Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fruit Trees: A Hedge Against Inflation

I have always heard that real estate is a good hedge against inflation, but how about something closer to an actual hedge.  Can a fruit tree be a hedge against inflation?

With food prices soaring, I can’t help wondering if I will someday come face to face with a five dollar apple.  I've been reading in the news that the price of a gallon of milk may soon reach $8, so maybe a $5 apple isn't too far off.

It is a sure sign of getting old when you start saying things like, “I remember when milk used to cost a nickel”.  But, I do remember when you could get candy for a penny, soda cost a dime, and a half pint of lunchroom milk cost 5 cents.  Yep, I guess that means I’m getting old.

So, as a hedge against that future apple, which may someday cost five dollars, I’m planting a small orchard.  Hopefully, I’ll still have all my teeth, so I can enjoy those apples into my retirement.  But, there’s always applesauce, eh?

I have planted fruit trees before with mixed results.  I’ve had the best success with loquats, olives and pears, though the squirrels always seemed to get all the pears before me.  I’ve had the worst luck with apricots, which never produced any fruit, and a sad little peach tree, which never seemed to thrive.  Last year I added 2 figs and a pomegranate to the garden, and the jury is still out on how these will perform.

My husband and I have a 2 acre home site on the Post Oak Savannah.  Here you will find post oak, black jack oak, cedar elm, and cedar.  I would not call this farm land, but with irrigation, plants will grow.  Without irrigation; disaster.  

We have never really considered expanding past the borders of the vegetable garden because there is no water out there yet.  Here is a picture of what the land looks like in a raw state.  It's not pastoral, and you can probably see why we would not go back there much.  One tromp through the high weeds and you'll be covered in all sorts of sticky burrs.

A year ago when we built the greenhouse, we expanded our land use.  Then, we enlarged the chicken coop and expanded our land use even more.

The extended drought and the Bastrop fire have probably had the biggest impact on how we think about our small acreage.  The drought has killed many trees and the threat of fire has necessitated that we remove the dead wood and try to bring some order to chaos.  

In the photo below, you can see some burned out stumps from our clearing efforts.  In the background is the 60 acre tract of our closest neighbor to the rear.  Even though it's winter, it's easy to make out trees that have been dead for some time.

Over the last 3 years we have removed upwards of 50 or more dead trees from our property mostly with the help of a tree service.  Recently, some friends came for a weekend tree cutting party and helped us cut down some large dead trees behind the greenhouse.  

My husband worked his magic clearing the area and now we’re able to use the space for fruit trees.  The space is the highest point on our property and drainage is good, which is important for fruit trees.  The soil is sandy, but there’s a pretty good top soil layer.  This site will be ideal as soon as we can install irrigation.

Our current water line ends at the vegetable garden, but we can extend the water line out to the new orchard area which sits beyond the vegetable and compost bins.

I marked out the space to plant 6 fruit trees evenly apart.  I selected 2 apples (Anna and Ein Shemer), 2 peach (La Feliciana and Junegold), and 2 plums (Santa Rose and Methley).

Now. we just have to wait for our retirement plan to start kicking in.  Hopefully, some wonderful fruit will be growing soon, but until then at least we can enjoy the beautiful apple blossoms.  

I'm hoping the fruit trees will be a good hedge against inflation, but if not, perhaps my husband will reconsider letting me get that milk cow I've had my eye on.