Nursing our Fledgling Apple Orchard

The Jewish New Year for trees, or Tu Bishvat is coming up next week. In anticipation, I wrote the following piece for the Jewish parenting blog, which is also running a contest where you can win a package of our organic dates from our small business supporting Israeli farmers. Thanks for reading and Shabbat Shalom!

Years ago my husband and I volunteered on Kibbutz Sde Eliahu in Israel, working in an organic vineyard and vegetable garden. On Tu Bishvat (the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year for trees!) kibbutzniks we had never seen in the fields came to help in the garden for a few hours. When we left the kibbutz, the leader of the vineyard gave us a little farewell blessing. We didn’t understand it all but he definitely said to “have children” and “plant trees with real roots, not just tomatoes.”

So, we returned home and pretty much got to work following his instructions.

Six years later, we are grateful to have two small children and a tiny heirloom apple orchard. The orchard is still very young and vulnerable. The trees are spindly and they had a tough time during last year’s flood. A few of them are no taller than our 4-year old boy and have branches as thin as pencils. I am always happy to see a bird rest on one of these little branches, treating the sapling like a real tree for a moment.

Here in Maryland it is still winter and far too early to plant trees on Tu Bishvat. So we are developing our own little Tu Bishvat tradition. This year, we plan to take our children down to our fledgling heirloom apple orchard to visit the trees and give them some much needed attention. We will bring a nice pile of mulch to each tree, check them for winter damage and possibly add a few bamboo support poles if needed. We will talk to the children (and probably the trees too) about our hopes for a day when the trees are full of fruit and strong enough to climb. We will imagine Tu Bishvat in Israel, where almond trees are blooming. And by then we’ll probably need to go inside to warm up.

This article originally appeared here on offers a Jewish twist on parenting, everything a Jewish family could need for raising Jewish children–including crafts, recipes, activities, Hebrew and Jewish names for babies…and advice from Mayim Bialik.


  1. Hey, I just made the connection between the post I read on Kveller, and the blog I subscribed to a couple of weeks ago: both are you.
    I love the idea of visiting an orchard before Spring to observe and tend. Even lucky kids usually only go to an orchard during the Fall, when the apples are ready to pick. What a perfect Tu B’Shevat tradition and natural connection to the Jewish year.

    • thank you, you are right, everyone thinks of apple orchards as a fall event. Thanks for commenting and making the connection! I am trying to develop my writing and I am very open to collaboration, guests posts etc. I hope we keep in touch. It’s funny, but in my initial blog thoughts — I was going to use the word balabusta too, its such a great word, I love your title.

  2. beautiful post! I have long dreamed of growing an orchard. We rent the farm where we currently are, so the investment in trees isn’t practical here, but perhaps on my in-laws’ farm before too long… what a delightful holiday, new year just for trees!

  3. thanks! I would say plant a few trees at your place anyway, you might just stay where you are longer than you think, or else someone else can enjoy them. We waited a few years before starting ours and I wish we were further along.

    • you’re absolutely right, thanks for the nudge 🙂 I tend to think trees are “too expensive” and each year they just don’t make the cut– we spend a lot on all the annual veggies for the CSA and markets. but if we never start, well, we’ll never start!

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