Christmas Dinner

In the meat-gathering side of things, not including possible ice fishing, today finished the gathering side.  Me, Claire, my brothers and my dad, went out for a morning pheasant hunting, and had 8 birds before noon.  That is enough for our annual pheasants in brown sauce with sour cherries.

Not as big a year, in the whole meat side.  Thankfully, prior years were prolific enough that though we did not stuff the freezers full, there is still more than enough to take us to next fall, and perhaps next fall will see us hunting deer up on the farm and having more than a morning of sitting at a friend’s place.

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A Bit Of A Lost Year

Things never go as planned.  That has been a general theme in our lives, and one we have constantly lived with since the car wreck.  I don’t really want to get into what has happened since my last posting right now, and maybe never.  We will see.

It has been a lost year. There were so many things we planned on doing that either were not done at all, or did not work out the way we had thought they would.

So, just posting this:

This is a re-do graft I did last spring.  (see )  This was saving a failure due to not protecting grafts in my backyard from rabbits I had never had an issue with before.  This is something that worked this year, and I have placed protection around this small number of grafts I have here, in case the rabbits show up again.

Those are all wire window screen wraps, which is much like what I have up on the property around the trees there to protect them from the meadow voles.

The re-grafted trees grew to really amazing heights with just one year of growth, which I attribute to the well-established root systems they went into.  For future reference, I may graft in-place going forward.  We will see.  These, as well as about 90 at my friends farm in Buffalo, and about 35 in a high fence area on our place, should go into place in the orchard next spring.

We will see.

We did take a deer this year.  Just one. 

And Nell got her first ruffed grouse on her own.

There is still a lot of things I want done, that are not.  Most of this year has been all of us trying not to stress about things that are not getting done.  Last year was much the same, but not to the same degree.  This year was an exponential grade change.

So you keep trying to move forward, keep trying to do as much as you can, and deal with what you have to deal with as well as you can.

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Third Weekend

Yeah, I missed posting on the last one.  I have been busy, and all I did up there was get stuck in muck, and do chainsaw work.  There had been a half foot of snow which was not done melting, which put me behind on things.  I had planned to start digging holes for the grape vines, and had brought 18 with me to get in the ground.  That was what Nell and I did this weekend.

First we measured out for the trellises we might build later this year, or it can wait until next.  5′ pieces of rebar mark the main trellis posts.  Each trellis will be 52′ long, with the vines spaced 8′ apart.  We ran a long tape measure, pushing markers cut from brush we are clearing, at each interval.  Then we worked back through, drilling the holes.

For the actual planting, we cut out around the hole, making it about 18 inches wide.

The drilled hole is 3X the depth of the planting hole, and we back-filled it with sand for better drainage.  Then the grape vine is set in with sand, and topsoil. (which is a silty loam with a lot of clay in it)We added some lime as we went too.  The soil up there is acidic, which is not a bad thing, but we want to balance it out a bit.

Grapes do not need great soil (they fruit better in poor soils) but they do not like competition with their roots, so we are starting them with a newspaper  mulch to smother out the grasses around them.

The mulch is covered with sand and the clay chunks that did not fit when back-filling, which should starve the grasses underneath for light.

So, from the top, looking down the hill, 10 rows, 60 holes, 18 grapes in.

We spent a good amount of time cutting firewood as well, to give us breaks from digging holes (which is easier with a power auger than by hand, but still hard on the body) and while doing so, I nearly hit a woodcock with the bar while cutting.  They really blend in well.  I took a photo of the nest she had been sitting on, and went back an hour later to see if she had returned.  She did.

There she is, next to the log I had been cutting.

Can you see her yet?

If you don’t know they are there, you could step on them.


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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 ( ) 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  )

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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