I just spent the weekend at an orchard that was beautiful and gut wrenching at the same time. This orchard has not been cared for for several years. It needs pruning, mulching, care, etc. About 40 people came and harvested from 50 trees. Afterward a few of us were talking about coming in a few times a year to do a few simple things to help the orchard be a little healthier.
I got to thinking ... what if each tree had some kind of little notebook. Something where you can list what was done with each tree when; What the fruit looks like when it is ripe; is it a keeper? is it good for applesauce? is it good for cider? When is the fruit ripe? What kind of care does this tree like? What kind of special care is good for this tree?
I've tried some things for my own trees in the past with mixed results. I tried labeling the trees with a lot of this sort of information encased in laminate. But the wind would wear them down and they all ended up coming apart and flying away. Then I tried a firberglass post with a keychain with an acrylic picture frame with the edges sealed in silicone. But the chain would break. Besides, I would like the ability to add notes about the tree while I am standing there with it.
I think it would be okay to spend a dollar or two per tree to rig something up. But I am having a hard time figuring something out.
I keep thinking about geocaches that last for years and years outdoors and they all have a log in them that manages to stay dry. Surely something can be dreamt up that would work ....
I think that part of the problem I'm trying to solve is what I saw on Saturday: young people, in their 20's, laying a tarp under the tree and shaking it to get the apples to come down. Then moving the tarp to the other side and repeating. If the apples fall from the tree and don't hit the tarp, they are left there.
They then grouped the apples based on color - assuming that they would have batches of cider that were sweeter if the skin was redder - and sour/tart if the skin was green.
So if the information was in a computer, they would not see it or care.
If the information were on each tree "green when ripe" "ripe in november" "a good winter keeper, but too hard for making cider in the fall" ... then I think these guys could have figured out that color stuff does not necessarily determine ripeness.
Plus, if there is information for each tree, maybe each tree would get a little more respect.
Think low tech: plastic with a permanent marker (perhaps keep one marker separate - up at the farm or something - so that you dont end up replacing pens / removing grafitti).
Write your notes on the plastic. If a note ends up needing to be replaced - just cross it out. If the entire bit of plastic is filled up - replace the entire bit of plastic, transposing the needed information.