This Crazy Internship...

I have taken a hiatus from life, so it seems.  Blog, farm, life all tossed aside for the last three and a bit more months.  Why?  To learn.  A marvelous opportunity came my way; a chance to learn from some wonderfully intelligent people about how to farm with both vegetables and fruits.  I look back to three months ago, watching myself walk away in slow motion, especially from my nursing job.  Many of you know that I am an operating room nurse.  I have worked with some of the most well known and respected surgeons in the country.  I have worked trauma, seeing everything imaginable; some sights and smells that I wish I could forget, other things, miraculous, that are still like dreams to me.  It's not that I didn't love that life, it's just that I couldn't handle the stress of it anymore.  Handing instruments with my hands covered in someone else's blood and putting amputated feet in boxes became too much for me.  Nurses have a burnout zone, and thirteen years into my career, I was staring at that zone.  The thing that bothered me most was my lack of emotion.  Nurses often become numb and callous.  I think it is something that we do so that we can survive what we see and the stories that we hear.  Doing compressions on a person during a code does something to you.  It takes a piece of you.

Walking away has been an adventure.  I went back to school two years ago with a big lump in my throat.  Old and college don't mix, do they?  Oh, they mix!  I have had the time of my life and I am so glad I chose to walk this path.  Three months ago, I started a fruit internship with Utah State University at the Extension Research Farm in Kaysville.  I can honestly say that I love it.  I love every aspect of it.  It's a challenge; I feel like I have this giant mountain to climb and it thrills me to no end!

I have learned so much and I thought I would share some of the photos from my internship so you can learn too:

Crop rotation study using summer and winter cover crops.  Winter covers are pictured here.  Left to right is kale, winter wheat, and hairy vetch.  The idea is to study what kind of fertility the cover crops provide to certain market crops such as sweet corn, broccoli, and snap beans.  Really exciting study.  We took biomass samples of the cover crops, tilled them under and then planted summer covers and market crops.  I am so excited to see the results of this study.  We also planted 4,000 broccoli plants, you can see one rep of them in the foreground.  I couldn't walk for two days after planting.  

Canker on a peach tree.  Peaches are susceptible to so many things.  This canker could house a number of diseases.  I have noticed a little corynium blight on the leaves of these trees.  It isn't bad and not affecting the fruit at all.  


Gummosis on peach trees is very common.  It can be caused by a number of things, including borers disease, and wounds.  

These are wooly apple aphids.  These fascinate me.  They congregate around pruning cuts because it is easier to pierce the tree and extract the phloem and the sugars out of the tree at a wound.  These have been a bit of a problem in one particular apple orchard this year.  They insist on living even though we keep inviting them to croak!  They create this cotton like webbing all over the trees, usually around clusters of fruit.  They destroy leaves, decrease the photosynthetic rate, and cause poor fruit sizing.  

We planted a new apple orchard this year.  The orchard will be trialing different rootstocks in a high density planting.  The trees will be trellised and the hope is that the scaffold branches will be horizontal, if not slightly drooping downward.  To position the young branches on the trees we use toothpicks.  The angle that the branch has in relation to the trunk is extremely important.  It makes the branch attachment strong and also fruit production is better on horizontal branches.  After the branches become strong enough, we weigh them down with weights made from concrete and clothes pins.  It looks like a really goofy Christmas tree.

These are rosy apple aphids.  There are three kinds of apple aphids: wooly, rosy, and green.  Lucky us, we have all three!  They congregate under leaves, piercing the leaves and sucking out the sugars.  When they do enough damage, they can affect the photosynthesis rate in the tree, causing poor fruit production.  

Part of this job that makes it so fun, is that there are oodles of good bugs to make friends with...

The beginnings of fire blight on an apple tree.  Fire blight is a bacterial infection spread through open blossoms and wounds on the tree in the spring, it effects plants in the rose family including apple, pear, hawthorn, and roses.  This year, fire blight was extremely bad in Utah County.  We had our battle with it in Kaysville.  Warm wet weather contributes to the spread of bacteria by creating a perfect environment for the bacteria to thrive.  We spent a lot of time walking orchards and cutting out infection.  We had to completely remove two trees that showed infection at the base of the trunk.  Later, we removed blossoms from trees in an effort to stop the spread by removing the entrance into the tree.  

Some unknown insect laid eggs on an apple leaf.  I love how they line them up all in a row.  So neat and orderly, ready to spread havoc in a nice orderly fashion!


Green lacewing eggs.  They are fun to watch, they kind of dance in the wind.  Green lacewings are good guys; if you see these, let them be.  

We have had a boom in Miller Moth populations in Utah this year.  We had a light winter, so populations exploded this summer.  Mothra will swoop down and get you when you least expect it...

Split pits are a common sight in our peach orchards this year.  They are caused by a period of dryness followed by very wet conditions.  They can also be caused by fertilizer - anything that causes a flush of growth can cause the pits to split.  The splits make a perfect home for earwig families to move in and set up shop...  Eeew!

Mutations are common, I picked a peach with a nose yesterday.  These two loved each other so much they grew into each other.  We will just call them soul mates.

This is called cat facing.  It is caused in the early spring by insects that pierce and suck.  It causes the peaches to have puckering on the skin.  

This sad little guy is the victim of russetting.  Look at him... he is honestly sad.  This can be caused by insects biting and piercing the skin when the fruit is extremely young.  

This looks like cytospora.  A canker forms on the tree and then kills branches adjacent to the infection.  It can kill the whole tree if left unchecked.  Cytospora is a fungus, you can see the canker and gumming where the dead branch attaches.  

This big guy is a bumble flower beetle.  Not much of a threat, but fun to identify.  They like overripe fruit, we found him gorging himself on a very ripe peach.  

I found this guy in the orchard yesterday.  He is beautiful.  He was a little cold, so I set him on my shoulder to get warm while I picked peaches.  Five minutes later he flew off.  His colors are incredible.  Dragonflies are great to have in the garden - they love to snack on mosquitoes.  

A nest we found in the peaches today after the bird tried to attack my boss.  The bird and my boss both screamed like girls...

I have also learned that sometimes we are so overwhelmed with peach and raspberry harvest that the kids have to come to work with their mama.  The orchard floor makes a cool and shady place to play and eat as many cull peaches that can be thrown your way.

I adore this life!  There is so much more to learn, and I honestly jump out of bed every morning so eager to get started.  There is more... I will keep sharing photos as I come across all of these exciting things.


  1. Lovely, you are now a nurse to the Flora. I think the age at which we take up our calling matters. I have never felt that overwhelmed or numbed by the work, but I didn't start until I was 30. Actually felt compassion grow amid the gore and suffering, as I got better at seeing.

    I have a number of the blue dragonflies, as well as some spectacular gold ones. You teach me so much, and I'm that grateful.

  2. Zhoen, I just love ya! Thanks for dropping in.

  3. The mystery 'uniformed' eggs are lady bug eggs so good for the garden.


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