Winter’s work for a vagabond orchardist // Pruning Workshop #1

Hey All — been a while since the last time I checked in to ye olde blog. It’s now that I’m really coming to enjoy the long tacit hours, days, and weeks of winter. This is a time when I can use time freely to work on whatever it is that will make this year more rich in some way. Lately. that has materialized in making custom pruning saws, spoon carving, and working hard on several musical projects. That said, the approaching growing season has me deeply inspired to expand the community of wild apple foragers and stewards in New England. So here are some updates:

Custom pruning saws are now available! For those of you out there who will be pruning any fruit or nut trees this season, you may already be thinking about new blades, keeping edges sharp and clean, or even some new and improved gear. The most central tool to someone tending big and burly, standard sized trees is the pruning saw. Hanging on the beltline while the pruner climbs and removes wood from the tree, a good and trusty manual pruning saw can take down limbs up to 12 inches in diameter with ease. I have been carving custom tree pruning saw handles from hardwoods (hickory, apple, peach, maple, birch, and cherry) and riveting pro-quality Silky and Corona saw blades to them to make saws that suit jobs of different sizes and that will last a lifetime. If you’re interested in me making a saw tailored to your specifications at a price cheaper than organic compost mulch (dirt cheap), $40 / saw, $50 for a saw including a leather sheath for your beltline. All you need to do is choose a wood you’d like the handle carved from, the shape of the handle, and specify the size of blade.

Custom Pruning Saws –
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The redder saw handle on top is made from peach wood, one of the hardest fruitwoods available. The wood on the bottom is Shagbark Hickory, a very durable hardwood that is traditionally used to make tool handles. I hate my cell phone camera: it’s easy and convenient to use in a pinch but doesn’t quite capture the true quality of the wood grain. The blades these are outfitted with are Corona brand, an industry standard for pruning equipment. The two saws pictured here are 16″ curved razor saw blades. Other sizes available. Just get in touch.

Pruning Workshops  Will take place in late February ! I am planning on hosting one workshop in Western Massachusetts, and one workshop in Quiet Corner Connecticut.  Both of these regions are home to many wild apple trees and cultivated trees that have been neglected for years. At these workshops, you will learn methods of pruning, and have the opportunity to prune one or more trees for yourself under the teamwork and guidance of a group. Learning how to properly prune trees will result in an ability to make fruit freely available for yourself and others. By pruning trees in public places, or trees that are not cared for, you are participating in a revolution: a renewal of knowledge of a great traditional of perennial agriculture. Improving the health of trees in your area will make the edibility of your local landscape higher. Dates and signup details below: How d’you like them apples?

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Taken from an orchard tour I led last year at Small Ones Farm in Amherst, MA….the pruning workshops will not be sleeveless t-shirt weather though!!

FEBRUARY 17th In Western Massachusetts, we will prune trees on the campus of Hampshire College, situated in South Amherst. This is the campus of my alma mater, and is a site of ongoing apple tree renovation in a 75+ year old orchard. Many of these trees were planted before the days of standardized dwarfing rootstocks, so a variety of tree sizes exist in these plantings. There are enough trees for everyone to prune trees that haven’t seen care in a few seasons, as well as others that are 1 or 2 seasons into a renewal pruning regiment. All equipment will be provided, just bring your best attitude.

FEBRUARY 11th In Connecticut, we will prune trees in the town of Mansfield, located on Wormwood Hill Road, at the site of an old homestead, near Joshua’s Trust Headquarters. This orchard planting is beautiful, pear and apple trees are interspersed throughout the woods and surrounded by cow pastures and hayfields. It is easy to forget what time period you’re in while walking through this orchard. A small orchard consisting of 6 apple trees and 2 pear trees, they were pruned at one point in history, but have now reverted to self-care, growing unruly and in need of some TLC. All equipment will be provided, just bring your best prunin’ attitude.

To sign up for one of these pruning workshops, contact me//Gnarly Pippins through any means you have available (WordPress, email, facebook, instagram) and let me know what workshop you would like to attend. Attending a workshop such as the ones I’m offering on  pruning are many times more valuable than learning from any books or articles. Learn by EXPERIENCE when practical skills are involved!

Here in New England, we are experiencing some insane weather, snow, rain, snow rain, 50 and sunny, rain, snow, etc. etc. This pattern, in many ways, is a degeneration of the “norm.” It is indicative of “usual Winter conditions” migrating into patterns of unpredictability and abnormality. Many orchardists pride themselves on getting out in the orchards and pruning in January, before the lazier orchardists do in February and March. Depending on the size of the job this can also have some bearing. HOWEVER! The downside of pruning early, is that it can have the effect of bringing trees out of dormancy. It tends to wake the tree up by influencing the flow of hormones throughout the tree. As soon as you start cutting branches away from the trunk, the tree is beginning to respond to the new wounds even though dormancy is still dominant in the tree. If pruning is all done in January, and there are still 4 or 5 rounds of temperature fluctuations between Winter and Spring-like ranges, then your trees may be in for a bit of heartbreak as they begin pushing sap earlier! Pruning in Late February and March is a safer bet, as Winter *should* still be solidly moving forward, but Spring is closer and the possibility of a warm spell during a time that should rightly be cold (under pre-global warming conditions) will be lower.

The Wild Apple Forager’s Guide will be back in print by February 1st, and it’ll be better than ever! It will feature several improvements: a new front and back cover design, and pages in the back of the book that will act as a worksheet to document wild apple trees in the reader’s own travels. I am excited to have a new edition printed and to share it with you all in the new year. Persistent apologies to all those who wished to get a copy but could not due to shortages!

For now that’s all to report. More information on workshops this year TBA. Stay tuned, stay gnarly, and please…..don’t be a stranger y’all. Until Spring comes I’m a [relatively] free man. If there are any trees you’d like to see renovated, any tree you would like to have planted, please let me know as I am always enthusiastic to help out other fruit tree people. Let’s do something together!

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