Tractor work is akin to an astronaut hurtling through space encountering the light from distant, sometimes vanished worlds. Through the early morning dazzle of incandescent leaves lit by the nearest sun, are the most ancient memories; rootstock that has been repeatedly felled yet continues to thrust up limbs for budding. These tempting fresh leads should be ignored. They lead to the heartache of continually pruning the accompanying suckers.
Next in time are those trees budded last year. These are repeat offenders, recidivist rootstock, best ignored, but not last year. They are now our legacy.
Between the established trees are the beanpoles budded several years ago. They often stand over 2 m tall, with a single trunk and multiple dwarf branches.
The ‘chandler’ are spindly ballerinas. The ‘sandiland’ are stocky. The pollinators are just in leaf. These three varieties provide the justification for the tractor journey but when you are en route you realise the true extent of the orchard population. Apart from the time capsules of successive budding success-rates, you come upon galahs, crows and sparrows dining out on leftovers from one neighbour’s oat harvest; the other’s kids on motorbikes, ATVs and buggies.
Stumbling upon the existing evidence of walnut progression to maturity is like sighting the light from deep space stars.