Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Down on the Orchard

With all of the rain and humid weather that we had a week ago, the weeds in Jim and Donna’s orchard have taken off. They generally maintain them by hand, or using a hoe or weed mower, but to save time, they decided to look into a burner. A farm in Lancaster uses a flame burner, and Donna and Jim took Irwin along when they visited to check it out.

At the Lancaster farm, Donna and Irwin followed behind the tractor and propane burner, careful to keep some distance between them and the tree row that was being burned. 

“Quite frankly, I was a bit afraid, thinking it was going to be flames and fire,” said Donna. “It wasn’t scary, though, although it did throw a good bit of heat, and you could smell the burning grass and weeds and the smoke.”

Because it was a potentially scary outing, Donna had brought along plenty of treats. And those treats worked like a charm because Irwin was much more interested in the treats than in the noisy tractor and propane burner, not to mention all the smells. The farm was also located next to an Amish farm, and the entire time Donna and Irwin were in the orchard, horse-drawn carriages were traveling up and down the road. Irwin would glance their way, but it still didn’t distract him from getting treats.

To sell their fruit this year, Donna and Jim are cooperating with another local family who started an organic market in Adams County. They pick about 10 bushels each morning and take them right to Oyler's Organic Market. Irwin has been very good about staying by Donna’s side as she picks. He seems to do better when he’s wearing his SSD harness. For him, the harness means it’s time to work. 

There are a lot of distractions while they’re in the orchard, and one really big distraction is Hunter, their Jack Russell. Hunter is their varmint controller. He runs through the orchard and around the trees to keep the rabbits, mice, snakes, turkeys, deer, and groundhogs away. (There are always lots of wild animals hanging around. Last year, a coyote ran by the outer fence as they were planting trees with SSD Judge.) But even with Hunter on varmint control, Irwin stays right by Donna’s side. He usually stands at her left side or lies down, and he seems to know when they’re ready to move from tree to tree. 

Irwin has developed great self control around the fruit, and he ignores it unless Donna gives him the “okay” to eat it. He’s not allowed to run in the orchard while they’re working. However, when they’re loading the fruit and Donna takes his harness off, he gives a “puppy please” look and sits as tall as he can, waiting for the “okay” so he can take off running.

At the market, Irwin has to walk across drainage grates while they’re unloading the peaches, and he has lots of opportunities to work on greetings with the customers. The store has a kitchen, where classes are held on preserving and canning fruits, veggies, jams, and more, and Irwin has become a class favorite. He also loves to go into the cold storage room to cool down from the heat. 

Once they get back home, he gives Donna the “puppy please” look again, asking for a swim in the pond—one of his favorite things to do.

Irwin is certainly becoming a pro at working at the orchard!

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