On the 6th of March Thompson called me to one of the temporary pens and showed me a family of the prettiest new-born animals in the world,—a fine litter of no less than nine new-farrowed pigs. I felt that the fourth industry was fairly launched, and that we could now work and wait.
THE OLD ORCHARD
March was unusually raw even for that uncooked month. The sun had to cross the line before it could make much impression on the deep frost. After the 15th, however, we began to find evidences that things were stirring below ground. The red and yellow willows took on brighter colors, the bark of the dogwood assumed a higher tone, and the catkins and lilac buds began to swell with the pride of new sap.
If our old orchard was to be pruned while dormant, it must be done at once. Thompson and I spent five days of hard work among the trees, cutting out all dead limbs, crossing branches, and suckers. We called the orchard old, but it was so only by comparison, for it was not out of its teens; and I did not wish to deal harshly with it. A good many unusual things were being done for it in a short time, and it was not wise to carry any one of them too far. It had been fertilized and ploughed in the fall, and now it was to be pruned and sprayed,—all innovations. The trees were well grown and thrifty. They had given a fair crop of fruit last year, and they were well worth considerable attention. They could not hereafter be cultivated, for they were all in the soiling lot for the cows, but they could be pruned and sprayed. The lack of cultivation would be compensated by the fertilization incident to a feeding lot. The trees would give shade and comfort to the cows, while the cows fed and nourished the trees,—a fair exchange.
The crop of the year before, though half the apples were stung, had brought nearly $300. With better care, and consequently better fruit, we could count on still better results, for the varieties were excellent (Baldwins, Jonathans, and Rome Beauties); so we trimmed carefully and burned the rubbish. This precaution, especially in the case of dead limbs, is important, for most dead wood in young trees is due to disease, often infectious, and should be burned at once.
I bought a spraying-pump (for $13), which was fitted to a sound oil barrel, and we were ready to make the first attack on fungus disease with the Bordeaux mixture. This was done by Johnson and Anderson late in the month. Another vigorous spraying with the same mixture when the buds were swelling, another when the flower petals were falling, and still another when the fruit was as large as peas (the last two sprayings had Paris green added to the Bordeaux mixture), and the fight against apple enemies was ended for that year.