A Tale of Two Cherry Trees

One of the things we really want to do on our homestead is establish an orchard, where we can grow our own apples, plums, peaches, and cherries. Last year, we started down this road by planting two varieties of cherries: Morello (sour cherries) and Rainier (sweet cherries).

I am not actually a huge cherry fan, mostly because the varieties you usually find in the store don’t appeal to me (I don’t know what it is, but Bing cherries just gross me out).

While living in the Pacific NW, however, I discovered the Rainier cherry at a roadside stand and fell in love. Rainiers are not overly sweet, they’re crisp, tart and have a fresh, complex taste that makes the gross, overly sweet and mushy Bing pale in comparison. (I’m biased, can you tell?)

I also love cherry pies, but finding fresh sour cherries to bake with is challenging (I used to call ahead to my favorite vendors at the Portland farmers market to have them hold a crate of sour cherries for me to pick up) and they were also expensive.

So, long story short, we opted to plant some sour cherries and some sweet eating cherries.

We planted two trees of each variety last spring, and babied them all through the summer. We lugged gallon after gallon of water down to our little orchard. We mulched. We fenced (deer are incredibly destructive to young trees here, especially in the hot dry summer months when they are desperate for moisture). Then we waited, all through the long, cold winter.

Finally spring arrived and the trees budded out. The Morello cherries started to burst forth with white blossoms, which attracted hundreds of wonderful pollinating bees.

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Morello Tree #1
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Morello Tree #1 (with Preschooler)
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Morello Tree #2 (with Preschooler and Toddler)

But the Rainiers just stalled. The developed buds, and then nothing. No blossoms. Nothing.

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Rainier Tree #1
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Rainier Tree #2

I started to freak out. First of all, these trees were expensive (the only ones I could find were older and well established, which are always more expensive than the young “whips”) and we totally coddled them all last season. What went wrong? The other trees are doing so well, and the Rainiers look dead!

So we started researching. Apparently when we got a cold snap this past April, it caused the Rainiers (but not the Morellos, strangely) to go dormant. They’re sort of in a state of suspended animation.

All we can do (according to the Googles, and a local nursery) is keep coddling them, put extra mulch around the trees to retain moisture, and keep them well-watered. And hope that next year, they will rally. (On the plus side, if they do make it, they will be hardier for this experience – IF they make it, that is. I’m hoping against hope they do.)

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Ready for mulchin’

It’s amazing how emotionally invested you become, when you exert so much of your time, energy and finances into these various little initiatives.

We are so completely wrapped up in the well-being of every plant in our garden, every tree in our orchard, every chicken in the coop, every freaking solider fly larva in the compost. We cheer them on, and hope for them to succeed. Which is tough, living in the location we do, where frost, drought, and predators (coyotes, hawks, and eagles for the chickens; ground squirrels, moles, deer and rabbits for the plants) all seem to stack the odds against us.

But we keep trying. This homesteading stuff is a lot of work. I grew up on a farm, so I knew that going into it. Establishing a homestead, on top of full-time work for both me and my husband, plus raising two small children, is no small task. But we have no doubt that it is worth it. Living here, tending the land, growing our food – this feeds our souls in a way that nothing else can. So we will keep mulching, keep fencing, keep on cheering for all the little life forms on this beautiful little piece of earth.

And maybe someday we’ll be able to eat some cherries.

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