In the past two months I have been spreading bark mulch underneath the trees in our orchard as time permits. The mulch suppresses weeds that would compete with our trees, it protects the soil from erosion, and it adds nutrients and organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
We buy mulch every year from local sawmills; the bark is a by-product produced as the mills saw lumber for furniture, cabinetry, and flooring.
In March of 2014, at the end of the polar vortex winter, when it was still cold outside but tolerably warm in the shop, our neighbor Lynn, our longtime employee Emily, and I built a wagon to haul mulch to the orchard.
I purchased white oak lumber from a local sawyer for the wagon. Our generous neighbor Lynn, a retired farmer and jack of all trades who has lived on this road all his life, thought everything about the wagon was bigger and stronger than it needed to be. “It’ll be heavy,” he warned. “It’ll be solid,” I said.
This is the wagon when it was new and shiney. And heavy. And solid.
I load the wagon with mulch. One wagonload holds enough mulch for fifteen trees.
Two of our best employees (both named Emily) and I are spreading mulch around newly planted trees. Early spring is one of my favorite times of year, when the grass is green but there are no leaves on the trees. Clear, clean, crisp, and bright. Everything’s possible. Nothing has gone wrong yet.
I am spreading mulch with our son Andrew in November, when harvest is done and most of the leaves have fallen. This is also one of my favorite times of year. The growing season is complete, for better or worse, short days put a limit on labor, and I can wear my favorite warm work clothes.
Actually, every time of year is one of my favorite times of year.
I love that mulch, I love those people, I love that wagon.