Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Isaac's Prairie Orchard

The importance to Isaac of his peach orchard is reflected in several entries in his journal, beginning when he mentions the fragrance of the blooms each spring and continuing through the harvest of peaches when they ripen.  Isaac did not can the fruit or convert it to jams and jellies.  Instead, he relished the pleasure of eating fresh peaches to his fill while they were available, as well as sharing his bounty with neighbors.  Like growers everywhere, even today, he dreaded the late frosts that meant there would be no peaches for that season.

The peach orchard was also the venue for some special events.  When his twin brother traveled from Pennsylvania to spend two nights with Isaac on his homestead, they spent the last evening of his visit together, hoeing around the peach trees.  They had not seen one another for a decade since Isaac had left Wernersville, PA to make a life in the West, and the two brothers would never see each other again after that visit.

The peach orchard was also where Isaac scattered corn for his flock of wild quail.  Isaac loved all of the wild birds on his homestead and timber claim, and he protected them from neighbors who trespassed to poach his game.  He fed them simply because he enjoyed having them on his land, not because he ever killed them to eat.  When his flock froze to death during a severe blizzard, he grieved for what he called his "pet flock of quails."

When a traveling salesman called on him one autumn selling apple trees, Isaac ordered 40 trees.  It may have been only a coincidence, but his decision to raise apples happened right after his mare Dolly delivered the colt he named Jimmy, and it is reasonable to imagine that Isaac considered not only how he would enjoy fresh apples but also how his two horses would appreciate the treat.  The trees arrived too late for fall planting, but he set them out in the spring.  Unfortunately, he struggled with hungry rabbits eating the bark during the following winter, and his 40 trees were reduced to only 4.  By the next season he was down to a single tree.  His dream of raising apples on the prairie had failed. 

1 comment:

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

My friend D.D. e-mailed this comment to me: "I enjoyed the fruit tree stories. We are adding a few trees every year and are up to 3 peaches, 3 apple, 2 pear, 2 pecan, 2 pomegranate, and 1 fig--as well as a gaggle of grape and blackberry plants along the fence. Every Spring whispers sweet promises to me...but I have learned that Spring does not always keep those promises!"