Every winter, BelleWood Acres prunes all of its 25,000 apple trees. Caring for each one is an impressive feat, considering they’re one of the largest apple orchards in Western Washington. Pruning cuts away dead and overgrown branches to let in sunlight, encouraging growth and better health.

Winter isn’t just for pruning trees, however. We can all take a leaf (pun intended) from this idea in more ways than one. We sat down with Eric Abel, owner of BelleWood Acres, to talk about the valuable lessons found in the orchard.

Lesson 1: Cut out what doesn’t belong

Through pruning, Bellewood Acres helps nurture young branches to maturity. Photo credit: Amy Page.

Like cutting away dead and overgrown branches, it’s important to prune unnecessary things from our lives. Each of us has branches, Abel says.

BelleWood makes significant cuts when they prune, “simplifying” the tree in the process. Similarly, we can better ourselves by getting rid of our clutter.

“We accumulate so many things in our lives,” Abel says, “and being able to trim back will provide a healthier environment.”

Think of clutter like tree suckers – a type of shooter that grows out of the base of a tree, which must be pruned. Suckers steal nutrients from the rest of the tree and distract from what it needs.

Cut the dead branches and overgrowth out of your life. Photo credit: Amy Page.

Clutter can be a lot of things – the word “things” being our biggest takeaway. It’s an accumulation of just plain stuff, which often overwhelms and distracts us from what’s important. It can be physical, like a closetful of old, unused clothes that won’t let you make room for anything new. It can be mental, like an overwhelming to-do list that keeps you stressed. It can even be emotional, like a toxic person who has remained in your life for one reason or another.

“If we have so many things pulling at us, we can’t focus,” Abel says.

Pruning lets in sunlight and provides nutrients to the best parts of a tree. By pruning ourselves, we can not only focus on our more important branches, but let a lot more light into our lives.

Lesson 2: Positive change doesn’t have to be complicated

Owner Eric Abel gently holds onto a branch Bellewood Acres is nurturing. Photo credit: Amy Page.

Pruning isn’t complicated, Abel says. It’s a simple idea that’s hard to screw up. To go back to the last lesson, most of it involves simply chopping what the tree doesn’t need.

Making positive changes in your life doesn’t have to be complex either.

“It’s just the simple idea of going out and just trimming. It’s a simple little deed you can do in life,” Abel says. “You look back at it and you start whacking – and you’re looking, anticipating, and you’re cutting.”

Of course, this isn’t always the case. This lesson isn’t to dismiss life’s complexities. You may not always be able to fix something right away. However, there are times when we hesitate or procrastinate a little too long.

Bellewood Acres has over 25,000 apple trees. Photo courtesy: BelleWood Acres.

Making that doctor’s appointment, eating better, getting out more, starting a project you’ve had rattling around in your head for the past two months, and so on. We tend to overcomplicate.

“We overthink things,” Abel says.

And when it comes to people, making positive change is often as simple as getting out and making that “chop.”

And for those big branches that can’t be severed immediately? Start small.

For example, at the time of this writing, I’m slowly cutting soda and coffee out of my life. Caffeine addiction can be nasty, however, which makes it difficult to stop cold turkey. I started small, only allowing myself so much a day – which eventually graduated to so much a week. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m already seeing and feeling the benefits. All I had to do was make a small, simple fix. And now it’s snowballing into something bigger and better.

Bellewood Acres prunes thousands of trees in the winter. Photo credit: Amy Page.

“It’s so silly, but it’s like a haircut,” Abel says. “You know when you get a haircut, you come walking out of there going ‘I’m pretty good! I feel good about myself!’ I think the trees respond that way too.”

When you consider an orchard, there are many parallels to our lives. This winter, start shedding the bad stuff and get a fresh start. The trees at BelleWood Acres are.

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