Monday, April 9, 2012

Moonlight, Fires, and Blossoms

The warm winter and spring we have had has been a delight to us all. 

Except those who rely on nature for their livelihood.

The trees in the orchard blossomed early this year.  Too early.

If there was no frost then it wouldn't necessarily matter that the blossoms came early; it would only be an early crop.

Alas, the frost did not stay away.

To keep the frost from killing the blossoms we had to keep them warm. 

There are many methods of keeping the blossoms from the frost, but with the size of orchard I work for, setting fires through the trees for warmth is the most efficient/effective way.

The first frost came in the early morning of March 27th.  I wanted to help set the fires so bad. 

I had read about this in a book a few years ago and never realized they still used smoke and fire to fight frost.

I only have one chance at life and want to experience all I can while I am alive. 

I wanted to experience this.

I didn't help them do the fires the morning of the 27th. (You have to start at 4 am and with being a single mom...this isn't a convenient thing).

I told my mom I was disappointed and she said if it happens again she would keep the kids for me.

Unfortunately for the farmers, the frost came again. 

They were planning on Friday for the next morning.  I asked my boss if I could come help.  I think he was a bit surprised that I actually wanted to do it. 

Saturday morning came early.

A text came at 3:22 am with a 'get up and get going' message. 

I was at the orchard at 3:50 am, ready to go. 

They handed me lighter fluid and a lighter. 

I was to go out with the group of guys and start fires. 

It was a full moon and absolutely amazingly beautiful.  I think God comes to earth to walk through an orchard on nights where there is a full moon.  It's that peaceful.

As we walked through the peach trees, we would stop and slice open a bag of charcoal.  We would dump diesel or lighter fluid on it and flick the lighter.  

We continued to do this until all the bags were lit; then going back to make sure each bag was still burning brightly.

After finishing the first grove of trees we walked to the other side of the orchard to the other area of peach trees and started setting those charcoal bags on fire.

From what I understand, we were more concerned about the peach trees than the apple blossoms.  The apple blossoms were just starting to come out and they are more resilient to cold than the peach blossoms. 

Through the lanes of the orchard and around the perimeter were large bonfires set.  Two guys were driving around in a pickup throwing on more wood and straw to keep the fires going strong and smoke billowing. 

What amazed me is how much heat all the fires actually generated.  Walking through the trees you could almost consider it warm.  I was really surprised how much heat charcoal can generate. 

There are also 3-4 windmills that were roaring in the night.  The moving air keeps the frost from settling on the trees as well as keeping the heat moving through the trees.  They were so loud; sounding like helicopters.  I'm sure the neighbors were thrilled at the noise and the smell of smoke.

The moon gently lit through the trees making it easy to see our way.  As the sun came up we knew this was the crucial time.  It is coldest right before dawn and is also when the frost starts to settle.  The danger time is right at dawn; when the sun hits the frost burning and killing the blossom. 

We had done all we knew to do and was making sure the fires were burning brightly.  We stood and watched as the sun came up. 

All I can say is if anyone ever has the opportunity to sit in an orchard and watch the sun rise, take the opportunity.  The view is breath taking. 

See the beehives?  Ready for pollinating the fruit.

If you look closely, you can see the hot bed of coal between the trees.

If it wasn't so stressful with the thought of losing a crop, the night could be called enjoyable.  I love everyone I work with and we worked hard and worked together. 

My only regret is not taking my good camera (I used my cell for these) and getting better pictures.

I probably will never get another chance to spend a few hours walking in the moonlight in an orchard and watching the sun rise. 

From what I understand, we had a successful night and the loss of blossoms was minimal!   

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