The phone rang in early April. The orchardman was announcing that our trees were ready for pick-up, and we should really get them planted right away. The weather was warming up nicely. And by the way, where the heck were we?
I gave him a brief summary: that I was currently answering the phone from Florida, but that I'd pick up the trees at the end of the following week in Northern New York.
Fast-forward a few:
The nurseryman, perhaps mellowed by the intervening week of mild, sunshiney days, led me cheerfully to the nursery/orchard cold storage shed and found –– after some confusion about which of my names is in fact my last name (hint: that would be the last one), he dispatched with my maiden identity ("Let's just get rid of this 'Smith' business," matching words with a heavily penciled line) –– and handed over my $400 worth of trees tied up in a neat bundle.
I've only ever bought trees in plastic tubs, with their leaves out and their roots gripping a ball of damp, rich dirt.
20 hazelnuts, a dozen apple trees, a few pears and aronia trees -- an orchard -- weighing no more than a bag of dogfood. Compact enough to fit under an arm.
When a nursery says "bare-root" plants, they really mean it: no leaves, no buds, no hair-roots. A couple hundred bucks seemed a smidge pricey for a handful of sticks. Not expensive compared with retail nursery prices, but still –– to put a twig into the ground and trust that life is sleeping within and that it will waken soon? Such is the brutal mystery of farming, I suppose.
I told him, and he considered it a moment before pronouncing judgement: "Clay soil there." True fact, but I explained about the mitigating gravel-bank and the former dairy barn. He nodded a few times and then gave me what I take as a seal of approval: "You put the trees on the driver's side of your truck-bed, keep them shaded until they get into the dirt."
Well, okay, then.
I didn't mention that I was going to put the trees into my sister's cellar until we* had finished digging the 40+ holes. Or that I didn't actually know where the trees were going to go. It's one thing to be flaunting my non-sub-zero winters. Quite another to be playing loose and fast with the trees.
Shoveling by hand: it was good enough for pre-Industrial folks, so why not us? –– I mean, him?