Acquiring an orchard has kept Jonty Pearce on land with seemingly endless jobs, but is it so different from winter maintenance? he asks

Jonty Pearce:

It was while I was helping my wife Carol (endearingly and accurately called the Indoor Dragon, or I.D. for short, as a result of the combination of her personality and Welshness) pick the apples in her newly acquired orchard that I started to muse about jobs that seem endless. Did I write about the orchard before? The I.D. had always wanted land, so when a four acre orchard on prime Herefordshire soil came up for grabs just after her pension lump sum had started burning a hole in her overalls it was a foregone conclusion that she would buy it.

This had been Want with a capital W. And a business plan without any capitals at all. Well, to be truthful, the business plan was conspicuous by its absence. Don’t get me wrong – the orchard with its three hundred and eighty trees is glorious. It is just that those three hundred and eighty trees have to be pruned and picked, while the four acres needs to be mown. And the only equipment we owned was a strimmer and a garden mower. An antique Allen Scythe and a garden tractor were early investments that became essential when the grass reached waist high, so yours truly drove endlessly up and down till a ‘rough lawn’ emerged. And then the apples grew, and grew. And grew some more. Great huge bounteous orbs of Bramleys, bright red Spartons, delicious little yellow Pitmaston Pineapples, not to mention Coxes Orange Pippins, Red Falstaffs, Blenheim Oranges, and Herefordshire Russets. Oh, and forty pear trees. Carol did eventually realise that she was into orcharding on an industrial scale, but has not yet been able find a clear outlet for the fruit. We started picking; so far a ton of fruit but there is still another nine tons on the trees, and more on the ground. It is slightly more than a semi-retired Indoor Dragon and a still working GP can cope with, yet we are trying. And yes, the job seems endless. We’re on a cider making course next weekend; we may have to console our hard labours with alcohol.

And what has all this to do with sailing? Well, apart from keeping us away from our yacht, my musings whilst endlessly plucking apples from the branches turned to remembering our labours preparing Aurial’s hull for her first launch. We had sensibly arranged for all the old antifoul to be slurry blasted off before we started the repetitive work of sanding, filling, and applying four coats of Gelshield before finally finishing off with four coats of Coppercoat. It did seem that the job was endless. We lived with epoxy thickened hair, stained hands, and aching shoulders from continual rolling and painting noxious substances above our heads.

This was all brought back by reading an article in the nautical press about an owner’s parallel experience during the preparation of his own hull. Except that he had chosen to hand scrape all the old antifoul away before sanding off the remains of a Gelshield layer. He then found that further repairs and fairing was needed before being able to start replacing the layers removed. This type of endless manual work in a cold boatyard, even if under cover, does tend to make one question one’s sanity. Is the means worth the result? And do I really enjoy sailing that much? The answer is, of course, yes. I think. It is wonderful how the retrospectoscope tends to apply a rosy tint to our recollections once we are sipping our second G and T at anchor, watching the sun going down after a perfect day’s cruising.

Have no fear. Endless jobs do have an end. Even though it may only come when all the unpicked apples have fallen off the trees and rotted.


Jonty Pearce: Winter migration

Jonty Pearce and his pontoon mates are made homeless for the winter when a howling gale necessitates some marina repairs

Jonty Pearce: Going clubbing

Jonty Pearce pins his hopes on a sailing club and cruising with friends to ease him through the cold-turkey of…