You're Never Too Old To Learn

The month of May has been full of new and exciting experiences. The first day of work we attended tractor college, meaning my boss Bill taught two girls who only know how to operate automatic cars how to drive a tractor from the 1950’s. Sitting on the tractor for the first time and looking down at it was pretty daunting. It’s just a giant hunk of metal on wheels with other metal sticks poking out all over it. After we were walked through what everything does and got a couple chances to drive it around in the parking lot, far from any danger of running into something, it turned out to be pretty simple to operate. And I love it! I probably don’t go any faster than 10 mph but never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would learn to drive a tractor in my life, yet here I am! Caitlin and I are still trying to master the art of backing up the tractor with a trailer attached though. It’s turned out to be an extremely frustrating task and figuring out which way to turn the wheel to stop the trailer from jackknifing is tricky. But after about 30 minutes of trial and error we eventually got it somewhat near the spot it was supposed to be parked, which was good enough for us.

We also attended carpentry college our first couple of days on the farm. Bill and Molly have been expanding the farm store over the past few years and added a dining room that looks over one of the orchards. Because apple season doesn’t start until September, one of our major tasks is to help finish the dining room so it can be used during the season. Every morning me and Caitlin walk over to the farm store and bump NPR on the radio while we drink our morning coffee and paint the walls of the dining room. Its very relaxing. The room is full of windows so it’s full of light and the view is to die for. There are low hanging clouds around the hill tops across the valley almost every morning that dance along the tree tops. I could stare out at the land all day.

The main courses for carpentry college were chop saw 101, table saw 101, and basic carpentry skills 101. Carpentry college was a bit more frightening than tractor college on account of the spinning blades that are very close to your hands, but just like learning to drive the tractor Caitlin and I picked up on it pretty quickly and really enjoy it! We take our time cutting things with the chop saw, and when it comes to the table saw we use a stick to push the wood through once the blade gets too close for comfort from our hands. So far we have learned to trim windows and lay floors, and we aren’t half bad! Once we both got comfortable using the equipment Bill usually leaves to work at his other building sites, letting us manage ourselves which is nice. Knowing that a skilled carpenter of many years trust us with finishing a part of his business is definitely a boost to the ego and I thoroughly enjoy carpentry work. It’s extremely satisfying at the end of the day to be able to step back and look at what you built and see how it transformed a space into something new.

Over the winter porcupines ate the bark off a bunch of baby apple trees Bill and Molly had recently planted. The damage to the bark prevents nutrients from spreading up the tree and exposes the tree to a higher risk of infection. So in an effort to heal the tree Molly taught us about grafting. We collected branches about the thickness of a pencil and whittled both ends so that they were flat and the small green cuticle of the branch was exposed. Then we made notches in the baby tree above and below the place that it was eaten and inserted the whittled branch into these slots and covered it in wax and wrapped it in flagging tape so that the branch would stay attached to the tree. Doing this allows for nutrients to pass up the tree through the attached branch and will hopefully heal the bark. She also told us that many people will use grafting to make a tree produce multiple species of a fruit, which I think is crazy awesome! I had no idea it was possible for one tree to produce two different types of apples. I can’t wait to see what else I’ll learn while I’m here!

– Jojo