by Meg Corey
Meg Corey owns and manages Warren's Grove Orchard in Granford, Massachusetts, and has just celebrated her first Thanksgiving there.
When I agreed—reluctantly, I'll admit—to take on running an orchard with absolutely no experience, I had no idea what I was getting into. I really thought I'd be staying only long enough to fix up the house and sell it, but that didn't work out.
Now I'm glad. I have come to love the town of Granford (although there were some rocky times in the beginning, like when I disrupted a town meeting and got "escorted" out by the police). I've made some good friends. And I've learned a lot, about farming and about myself.
I never realized how closely connected I would be to the annual cycle of growth and harvest, but now, after a successful apple crop, I understand it. For any farmer, each year is a gamble. Will there be enough rain? Too much? Will there be enough bees to pollinate the blossoms? Will that old but rare apple variety in the far corner bear for one more year, or should I take some grafts before it's too late? Am I confident enough to expand the orchard now, or should I wait until I've got a better idea of what I'm doing? Growing things may be natural, but doing it well takes experience and time—and luck.
I feel extraordinarily lucky. I fell into something without planning, and I've come out of it with a new sense of purpose, and a new relationship, and a whole new outlook on my life. I can only imagine how those poor Pilgrims felt at Plymouth. They must have been terrified, because there was so much they didn't know and couldn't plan for. But on the plus side, those who made it through that difficult first year must have felt truly grateful for their survival. Now I understand why they—and we—celebrate the harvest each year.
Wonder if it's going to be a snowy winter? Maybe I should check the Farmers Almanac…
(To find out about that snow, you'll have to read Bitter Harvest, the fifth book in Sheila Connolly's Orchard Mysteries)