and I hope to have it all in order by then. We already have some school groups booked, too!
Apple picking season is just around the corner!!
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Everything still looks good. I am getting more optimistic every day. The peaches look like they will be ready in a few days. We lost quite a few due to a wind storm last week that took out 2 huge limbs that were loaded with peaches. Since we only have 3 peach trees to begin with, this is a major loss. Hopefully, with the trees we have coming along, we will have a lot of peaches next year. There are about 25 more that should be producing next year.
The oldest part of the orchard is loaded with apples. I can hardly contain my excitement after 2 dreadful seasons, we are really pumped. There are several trees in the section that was planted 3 years ago that have apples, too. I hope that means that more will be producing next season.
We have pears, too. We have 2 pear trees in the orchard and one in the yard. The one in the yard has never produced in the 30 years Tom has lived there and for some reason this year, it is loaded. The branches are touching the ground due to the weight. Can't quite figure that one out. The only thing we can figure is that up until this year, there was an electric line running through the tree and it was removed back in the winter. Probably silly, but that is the only thing different.
The next few weeks are going to be crazy getting ready to open. We still have several things we want to get done. Thank goodness we aren't doing any more constructing. The first of August is just around the corner!!
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|Still looking good!|
I am really excited about our upcoming season. The apples and peaches continue to thrive and grow. This makes me very happy. After 2 very bad years, I am beginning to become more optimistic about this season. Tom and Tyler have been working hard to keep the orchard mowed and sprayed. I think it has paid off.
We are still deliberating about what new play equipment we want and where to put it. I booked our first field trip and that has me thinking, again, about our ideas about what would be the best addition to our situation.
We will be having an indoor yard sale this Saturday. My daughter, Carrie, helped me get things out and displayed. Now I just need to price everything. I hope to have that all done by Friday at the latest. It's a good way to get rid of things in the house we don't need as well as last year's merchandise in our store. It always feels good to clean out and start new.
The heat has finally subsided some and it's a bit more bearable. Hope it stays this way.
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So, I walked through the orchard Sunday evening and I was so encouraged with what I saw. All of the trees had fruit. We only have 3 peach trees, but they are loaded with peaches. All of the apple trees have apples, some are a bit sparse, but most are quite full of apples. As long as the weather holds out, we are in for a good season. Next year, our second phase orchard should be producing and we're looking forward to that. We have about 30 peach trees in that section.
We are gearing up for the season and making plans for additions to the property and to our store inventory. We will have a play area this year for the children and I'm excited about that. We are looking at play equipment and trying to decide what will be the best fit for our place. We just know that we want it to be farmy in some kind of way.
Storms are moving in later today. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they won't be strong enough to do any damage to the orchard and any other part of the farm.
Keeping my fingers crossed.....
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|Sunshine At Last|
We had an eventful weekend with the cows, unfortunately. Friday night, we were about to leave to go meet family for birthday celebrations when a mama cow decided that this is a great time to have her calf and make a hard time of it! Tom came to the house and said the cow was acting crazy, roaming around the pasture, probably in pain. There were two hooves visible, but that was as far as it got. Tom got her up to the corral and called the vet - fortunately, he was able to connect with one and the vet came out and pulled the calf. He had to use the calf puller - an 8 ft. long apparatus that has that one sole purpose. The calf was a big boy, too. I have decided to name him Spoiler since he ruined our plans for the evening.
Yesterday, Tom went to check the cows and discovered a cow was watching over her calf that had been stillborn. We have lost 3 calves and 2 mamas this spring, which is always tough. I hope the rest of the babies are born without incident. We have about 10 so far.
The apple trees are beginning to leaf and there are a few buds on some of them. Fortunately, this recent cold snap wasn't too bad. I hope we are done with those!!
It's going to be a cool week - probably ideal for Tom to get out and finish the pruning. I think I need to get out and make some photos, too.
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|Cold weather go away!|
So, I'm driving through Springfield as it starts to rain and the rain drops turn to pellets of ice! I am so ready for spring weather to stay!
Tom bought a few more trees today and several blueberry and blackberry plants. Next year, we will have a bounty of both berries if all goes well.
A few of the apple trees are beginning to bud. The orchard should be so pretty in a week or so. I will post some photos when the trees are in full bloom. Maybe we should have an apple blossom festival.
Keeping our fingers crossed that this cold snap won't be too cold.
Check out our Facebook page!
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|Spring At Last!|
After a much snowier winter than usual, it's nice that spring has finally arrived. We have 9 calves so far. We have lost 2 cows, too. One was a first-time mama. Sometimes they have such a hard time and it seems we have issues with at least one every year. We also have a cow that fell into a sink hole, butt first. She has not stood since and we think her back legs are paralyzed. She eats and drinks, when she is fed. She even ate out of my hand, but she can't get up. I think she has an uncertain future.
On the up side....leaves are beginning to appear on the apple trees. Our two pear trees are already blooming and are so pretty. Tom has planted about 100 more trees, many to replace those that we've lost. He also has about 100 more blueberry plants to get in the ground. He has been busy spraying and is in the process of pruning all of the trees.
We have been busy planning for the season and are in the process of adding some fun, new things and improving on some things already in place. This time of year always gets me excited about the season. The temp is supposed to drop to near freezing tomorrow night, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn't get too cold. We are ready to have a good, productive year.
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We've had a good week at Shade Tree. We had a group on Wednesday and one on Friday. The group on Friday was the Pre-K from our local school, Jo Byrns. They were adorable. I hope to post some photos on our web site next week.
Tom and Tyler went and picked apples from the orchard down the road and that will probably thel last time. Tom has begun buying from another Tennessee orchard and they are having a tough year, too. We have Golden Delicious, Rome and a limited amount of Granny Smith.
Yesterday, Tyler, Tom's dad, Billy, and I made a batch of cider while Tom went to buy apples. Hopefully, it will be enough to get us through the weekend.
It's kind of chilly this morning. I think I'll heat up some cider to serve at the store today. Yum.
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I think it has hurt us that we are done with pick-your-own for the season. The hot and dry weather made it a short season for sure. We continue to gather apples from the orchard down the road and Tom will buy from another Tennessee orchard as long as they have apples to sell. They are having a hard time, too. We feel a kindred spirit with other orchards as we continue to hear that others are struggling this year, too.
We will host 2 groups this week. We always look forward to the children coming out to see the orchard (sad as it is right now) and to learn about apples and making cider.
Our cider continues to grow in popularity. Tom is keeping up with the demand and we are trying to stay one step ahead - it's a very nice problem to have. When folks come in and buy 3, 4 or more gallons at one time, it makes us proud.
We now have miniature pumpkins and mums for sale. We will be getting more pumpkins in the next few weeks.
Fall is definitely in the air and, right now, it's my favorite time of the year.
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|So far, so good|
In spite of the shortage of apples, we are having a good season. We are so thankful to everyone who has come out to see us. I'm glad at least a few folks got to pick apples before they were totally gone. Tom has been picking from the orchard down the road, which seemed to have fared better than our orchard; however, he sees an end in sight there, too. He is buying apples to make cider with from an orchard down near the Alabama state line. We will stay open as long as we have apples and cider to sell.
We have had 3 groups so far and expect 3 in the next few days. The kids seem to enjoy what we have to offer. Teachers have been good to give us constructive criticism and we plan to make some minor changes based on their suggestions. It is much appreciated!
The heat continues and will until Saturday. It certainly doesn't feel like fall is anywhere around close. It makes me wonder what the fall leaves will be like. Will there be any color or will the leaves just start falling off of the trees? Dryness abounds!
We'll be making cider this weekend!
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Thank you to everyone who has come by to pick and/or buy apples! We have enjoyed meeting people from so many different places. The orchard, unfortunately, is about picked clean, but we are so encouraged by the number of folks who have come out. I think we might be on to something and I'm already looking forward to next year in hopes that we might FINALLY have a good year for apples. Watching the young children pick their first apple is just too special. So many of our customers are from up north where orchards are much more prominent and apple picking every fall is a family tradition.
We do have apples from a nearby orchard that Tom has been tending. Tom brought in several bushels of Jonagolds and Golden Delicious apples this weekend. They are so good. Even though our orchard is depleted, we will have apples the rest of the season. Tom has been talking to other orchard owners to compare notes and it is a tough year for everyone. For some reason, red apples seem to have been hit the hardest and no one seems to know why. Never knowing what the next season will bring does keep life interesting. We also have a small supply of pears from a local farmer. We're not sure what variety they are, but they are green and rather large. We have pumpkins and mums, too - all locally grown.
We bottled about 33 gallons of cider this past week and hope to make more this week. We will have cider in gallon and 1/2 gallon containers this year.
We are looking forward to our first large school group of the season on Friday. We will have over 100 3rd graders enjoying the farm and learning all about apples.
Tom and I are truly blessed and we don't take it for granted. We never knew how much fun we would have sharing our farm and orchard with folks. We've decided that the nicest folks around are the ones who come to get apples. If we could only find a way to make the season last a little longer....
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|Well, at least we're open......|
So, we officially opened this past weekend. We had some families come out and pick apples. Some folks stopped by and bought apples already picked. Overall, it was a good weekend. My daughter, Carrie, was there on Saturday and she was in the orchard helping the families find and pick apples.
The heat has had its way with the orchard and, for the second year in a row, we don't have a very large crop. Last year, it was the rain and this year, the extreme heat. I don't even know what a normal year is any more.
Our first group of the season will be with us on Wednesday and we're really looking forward to that. We always enjoy having the little ones come out, see the orchard and take a hayride around the farm. They seem to enjoy it, too.
We had a pretty good rain late yesterday afternoon which was quite welcome. I just wish there had been more throughout the summer. I shouldn't complain - we have a good life on the farm and I do count my blessings every day. Never a dull moment? No, there are some dull moments and I enjoy those, too. I need them every once in a while.
We're off and running - our season is officially open. We will be making the first batch of cider later this week. It's my favorite time of year....until spring anyway.
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