A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Beware The Lambs Who Think They're Goats!

The saga of my fruit orchard continues, much to my dismay.  I planted an assortment of fruit trees seven years ago in a fenced in area of the sheep pasture.  Fruit trees take approximately three years to produce fruit, so after tending to the trees for two years, the next year I eagerly awaited my first crop of peaches, assorted apples, Asian pears, plums.  Our son had decided we needed a couple of goats.  They do clean up a yard of most wild vegetation, but we didn't know they liked bark of fruit trees!  It was too late before we realized they had gotten into the orchard and chewed the bark from all the fruit trees.  All eight trees; gone. We had heard if you spread melted beeswax on the bare tree it might help.  We tried.  It didn't.  All we got was an exterior cabin wall into which the honeybees would build a new hive.  We had left the unused beeswax on the porch and it must have attracted them. 

And so the next spring I replanted my orchard.  Last year was year three for most of the trees.  We got a good-sized crop of Damson plums and Asian pears, and some Elberta and Red Haven peaches.  The apple trees have had a rough time.  But this year... this would be the year; at long last, for a full crop of precious, organic tree-ripened, sweet, juicy fruit.  I walked into the orchard a couple weeks ago.  I stopped in my tracks.  Why was the bark of the trees such a light color?  What is going on?  I moved closer.  The bark was stripped nearly completely around the Damson plum and the Asian pear.  I looked around and shreds of bark were dangling from the trunks. The peach trees damaged but to a lesser degree.   No.  Tell me it isn't so.  I ran to ask Arnold about it.  He said he'd seen the young sheep climbing up on the fencing around the trees, so he had secured the fencing.  But alas it was too late.  My long-last abundant fruit crop; foiled again!  These young sheep have started being naughty in the vineyard as well, climbing up on the trellis wire.  The mature ewes are grazers; are calm, reliable.  These year old lambs must be feeling their oats.  I haven't quite decided how I will handle them till they settle in like their mothers.

Was there any hope of saving the trees?  We tried a new concoction this year that I found on the internet.  It is an organic treatment whose recipe consists of equal parts compost, wood ash, and diatomaceous earth, along with a bit of liquid seaweed, all mixed with enough water to form a paste.   We mixed it all in a five gallon bucket, donned some rubber gloves and spread it over the injured areas.  We also pruned way back, the most affected trees, leaving just a bare minimum on the pathetic Damson plum.

I went into the orchard this afternoon and everything is in full bloom, and all the trees have at least some blossoms, even the Damson.  The mixture we applied seems to be holding up. It obviously cannot replace the missing xylem and phloem, those channels under the bark that are the equivalent to our circulatory system.  But it seems to be protecting the exposed areas from pests and disease and helping the plant to heal.  We'll see how many blossoms actually become fruit.... and how many of these lambs grow up to be sheep!! 

Some pix of the trees in bloom tomorrow!

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