September has got to be my all-time favorite month on the orchard. I love when warm summer days start to mix with a hint of a chill and crispy fall air and end in brisk evenings. I am addicted to all things Autumn and anticipate this season the most. The heaven-on-earth fragrance of ripening apples and pears fills the air here at Mt. View Orchards, compelling forest friends like black bears, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and birds to wander across the Middle Fork of the Hood River on the west side of our property and stuff their faces with fallen fruit. We often frighten each other when we cross paths on my morning jogs around the orchard.
Our farmhouse kitchen is overflowing with the warm and aromatic fragrances of my absolute favorite spices, including cinnamon, cloves, all-spice, cardamom and nutmeg. Freshly harvested, vibrant Starkrimson pears slowly cooking down on the stove in a warm bath of vanilla bean pods, the nectar of fresh-pressed cider and fall spices make my kitchen smell like amour. I have always believed that there is nothing on this planet that smells more like HOME than a Gravenstein apple pie baking in the oven.
Thanks to wonderfully favorable weather and abundant water supply, we have one of the most beautiful crops shining like rubies on our faithful trees this year. I couldn’t be more thankful. We only had two nights of frost in May, followed by a glorious, warm summer—making 2014's crops, some of our finest yet. As a farmer, you are at the mercy of the weather. There is absolutely nothing, besides prayer and thanksgiving, that you can do to manipulate this powerful force. I have deep compassion for our farming friends in California and Southern Oregon, whose crops have been hurting from this year’s drought in their region. We are very blessed to be planted at the base of Mt. Hood, which provides ample run-off water to keep our crops hydrated and trees happy. On warm summer nights, we open our windows and are quieted to sleep by the gentle roar of the Hood River flowing to the Columbia River. I am thankful for this endless source of water and know that it is a beautiful gift.
Last night, I sat underneath a harvest moon and listened to the soothing sounds of wind whistling through the leaves and the rhythmic pulsing of the sprinklers giving our trees a much-needed drink. Near me was a nearly 100-year-old heirloom apple tree. Every harvest, the sweetness of its apples and the legacy it represents takes my breath away. Its breezes taste like fresh apple peel. On this particular night, I found myself profoundly thankful for the opportunity of learning to run a 50-acre orchard. Overwhelming as it can be, I gain strength from the knowledge that generations before me have faced the same challenges and overcome them in order to make this moment possible. I am so grateful to God for their perseverance, faith, and struggle to leave Switzerland and to come to Oregon with a fruit farm in their hearts—and then to build that dream and offer it as a gift to their children. To all of them, I say thank you. My heart is full and I am a grateful farmer.
Ps. I am sharing a blessing below that a dear friend sent me when she heard that I was moving home to learn how to farm my families orchard. I have read it most mornings before I start my day on the farm and I thought I would share it with you all, for it has been an anchor to my heart in this massive transition home. I hope that it inspires and steadies your heart as well.
For A New Beginning
- John O’ Donohue
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.