Monday, December 06, 2010

Cold Shower

Candy stayed under there and splashed around the entire time I was feeding the sheep and turkeys. Nutter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Well, THOSE are fun...

(or " Making the Most of a Senior Moment....")
Face it. We all have them. Probably some of us more than others...and they can certainly make life interesting, if not exasperating.

So, I was planting the seed potatoes last Spring, and I got distracted in the middle of the job... (Say it isn't so!!) and put down the bag of fingerlings. Somewhere. After an hour or so of futile searching, I gave up. Figured somebody (the goat) found them and ate them, or they were going to get wet and rot somewhere.

Ta Da!!! Found them in August in my Craft Room next to the Beading Basket. (I have NO idea...) Having a recently emptied spot in the garden, I put them in. What the heck?...

Last week I harvested. The plants did pretty well - never got to flower, but apparently that is not a requirement for taters. The tubers grow in response to day length and plant size. A 1+ pound bag of (slightly) dehydrated seed potatoes yielded over 6 lbs. of crop. Plenty of the usual fingerling size tubers, some seed tubers for next year, and lots of fun, little tater "tots" that we tossed in the fryer, roasted with fall veggies, and fried up as hash browns.

Not going to change farming policy around here, but certainly nice to know there is such a thing as late potatoes...
Not everyone thought they were tasty....but who asked her anyway???

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flurry of FO's

Zippin' off the needles in the last weeks....
Socks for Bill; 2-at-a-time on 2 circulars, toe-up, Dyenamics custom over-dye, Sport weight yarn.
Fingerless mitts for Madison; Periwinkle Sheep worsted weight.
Fingerless mitts for me; Dyenamics Alpaca/Wool blend using a Dyenamics exclusive pattern.
Socks for me; using a Lion Brand Magic Stripes sock yarn (a freebie from a friend's stash) which Madison decided SHE liked, so....

I dove back into my sock yarn stash/ends and found some blue sport weight for the contrast...and VIOLA! Two pairs of socks out of 660 yds. (or so)

Right now, stitching another pair of socks for Madison from a colorway she designed herself. Details soon...

And of course, can't have just ONE WIP, so there's more fingerless mitts at the bottom of the knitting bag...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Bit O' Honey

We have two hives this year (unofficially "his" and "hers") and we decided NOT to pull honey, since we want to stack the deck in the favor of the hives and help them overwinter. The "hers" hive finished out the season with two full hive bodies and a full honey super (10 frames). The "his" hive finished with two full hive bodies, but only 4 frames of additional honey in the top honey super.

But, truth be told, I have become a honey addict, and I couldn't think of going the whole winter without, so we pulled 2 frames from "my" hive. Crude harvesting of the frames (read: no extractor) gave us a half gallon of honey (more than enough if I don't go crazy) and two very sticky frames for the bees to clean.

We had a particularly warm day (70 degrees) a week or so ago, and that's when I decided to pull. So once finished, I put the sticky frames back outside for the bees to clean. I get a clean frame, they get lots of honey to store. And the two hives could share equally in the honey (therefore giving "his" hive a little boost).

Click to biggify, and notice all the "non-bee" honey helpers...Amazing! Within 15 minutes, they had found the frames, and four or so hours later, everything was squeaky clean!

For Halloween, my daughter's 8th grade class decided on a group costume (trying to strike a balance between "too old for that stuff" and wanting an excuse to wear a costume) for the Halloween parade to the area nursing home. They were a hive of "worker bees" (note the hard hats and tool belts) carrying their Queen (the more than willing Science teacher - who wouldn't want to get carried around and waited on by your students?) and Madison was the beekeeper. (BTW - wearing the gear is as close as she gets to the actual beekeeping; she'll stick to chickens, thank you very much).

(It reads, "All Hail the Queen Bee" for those of you that just have to know...)

We'll see in Spring if the hives survive...keeping our fingers crossed! And feeding them as often as we can!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3 (more) Musketeers

When a neighbor asks if you want some laying hens in October, you don't even THINK about the added mouths to feed this winter - you grab 'em! We have a dozen or so "little" ladies that won't be old enough to lay until Spring, and I was kicking myself for not ordering more...

We always have a waiting list for eggs, and the current flock is a bit "aged"... so Spring was going to be tough - until Jordan decided to downsize...

She had 5 nice, big Delaware ladies - so we took three, and another neighbor farmgirl took two.

We've installed them in the (recently vacated) chicken tractor until everyone gets used to the new digs.
And the added bonus - we had no idea what the "unidentified chick" that came from the hatchery might be, until we saw the markings on the Delawares...

Speckles has an identity - she's a Delaware!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

They come a peepin'

It's strange to think that folks actually get in their cars to drive several hours just to look at what is all around...but it's that time again!
This is the view out my front door - the Taconic Trail which follows the border of NYS between VT and MA.

Note to self: Buy new card for the camera, and slow down long enough to take notice and perhaps some pictures. Snow will be here before you know it...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Got a minute?

I need your assistance...or rather, a neighbor does.

Jordan, a local farmwoman, suffered the most heart-wrenching, devastating event in a homesteader's life - the senseless, brutal loss of her animals to a vicious dog. Her two little does were killed by a neighbor's dog and today she is grieving the terrible loss, trying to sort out the best path to take, and wondering what could have been done.

If you have ever been through this type of thing, or if you live in fear of it (like I do), or if you just have the knack for supporting someone in need, could you go to her blog and leave her a note?

Thanks. I owe you one..

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Can't really say enough about this wonderful crop - it should be a part of every homesteader's garden (and probably you backyard gardeners!) - here's why it works on our farm:

1. You plant in the fall. So when you have more time, and the regular garden is starting to fade and you are already dreaming of Spring, you get to farm! We usually plant in October, perhaps later than the catalogs recommend, but around here we still get pretty warm Septembers and I don't want the cloves sending up shoots above ground.

Plant cloves like a bulb; you should get 6-10 from each seed head. 3 inches down usually does it - but we cover with a good layer of straw for insulation and weed suppression. If you don't, I would plant a little deeper.

2. It is pretty tolerant and not a fussy crop. It will tolerate mediocre soil, although adding nice mulch insures bigger bulbs...and it can be planted pretty close so it doesn't take a lot of room for the yield. Just allow enough room for each clove to expand to a 4" diameter bulb.

3. Two crops in one. We plant a hardneck variety that "flowers" around June. The flower is the scape; a curly stem that looks much like a pig's tail and is about the same diameter. You pick scapes when they have just made it around in one loop. Removing them is a must, or the final bulb is much smaller. The scapes make an excellent item for the market, as well as the main ingredient in scape pesto which we freeze for the winter.

The garlic is typically harvested about a month later, when the leaves start to yellow. We save the biggest bulbs for seed for the following year, it always sells well as a market item, we use it in CSA shares, for our cooking, and even the smaller bulbs get put to use. Garlic is part of practically every cuisine on the planet, and has been a part of mankind's spice rack and medicine cabinet for centuries.

4. Good for everyone. What the humans don't consume, the farm critters do. We chop smaller cloves up for the poultry once or twice a summer. On a day when we are feeding some other scraps, we mix in the garlic and they love it. Good for their systems!

We also use garlic as part of our organic plan for parasite control for the ruminants. In the Spring, and again in the Fall, we feed each animal a clove or two for three straight days to rid their systems of any heavy worm load. The Fall application is followed with as many pumpkins as they want since the seeds are also part of the worm reduction, and they love pumpkins...We have tested at zero in our latest fecal samples!

5. Sustainability. Since we save our seed for the next year, it becomes part of the cycle of the farm that requires minimal new input. (We only have had to buy new seed once since the original investment - we wanted much more than I had been able to save). Also, being a member of the allium family, the plant has antiseptic properties that help to cleanse the soil it grows in, so we move the garlic bed often as part of the rotational use of the accessible land.

6. Lore. There are as many non-food uses for garlic as there are standard recipes. My favorite : rub the doors and windowsills of new buildings to ward off witches, ghosts, and ill fortune. Who knew?

Find a corner of your garden and try some this year - even flower gardens can use the spikey, green foliage as a contrast (and it is a cousin to the Lily...).

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Grey Foxes - 9, Humans - 1

We have been heavily hit this year by grey foxes. They have taken everything from fledgling pullets to full size roosters. Everyone has stories to tell - the old timers are saying this is a record year and they don't remember when they ever saw so many. In fact, a rabid fox bit it little boy in Bennington (9 miles away) just last week.

But tonight, DH got a yearling female.

Part of the cycle of life; but I am going to enjoy tipping one back for the ladies tonight.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Incredibly Good Very Bad Thing

My friend Sue introduced us to 5 Minute Ice Cream.

5 Minutes to make...about 5 seconds to consume.

I just made Strawberry...and this photo is what my dish looked like - for about a nanosecond. I was just eating too fast to stop and take an actual picture, so I Googled the image.

10 oz. frozen fruit
1/2 C sugar
2/3 C heavy cream

Place frozen fruit and sugar in a food processor. Chop for a few seconds until roughly mixed. Now, turn on the processor and chop while pouring the heavy cream in a small, steady stream into the mixture. In an instant it turns creamy and thick. Continue until all cream is added. Place in freezer for a few minutes, or until it reaches the consistency you desire.

By the time I run out of frozen fruit from this year's picking, my butt will be the size of Pittsburgh. Ahhhh.....oh well.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Barry White is alive...and living with my sheep

Or so you might think, if you ever heard them. (Or should that be, "herd" them?) There's the usual symphony of nasal blatting, followed by the deep, bass rumbling of "Barry":
a.k.a. Leonidas, our ram. The funny part is, he is the smallest member of the flock. (And when we got him, he was the smallest Shetland I had ever seen.) But when he speaks, it's like listening to chocolate thunder.

Here he is at 1 yr. old, riding in the passenger seat of a Dodge Dakota, on his way to his first haircut and shearing demonstration. (Told you he was tiny...)
Of course, we are expecting big things of him, despite his small beginnings, so our fingers are crossed and the band is warming up.

Let me introduce Love Unlimited:
That's Secret and Angel, the back-up singers, and oh yeah, Alexander (on the right) plays the keyboards.

Walkin' in the rain with the one I love....

Friday, July 30, 2010


Yesterday's post was a culmination of several years of frustrating encounters with all sorts of people who do not understand what it takes to create sustainability, to raise organic food, to put in the work it takes to be a part of a successful agricultural endeavor.

Yes, I listed examples specific to a particularly problematic blogger, but I felt there was more to be gained by keeping my comments anonymous so that they could be attributed to any number of people or places. One responder, Meagan, left a response that included a name and since it was not my intention to lead a crusade against any individual, I chose not to publish her comment.

But she wrote a thoughtful, lengthy comment and I wanted to share it and respond.

She writes, "I found her announcement of the documentary this morning to be, well, unrealistic. Anyone can make a movie nowadays after all. I also find it a little on the presumptuous side how she authors books on how to raise animals when she has caused them some amount of harm (I'm thinking of the more than one time I believe her huskies have decimated her chicks). That said, she does have a very good way with words, and I appreciate learning through other people's mistakes. She is always one to admit she makes mistakes. And despite not being a completely suitable role model, her writing increases awareness of local food and sustainability, which benefits us all."

No, her writing does not increase awareness of local food and sustainability. Local farmers and the local food movement want people to be aware of all the good food being produced locally by farmers who are dedicated to the idea of agriculture. Most of these men and women work long days, long hours, and do not make a lot of money. In fact, a majority must rely on a non-farm job to help make ends meet. So they need to have consumers be aware of the impact of their choices when they buy foreign produce, or support markets that have no local connection. These men and women are also stewards of the land they work, and by truly caring about what they do to the land as they produce this food, they work for everyone on planet Earth. Sustainability is an integral part of that process because we simply can't keep doing what we are doing and expect resources to always be there. She does not write about her local food community, she does not contribute to it. She does tell us about what she attempts, about how it failed, and then goes right out to the local market and buys what she needs because she can.

I read the blog of a woman in Iowa who runs a flower farm. And yes, she tells us a bit about her ups and downs. She tells us a lot about what is going on in her neck of the woods with the local food scene, the local markets, how she teaches others about this lifestyle, how she lives herself. And absolutely none of it is available to me directly (because the commute to Iowa is a bear), but she deals in a more important commodity - inspiration and information. SHE increases awareness of local food and sustainability...

Meagan then says, "I do not agree with parts of your criticism's tone. Have you never had an animal demise under your watch? Sure it's happened more than 0 times with her, as it has with me. Sometimes it's even due to our own faults. I can't speak for (her), but I take great pain when my animals die (so far only one has) and use the opportunity to re-evaluate myself and my priorities with the farm. I find your quip about fanatics to be a bit pushing it - you have fans of your blog too, do you think they're all fanatics? That said, I do agree that her fans are more on the "isn't this lifestyle so quaint and romantic" side of things versus the "hey I'm a farmer too and you could improve on this and that", but when you publish a book that is in city bookstores I expect such a thing will happen."

I have been told before that my tone is not always friendly. (My last boss used to tell people that I failed charm school.) I am brutally honest, and usually those people that consider themselves my friends understand that they will always know where I stand, and if my delivery is sometimes fierce, my loyalty is even more so. That being said, yes, I have had animals die. And each one causes me to re-evaluate. I consider each and every one MY fault. That makes the gravity of their deaths act as a constant drive for me to improve what I do.

My friends that share my blog space are not so fanatical that they lose perspective. They do not get caught up in the quaint and romantic side of things. In fact, nothing here is quaint or romantic. Really. (The best I can hope for is to try and make some of it funny...) I am not sure how publishing a book found in city bookstores generates the kind of gushing, "atta-girl" comments she often gets. I find it appalling that she actually HAS a book in city bookstores. Didn't the publisher practice any sort of "due diligence" and check out her qualifications and experience? I mean, I tried spelunking once, but that doesn't mean I'm submitting articles to Cavers Weekly...

Finally, Meagan writes, "As I've read her blog I hardly feel as if she portrays herself to be the center of the world. In fact I think she is quite obvious about her failures and I appreciate her for that. As I have said, I've failed too. When people like (her) and I come into farming, we don't necessarily have the luxury of an uncle who was a farmer or being around farms before. This is all absolutely new to me. And I try my best to educate myself and dedicate myself to my efforts, whether they are plant or animal. However I do know modesty, as much as I enjoy writing (as I'm sure you've noticed) and documenting things I know that I am not anywhere near an authority and I never portray myself as being so. Whether (she) does so or not is a point of contention. By publishing books and agreeing to be in a documentary one would presume, as I do, that she is portraying herself as some sort of authority. But she also portrays her failures, and I will not fault her for that even if it does make it easy for others to list off your failings for criticism. Just as I wouldn't fault you for being frank with your opinion.

In my opinion there should never be shame for trying something new or sharing knowledge."

Yeah, when you ask people for money, you are basically saying, "Give to me. I deserve it." That is EXACTLY portraying yourself as the center of the world. How about raising money to do for others???And since she does it in connection with projects she would like to try out on her little farm, she is also saying "Give to me. What I do is important, and I am an authority worthy of your support." What if the money she keeps asking for was to build a home for a homeless family instead of a barn - would she still sell the t-shirts and blog about her progress? What if the documentary was about the struggles of small farmers and their failures to make a living from what they do - would she gush with excitement about being featured?

Meagan, I thank you for taking the time to comment. I imagine that anyone that cares enough to respond so well is already an asset to the small farm movement. We've shared knowledge and opinions and like you said, there is no shame in that. I think you have tried very hard to be nice to the person you identify, but as you said yourself, she is unrealistic...and therein lies the rub. I'm not sure when reality will jump up and bite her in the ass, but I know reality is nibbling away constantly at my sizeable rump - (just wish it would help me get back in to my favorite jeans.)

I've had it.

Perhaps a terrible way to return to blogging...but I have to sound off.

If you have actually read the URL to this blog, you'll see I am realistic about this life I live. It's always been "harder than it looks". That's the disclaimer to folks who over-romanticize this choice, or stupidly wander into raising animals without doing research or preparation. I have run into enough of them to know they exist and they are dangerous.

They are a danger to themselves, to the poor animals put in their care, and certainly a danger to my position as a small, organic farmer attempting sustainability.

I have perhaps one of the worst offenders living right in my "neighborhood". Since blogging is world-wide, I can certainly consider someone about 30 miles up the road a "neighbor". She has constructed a fantasy world in which she is the undeniable center, and that world is all about promoting her romantic, woman-powered, made-from-scratch lifestyle. She has duped readers, contributors, employers, publishers, and now documentary movie makers into believing she is doing something wonderful.

Along the way she has killed chickens, rabbits, turkeys and who knows what else through her neglect and unrealistic efforts. She has planted a garden, watched it be decimated by critters, and then shrugged it off because she simply needs to drive down the road to the grocery to sustain herself. She farmed out a troublesome goat that she couldn't manage to another family until they had to give it back. She tried to butcher her own meat and almost killed herself because she clearly didn't understand the mechanics of it all and the necessity of sanitation. She dove head-first into a meat operation with animals, breeding, food, cages, etc. until she had to give that up, too....but not before accidentally releasing some of them and then deciding to call them "free-rangers"...She even has the nerve to pump her readers for financial contributions to her various "wonderful" projects...or better yet - buy a farm t-shirt!

Enough already.

Shame on the blog fans (remember - fan is short for "fanatic") for following her blather and commenting like she is re-inventing pioneer womanhood. Shame on the publisher for allowing her to write a book like she has any sort of authority beyond how NOT to do things. Shame on her for even using the word "sustainability" to describe her train-wreck of a life. And now, shame on the documentary film makers for thinking she has any media value beyond humor.

OK, and shame on me for calling the woman out. But really...if you don't tell the emperor that he's naked...well, we all know how that story goes...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A "10" on the Farming Weird-o-meter

You know that loud, harried, incessant cackling a hen does after she has laid an egg?

Well, one of ours found it necessary to get out of bed at 2:09 a.m. and do her impression of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene right under our bedroom window last night using that very noise.

For no apparent reason, other than possibly to run a farm-readiness drill to see how quickly the stunned humans could bolt out of bed, scramble for the flashlight, and hit the yard at that hour...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Darn Weeds! (Not for the squeamish!!)

It was an innocent afternoon of picking garlic scapes for the market...which are planted on a hill...which does have way too many weeds and leftovers from last year's bramblefest...when I went to turn away and step back down hill...and WHAMMO! Stick in the eye!

I pulled out the piece of stick in my eye purely instinctively, but unfortunately left 4 slivers of whatever it was...

And then followed a nightmarish afternoon at the eye doctor. Ever seen that horror flick where they pull open your eye and come at you with a big hypodermic needle???

Yeah...been there.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Chicken Yoga

(or subtitled, "Why You Have To Check On Your Livestock Every So Often...")
Our pair of bantam show chickens live in a little coop, with a little round door, and a little entrance ramp and usually all by themselves. Occasionally, one of the other chickens gets the wild idea to "visit".

Apparently it was Lacy's turn. But somehow she managed to get her right leg caught between the door and the coop, above the hinge. Maybe the photo doesn't really do this justice, but she is in the equivalent position of me raising my leg and hooking it behind my right ear while standing.

How did she do this?

I don't even want to think about it.

(No chickens were hurt in the making of this blog post. Or, if she DID pull something, she's not admitting anything...)

Sunday, June 06, 2010


Remember grafting? We tried to graft our heirloom apples; 10 in all - 5 of our favorite variety and 5 of the tree that suffered a serious split in the trunk.

Only one actually took (and I am not a little bit shy about telling you it was one of the ones I did!) and it was of the "favorite" tree. But the split tree seems to be faring pretty well this season, and may yet make it through another winter so I can try again next Spring.

The gloppy, brown, waxy thing on the stem is the site of the graft. Even though the site is still not completed healed over, we are hopeful.

I can deal with 10% success. Totally. And we get to use the root stock again (the 9 that didn't take) again next year. Apparently, they are good for two years before they get too big to be of use. (The top of the root stock and the grafted twig must match in size for the best chance of a graft.)

Keeping fingers crossed!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hired hands

Mowing the front lawn.

All with proper supervision, of course.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Scarborough Fair

The herb bed is starting to come together...

(That's mint contained in the terra cotta pipe - too invasive to be left on its own...)

Friday, May 28, 2010

And I thought I knew...

...all the places for chickens to hide eggs on this farm.

I guess I was wrong!
This is the hose by the back door, landscaped with the large hosta....see them???
Look closely...

Need some help?? Let me lift the leaves for you...


Sunday, April 18, 2010

B - Autopsy

DH hammin' it up last Spring with the new hive
It's finally time to tell you what happened to our first year of beekeeping, as many of you have wanted to follow along...

It's often called a "dead-out". They didn't survive the winter. Figuring out why was a bit of an exercise; not really an necropsy (because we didn't cut up actual critters) but an analysis of the evidence, for sure...

We didn't see bee activity on any of the warm winter days. Typically, bees take advantage of those days to perform cleansing flights (potty runs) since they won't make a "mess" in the hive. There were no dead bees around the entrance or below, so we simply waited until early Spring just in case...

As soon as a warm spring day convinced me they weren't alive, I opened the hive. A few dead bees on the lid, a few visible on the tops of frames. We had left the hive with two deep supers (hive bodies) for the winter, and a wrap for warmth (although I have my doubts about the effectiveness of that). The top super was ridiculously heavy with honey. Rather than run the risk of warm weather spreading the inviting smell of honey to marauders (a bear has been seen in the area), I pulled it as soon as I could.
Most of the frames were completely filled with honey; I just shot this one to show you the contrast between filled comb and empty comb.

There was some brood but not the number I would have expected, and empty cells that had been eaten out, but generally not a lot of bees. Those that were found looked as if they had been frozen in a moment of time; some clustered, but others eating, and walking around/climbing as if on their way to a task. The cluster was pretty small and a few dozen bees were found down in the comb, literally eating to the very last drop. This is often a sign of starvation. I didn't see the queen, and the bottom board of the hive did not show visible signs of mites. We ruled out disease or parasites; but were concerned with the small amount of bees. Likely a fall swarming or a dead queen, both which would have left the survivors without enough resources to make it through the winter.

Death occurred early in the season; the top super was so heavy with honey I couldn't carry it up to the house, I had to drag it on a sled!

So, on to extraction. Each frame had to be uncapped using a hot knife to skim the caps off the comb. I saved even the scraps, and collected them in a pan.
The frames were place in a centrifuge extractor. One frame goes on each side, and a volunteer (the DH) gets to spin them and the honey is flung out and gravity collects it on the bottom.
From there, the honey flows through holes in the bottom, through a screen filter which catches bits of wax, body parts and such, then is collected in a tank until you are ready to pour off into containers. We do not pasteurize; all the pollen and good stuff is in there when we bottle (less the bee parts.)

Empty frames are then put back in the hive body to be used for the new bees coming in the Spring. This work took several very sticky, but very satisfying hours.

The scrapings were gently melted down. Honey can be poured off, wax saved, and other stuff thrown out. This honey is less desirable but no less usable - I bottled it for use during the year in baking.

From the hive we harvested more than 5 gallons of honey. I am left in awe of the bees.

Bee hives today are mostly designed with the ease of keeping and harvesting in mind. The Langstroth hive is the standard, named after a fellow in the 1800's that did extensive work with bees and discovered the idea of "bee space". He determined that bees need a certain minimum distance to work and live in the hive. If left with more space, they will fill it with wax structure and propolis. This reaction is a completely bee invention, but a nightmare for bee keepers as it sticks frames to the body, to each other, and reduces the maximum output of the hive. So most beekeepers simply put 10 frames in each body, all designed to keep proper "bee space" between frames and maximize honey comb.

When doing my initial research into beekeeping, I was struck by this calculated construct and didn't like the "feel" of it, since it reminded me of commercial farming which is designed to pull maximum production out of so much, without regard to its impact on land or animals.

Some beekeepers run 9 frames in each hive body which also affords a little more space for the beekeeper to manipulate individual frames (all while wearing bulky protective gloves.) I also liked the fact that running 9 frames instead of 10 gave me an extra frame to swap in if I wanted to move brood, honey, etc. So we built our hive with 9 frames. The bees took advantage, and filled the extra space. A little more work to pull apart the hive, but what a visual treat!

Who knew bees were interior designers?

We were not discouraged by the loss of the hive; rather, we are more determined than ever to keep bees - we've order two packs for this year! Arrival in late May...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A is for Apple (Grafting Lesson!)

Another victim of the early spring heavy snow was one of our ancient apple trees. It still bears fruit and it was a variety nobody could identify - but the tree is at least 40 or 50 years old. The apple it produces is a kind of brownish gold when ripe, and the rough skin reminds me of a pear. The taste is also reminiscent of a pear; spicy and sweet. It is a pretty late producer, and hard fleshed - what people have suggested might be a "cider apple" - intentionally raised and created for tasty cider. We have included it in our fresh cider every year for the taste (we use a blend of apples and adjust for taste as we press).

I decided we needed to at least try to salvage something from this situation, so I decided to try and graft some branches to "re-invent" this variety in a sapling. My friend, Becky, has a lot of grafting experience and pretty good success, so she agreed to come over and give me a lesson.

First, I ordered root stock from Fedco Trees. They arrived and we wasted no time in getting started; the goal is to have root stock that is vibrant and ready to grow and top stock that is as close to dormant as possible.
Unfortunately, we had a bloom of very warm weather, and all the apple trees exploded into flower buds, so it was challenging to find branches that were concentrated on new growth rather than flower and fruit production. But we took branches from the wounded apple as well as from my favorite tree - another unidentified variety that gives juicy, yellow fruit that tastes better than Honeycrisp (IMHO). I wanted to have a copy of this tree as well.
Notice, most of these twigs have growth (leaf) buds vs. flowers. I could have harvested topstock when I pruned (ummm...yeah) up to two weeks ago and kept them in a jar of water in a cool, dark corner of the cellar (think dormant). Will keep that in mind for next year...

Next, we chose a root and top by trying to match as close as possible for size. It is recommended that you graft 8 inches or so above the planting line, but we had to fudge a little to get matches on all 10 plants. Using a very sharp knife, cut each stem at an angle, then notch about 2/3 of the width of the stem and make a notch about 1/2 inch deep. You will push the two pieces together, interlocking the notches, and trying to make the best match of the cambium (growth area) of each piece.
Then we tie the graft together; we used soft, wide pieces of rubber band that Becky brought, and applied grafting wax to seal the graft site from air bubbles. Not a pretty finished product perhaps (right now) but the idea is to give the tree a healable wound that will create the graft.

Finally, they were packed in wet mulch in a bucket, and retired to the cool, dark cellar for a week or so to start the healing process. After that, they will be planted in a protected corner of the garden and cared for till next Spring. Hopefully they will be ready for new growth (and a new home spot) next April. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Why I Do Not Have Nice Flowerbeds...

(or The Line For The Shower)
Speck: Mom, when is it my turn? Huh? C'mon! The girls are taking too long!

Cripes! Enough with the camera! Is there no decency???

(muffled) OK, who dropped the soap??? Where is it?

Speck: I'm outta here. Guy can't get a simple bath...

Monday, April 05, 2010

I love it...

I'm not the only one who knits on the road...

Click on me! :-)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Drive by posting

Been VERY lax about posting, primarily because I have so much going on right now that I avoid the computer in order to pack more into my day...besides, much of what I am doing is not really what I would call Kodak moments...and I'd rather post with at least one picture...
So here's one cute one to cover me:
These are some day-old Coturnix quail that we recently hatched (lengthier post will be coming). I, meanwhile, am going back to my "lemonade" project.

The reference to lemonade in my last post was about "when life gives you lemons...". The heavy, wet snow that literally crumpled and broke so many of our trees and bushes also brought to the ground all the vines, brambles and such that I've been meaning to get to. I'm working on the motherlode right now-wild raspberry vines, rose brambles, hawthorn, sumac, barberry, and grapevine threatening to overtake the entrance to the chicken barn. I've dubbed it Prickerfest 2010. Pass the band-aids.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


One beautiful thing about blogging is the people you meet. Grace is no exception. We came together in a rather roundabout way...a mutual read, Leah, decided February was so droll, we needed to have a swap. All the interested readers threw their names in a hat, and Leah paired us up. There was a list of possibilities to include in your box; we simply chose 4 and went from there.

Grace is from Georgia...yet another cool person from a state I know so little about I'm embarassed...

This was in my box:
She is crafty beyond my abilities - she made the t-shirt (can't wait to wear it to the Farmer's Market) and the bags and the was all really neat. The book is one of her favorites - I have never read it, so I am waiting for the first rainy day to curl up with a cup of tea and off we go...(Anyone else read it?)

And she finished with chocolate. Chocolate!!!! She's crafty and smart.

Go check out her blog. (link above)

I'm off to make "lemonade." (Tell you tomorrow)