While it’s not uncommon for gardeners to let their hobby get out of control, David Borden of Pine Level has taken his love of plants far beyond mixed borders and shrubs.
"We’ve always been active gardeners, and I went through a flower gardening phase, and a tree phase, and now I’m really enjoying fruiting trees and plants. What started with eight or ten fruit trees just sort of morphed into an orchard," David said.
And with the help of Rhonda Deese and the rest of the staff at Pike Farmers Co-op, the Bordens continue to expand their fruit orchard to a project that has surpassed most people’s concept of a hobby farm.
"This was a former field that volunteer pines were beginning to cover when we bought the property, so I began clearing it with the excavator," David said of the area now housing his fruit orchard.
"You just follow your instincts and plant more of what’s easy," David said, making it seem as though the whole area just takes care of itself.
"And the plants and bare-root trees at the Pike Farmers Co-op have been so affordable; it’s been easy to expand. If people knew how easy blueberries and figs are, everyone would be growing them. I have never sprayed them with anything and all they take is a little pruning to produce beautiful fruit," he said.
"And pears and scuppernongs are almost that easy, too. If people wonder what they can almost abuse and still have wonderful fruit, its blueberries, figs, pears and scuppernongs," David added.
But the Bordens’ fruit harvest doesn’t stop there. Varieties of plums, peaches, apricots, apples and pomegranates are all planted in their fruit orchard, but David’s newest obsession is his collection of cherry trees.
"We eat a lot of fruit and I am a cherry fanatic. Cherries like a sandy soil and that’s what we have, so I’m interested to see how well we can get them to produce here," David said.
And the trees are beginning to bear tiny green cherries already, but the deer may pose a larger problem than he anticipated.
"There were two here yesterday," David said as he indicated a branch on one of his cherry trees where there was now only one small cherry.
"But if we can get them to continue to grow and produce, we’ll have to have enough for us and the deer, too," he said with a smile.
"We bought this property in 1986, and began renovating and planting, with the intention of moving here eventually," David said.
He and his wife Lynda moved their family from the city of Montgomery to the farm in 1997 and since then have continued their work on the property.
"I think people would be happier in general if they lived in the country," Lynda joked as she talked about their move.
Lynda’s parents, Dykes and Dorothy Pruitt, also relocated from their home in Tennessee to a new log cabin on the farm.
"They were more than five hours away before the move, so we were thrilled they wanted to relocate here. They’re both still very active; they mow the grass, and he cuts and she stacks firewood for the wood stove that heats their cabin," Lynda said.
In addition to their lovely fruit orchard, the Bordens also have a nut orchard and an oak orchard on their property.
"Alabama has 28 native species of oak, and I have 27 of those here now," said David, who spends his days working as a CPA in Montgomery.
"I’m an early riser and I do a lot of walking, but most mornings Patch and I come to the fruit orchard before our walk," David said, referring to the plump pooch tagging along behind him.
In addition to building a new home for themselves and Lynda’s parents building their cabin, the Bordens also have utilized two structures already on the property when they purchased it.
"The house there would have belonged to the tenant farmer who managed the cotton or cattle farmed here. We think it was built about 1935 and the barn was probably built about the same time as the house," David said.
"When we cleaned out the house, we uncovered some of the newspapers on the wall used to insulate the interior, some of them referring to Mayor LaGuardia as the current mayor of New York City, so it’s a great piece of local color," Lynda added.
And the Bordens added new support posts to the old barn now housing feed for their horses.
David and Lynda’s three children love to visit the farm and the fruit orchard in particular when they come home – son Gray is an attorney in Birmingham, and their daughters Skye and Kara are attending Vermont Law School and Tulane School of Law, respectively. And David said they’ve been encouraging him to buy a cider press to utilize some of the fruit they grow.
Anytime David’s not at his Montgomery office crunching numbers, chances are he’s somewhere on their farm.
"You can’t drag him off this place," Lynda teased.
"It does occupy you," David admitted, "but to me it’s recreation. I like being here, on the tractor or in the garden. We really enjoy taking care of this place."
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.