Most Recent Blog Entries
Orchard - Grafts Popped! - June 16, 2017
The most exciting point in grafting, to me, is that moment when one finally sees growth in a scion's bud(s), and you know there's a very good chance that your graft was successful. Many amateur grafters admit they check their grafts often (weekly? daily? hourly?!) for that little bit of green emerging from a bud that holds such wonderful promise. It could be a week, or two, or four, sometimes longer before that magical event occurs but it is a great cause for celebration, even if (and probably best if) only the birds and bees see the jump and shout of joy that happens upon that discovery. It has been three weeks since we grafted and 2/3 of our grafts show green growth now, from a little bit to significant leafing. Some others are close (buds swelling), others are holding out, not committing to growth yet. But there is still time. Our unusual (very unusual!) hot (to us) (days near 80) first half of June, with PLENTY of rain, making everything grow with unbounded enthusiasm has likely helped our scions grow faster than usual. Later I'll start dreaming of the fruit that these little trees will someday produce, but for now it is enough that they have decided to grow.
In the photo above it is the part above the wrap that is the scion growing (a Patten pear). The growth below the wrap is the rootstock growth. Those shoots will be pruned off later when I'm sure the scion is firmly attached and growing as part of the rootstock.
Kayak is ready for the water... - 6/6/2017
Spring Garden - June 6, 2017
It's so satisfying when the garden gets to the point in the spring when the fall weeds have been relegated to the compost bin, the plots have been neatened up for planting, and early crops are growing, providing food and color in the muted shades of dirt. In another month the beds will be full of well mulched growing plants, soon to be sprawling outside of their boundaries (if they haven't already), and there will be little bare ground to be found. But for this short time in the spring much of the garden gets to soak up the sun and rain unencumbered by mulch or vegetation, as we all anticipate the lush abundance to come. Happy June!
Forget-Me-Nots - June 3, 2017
When Steve was growing up his family spent Augusts in a small cabin near AuTrain Falls. He loved that time and is why we ended up moving to the U.P., though quite a few miles south of that area. But visits to the Falls are special and one spring in our early years I dug a little Forget-Me-Not plant where it grew abundantly near the Falls and River to plant on our new homestead. It and its future generations liked it here (as do we!) and some 40 years later we are blessed with beautiful patches of these cheery little blooms every spring in the shady edges around the shop and outhouses.
End of May Gift - May 30, 2017
It's been a bit of a challenge this month getting outdoor work done with the often rainy weather, and today was a particularly on-again-off-again interrupted work-day. But when Steve stepped out the door this evening to do one last thing out in the shop there was this reward for the wet intervals of the day. Happy end of May!
MUSIC - Trenary Fur & Feather Swap - May 28, 2017
had a great time yesterday playing music with our friend Sharon Vierk (as "Wild
Cherry Wine") at the "Fur & Feather Swap & Bazaar" in Trenary at Holmquist Feed
Mill. The weather was beautiful, there was a wonderful array of beautiful furred
and feathered creatures for sale or swap (as well as related non-live items),
the event was smoothly and friendly organized, and we were happy to do our part
with the entertainment. They were happy with us and we were happy with them so
we'll be back playing music at their June 24th Swap! This is a long running 3
times a year (May, June, Sept.) popular event.
ORCHARD - Grafts Done! - May 26, 2017
The weather came through with temps in the 60's and a mostly sunny day for our Grafting Day. We had 26 grafts to do, the most we've ever done in one year -- apples, plums, pears, cherries -- and it went well. Steve does the knife work (all whip and tongue grafts except for a few very thin scions where there simply wasn't enough wood so we did a simple splice graft). Then I do my best to hold them carefully in place while wrapping first with a slightly stretchy Parafilm tape, then with regular rubber electrical splicing tape. The W&T technique really helps hold the two pieces together with the thin layers of cambium lined up (scion with the rootstock) while wrapping. The tape keeps the two firmly together until the graft calluses, fusing the scion to the rootstock on its way to being a new tree. I realize you need a good imagination to see how I could be excited about the stick in the photo! But that is a Patten pear scion (just a piece of last years growth cut from a Patten tree) grafted to a Ussuriensis pear (very hardy) rootstock. Some time in the future we will be eating tasty pears from a full size tree that started as this little stick. I have an old photo of a Patten Pear growing at the Chatham Experiment station in 1945 (back when they had an experimental orchard). Patten is a cross from the Univ. Minnesota introduced in 1922.
If you look closely in the photo above you can see the scion piece looks a little odd. One trick towards successful grafting is to keep the scion from drying out before the graft calluses (and is then attached, connected and growing on the rootstock's root system). We don't have the problem with that here that they do in drier and windier areas, and didn't cover our scions (except for the top cut tip) the first five years of grafting and we've had very good success rates. But I want to give our grafts the best chance so at the recommendation of more experienced grafters I decided to cover the scions. Last year I wrapped the scions in Parafilm as we grafted. That worked well but was a little chancy as it's easy to wiggle the scion out of alignment (though we had excellent success rates last year, too). This year I decided to try dipping the scions beforehand in melted wax. (Some folks wrap their scions with Parafilm beforehand, too.) I liked the wax method. It was easy, spread out the work a little, and didn't interfere with the grafting. The buds pop right through the Parafilm or wax when they start growing.
The little colored clips on the scions in the lower photo are quilting/sewing/craft clips to attach labels. It's too easy to get the scions mixed up! They worked well and were easy to remove and re-attach.
Grafting is a lot of faith, quite a bit of skill, and a whole lot of magic!
ORCHARD - New Garden/Orchard Area Enclosed! - May 15, 2017
There is still a lot of work to be done on the new fence (and removing old fence posts) but the new area is now enclosed, and it feels good! We've been working on it over several weeks but the big day was when we had to take down old fence and re-install it in the new form. Once we started it had to get done that day to keep the old garden/orchard secure from interested deer. These things seem to always take longer than one thinks, but it was done before dark. And we're satisfied with that.
ORCHARD - New Fence Stage 1 - April 30, 2017
Buds are swelling, daffodils and Spring Beauties are blooming, wood ticks have arrived, and in a few weeks it will likely be warm enough to graft all those seedlings and trees waiting for new varieties. There’s still snow in the air sometimes, frosts at night, many cold north winds, and many beautiful days. Spring comes slowly up here, but that’s just the way I like it. And now Stage One of our new orchard fence is complete. This has been one of the big projects for both of us this month -- clearing the fence-line. A lot of large chainsaw work, small lopper work, and a fair amount of chopping and digging; cutting down/out trees, shrubs and brush, hauling it off to create yet another new brush pile, just in time for the sparrows and other small birds (and other creatures) to claim as new home territory. Pre mosquito and black fly time is great for this type of work.
At the north end I had to move an old brush pile that was in the line and
discovered a gold mine (if one is a grower of plants and trees) of well
rotted stuff at the bottom. Well worth the work! At the south end I found
(unfortunately with the lawn mower!) a nice rock, maybe 10” sticking above a
raised area. Since we’re collecting rocks for our someday pond this was a
good find. It was mostly buried, and I had to flatten that area anyway, so I
got the shovel to dig it out. Surprise! Turns out it is maybe 3 feet across,
and who knows how deep -- I didn’t go that far! So I dug out around it and
we have a nice “point of interest” along that part of the fence. Thankfully
the chosen fenceline runs just north of it. The large rock is a companion to
our old “snake rock” about 100 ft away. This one is mostly above ground
(actually, we don’t know how much is below ground). In our early years here
we saw a garter snake sunning itself on this large rock and henceforth it
has been Snake Rock.
Photos - Every project needs a friendly supervisor. Lilli enjoyed the job for a short time. But what I was doing just wasn't that interesting for very long.
ORCHARD - Spring Pruning - April 14, 2017
Today I finished pruning the last apple tree on my list, a wild apple in our yard, a little more than 2 wks from when I started working on the apples and pears. The many young trees I have in the orchard need very little pruning, if at all, as they need to keep all of their early growth of branches and leaves to build a healthy root system. The real pruning starts (and continues!) when they start bearing a crop. This is when I spend almost as much time looking and studying a tree as I do clipping and sawing. We have only one apple tree, a Haralson, that has anywhere near a “standard” (according to the drawings in books) shape, and moderate growth. It doesn’t take long to prune him. All the others are quite independent minded in how they grow. They aren’t so easy. It’s a lifetime learning to prune well but I’m enjoying the challenge, especially as my skills are improving.
We have four
producing “tame” apples and one pear. These are all trees we planted. There
are also a half dozen wild apples with varied fruit quality but I usually
make use of the apples in sauce or cider. Some of the trees I’ve been
working on for many years to get them to a manageable size and they are all
now finally coming into shape, each in their own way. But all can now be
reached standing on the top of my 8 ft ladder for pruning and harvesting.
Though not as impressive as the 30 ft standard trees we used to have they
are much easier to care for and give us better fruit. I’m happy with the new
11-12 foot heights, and I hope the trees are, too.
SEWING - Dance Shoe Bag - April 4, 2017
We have stacks of the reusable sturdy cotton “shopping” bags which have a
variety of uses. One of those had been to carry our dance shoes into a dance.
It’s a courtesy to change into clean soled shoes before going out onto the dance
floor (keeps the grit off the floor which is good for the floor and the
dancers). But it is also important for dancing (for fun, ease, and the knees!)
to have clean, dry soles. And if you have suede leather soles (as I do) they’re
pretty much useless for dancing if they get wet. So even if they’re everyday
shoes other times, for a dance they get brushed clean and carried inside.
So for Christmas I decided to make Steve a Dance Shoe Bag. OK, it was for
both of us, but our Christmas gifts are often like that. I thought about
what I wanted--separate compartments for our shoes, small enough to keep
them upright but large enough to easily slip the shoes in. A separate pocket
for carrying a water bottle, upright. Another pocket for a shirt or tights
or extra socks. Yet it needed to be of moderate size, easy to carry and
stash in a corner at a dance, and the back of the car between times. I’d
been designing it in my head for some time, now it was time to get down to
work and make it.
SPRING ARRIVES! - March 29, 2017
For many of you I know that the official start of Spring was a week ago. But for
us it just arrived:
BOOKS - New Direct Sales - March 26, 2017
We decided we wanted to sell our print books ourselves, giving folks the option to buy directly from us instead of from Amazon (or CreateSpace which is owned by Amazon). We have missed that personal contact with readers. So, we arranged it so we can now do that! The new update of our Books section is complete, with the addition of our own Add-to-Cart buttons (for those who want the online convenience), and a Print Order Form for mail-order sales. Check it out by clicking HERE. Any comments or suggestions on the new re-do are welcome!
GREENHOUSE - Greens & Lights Update - March 13, 2017
So how did the LED lights work out in the greenhouse, and the "regular" LED light for the herb/flower seedlings in the house (see February 5 post)? We didn't know if there would be enough light to be worthwhile to help the plants grow more and greener since these weren't "grow lights", just regular white lights. In the greenhouse they are supplements to the sunlight--turned on for a few hours morning and evenings, and during the day on cloudy days. The seedling light (just one of the regular shop lights) inside was on the plants all day, except on sunny days when the greenhouse was warm (above 50) when I'd put the little seedlings out there for some real sunshine (well, through the window sunshine).
Now, a month later--they all did great. The lettuce and greens in the GH grew faster and were the healthiest and stockiest I've ever had this time of year. We've been enjoying salads every day. And the herb and flower seedlings also did well. I just potted most of them up into their own 3" pots. I normally wouldn't try to start seeds so early because of the lack of light and the cold GH. But these got their own light and in the comfort of the warm house. Next year the GH bed will get a light bar as well and I'll be able to grow more early greens there, probably spinach which will appreciate the deeper soil. All in all, we're all happy with the project!
March 7, 2017
Or is it MAY 7? Nature is doing her best to shake up our pre-conceived notions of what the weather should be doing based on our calendar dates. It's almost like having a different month every week, or every day! It was close to 40 degrees today, with a forecast for temps near zero later this week. I don't think I'll start planting yet.
And yet another boat building project... - 3/6/2017
March 4, 2017
It was ten below this morning outside but when I went into the greenhouse to turn on the lights I was greeted by a fresh new daffodil bloom! Sunshine in the greenhouse before the sun was even up.
HAPPY MARCH! - March 1, 2017
May it be as interesting and enjoyable as this year's weather has been.
<-- the view out our kitchen window. How very nice to have snow.
WEATHER TO REMEMBER - February 23, 2017
How interesting weather is. Like most (all?) of the country we’re experiencing the record highs, and for us, record lack of snow cover for February. But the Great Lakes are keeping those highs less extreme than others are having. Here is the view of our garden and orchard areas today:
We had reason to be outside in addition to just enjoying this unusual day for February (post coming) and we much appreciated the warmth (relatively speaking--a warm above freezing anyway) and an occasional spot of sun to cheer us and the world. Our big project a success and done, I had a wonderful time simply wandering around on bare ground or slushy snow without needing snowshoes, looking at the orchard trees, encouraging them to stay dormant, planning spring grafts, marveling at green spots in the garden that hadn’t planned to be out in the open for a few more months (and will likely be very happy to be covered with snow again soon), looking for little chores to be done outside. Steve was in the shop getting ready to start building his kayak. It was a rare and special February day. Not as warm as some of the previous ones but we were home and there to enjoy it. But we also recall those more “usual” Februarys, when our outside world is a beautiful, cold, muffled white (photo 2004). The contrast keeps one alive and happy. Winter is returning though and now I’m quite content to wait for spring when bare ground is welcome and normal.
ORCHARD - Beacon Apple - 02-17-2017
I really had to post something today, just so I could type 02172017. I like it when numbers fall in interesting patterns. It wasn’t hard to come up with a topic. Here it is, the middle of February, and we have a new apple in our orchard. Now the weather has been, and continues, unusually, oddly warm for this time of year. We only had maybe a foot of snow and that is settling and melting fast. (However we appreciate that we have any snow at all!) And I didn’t go out and plant a new tree, or find a new growing seedling (hopefully all of our trees are, and will stay, dormant during this warm spell). Our ‘newest’ apple is our oldest. Our original, reliable, hardy, delicious Prairie Spies, that turned out not to be Prairie Spies. And now I have discovered (or decided), after forty years, that our trees are actually Beacons. And beautiful red beacons they are!
These are three of the trees we planted in 1978, when we first moved north
to our to-be homestead. We bought them from a nursery downstate along with
some other apple and pear trees. We were told they were Prairie Spy, a Univ.
of Minnesota introduction. I knew nothing of pruning and such back then and
only these three thrived, to grow into healthy large trees with little care
or attention early on, giving us a lot of very good apples over the years.
My first note of a harvest was in my canning records in 1987 with the short
but momentous "70 apples, mostly spys but some macs, good”. This may not
sound like a lot of apples from 5 trees but I’m guessing this was our very
first fruit from our small orchard.