Israel

On the Farm: Nursing our Fledgling Apple Orchard



The beginnings of what will eventually be our apples.

Years ago my husband and I volunteered on Kibbutz Sde Eliahu in Israel, working in an organic vineyard and vegetable garden. On Tu Bishvat, kibbutzniks we had never seen in the fields came to help in the garden for a few hours. When we left the kibbutz, the leader of the vineyard gave us a little farewell blessing. We didn’t understand it all but he definitely said to “have children” and “plant trees with real roots, not just tomatoes.”

So, we returned home and pretty much got to work following his instructions.

Six years later, we are grateful to have two small children and a tiny heirloom apple orchard. The orchard is still very young and vulnerable. The trees are spindly and they had a tough time during last year’s flood. A few of them are no taller than our 4-year old boy and have branches as thin as pencils. I am always happy to see a bird rest on one of these little branches, treating the sapling like a real tree for a moment.

Here in Maryland it is still winter and far too early to plant trees on Tu Bishvat. So we are developing our own little Tu Bishvat tradition. This year, we plan to take our children down to our fledgling heirloom apple orchard to visit the trees and give them some much needed attention. We will bring a nice pile of mulch to each tree, check them for winter damage and possibly add a few bamboo support poles if needed. We will talk to the children (and probably the trees too) about our hopes for a day when the trees are full of fruit and strong enough to climb. We will imagine Tu Bishvat in Israel, where almond trees are blooming. And by then we’ll probably need to go inside to warm up.

(Tu Bishvat, often called the birthday of the trees, starts on Tuesday night, February 7. The holiday is celebrated by eating new fruit, drinking wine, and appreciating trees and the environment in all their glory.)

Tanya Tolchin

Tanya Tolchin is a manager at Israeli Harvest, a farmer at Jug Bay Market Garden, a writer, an environmentalist and most importantly a mom. She has a new blog: On the Lettuce Edge.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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