Potting Up Hops & Replacing Trees

Thursday through Sunday.  Working on things for the future.  That shot is my hand, after repeated handwashings in scalding hot water with lots of soap.  <sigh>  That is as good as it is going to get for a while.

It started (as stated) on Thursday.  Katrina was potting  up bulbs in one of her greenhouses.  Nell is helping me pot up hop rhizomes.  3 varieties, ended up with 61 total pots.  We likely  could have had more in the end, but hops are still a bit new to me, and I was not sure how far down I could pare them and still have viable pieces.

Same three varieties as last year, just greater quantities.  Cascade, Centennial, and Halletrau.

We are using 3 year old compost to pot them up in.  Hops like fertile soils apparently.  Adding what they are being potted into, to whatever they are being planted into later, cannot be a bad thing.

Nell and I got home at about 10 am Thursday night.  Friday morning we (being Me, Nell and Claire) needed to pack up and head to the property up north, working on replacing trees taken out by deer (apricots) and apples (meadow voles) before things really wake up there.

This is just a shot of a Nanking cherry.  Happens to be a volunteer seedling from our neighborhood here.  Replacing one of at least 3 that were girdled last fall before wire screen was put around trunks.

This is a shot of a completely girdled Antonovka apple tree we replaced.  One of two that was apparently still alive, though I did not know it until I had dug it out.  There were 13 destroyed by meadow voles, 2 of them I found had survived that, but I had dug them out, so I heeled them into dirt in a pot and will grow the new shoots bigger before placing them back out.

Just a shot of the other one that survivded (poor focus, sorry) with the tree I replaced it with, along with the meadow vole protection installed at planting, instead of later.

The southern edge of the property we had planted Manchurian Apricots.  Lots of them.  Last fall, deer ate them down to the ground.  Just stumps left.  They are now replaced with groups of 2 (to form one canopy) about 40′ apart, along that same southern edge, protected from deer and voles.

The old windbreak of trees had a black spruce which displeased Patti, being it was dead at the top, so I took the waning hours of Saturday night to take it down.  I will work on cutting it up later.

It was not a small tree, and well exceeded the width of the bar on the chainsaw.  I had to cut from both sides to bring it down, but it came down smoothly.

It was (and I assume all of them were) planted 75 years ago.

This photo does not really do justice for the weather we encountered this morning (Sunday) upon awaking, but you can see the snow.  It chased us off of the property by 10 am, frozen and muddy.

Final count was a couple dozen apricots, about a dozen apples, a cherry, and an Eastern Redbud.  Happy with how much I got done, but did not get all I  had thought of doing, done.  Never do.  Do what we can.  As much in the final estimation that we can ask of ourselves.


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The World Is waking Up

Springtime finally really feels like it is here.  Fun project for Patti and the kids has been hatching eggs to help the Adickes Farm ( http://pastureadickes.com/ ) increase the size of their laying flock.

Days 21 & 22 were fun to watch, as 35 chicks came into the world.

When they were all out for 24 hours, they went up to the Adickes farm and we picked up a bunch more eggs which are on their 7th day in the incubator, today.

Nell and I took a day to do prep work on squash hills (just digging and adding wheelbarrows of compost) and planted 60 hills of sunflowers.

Patti and I made a couple of trips to the Adickes green house (where there is a lot more room to work) and over a couple of days, potted up about 400 tomato plants.

I cleft grafted 30 apple trees on EMLA 106 rootstock, and gave myself a mandaid due to mishandling my grafting knife.

Then I made 39 whip and tongue grafts of pears onto Bartlett seedling rootstock.

Those are all sitting in a refrigerator for a couple of weeks as the cambium layers callous together and form vascular channels so when we take them out of cold storage, the grafted tops do not just dry up and die.  Instead (assuming I still know what I am doing) we are going to have a bunch of custom grafted apple and pear trees.

Chip bud grafts I did last year (95 mostly Antonovka rootstock, with a few semi-dwarfs as well) are mostly pushing buds this spring which is good to see, being last fall was my first attempt at that technique.  (see http://threedaughtersfarm.com/wp/?p=8115  )

The Nanking cherry trees in the yard are blooming and full of happy early season pollinators.

We had storms yesterday that knocked a lot of petals down, but only a fraction of the buds had already opened.  They look and smell wonderful today.

The 40+ Red Lake Currant cuttings I dropped in the ground a few weeks ago have ALL pushed buds, which bodes well for them rooting this year and being ready to move up north next year.  The friend who gave my my first bushes of them says he has some from another variety that gives exceptionally large fruits to give me this year as well.  I will plant those directly up on the farm.

The quince cuttings I was gifted by a Ukranian friend from prunings he made this year are starting to push buds as well.  I have 35 cuttings of those in the ground, and I have no idea how many will fully root.  This is a new things for me, and our interest came from finding that in the days before packaged fruit pectin, quince and hawthorn were used to jell up preserves.  Honestly, I think there are hawthorn up on the property already, and if not, there are named varieties readily available in quantity at fairly low costs from wholesale nurseries.  Quince though, other than the decorative flowering quince, are a more rare thing.  This one gets fruits that look like huge pears, and apparently taste good, although they do not ripen on the tree (like pears) and have to sit on a counter for a week or so to soften up, or they are cooked to make a fruit paste, and lastly, are added to fruit preserves to jell them up without having to also buy packaged fruit pectin.  The whole “do everything you can yourself” side of that, strikes a happy chord within us.  Especially with how much fruit pectin we have to buy every year to do the 100+ jars of fruit preserves we do.  It will be some years before any of these are producing, but no time like the present to start.


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The Time Between Times

I am in a bit of a holding pattern.  Doing little things without having big projects yet, because that time is coming.  At some point.  If it was warming up faster, I might feel behind, but at the same time I want it to warm up enough that I can move forward on things.

I have a lot of seedlings started.  Some are up and under lights, some are sitting on top of the fridge or on shelves over the stove waiting to germinate.

I have spent some time advising people on how to properly prune their fruit trees that they have never touched and have problems with disease due to poor air flow.

We ended up with 4 runs of sap this year, which started back on January 20th for the first, and the last which just ended last week.  Banner year for just two trees.  About 60 gallons of sap, which finished to two gallons of syrup.First blooms in our yard.

And finally, the frost is out of the ground and I can start digging grape vines I rooted last year.  I dug out Bluebell and DM 8521-1.  I got about 75% success on them rooting well.  They are all packed away, with wet newspaper around the roots and then in plastic bags to keep them dormant until transplanted where I want them to go.

There is a lot coming up.  250 fruit tree root stocks will be delivered in about a week and a half.  Then I have a lot of grafting to do, coupled with trips that will have to be made up north to do prep work for planting grape vines when the frost is out of the ground there.  Things are gearing up.  We will see how it all goes.


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First Time Back On The Property-updated

For the first trip up to the property, I just took Claire.  We would have rather all gone, but between work back here, the logistics of coordinating the whole family on a trip, the cold (still winter here) in regards to camping (we stayed at a friend’s home) and the limited amount of work that could be done (ground is still frozen) it was just the two of us.  She read Robert Heinlien’s Revolt in 2100 aloud in the car, as this one has no radio.

On the way up, there were a lot of deer looking for any green they can.  These are from along highway 23, near Willow River.  (We took a scenic rout north).

First trip of the year, and saw the first wolf of the year.  Out on the ice pack of the south shore of Lake Superior, west of Port Wing, about a quarter mile out on the ice.

I shut the truck off in order to reduce camera shake by bracing it against the windowsill.

We were very happy to see that Don Pratt had got the whole south end (17 acres) mowed and rolled.  He did not have the goldenrod side all moved and stacked for a compost pile yet, but my worries of the meadow voles having places to hide for the winter was placated.

We still went and checked all of the caged trees.  We found no new damage on the big ones which was a huge relief.

The one piece of work we could do, was the repair/pruning of the bear damaged apple tree.  From the ground I cleared what I could, and then Claire scampered up to do more.

Quickly though we found that she just did not have the upper body strength to go through anything larger than about .75 inches, so once she had cleared what she could I got myself up in the tree.

It is still cold up there too.

That is just a shot of the high fence area we had the seedling grafts in.  We did lose a few in there, as the voles found a half dozen of them.  But overall, that is not too bad.

There was some parts, way up high, that I was not going to climb up to get.  We need to invest in a ladder specifically for getting up higher in the trees so we can remove branches and make harvesting from them manageable.

Claire wanted a campfire, so we had the first of the year.

Then we took a stomp around the perimeter of the property.  We could hear wolves howling north east of us, up the hollow, the whole time.

North east corner, looking to the north east.

North east corner of the property, looking to the south west.

A big ant hill we found back there.

Just a shot of some catkins on a wild hazelnut.

Very north side of our property, looking south.

Walking back to the campsite we were suddenly hit by a snowstorm I had not been aware was coming.  We quickly collected scions from the to big apple trees for grafting, packed things up, and headed out.

The ground was quickly covered, which worried me, as we were driving a rear wheel pickup, and I had no added weight in the back.

We got to the outer edge of that storm by the time we were back in Cornucopia.  Stopped to fill up water bottles at the artesian wells and walk the ice out a ways on the lake.

We drove back into blizzard 90 miles south of Duluth, which was a complete white knuckle drive with accidents happening all around us.  At about 7 pm I pulled into our driveway, safe and sound.  We will be back up in a few weeks.  Wish we had seen the property with a lot of snow.  At it’s height, apparently, there was 90 inches.  I have not seen snow pack like that in a long time.  It is also why I think I can get away with growing a lot of perennials that in most circumstances cannot be grown that far north.  That much snow insulates things in ways they are not here.

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Saving Trees/Regrafting

So for those of you that follow the things we do, I had an earlier post on damage from rabbits in our backyard this winter.  It was a first for me here.  They have typically ended up as cat or dog food as soon as they showed themselves.  Apparently the cats and dog slacked this last winter.  Or perhaps we have a population spike.

They ate this one damn near down to the ground, but the trunk is still green and alive.

So, first step, I removed the tops to just below the lowest damage with a pruner.


Then I split it down the center with a grafting knife.

To make the connection, you are using the pressure of the trunk like a vice to hold the wood you are grafting to it.

It is the green cambium later, just below the bark, that has to be touching so it can grow together.  I shaved the scion wood (the variety I want the new tree to be, one year old wood) so that it can be wedged in.

That is what it looks like after you insert it.  I used the grafting knife to hold the cleft open in order to push the piece in.

That is just a shot of another one.

So once wrapped in parafilm, and the tip sealed with pruning sealer, that is what it looks like.

Ten new grafts.  Six Kleffman and 4 Cortland. We will see how they do, and hopefully we are digging them up next spring to move up north to the orchard.

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Pruning The Big Apple Tree

Has been three years since I pruned the tree really, and not as heavily, ever, as I should have been doing.  Also had not been physically up to doing what needed to be done.  Today though, I felt pretty good.  I wanted to take more than half of the canopy out of it.  We need more wind and sun penetration for the tree.  Left to its own devices, it has developed a half dozen central leaders internally in the tree.

I pruned from the ground until it was open enough on the lower scaffold for Nell to scamper up into it to start working on bigger stuff from the inside.

By the time her arm got tired from the pruning saw, she had it open enough that even I could get up into it.

We also plan on bending branches down with ropes attached to hooks on the ground.  I want the tree to grow more out than up, and this one is vigorously reaching for the sun.  When the wood softens later in the spring we will start working on that.  If they are moved over the course of the summer to the positions you want, and harden off that way in the fall, they should stay in those horizontal positions.

Once we were done, Violet wanted her photo taken with her in the tree too.  She is not tall enough to reach the lower scaffold branches so I gave her a boost up.

Our last task with this, was gathering scion wood for doing bench and field grafts later.  I will trim all of these down, pack them in a zip loc bag in the crisper, and they will be fine for later.

So that is what it looks like now, and maybe I should have taken even more out of it, but I think 50-60% is enough to remove for one year.  Spreading out the branches is going to give it a lot more width as well.  I am going to move the compost pile to the north side of the tree, and plant tomatoes where the compost pile used to be.

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Second Run

This is what I came home to.  Every bucket within a few inches of the top.

They are bleeding faster than the spiles can direct the sap into the buckets.

The early run we had gave us just over 3 quarts of finished syrup.  We will see how this one goes.  Sap is running cold and clear.  Nice to see.


Getting close to 10 pm, and I have 12 gallons reduced to about 2.  There is going to be more to cook down tomorrow.  Buckets filled to where I had another full (combined) before the end of the evening. Spoke with a friend of mine this evening who taps far more trees.  He pulled in 105 gallons today, which combined with his early run, means he is going to have a record year.  The early shy run scared me.  Glad we get to partake in both of them.

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Continuing Class: Chip Bud Grafting

Last summer, we not only planted a lot of fruit trees;  we also worked at making a lot more.  see http://threedaughtersfarm.com/wp/?p=8115

Today was a continuation of that project.

Unlike the dozen in my yard that got eaten by rabbits (and I am going to have to get creative to save) the 95 apple trees I grafted at the Adickes farm appear to be fine.

Claire made the run out there with me today, and we got through all of them with the Adickes boys help.  All were cut just above the grafts that took last year, and then the cut was sealed with pruning sealant.

The pruning sealant serves a couple of primary purposes here.  First, it prevents the sapling from drying down past the graft and killing it.  Second, it creates hydraulic pressure when the sap moves up the tree, in the same way that it hits the primary bud (if you don’t cut it off) along with all of the growth hormones the tree sends up to move growth upwards.  In this way, we are hoping to make the tree turn that grafted bud, into the tree.For about 60 of the trees we had a good system going, where one of the boys would remove the protective screen tube, I would cut the top off above the graft, Claire would paint it with the pruning sealant, and then the boys would replace the tube.

At the bottom of the hill was a lot of ice, and the boys moved off to play their own version of Crashed Ice while Claire and I finished off the shorter second row of trees.

After all of that, Jerid and I worked through their orchard, working out pruning strategies, figuring out what made it through the winter, what needed to be repaired, and ultimately, we pruned all of the saplings they planted last year.

On the way back up to the house afterwards, I got a cute shot of Junior by one of their maple tree taps.

So that was the day.  My body made it through 130+ deep knee bends and though I sure know it, I also seem none the worse for wear.  For the moment.  I will need to do the same thing to the bud grafts I did up north at the property as well.  Still need to finish pruning the big trees.  But this part of the project has moved on to its next stage.


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Trees Are Running!

Our extended forecast looks good.  Highs in the mid 30s to 40s, with night time temps dipping below freezing.  Right now it is 44 degrees and all 4 taps we have in are running well.  They had just started up again yesterday evening, and by noon today they were nearly a quarter full.

We had an early run which I posted on.  Not enough to fill the buckets all the way up before it froze solid again, but I have to tell you, when we cooked it down, it made the lightest colored, sweetest, buttery maple syrup I have ever had.  Just one big jar of it.  Not even a full quart.  But good lord is it wonderful.

It has me convinced to watch the weather closely, and get some taps in early if we are going to have an early freeze-thaw cycle.

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Holding Patterns

This is one of those between times in the year.  It is a bit too early to be starting much in the way of tomatoes or peppers.  It is also early to be gathering maple sap, but the buckets had a good amount frozen into them, which we are cooking down today.  Temps will not get back above freezing until tomorrow, and the buckets will back on the trees.  As things stand now, what we have would reduce down to one and a half pints of finished syrup, though I will not cook it down that far right away.  Just need to reduce volume.

I made a drive out to Fairhaven Orchard on Saturday to meet with Dave MacGregor.  He was involved with the early side of cold resistant grape vine breeding and general viticulture for the upper mid west along with Elmer Swenson.  We spent time reviewing the property my family purchased, talked about ground prep, varieties to grow, and in general had a great afternoon sitting in front of a fired up wood stove, talking about growing things.  I have a list of books, authors, and specific topics to research on my own for a few weeks.

The eagles pictured, I pulled over and took a photo of, where 14 runs into 55 from the south.  I stopped and got out of the car to get the pic, and got to hear them talking to each other.  They are waiting for spring as well.

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