I situated the orchard near the beehives to encourage cross-pollination. Unfortunately, before the bees could work their magic, a pack of marauding (or perhaps just hungry) deer chewed back all the new foliage on the young trees.
Last spring I installed what I lovingly call my redneck deer fencing, made cheaply with t-bars, chicken wire, baling twine and old CDs. Ugly but effective it keeps the deer away, and out of 10 trees planted and then mauled, nine recovered (one of the heartnuts is still under observation) and the mulberries even produced a wee harvest of juicy red fruits.
But the trees will take several years to yield any sizable harvest, and while the orchard is an important step towards self sufficiency, I want to diversify (and increase) fruit production on the farm. So this year I'm planting berries (and a few grapevines).
As the focus of the Green Barn Nursery is on cold hardy and disease-resistant plants and trees (you can source peaches, paw paws, kiwis and seedless grapes from these folks!) and they've done much of their extensive field testing in the same planting zone as the farm (zone 5a) I'm fairly confident that the cold weather won't kill off these plants. (However, I can't speak for the groundhog/deer/rose chafers that have been plaguing me for the last few years!)
It's been hard (really hard) to narrow down my choices because there are so many possibilities (currants and haskaps and seaberries, oh my!), but I'm trying to keep my workload manageable while getting a good cross-section of species established. I'm also trying to balance the initial upfront cost of the plantings against the eventual savings at the grocery store, both in dollars and food miles.
So in no particular order, here's this year's fruit order (with comments about the variety from the nursery):
Polar green seedless grape (2): "Our best and sweetest green table grape for northern climates. Mid-season".
Redliance seedless grape (2): "A mid-season variety that produces large pink seedless grapes that have excellent flavour. Good for eating fresh for for making juice or jellies Stores well."
Strawberries (Clés des Champs, 25): "A mid-season hardy variety that produces a good sized berry that is very firm and keeps very well. These shiny red berries have a very delightful taste and are a favourite for small market production."
While I'm excited to harvest the fruits from these plantings, taste isn't my only motive. Sure, I'm reducing our reliance on bought sources of food, especially berries, which can be cost prohibitive (though we love our local berry farm where the kids and I go to get strawberries for our annual jam making), but I'm also making an investment in this farm and my place in it.
While annuals, such as vegetables, grow and die in one season, it's going to take a lot of work for me to get these properly established this year (especially if faced with similar drought conditions as last), and I won't get to reap the benefits of this work for a full 12 months. It takes a certain faith to put the work in now for an uncertain reward in the future. Over the past year, since recognizing my tendency to get in over my head, I've taken to living within my safe little box, doing things only when I know they'll work out. But it can be horribly claustrophobic in there. And I think fresh berries are a good reason to climb out of my box, don't you?
All images courtesy of Green Barn Nursery (http://www.greenbarnnursery.ca/)