Technique and deep thought are integral to Hubert Ebner’s approach. In late autumn this enthusiastic organic farmer likes to think through the stages of his work and takes out his most important tool: the tree lopping shears. Tree pruning is like a fountain of youth for trees. When they are cleanly trimmed into a spindle shape the trees get even sunlight from all sides and the wood stays as young as Hubert’s attitude to life, i.e. four to five-year-old apple trees. His philosophy is that easy to summarise. “This way the apples develop their best flavour” – according to Hubert that’s his secret recipe for success.
He tests, experiments, improvises. Every year he tries out something new so that he can bring the meadow closer and closer to his vision. During the cold months in particular he can be found striding tirelessly from tree to tree. His aim: to check and regulate the tree during winter in order to avoid overhanging as much as possible. But that’s not all: he employs mechanical pruning several times a year and considers pruning just before the harvest to be the most efficient method. At the same time he takes care to take into account the peculiarities and preferences of his varieties – Gala, Braeburn, Jazz and Pink Lady. Hubert can’t hide his perfectionist tendencies: “There are a thousand and one options for pruning the trees. I have tried a lot out and finally find my method. Now I just have to perfect it.”
His favourite apple is Jazz, a real diva. With a barely concealed smile and a twinkle in his eye he explains how, years ago, he pruned the Jazz trees far too early. The result was clear to see: September saw ripe apples and a few blossoms adorning his trees. This anecdote makes clear how much calculation and delicate touch is required for apple growing
“I prefer to support helpful organisms rather than carry out a private war against the pests. Mother Nature will deal with the rest for me.”
The right loppers, the right technique, the right time. Hubert could write volumes about tree pruning. But he is always looking for new ideas, curiosity drives him. If there’s one thing he’s learned in all his years as an organic farmer, it’s this: equanimity. Especially in dealing with pests in the meadow. Precipitous steps may bring short-term success, but in the medium term they frequently prove to be counter-productive. Simply because many helpful organisms and creatures may well bite the dust at the same time. Hubert is convinced of it: “I prefer to support helpful organisms rather than carry out a private war against the pests. Mother Nature will deal with the rest for me.”
His wife Jutta looks after their guests, holidaymakers at the farm, with the same serenity. Hubert gets first dibs when she puts her experienced hands to the task of preparing home-grown, homemade products for the guests. A variety of cordials, chutneys, fruit spreads, dried fruit, rose petal salt and apple strudel spices, for example. The qualified herb instructor reads widely on her subject and she also tends the herb garden that gives the farm its name: “Kräutererbe Bacherhof”. And perhaps this very farm is in fact Hubert’s secret fountain of youth. Taking a cure, a sauna and a leap into the swimming pool keep the body fit, the mind alert and the spirit full of vigour.