Waiting for Red Winged Black Birds by Zeke Goodband

It’s sugaring season in in Vermont  now.  The maple trees surrounding The
Scott Farm orchard have been tapped by our neighbors and the sugary steam
and smoke drifts from the sugar houses out over the orchard where Ben and
I have been pruning since November.
We have 6000 trees to prune with hand and pole saws.  We trim or remove
braches to allow more sunlight into the trees – more sunlight means
stronger fruit buds and more flavorful apples.  We also have to keep in
mind where ladders can be placed so that our harvest crew can climb to the
top of every tree and leave room for the tractor to crawl up and down the
rows, ferrying bins full of apples to the packing barn.
After about 40 years of pruning each winter, I don’t need to think about
which branches to cut.  In the time it takes to turn from one tree to the
next, I know exactly how I will shape that trees branches.  It gives my
mind free range to wander – will the sheep in my barn start lambing
tonight, Town Meeting business, a novel I’m reading – I get a lot of
thinking done.
This winter has been an especially good pruning/pondering season.  With a
new Executive Director at The Landmark Trust, we’ve been brainstorming
fresh ideas and directions for The Scott Farm.  While pruning this winter
I’ve been thinking about the new plantings going in this spring and
planning ahead for renovating the orchard with new varieties of fruit
trees over the next several years.  We’ve been reaching out to our
community and inviting them to the farm, and making plans for new
marketing and educational programs.
So, each morning when I walk out into the orchard, I now notice a little
more melted know, muddier roads and deeper ruts.  Just yesterday the geese
were flying overhead, but I’m still waiting to hear the harbinger of
spring:  the conk-la-ree of the red winged black birds.  When I hear them
I know we have to pick up the pace of pruning, as our time is almost
through.  Spring will be here soon and there will be no more winter day
dreaming.  It will soon be time to put away the saws and take out our
shovels – it’s time to plant the new trees!