Fighting Nature

In A Year in Provence Peter Mayle explained why he never has a garden:

It would be fighting nature, and nature always wins. It has more stamina and it never stops for lunch.
—Peter Mayle,

Andy, on the other hand doesn’t mind doing battle with nature, even if he often loses. In Our Garden in the Woods I explained why we had to give up on the idea of a garden — after several years of valiant effort on our part the animals convinced us we couldn’t have one out in the open, so we built a greenhouse. Then the drought came and we didn’t have enough water for both fruit trees and garden produce.

But Andy kept the fruit trees going. We harvested a couple of bowls of cherries each year, and finally in 2011, after about 30 years of effort, we were finally going to have a bumper crop of apples. Yeah, sure. We did have apples, but the fire cooked them on the trees:
Those 30 years weren’t wasted, though. Andy now has a better idea of how to protect the trees from critters. First you dig a hole about two feet deep, both for the roots and for the first layer of hardware cloth. The ground squirrels don’t usually dig down further than that.

Then he puts in the first layer of hardware cloth, two feet under ground, one foot above so it can be attached to the second layer.

Next he adds a foot of dirt to the hole, then the tree.

And some pellets of slow-release fertilizer to feed the trees for a couple of years:

Now he protects the bark with tree-guard to prevent sun scald.

Then the three feet of new hardware cloth to prevent mice and other animals from girdling the bark when there is snow:

This picture shows the chain link fence around the whole area to keep out bears, elk, etc.

And if we do manage to get some cherries, he will have to cover the trees with netting to keep the birds from getting them first.

He’s planting seven trees this year: two cherries (including the one in the pictures), two pears and three apples. We’ll have to see if his 30 years of education will be enough. Our standard family joke is, “We’ll have fruit coming out our ears in no time!” Wish us luck. 😀

What about you? Have you gained any hard-earned knowledge in the past 30 years?

Thanks to Mike, Rummuser, Cathy, Evan, tammy and bikehikebabe for commenting on last week’s post.
This entry was posted in Life as a Shared Adventure, Lifelong Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Fighting Nature

  1. Rummuser says:

    I wish you pots of luck.

    I learnt to leave matters about which I knew little to the safe hands of experts/professionals and that it was worth paying that price in the long term.

  2. Mike says:

    Sure — Use the right materials, right quality. I don’t often have to use my little trailer to haul the lawn mower in for repair, but when I do, I have a set of ramps I assembled many years ago from 2×12 lumber with aluminum ramp end-pieces that sets down on the trailer. Earlier in the month, I loaded up the mower to take it in for repair. When I was unloading it at home after it had been fixed, I heard a “crack.” On inspection, both ramps had significant rot. I have the replacement lumber now — treated, of course, so that rot won’t be an issue for a long, long time. It’s in use right now as part of a temporary lumber scaffolding.

  3. bikehikebabe says:

    Andy is quite the dreamer. I think the 30 yr. veg, fruit tree, gardening in the woods at high elevation experience/education is –DON’T. Also now we have practically no rain. Dreamers are good. We do what makes us happy tho’ some things we do are crazy.

  4. bikehikebabe says:

    I told my friend when her right-hand rubber gloves got holes, to turn a left-hand one wrong side out, & blow the fingers out. She said, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I couldn’t understand why not.

    I have a million little lessons I’ve learned from mistakes & also been told about. We help each other (if we listen).

  5. Evan says:

    Peter Mayle needs to learn about Permaculture.

    Lessons. The big one: stay open, stay with it, live works.
    We don’t have unlimited energy (you can reconcile yourself to vulnerability and humility – and it is a liberation when you do).

  6. Jean says:

    Thanks for the good wishes. I agree about paying for competent people when I need expertise we don’t have. I also believe in trying to get some references if possible. Some “professionals” are better than others.

    Yes, we too are willing to pay more money upfront if something is going to last. It’s less expensive in the long run.

    I agree with you that if something makes us happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else then we should keep doing it. Today Andy cut down the old trees in an area we call the orchard and planted a couple of new ones. He took pictures of how it looks now. It is sad, but if the new ones live an grow it won’t be so bad.

    I also agree we don’t have to make all the mistakes ourselves. Sharing experiences helps a lot. I like your idea of the rubber gloves.

    Your lessons are similar to my mottos:

    Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keeps learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.


    Doing the best we can with what we have left.

    The last one needs to be said with a smile, of course.

  7. Jean says:

    Should be learn and grow. :)

  8. bikehikebabe says:

    Lesson learned. What’s Jean talking about– “bikehikebabe,
    Should be learn and grow”. I searched to find out you’re referring to your “keeps learning and growing”.

    I was editing the mis-spelled, mis-grammer of my Sent email & published comments. NOBODY NOTICES. I could leave out letters in every word & it’s still readable.

  9. tammy j says:

    i’m not the one to ask. i cried when i tried to grow a simple big planter of cherry tomatoes on my patio at wee blink bonnie. the farm life is not for me. not in this climate.
    your post plus the drought we’ve been under and our own just regular inhospitable climate makes me not angry when an apple is 2.00. (well. or whatever it is.) i’ll leave them to the state of washington. and thank god somebody trucks them in.
    not growing something that doesn’t thrive there naturally would be my first clue as a farmer! seems cruel otherwise. and the little creatures can always eat … after they break through the prison walls that is! LOL. sorry. but LOL.
    but i do admire andy’s tenacity.

  10. Dixie says:

    This year my God-daughter and I have planted 37 tomato plants – so far. We’ll have plenty for salads as well as canning. We chose Chinese eggplant because of it’s size. And actually it is more of a challenge to estimate the growth space needed for the amount of land I have. Each year more is learned, and we’re keeping a log of the “tried and true”.

    Andy certainly has the challenge, and I too wish him buckets of joy! I’ve yet to investigate replacing my apple trees and grape stock.

    This year I’ve begun leaving larger tracks of land for the animals. Not that I have that many but I figure if I leave them space, maybe they’ll reciprocate(smile). Mostly they seem to love my hydrangea bushes…maybe I should plant more of those away from the garden. Put in beds of lettuce at the bottom of the bushes for the rabbits! Ah life……..

  11. tammy j says:

    i like the way you think dixie!

  12. Jean says:

    Your animals are clearly not as hungry as ours were. As I wrote in Our Garden in the Woods:

    Animals Don’t Understand Sharing

    There are a lot more animals than humans up there. Now we didn’t mind sharing. We thought it was cute when we saw a pile of pea pods, neatly stripped of the peas, under the leafy protection of Kaitlin’s pumpkin plant. We didn’t even mind the ground squirrel chattering at us when we stayed in “his” garden too long. But he eventually ignored us and came in to harvest even though we were there. (We tried two different fences, but they couldn’t keep him out.) It did bother us when we were admiring our handiwork and saw a wheat stalk topple over in front of our eyes, And the last straw was when we watched a bean plant disappear into the soil, to be replaced by a gopher hole.

  13. Jean says:

    The animals have miles and miles of open land to forage from. They’ll just have to settle for the simple life and forgo Andy’s gourmet delicacies. Maybe you can give them a lecture on simplicity? :)

  14. tammy j says:

    LOLOL!!! shoo. go away! this is ANDY’S. you have your own ~
    you little freeloaders!
    how’s that?

  15. Jean says:

    I love it! 😀

  16. Dixie says:

    Yes, I read “Our Garden in the Woods” and found it sad. But the photo of it in full bloom was beautiful… if enjoyed mainly by the animals, they had a real treat!

    The land here has been fallow for 20 plus years. I felt grateful to find my Mom’s logs and notes in the basement. She wrote: “Definitely – no corn.” hahaha. So I guess I’m really banking on her 30 years of hard-earned knowledge! Thanks Jean.

  17. Cathy in NZ says:

    learnt lots

    learn more

    learn to flow on

    sorry, not able to think right now…got some new learning on the stove :-)

  18. Jean says:

    I’m happy for you! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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