Kris Smith
About Author
April 17, 2018

Orchards and Outbuildings

Spring is finally here and if you are like us, you want to be outdoors.

Like every spring, there are lots of annual maintenance jobs that aren't super fun, but just need to be done. Some of these drudgery tasks at Pheasant Run are the never-ending raking of leaves, cleaning out flowers beds, pumping the sludge from the pond, cleaning window wells, etc. But in the middle of these need to's we like to mix in the want to's to keep us motivated and happy.

The want to project Curtis had planned for this spring was building his new pizza oven. But thanks to a fairly mild fall and winter, and a hyperactive disposition, he has already completed it! When he has a few minutes to help me with the details, I will post about it. I have to admit, it's pretty amazing! Until then, I will just tease you with pictures of my amazing pizza chef and a hot, bubbly, mushroom thyme fontina pizza. ENJOY!

Chokecherry Orchard

The want to project that I have been really excited to complete this spring is our orchard. At the back end of our 2.5 acres, there is about 1/4 acre of what we believe to be an attempted, long since abandoned, tree farm. There are six long rows of weed barrier with grass and weeds growing in between. The first two rows had dozens of small evergreen saplings, most of which were dead and now dandelions and wild Yarrow are growing through every hole in the barrier. Unfortunately, I don't have any before pictures.

When determining what we might plant, there was no question. I wanted a Chokecherry orchard. If you don't know what a Chokecherry is, it is the most bitter cherry of all cherries, and they are more pit than flesh. I know it sounds less than desirable, but until you've had Chokecherry syrup, you just won't understand. Although the juice is extremely bitter, when cooked with large amounts of sugar, the syrup or jelly has the most unique and wonderful flavor. But honestly, what doesn't sugar make great?!

I grew up picking Chokecherries with my family on Taylor Mountain. I loved everything about this wilderness-like activity from my childhood! In fact, until several years ago, I thought Chokecherries only grew successfully in the wild, kind of like Huckleberries. Some years were super plentiful and we could pick by the handfuls, while others were sparse and had to be picked one by one.

After the pick, my mom would wash the cherries and steam them in a special three tiered juicer. The bottom tier holds the water to be boiled. The middle tier collects the juice from the steaming cherries that are in the top colander type tier that holds the pits but allows the juice to flow through. I would get so excited watching the rubber tube at the base of the pot fill with the deep purplish-pink juice and then when the clamp was released, it would pour into the Mason jars.

Curtis and I have shared this hunting/gathering tradition with our own kids. Three of the four of them LOVE Chokecherry Syrup on pancakes and waffles. I won't OUT the anti-chokecherry child (Payton). For the past several years, we have been lucky enough to pick the orchard of some good friends (who shall remain nameless to protect their privacy and our special access). These friends have helped teach us how to start our own orchard.

The very best hookup for this post is the Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District. They have their annual tree sale every January - March. You need to order by March 31st and the trees this year were picked up at the Jefferson County Fair Grounds. I have found hundreds of similar districts online from all over the country. I ordered two, 6ft. Canada Red Chokecherry trees,  twenty, 8inch Chokecherry seedlings, two, 5ft. apple trees, a 300ft. roll of weed fabric and 100 wire fabric staples, all for under $300. We rolled over the old weed barrier with the new but it only covered two rows. This will get us started this year and I will definitely order again next year!

They seem tiny now, but they should produce in as little as three years! Even sooner for the larger trees.

Special thanks to my BYU-Idaho student friends, Justin and Adam for all your help!

Until our little Chokecherry orchard starts producing, we will load up our best pickers (DW-Dad and Grammy) and head north to our friend's orchard.

Sharing our Chokecherry Syrup with friends and family at Christmas time is another favorite tradition. We hope to someday produce enough juice to sell our syrup to new friends. Stay tuned!


Now for a quick note on our outbuildings. We have a large red barn, a detached single car garage which is our wood shop, a playhouse and a bunkhouse that our youngest son Alex named The Shack. Last fall I told Curtis that I couldn't stand the thought of looking out my kitchen windows all winter at the multicolored shop and playhouse. He agreed and gave both a fresh coat of white paint. WOW! What a difference paint can make. I loved the gray doors, so Curtis matched the stain and gave them a fresh coat, as well.

Our favorite getaway destination is SunValley, Idaho. Like I mentioned in my last post, I love surrounding myself with things I love. The metal suns are yet another part of a collection that invokes happy thoughts.

Last summer we replaced all the windows in the shop with vinyl that actually open. I loved this old door so much, especially the knob, that we just patched, sanded and painted it. Don't always choose function over revitalizing the past.

Big Red Barn

The 107 year old Big Red Barn is currently undergoing a major renovation. I will be posting barn updates every Wednesday, starting next week. Looking forward to a barn dance this fall!

Grab your partner dosey doe!

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