March 27th was an auspicious day. Ryan Trapani of the Catskill Forest Association led a team who pruned the old apple trees in the orchard at Woodchuck Lodge. Overhead flew a buzzard with wings like long feathered fingers.
As far as we can gather, the trees have never been pruned, so Woodchuck Lodge will participate in the CFA’s tree pruning program that will take place annually over the course of the next three years at least. All the dead applewood was removed into a pile the size of a small truck. The one tree closest to the road, (pictured immediately below) was in the worst shape and less than half the boughs on its gnarly bark remain.
The resultant pruned tree, looking rather like the house of a fairytale character or mythical creature, is one of our historical natural landmarks. When these trees were planted, there would have been no trees in the area and Burroughs would have enjoyed sweeping views of the Catskill Mountains in south, east and westerly directions. Some apple trees had to be felled because they were in too much of that shade.
Last year’s apples were abundant and board members picked them and used them in pies. In two years, we will consider grafting the trees to cultivate a new apple, but firstly the trees will given some time to stabilize. “Pruning is a shock,” says board member Patti Rudge.
Structural pruning of the trees will increase air circulation and sunlight through the tree, which reduces the chance of insects and diseases. The improved structure will enhance the tree’s ability to create fruit buds, withstand fruit load or wind load and the weight of bears.