In Praise of the Tripod Orchard Ladder

I know you’ve seen them, and have likely used one, but do you own a Tripod Orchard Ladder? My first memory of such a ladder is that of my Father climbing a tall 3-legged Wooden Monster at a U-pick cherry orchard. He’d toss down fat black Bings to us kids scrambling below.

My frst climbing experience with such a contraption was in the magical orchard of a past friend, Helen Webb, of Yamhill. She’d insist that I maneuver her 12 foot heavy, awkward wooden ladders so their hinged leg always aimed uphill. I then learned to set that extending leg. While standing on the bottom rung, you give the entire ladder a shove forward, in order to break through any hidden gopher or mole holes. Helen had picked cherries throughout her life, accumulating years on these ladders, so I respectfully listened and learned. Quickly gaining an appreciation of their stability, I also realized the necessity of a Tripod Ladder in my Orchard.

Until then, I’d used my four-legged folding stepladder to prune, thin, and harvest my varied collection of fruit trees. Though four legs may appear safer than three, I’d long ago lost track of how many times I’d bailed off that collapsing stepladder! Next project: hunt down and purchase an 8 foot Aluminum Orchard Ladder. They weren’t cheap, even 15 years ago; but that ladder has paid for itself several times over! I’ve used it to: hang wallboard; prop lumber while building a trellis or outbuildings; hang bird houses & swings; and paint the house from a hillside… It’s a marvelous freestanding platform that shows no ill effects from living year-round in our orchard and quickly became one of my most valued tools.

Countless times I’ve been eager to step into a pruning project while visiting a neighbor, family, or friend only to realize my life would soon be in danger as they’d inevitably haul out their prized 4-legged step ladder. I’d do my best… but highly recommend they invest in a real Orchard Ladder. With that recommendation; two of them have recently done just that. After their repeated Thanks,”they now wonder how they’d ever gotten along without one.

If you don’t already have one, do yourself (and your helper) a favor; buy an Aluminum Tripod Orchard Ladder. Their size range varies from 4 to 16 feet, usually increasing by two foot intervals. I inherited a wooden 12 footer, I try to preserve it with linseed oil just as my Grandfather had, but I much prefer my short & light Aluminum Buddy! My 8-footer seems the ideal size, it’s a Tallman brand (made in Hood River, Oregon). It’s of excellent design & quality. Though most I’ve seen work well, I prefer a straight extending pole leg; as opposed to some designs curved near the top.

Today’s hunt for such a ladder should be much easier. I’d suggest an online search, or try Teufels Nursery Supply. Never mind the expense- what’s a re-set collarbone worth these days? And an Aluminum Ladder should last forever,” your heirs may not fight over it, but it just might save one of their lives. Just remember: set those twin legs parallel to a hill, aim that third one uphill, check for gopher & mole tunnels… I can hear Helen now!

Editors Note: Warning! Ladders can be a major cause of injuries. Please be very careful whenever you use a ladder and be sure to read and follow all instructions and warnings on the ladder.

Pome News, Spring 2005