It’s not all frolicking in the orchard.
In the chilly morning drizzle, Thomas is setting out to plant fruit trees. Perhaps you now imagine him skipping through the fields, brandishing a spade and a trug of woven wicker to hold the tender plants. Sorry to burst your daydream bubble, but the man is operating an excavator.
He looks comfortable enough in the seat of the machine, but tells me the work is exhausting nevertheless. It’s quite a bit of an upgrade from driving a vintage Land Rover or a tractor. Practicing with unfamiliar controls and gauges, making sure to stay on firm and level ground, there’s a lot to take in.
First, a large swath of orchard overgrown with impenetrable thickets of brush, bramble and wild trees needs clearing. Once the trees have toppled, we’re chipping branches and chopping trunks for fire wood. There are backbreakingly heavy tree roots to dispose of and we learn that digging holes in Lescure’s clay soil is no mean task. Boom, pivot, bucket. And repeat. For days and for hours on end, we’re toiling away at the land. Until the sun breaks through and we’re looking at open grassland and ten beautiful holes for planting.
It’s wonderfully romantic to add to Lescure’s original cider orchard, to plant young trees in sight of the old ones that sigh nostalgically at our efforts. They too were once planted, have felt, through the ages, the tending hands of men and women, now long forgotten. Our cider apples and perry pears are not suitable for eating, so we’ve chosen old varieties that are especially good for eating out of hand and cooking – like the Bonne Louise and the Reinette de Brive. Thomas, satisfyingly tired from a job well done, overlooks his land. We’ve watered, we’ve mulched, and we’re ready to play a gentle game of defense with the deer and wild boar. Here’s hoping that next spring, the orchard’s youngsters will sparkle with the blossom of new life and promise.