Of all the jobs we do on a ladder in a peach patch—pruning, thinning and harvest—thinning is the least physical and most pleasant. Our days are in the 70’s right now, the grass on the berms is green. The fresh worked soil smells of humus and earthworms and the crickets, frogs and birds put together a daily performance anybody’d be happy to buy a ticket to.
As I was working my way through the crew review yesterday, a new guy had a radio tied to his ladder which is fine, but I asked him to turn it off for a second and asked: “What do you hear?” His response was: “Nothin.” (Me) “No, listen!” (Him a bit perturbed) Peaches hitting aluminum ladders. (Me softly) “Listen harder.” And then a smile as he said “Crickets!” “What else?” “Uh … Birds; and I think a frog somewhere.”
Then I said: “I don’t know where your life’s work is going to take you, but I hope you will always be able to hear the crickets, understand why they’re so happy and then help others to hear them as well; do that, and you and everyone around you are going to enjoy a much better life.”
Now I don’t know if he turned his radio back on when the boss got a few rows over or not, but listening to the crickets and the birds and the frogs is only something you can do in an organic orchard that leaves a good portion to native grasses. Smelling humus and earthworms only happens in an orchard that’s been using biological fertility for a good long time.
If I asked the young man the same question in a conventional patch, his first answer would have been correct. The best way to tell whether a farmer’s methods are balanced is to walk into his field a bit, stop and use all your senses; be still and know. If you don’t hear and smell nature, that’s a pretty good clue.
So while thinning isn’t physically taxing, it is tedious, and demands concentration to do it well, fruit by fruit, branch by branch, limb by limb, tree by tree; leaving just the biggest fruit in adequate quantities so it has a chance to grow to a desirable and profitable size.
We’ve had some of you out on farm tours the past few days. Children spreading out cups full of ladybugs is always a delight. Helping to pack the produce in your box is fun, and since we’re thinning, we let the tourers trytheir hand at it for 10 minutes or so.
It really changes your perspective on a plum when you physically take the time to hand thin even a tiny little branch on a great big tree and then look around and realize that every branch in this orchard needs this same work and this is just one little orchard.
So I don’t know where your life’s work is going to take you, but I hope you will always be able to hear the crickets, understand why they’re so happy and then help others to hear them as well.