When we arrived at the Biltmore Estate orchard, we were greeted by about 160 very large apple trees of unknown varieties. Eli told us that the apple trees have been on the property for at least 30 years and it was obvious that they were neglected. There were gaps in the orchard where trees were removed and the few apples that were on the trees were out of reach.
The revitalization would be a multi-year project, but was manageable for a small orchard. The first step would be spent on reducing height of the tree. The next step would be spent pruning out lower and unhealthy limbs.
This winter we are tackling step one: deciding which limbs would be pruned out and then removing them. The goal was to reduce tree height and encourage horizontal, rather than vertical growth.
Royce the fearless arborist, prepares for pruning (above).
The Biltmore Estate has a wonderful crew of arborists, led by their fearless leader, Bill. The crew works 10-hour days and have been busy removing damaged trees from our recent ice and snow storms here in WNC. I joked with them that they must all be "really good eaters" because of all the physical labor they do. Royce responded with an "oh yeah!"
Royce take a much deserved rest after tackling that tree (above).
My job was to be a "brush-dragger". I think I was pretty good at it. Though this week we were pulling brush down a hill. The other side of the orchard will require dragging up hill!
The pruned out limbs were destined for the chipper (above).
Some of the large cuts of wood (above) are headed to the kitchen to make some apple wood smoked delicacies.
Eli got to pull the rope on this tree, but I got to do one too! It is very empowering to pull down a tree with a rope.
Some trees were not going to make it, so Eli flagged them with the "florescent pink ribbon of death" (above). Below you can see one of these poor trees meeting its demise.
So the first step of the orchard revitalization is underway! I can't wait to see what these trees look like and produce this summer. I will certainly keep you updated. In a few years this orchard will be revitalized- I can't wait!
My hard hat goes off to the crew at Biltmore Estate! They are a great and organized group to work with. Maybe next time I can convince them to let me handle one of these puppies!