Finishing Trees With Ben

He may not look happy, but he is just intense and concentrating.


It went faster, and was more fun for me, to be working with him.img_8894 img_8895 img_8896

He stuck through it too, until I had the last 47 of them done.  95 total.

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In the background are the larger saplings the Adickes purchased when I got the large trees I planted up on our land this spring.  I plan on helping get all of theirs wrapped as well, but happy to have all of mine up at their place done.  Another end-of-the-year task I can mark as finished.

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Tree Work & Squash Processing at the Adickes Farm


Home stretch for working on the grafted trees.  There are 95 at the Adickes farm, and while I know that not all will be successful, I do not want any of the trees there to get girdled either.  Not sure what the risk level is there.  Jerid keeps things mowed pretty well, but once snow is on the ground, critters can travel under the snow, so taking the same precautionary measures at there place as I did up north.  There is no evidence of any damage yet (other than a few errant hits with the weed wacker by me) and hoping to get them all done by later Sunday.


They have a “mountain” of road sand/gravel gifted by the construction crew when the new road was built in front of their place and the crew found they had more than they needed.  I used it to seal the bottoms of the window screen cages I put around each tree.

I did 12 trees at a time, then would go into the house and work on processing squash so as not to stress my body out too much.

img_8870We started with Sugar Pie Pumpkins, which taste great, but a lot of work cutting, seeding, and peeling a bushel of the little guys.  We saved the seeds for roasting, while the pulp and stems were hauled by the gallon to the bacon.


Which the bacon seemed to greatly appreciate.


Cinderella Pumpkins (not really called that, but I do not know how to pronounce rouge vif d’etampes) was the next one we cut into.  That fills canning jars a lot faster.

img_8876That nearly filled (along with the earlier Sugar Pies) 35 quart jars.


Then we got into the Giant Pink Banana squash (yeah it is really called that) which finished off all of our quart canning jars (will have to pick more up) plus every tray of Katrina’s dehydrator.

img_8882It was a long, but fun and fruitful day.


Just to show, the above is an Antonovka which rejected a bud chip graft. The crust on my fingers is from the squash.  If you ever process a ton of it, you will know what it is like.


That is an Antonovka which set the bud chip graft.


And last, one that took the graft, and pushed the bud.  I honestly do not know if the tree will have enough time to grow a new bud under that one, and harden the wood off for winter.  If not, the tree is still alive, and I will just graft onto it again.  I probably have a dozen or so that pushed the buds to one extent or another.  Next year will tell how many work out.


I pushed it as late as I could into the evening.


Between canning sessions, and to finish the day, I did 48 of 95 trees.


As I lost the light I needed to work, Jerid lit one of the piles of stumps and scrap wood they have out there, and we all hung around the fire for a while as the moon rose.

I will be back out there early (if my body lets me) tomorrow, hoping to finish getting through the trees.  Have that to do (47 more) plus a big family get together on my side, where we quarterly gather to eat and celebrate all the birthdays and anniversaries that happen this time of year.  So, I need sleep now, and there is another long day tomorrow.  The end of it all is coming.  A couple last weekends of garden work, vegetable processing, then deer hunting and meat processing, and then, maybe, after Thanksgiving weekend, a day off and a nap.

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Hoping We Are Not Too Late


So, on the whole issue of rodent control, this is why we are wrappring tree trunks in metal screening.


This larger tree was recently snacked on and not girdled.  I wrapped it in parafilm to protect the damaged areas.

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Not sure how much more we can do.img_8836 img_8839 img_8840 img_8841 img_8842 img_8844 img_8845

We cleaned up around every tree before wrapping them.

img_8849It was beautiful up there.  Tried to take  a few photos to show that.



When I got to the seedling trees, the damage was more extensive.

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Mice and voles have not been the only predating animals on our property.  The horse which had broken free in the spring and come across our property then, did so again in July apparently, but was subsequently predated upon.


I wrapped the grafts I have up there tight.

img_8857 img_8858 img_8862The nights are coming early, and we do not have near the daylight to get things done that we had this summer.  We are dark by 7 now.

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Sunday morning we went to Bayfield’s Apple Festival.  My kids had heard there was a vendor who had deep fried Oreos, and Claire wanted to try them.  I had not been to Apple Fest since the early 90s.  I remembered it as an apple themed food court at the bottom of a big hill.  It still is.  But a lot more people.


Every single seedling apricot I planted in the field was eaten down to the ground.  The 5 in the high fence area are fine though.  I am hoping the window screen protects them for the winter from rodents.img_8868

The seedling apple trees we grew from Kleffman/Cortland crosses are fine, and all got screen protectors as well.


So, other than making the mental note that I need to, in the future, do the screen protectors when I am planting, and not waiting until fall, we have the place set for winter.  Might make another trip or two up there before spring.  We will see.

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Birthday Girl, and Another Trip Up North


We had a busy week.  It was Claire’s birthday, which for Birthday Breakfast meant a cherry tart and English Breakfast tea at Patisserie Margo in Excelsior on Tuesday.


And the weekend was Claire, Nell, Pike, and myself up at the farm.  Doing some final preparation work for winter up there, hoping to keep the rodents off of the tree trunks until they are old enough that being girdled by a small animal is not a worry.


Evenings are coming fast.  by 6 pm the sun was low in the horizon, and I was making dinner for us and a neighborhood friend who made the long walk over to the property to have pork chops on the grill.


While we had a wonderful, clear, starry evening, the morning woke up with a heavy cold fog.

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Not a good focus in the dim light and fog, but what I am showing here is how one of the old trees on the property has the ground completely trampled underneath.  This tree set hundreds of incredibly sweet large crab apples, about 2.5″ in diameter.  They are an apparent area favorite of bears, who went to great lengths to get the apples from the tree.  Goldenrod and grasses, 3’+ tall everywhere else, are completely trampled into the ground here, and mixed with dozens of piles of bear crap.  They tore the tree up too, with a lot of the branches broken in their efforts to strip every fruit from the branches.  Come late winter, there is a lot of broken and cracked limbs I am going to have to prune off.


Though we did not see him, the local farmer has been working on cutting the fields out there.  He left his equipment on the farm.  He appears to be about half done.  Kids had fun climbing around on the bales.


He mowed and baled the driveway too which was nice.


Just before 8 am we headed into town for pancakes.  We took the long way in, because I was hoping for a photo shot of horses in the fog.


We got back at about 10 am, and Claire and I got back to work, fastening the aluminum screen sleeves around the trees.  Don’t want snow, ice and wind to remove them, and these loops are easy enough for us to remove later, should we want to.

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We did not stay too late.  It is going to take another trip to finish, and the plan is for all of us to head up there this next weekend, and check out Bayfield’s Apple Festival while we are at it.  We ended the trip with a hike for the kids and Pike in a river, as much to wash the dog off as for the kids to play.


Just as a side note:  The trip very nearly started with disaster.  As we approached our property Claire rolled down her window to look out over our fields, and Pike took a flying leap out, as I was driving at about 20 mph.  He took quite the tumble, scraped the hair and a lot of skin off of his chin, gouged the side of his face, and tore up his paws.  Not a brilliant move on his part, and could have ended really badly if he had busted up all of his legs.  We did not have to deal with that trauma though.  Just a bloodied up dog.  This photo is the next day.  Did not take photos of him looking like a horror show.

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Harvesting With My Birthday Girl

So Claire turns the magic dozen tomorrow.


She made a quick run with me out to the Adickes farm to cut the rest of the sunflowers, get them on racks in the greenhouse, as well as pick another bushel of squash (2 this year, all Baby Vi) and I started to dig sweet potatoes.





We are using about 50 feet of shelving in one of the now empty greenhouses to finish drying them away from the song birds.  I learned the hard way, some years ago, what a cloud of blackbirds can do to a full acre of sunflowers.


I do not have a ton of hills of sweet potatoes, but I also only dug up half of them.  I was working in muck, it was heavy, and I ran into a field clutch of a dozen chicken eggs.  Katrina asked me to collect them and I found from her later that there are chickens that are too lazy to go back to the hen house in the summer to lay them, but they are not broody either so the eggs just die out in the field.  But the pigs enjoy them, so they get turned into bacon.

I got about 5 pounds of sweet potatoes per hill.  Apparently they need to cure in 80 degree + heat so I am going to keep them in a bushel box in the car, with the windows up, for a few days.  Nights are getting cool, but sunny days should have the car warm enough to do what our weather is not this time of year.

And that is all I am going to type tonight.  Tired.  Need to head to bed.

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Canning Pears

My Friend Dave Macgreggor has a few pear trees that he grew from seed, are not named varieties, and he does not sell at the orchard, but he had a few bushels of those pears he was willing to let go cheap, so I made a trip up there and picked them up yesterday.


They are not real big.  Most of them are about 2.5 inches across.


Patti and I carefully quartered and cut out any bug spots, cores, stems and blossom ends.


I poached them in sugar water.  For every 1.5 gallons of packed pears, topped with water, I added 2 cups of rough organic sugar.


I am not done canning yet.  I think two runs to go in the canner.  I am up to 72, with 72-79 in the canner now.  Still enough pears for another full run in the pot.


As an FYI, wrapping your thumb in duct tape prior to cutting all of the pears by hand might not be a bad idea.  I kind of turned the ball of my thumb into hamburger.

Also, as a note:  I did one run in the canner with the pears in brandy.  Alcohol boils at a much lower temperature.  I had been going with 25 minutes in a hot water bath canner.  If I do that again, I am not going to run it with the booze for more than 10 minutes.  A lot of the alcohol boiled off.


I also had three jars fail in the canner, requiring me to empty it all and start over with new water, which slows things up.  Had two failed seals so far too, and those jars are in the fridge.  One sugar water, one brandy.

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Phoebe & Sunflowers


Was a bit more subdued of a Saturday than most of mine had been.  I made a run out to a friend’s orchard with Phoebe to talk about things and see how all was going for them after losing 80% of their crop to a late freeze and then hail.    They are getting along which was good to see.  Then Phoebe and I tripped over to the Adickes farm to harvest the earliest maturing Arikara Sunflowers for seed saving.img_8768

20 heads we chose.  There will be a lot more, but these were the largest and earliest ones.  I love the variability of this variety.


We eat them  out of hand, or soak in salt water, and then roast in the oven.  Some of the heads we put up in the winter for the birds.  <laughing> After we go to such great lengths to keep the birds off of them in the summer.

The select heads are in a protected greenhouse to finish drying, and we will seed them later, and pack the selected seed away for another year.

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Sheer Numbers

I really did not know how many holes I dug, and trees I had planted this year.  I just knew I was tired.


A lot of them were smaller, being planting out of grafting work I had done over the winter.


Things like the Manchurian Apricots required no more than three cuts with a spade to make the hole.  It was much the same for the Antonovka apple tree seedlings.

But it was not until today that I took the time to go through my journal where I had mapped everything out, to come out with actual counts of things.

31 holes for large trees, dug by hand, minimum 30 inches deep and 30 inches wide, 204 smaller holes, 20 inches by 20 inches.

235 trees.  Hauled 10 gallons of water, per tree for the large trees, 5 gallons at a time.  Smaller trees got 2.5 gallons each.  I used 5 gallon carboys.

126 chip bud grafts done on root stock in the ground in the last month.

23 varieties of apples planted,

3 varieties of cherries (Sweet Cherry Pie, Mesabi & Nanking)

4 varieties of plums (Compass, Mt. Royal, Sapatka)

3 varieties of pears (Ure, Early Gold, Parker)

and 2 varieties of apricots  (Pioneer & Manchurian)

I have made 28 grafts of Kleffman apples, 18 Karmijn de Sonneville, 14 Cortland, 14 Crabby Crisp, 9 Haralson, 8 Haragold, 8 Homestead Blush,9 Liberty, 11 Honeycrisp.

1-5 of the following:

PF-51, Autumn Blush, Quinta, Keepsake, Red Prairie Spy, Honey Gold, Chestnut Crab, Gravenstein, Macintosh, Wealthy, La Crescent

I bought a Snowsweet and a Zestar.  The Zestar died.

Oh, I forgot the 70 rhubarb crowns, the 100+ grape vines I started, and the hops.

We were lucky, in that the summer brought enough rain that for what we planted, we only had to water each tree up north the first two weeks.  There was not a week without rain up there after that.  At the farm in Buffalo where I have another 95 trees, only once did I have to make a special trip just to water each of those trees, and they have hoses that get close to where the trees are.

I still have to wrap trunks and whip all the weeds down before winter so that I do not have mice girdling any of them.  That is about it.  Not that it is a small job, but having only that left to do, after starting back in March, means I am going on 7 months without a real break in activity.  At least this part will be done, soon, for now.  Harvesting gardens here, deer hunting, meat processing, all still to come, but really, only 3 months to go before I have a couple of months to relax and plan activities for next year.  More than 2/3 of the way there.

I feel like I need a month of sleep.



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Couple Of Weeks, Seed Saving, Grafts, Up North, Adickes Farm


Another one where I do apologize, but just going to be kind of raw, unedited, and cover a few weeks of work with mostly pictures.


This is my daughter Claire showing a seed saving demo.  Renville Paste tomatoes.  Just slice, squeeze them into a container, and move on to the next one.img_8713


So when all said and done, couple thousand seeds in pulp.


Goes into a dated, labeled jar for 5 days, then rinsed in a wire strainer, dried on a ceramic plate, and then packed away for another year.


Rumi Banjan tomatoes from the garden.  Claire chopping garlic.


Seeded tomatoes.


How every pot of red sauce starts: garlic and olive oil.


Chip bud grafts I did on seedling trees here at home.  Kleffman & Cortland apples using cuttings from trees in our yard.  Bud chips have grown in, swelled, and burst the Parafilm covering.

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Arikara Sunflowers out at the Adickes farm are doing well.


Going to need to cut them soon and lay them out to dry in one of their protected greenhouses.


The hops we planted on our windmill trellis up at the property grew pretty well this year.  Had been led to believe they were not likely to flower first year.  Cascade though proved them wrong.


Hallertau and Centennial did not flower.  But was fun to see the Cascade make it to about 8 feet tall, and give up a few flowers.

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One of our neighbors runs a sheep milk and cheese farm.  Was fun to just see them out with their minder dogs.

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Someone was having fun stacking rocks by Siskiwit Falls in the river.


Wild turkeys on a road going up Pratt’s Peak.  This trip was just with Nell, and not as long as I would have liked.  We got rained out Labor Day Monday morning.  4.5 inches in 4 hours.  But I did finish the grafting work I needed to do up there the day before.  Will have to go back to do weed remediation and wrapping of tree trunks before winter.


Just a wild apple tree we found.  They were sour and not sure if ripe yet.


Nell and I were invited to Highland Valley Farm (see their website at ) where we were introduced to the finer points of farming blueberries, currants, honey, maple syrup, and just a few hours of great fun.  Magdalen Teasley-Dale lives near our property and is who the invite came from.  Entertainment and tour/lesson came from her dad Rick Dale.

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And I got to play with his son’s dog.


This is one of the winter bench grafts I had done and transplanted up north that worked well.


Nell kept me company  while I was up there.  Ate the food I cooked, (bacon and egg sandwiches, and bacon cheeseburgers on the fire) and made me bouquets of flowers she hung around wherever I was working at the time.


Another bench graft.  Really shows how important matching the cambium layers up is.


A different type of bench graft, but also seems to have worked just fine.


Another done the same way.


Just an apple tree growing in a black spruce hedgerow on our place.  The pines are older, so this is likely a volunteer, but the apples taste pretty good, have a nice pink blush inside, and are more tart than a Harelson.  Not as sweet and crisp as one, but still a nice apple.


The more ripe they are, the deeper the red blush.  This is just a photo of one I cut up there.  Ones we brought home and we have had here for a week are darker.


Patti and I got out to the Adickes farm to do weed remediation and pick beans.


The chip bud grafts I did up there really took off.


Just a month since I did them, and nearly all took, and some have even put up full branches.


This is one of the few ones that failed, and thought it was cool that the tree healed itself behind the chip bud and blew it right off of the main stem.


Another example of a successful one.



Just two of the wine grapes I grew from cuttings taken last spring.  Top is King of the North, bottom is Frontenac.


Another view of an earlier shot.  The graft is Crabby Crisp, a variety developed by Dave Macgregor that he gave me cuttings of to propagate by chip budding.

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Cat had to come ride the shoulders while Patti and I were picking beans.  He is kneading his claws into my shoulder and drooling all over me.  Guess he missed me.


Ended up with about 4 gallons of beans, tummies full of a wonderful dinner cooked by Katrina, and a tumbler of Crown Royal to sip while watching a spectacular sunset.


So that is the last couple of weeks.  Starting to see color in the trees, air is getting crisp in the mornings, deer season is around the corner and winter is coming.

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Chip Bud Grafting


What I am holding in my hand is greed bud wood.  New growth this year.  That particular handful is from our own tree Nell and I started from seed 11 years ago.


This is a roll of Parafilm, which is commonly used when doing grafts, to hold the grafted wood together, and keep it from drying out.


After having limited success bench grafting with a home made grafting knife (I modified a kitchen knife) I went onto Amazon and bought one.


For all practical purposes, you cut a section of the tree trunk out on the seedling rootstock.


Then you cut from  your bud stick, a bud and some of the surrounding wood, doing whatever you can to see to it that the size of cut is comparable on each piece.  You need to have the cadmium layer (the green slick parts) matching well enough that they are touching, and then wrap the whole thing up in parafilm.


When you are done, it looks like this.  If the bud takes, the area will swell over the next couple of weeks and break the parafilm right off.




I did this 105 times over the course of a couple of weeks.  20-45 at a time.  I really should not have done 45 in one day.  Working that close to the ground, crouched like that, puts way too much strain on joints that are fused together.

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105 is all of the rootstock seedlings I have at the Adickes farm combined with the 10 here at home I practiced on first.

Hoping to have 10 or more of each of the following:



Karmijin de Sonneville


Crabby Crisp


Autumn Blush




<shrug> we will see what my success rate is on these.


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