Winter at the Orchard

Posted on Posted in Farm Life

Taking a break from reports on cider school, here are some pictures of winter in the orchard. In sum: it involves a lot of walks, pulling Audrey in the sled, critter hunting (Clementine and Fletcher), and visiting the neighbor’s horses over the fence line. It’s been a gorgeous winter so far, so yes — this is our daily routine!

Setting out from the house, we pass by the redbud and magnolias, a pile of picnic tables from the orchard, and the bonfire pit.

Ice crystals on the redbud and magnolia

During nice-weather months (March through November) we’re outside for most of the day, so winter’s a bit of a drag for Fletcher. Come February, he’ll be outside with Mike for the whole day when Mike prunes and he’ll be in heaven. Clementine is a bit too wimpy to brave that cold weather for the whole day, even with a coat (in addition to her fur coat), so she’s content to stay inside.

The routine as we leave the house: Fletcher grabs a stick (usually a piece of our firewood) and, with Clementine, races ahead of us.

But on our daily walks, but dogs race out the door. Clementine runs around in circles, scooping snow up into her mouth. She races ahead of us with Fletcher following, and she usually flushes a rabbit to chase. Fletcher is far too involved in the stick he’s carrying to seriously follow any prey, and he’s always willing to answer my call with the eternal hope that I’ll actually throw his stick.

Fletcher never commits enough to chasing critters that I can’t call him back.

We end up taking the same path on nearly every walk we take, but that’s because Audrey knows the most direct path to visit the neighbor’s horses. At each intersection we stop and ask her which way she wants to go, even though we know what she’ll say. It’s still fun to get a response. It certainly makes it easy for the dogs to anticipate which path we’ll take.

It’s pure joy to see our dogs running through the orchard.

Part of the walk always involves Fletcher tracking some imaginary critter. After bouncing around in the snow (and we’ll post a video one of these days), he pounces and sticks his nose in the snow. It’s pretty hilarious, made funnier by the fact that he’s a 100% inept critter catcher. Leave the critter business to Clementine.

It’s not a winter walk unless Fletcher ends up with a snowy nose.

Clementine’s the dog we leave in the house when we’re open during the fall. While she’s not that hospitable to visitors, she’s even less hospitable to critters and deer. At the worst of our deer problems, Clementine chased 13 of them out of the orchard. So far this year, the most she’s flushed has been three. Don’t get us wrong — she’s not a mean dog; in fact, she has a heart of gold. She’s just a little nervous and likes everything in its place.

Clementine finally abandons a woodpile (and presumably a critter) to listen to my call.

This last photo is one I took on a day that Mike and Audrey beat me out to the orchard. I took this photo from the tractor path between the south and central sections of the orchard, and you can see Mike and Audrey in the far distance (the white thing that’s in the foreground is the codling moth trap, obviously not doing any work at this time of the year).

On a different day, I took this photo of Mike pulling Audrey in the sled. Mike’s wearing a blaze orange sweatshirt and you can see Audrey’s red sled behind him.

So that’s a little slice of our winters at the orchard. Mike’s been doing house repairs — very necessary for a house built in 1893 — and machinery maintenance, but February’s pruning season is right around the corner.


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