Old Growth

Photo: PK Read

Photo: PK Read

Across the border in Switzerland, and over in the next county of Haute Savoie, there are dozens of large-scale commercial apple orchards, hundreds of perfectly pruned trees grown to efficient picking height, neatly covered in bird-proof netting. They make for tidy rows of white and pink blossoms in spring.

In my neck of the woods, though, there are only old ramshackle orchards. These aren’t orchards that grow for resale, or at least, not on any large level. The farmers here still press the apples for local cider, the apples are preserved and given away as gifts, stored over winter, and a few crates might make it to a local market.

The number of these simple orchards grows ever fewer as they make way for apartment houses and roads.

One orchard on my running loop gives me hope.

Over the past four years, the twenty or so gnarled trees there have been slowly replaced by young saplings, just a few every year so that there is a mix of old and new growth.

It might just mean that this particular orchard will remain intact, or at least, that the farmer planting the orchard has no immediate plans to sell the land for development. Why else go to the expense of slowly rejuvenating an entire orchard?

There are only three old trees left. I assume this year they will be replaced, so I’ve been taking the time to enjoy their gnarled branches and unruly cascade of blossoms.

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