important objectives of pruning (which is usually done in late winter while trees are still dormant, but late enough to avoid winter injury of the tree):
*promote lateral growth of shoots/branches that can bear the weight of fruit without breaking.
*open the canopy to sunlight and airflow-- for proper ripening of fruit and disease prevention. this means eliminating crossing/tangled branches, and branches growing in towards the tree vs. outward.
*remove dead/diseased branches.
and in this case, making sure there are no branches overhanging in the aisles/alleys to obstruct the tractor.
there's the big picture, and the details, and the balance between. definitely takes some imagination (what will this look like in blossom time? with lots of leaves? with ripe fruit pulling down?) and intuition (let that branch go and see what it does this year...)
you get a little snow-blind out in the orchard, and after a while it gets difficult to assess the needs of each tree-- sometimes my cutting felt a little arbitrary... and it's hard to remember all the little bits of information I've just read when I'm out there in the cold and snow and wind-- laterals, leaders, spurs, terminal buds, shoots... shoot!
many uncertainties-- am I cutting too much, too little, the wrong parts? and is it taking me too long? all part of the learning process, I suppose-- continuing to observe the trees through the seasons will help with getting some perspective.
I can't wait for spring to see all the trees in full bloom! if I'm not becoming a broken record by now :)
by the way, flashback to yesterday's thoughts on training-- the word also applies to tree fruit production. and another new event in my life: puppy adoption. more on that to come :)