Making Willow Trees

IMG_9289Claire wanted to go for a walk this evening, so we did a little project together, which is just a continuation of lessons in clonal reproduction of trees.

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This is a big willow next to a retaining pond near our home, tucked back in a marsh.

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We collected a bunch of green cuttings from it.

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Tucked them in a wide mouth quart jar,IMG_9294

filled it with filtered water, and covered with tinfoil to keep lights off the roots, then put it on top of the fridge, at the back, where it would stay warm and out of direct light.

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Nell and I did much the same a few weeks ago, from an ancient weeping willow on my parent’s old property.

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3 weeks out from taking those cuttings, and 2 of them were developed enough to warrant being potted up.  You cannot do this with all trees, but if you have a willow you want more of, or want to save for whatever reasons, it is a fun project to do.

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Corn Flour (Red Speckled)

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I have been asked what we do with all the corn we grow.  Well, the popcorn is pretty self explanatory, as is the sweet corn, but when you tell people you primarily grow flour corns, you get an odd look from most.

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We have a variety of mills we have picked up over the years, from a cast iron double cone behemoth with flywheel, a standard hand crank double plate, and a coffee mill.

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The soft flour corns will give you consistency as light as smooth as pastry flour.

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We double bag it to prevent insect damage.  Corn left as whole kernels are fairly immune to all but rodents, and it lasts pretty much forever.  Once you grind it, the kernel has been killed, and it will go rancid in time.  We do a couple of gallons at a go, both corn flour and corn meal, and pack the equipment away until we run out again.  This is corn from 2015, that we just ground, so nice to know we have a couple of years worth of corn before we are close to running out.  I would have done a photo of the corn bread, but that did not last long enough to get photos this time.

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For Holly: Saving Grape Vine Prunings To Start New Vines

So a friend of mine asked, after the last posting, for me to do a more detailed post in regards to what I do to propagate grape vines.

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Step 1:  You need wood that is approximately the width of a pencil, and last year’s growth.  In the picture above, there is 2 year old wood, thicker, and with bark that is peeling a bit, running horizontal.  There are 1 year old canes growing out of the top that I want to save for rooting, which is a way to clone the original varietal vine, in this case, a Bluebell eating grape.

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The first cut is just below the first primary bud on the cane.

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You ideally want 3 or 4 buds left on each piece, and each piece to be 10″-12″ long.  When you eventually plant them, only the top bud will be exposed.  The other two will be buried, and will send out roots instead of leaves.

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The next cut is done at a diagonal, leaving about two inches of cane above the top bud.  This is because when you eventually plant it, the exposed top will dry back a bit, and cutting on a diagonal makes it obvious which end is the top.  (It is not always obvious looking at a piece of cane, removed from the perspective of the whole vine, which end is “up”).

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You need the saved cane to not be winter injured.  Here, this winter, we got to -30F, and there was some cold injury to some of the vines.  The one on the left, above, is healthy.  The one on the right has died.

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Just showing the cut end of the vine, left one is alive, while the right is spongy and brown.

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Where I cut the vine just below the first bud is also healthy and green.

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As you work your way through your pile of prunings, it is a good idea to have a bucket of water you can put them in that keeps them upright, and separated by type if you are doing more than one kind of grape vine.

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For longer term storage (because this is January, and they will not be planted out into the soil for months) I place them butt end down in moistened peat moss (not sopping wet, I have soaked the peat moss, and then squeezed the water out) inside a 2 gallon heavy duty plastic storage bag.

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This bag of 50 cuttings is ready to sit in the fridge for a few months.  When it is getting closer to the time to plant them out, I will take the bags out of the fridge, and place them, butt end down, on top of the fridge to warm them up, for a week or two, and then soak them, submerged in water, overnight, just before planting outside.  I will try to remember to add those photos when that time comes to pass.

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Pruning Grapes & Damn Rabbits

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We are in a January thaw, with no more extreme weather expected, so I thought today would be a good day to head into the back yard and prune the Bluebell and Swenson Seedless grape vines.

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The first photo is not a grape vines.  Neither is this one.

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Nor this one.  All but one of the grafts I did last summer, have been eaten.  The little bastards.  I can probably save the rootstocks and graft onto them again this year, but I just lost a year on the trees.  We have never had rabbits bother things in our yard before.  We have apples, cherries and currants.  None of them were ever touched when young.  This last winter, that was not the case.

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This is the Bluebell grape vine, with it about half done for the spur pruning.

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Just another shot of the vine, pruned and ready for summer.

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That is the two Swenson Seedless, which are kind of hard to see, now that they are pruned and not just a tangled mess.

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This is what I removed from the two Swenson grape vines.

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I went through all of the prunings, tossing all the winter injured pieces, and making cuttings to root for new vines this next summer.

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I ended up with about 150 pieces.  Not too bad for just two vines.  I did not get into the Bluebell vine prunings yet.  That will be tomorrow.  When I am done with it all, I will pack them in 2 gallon Zip Loc bags with moist peat moss, and just put them in the crisper of the fridge until things warm up.  Then they will go into the ground, and/or pots, to root.

That took my morning and early part of the afternoon.  We are going to head up to the Adickes farm to talk about gardening and have a sausage and red sauce dinner.

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Saying Goodbye

This was the second weekend of helping my mom and dad move.  Closing of the sale on their place is set for this week.

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Nell and Phoebe were down there with me this weekend.

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And it seemed appropriate that for most of the day, there were deer we could see.  Don’t know how good your eyesight is, but in that photo are 4 deer.

 

IMG_0506Zooming in with the camera helps.

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Even the little one-antlered buck that walked under Nell’s stand when she slept in was out there.

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Just to show her, this is Blaze.  She is a pissed off cat that is not happy about the whole packing and moving thing.  She let me pet her for a few minutes, before deciding that my hand needed to bleed a little, so I would know how she felt.

Still have a lot of mixed feelings about the whole moving thing for my parents, but they are happy about it, and ready for their next adventure.

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Making Sausage!

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This morning, before I left for the office (in a snowstorm, horrible commute, 80 minutes to drive 40 miles) I took out 4 bags of venison (half a neck, a shoulder, and two bags of trimmings) and a 10# bag of Adickes free-range pork trimmings.  This evening Claire and I ran it through our new Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment (gift from my parents), added 1 Tablespoon of salt per 2 pounds of meat, lots of garlic, black pepper, basil, and wild rice.

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Initially we ground the pork and venison separately.  The pork is about 50% fat.

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The venison is about 0% fat.

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Puddy Man was very interested in the whole mixing side of the event.  He also begged a lot of scraps off of Claire during the grinding.

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Pike had got a bowl of bits that we trimmed and that hit the floor, which he continued to hold while watching us mixing.

So, after a huge meal of sausage patties and beans (honestly, we ate about 4 pounds at one go) we have sixteen 1.5# bags of home made sausage in the freezer.  We have enough venison to do a couple more batches the same size, but will need to pick up some more pork, or just do straight venison.

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Pulling Stands

Lack of forethought on my part.  Pulling ladder stands in January, in Minnesota, creates a problem.

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The lowest sections are all frozen into the ground.  Maybe I will hike back up the bluff next weekend with a pick axe, but for now, we have the top ends of 3 ladder stands.

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Nell and Claire hiked in to them with me, and helped haul all of them out.  I have really mixed feelings about taking the stands out.  I am really happy for my parents that they have sold the B&B, as it is just too much work for them.  I am really really really going to miss our deer hunting spot.

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Not sure how attached the kids are to the hunting part of it, as far as the location goes.  As far as they know, all deer hunting is like it has been for us.

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I also took cuttings from the old apple trees on the property.  Whatever varieties they are, they are old trees and a part of the original homestead.  This is really early to be cutting and storing scions for grafting, but was pretty much now or never.

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And did I mention it was cold out?  Beard is really getting large.  Kids like it, Patti is not thrilled, my mom thinks it should be a lot shorter.  <grin> Keeps me warm out there though.

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A Winter Fermenting Day

Just a nice project on a winter’s day.  Setting up vegetables for lactic acid fermentation.  Simple process that does not need to be done on the scale of German style sauerkraut.

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For this run, it was primarily red cabbage, carrots, garlic, and dill.

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They are not your typical fermented vegetables you are likely used to.  They stay crisp and crunchy.  The fermentation is at room temperature for about a week, and then it all goes into the fridge (which slows the fermentation down so much it lasts for well over 6 months) for whenever you want some.

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The Adickes’ son Junior watched me for much of it, eating carrot “chips” dipped in sauerkraut and sour cream dip.

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Violet’s favorite is the carrots, which is the least work of any of them.  Just slice the carrots up, pack them in a jar along with a bunch of crushed garlic cloves, and a few sprigs of dill.

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You wedge some longer pieces of carrot in on the top to hold everything down.

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Then four tablespoons of salt (for half gallon jars).  Just don’t use a salt with added iodine.  Fill over the top of the carrots with water that does not have any chlorine in it.  Either filtered water or well water works fine.

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Cabbage is a little more work.  Core and chop the stuff up.  Save the outer leaves to wedge over the top in much the same way.

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You bruise and pound the stuff into the jar in layers, adding the salt (same amount as the carrots, just added as you go), garlic, and dill as you go.

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I did not have to add water to the cabbage by the time I was done.  Pressing it down, combined with the bruising and salt, extracted enough water from the cabbage itself.  If you need to add some water to the top, so long as again, it is not chemical laden city water, you will be fine.

Just as a warning, have the jars on trays somewhere while they ferment, and not just sitting on the counter, as they will often bubble over while fermenting, and red cabbage stains are a bugger to try to remove from your counter.  5-7 days, depending on personal tastes (and how warm you keep your house) is all it takes for the fermentation process, and you have home fermented pickled vegetables.

 

 

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Wrapping Things Up

The year is drawing to a close.  There is finishing work to be done on things, but all the big things, that are going to get done, are done.

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Since the last post I showed friends how to cut up a deer.

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I planted as much garlic as is going to go into the ground before spring.  Was a bit torn about that, but finally decided that I had enough of every variety in the ground I need to for seed garlic next fall, and I can plant eating garlic in the spring.  They will not head up as well, but will be fine for the table.

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Started work on shelling Arikara sunflowers.  Just the heads saved for seed so far.

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Worked through a few gallons of Victor Kucyk 2175 corn as well.

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And whenever we visit Adickes farm in Buffalo, the cats show us how much they miss us.

So winter is coming.  We are as set as we are going to be.  Now, dreaming and planning for spring.

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Halfway Done With The Last Task

This was my view, up the bluff, to the south, opening weekend of deer hunting.  The lower story of buckthorn still had not lost its leaves, as there had been no hard freeze down in Red Wing yet.

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The view to the north was more open, but that was due to our removing all of the underbrush years ago, and keeping it cleared.

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The weather was uncomfortably warm, but the deer were moving.  Problem was that they were not moving where the brush was cleared.  Opening morning I caught glimpses of 16 deer.  Following day I saw 11.  One of the deer I saw opening day was a nice 8 pointer following a doe.  All I ever saw of either was flashes of their heads through the buckthorn leaves.  Never a clear shot.  Second day a really large buck got caught in vines, chasing a doe high up in the ravine.  Never had a shot on him either.  No does wandered into the openings. It was a bit frustrating for me and the kids, to have so many deer wandering around, yet none where we could take them.

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I went down second weekend to hunt Friday with Nell, but she and Phoebe stayed up much later than I did and was not rousable at 530 am.  At 741 am this little single horned fork buck walked under her stand.  He did not even flinch at the flash.  I gave her a hard time about that.  We had a basket 6 pointer come through too, but that would not have been quite the gimme shot this one was.

Those were the only two deer I saw all day, which was a bit frustrating.  Over the week, they had a hard frost and most of the lower story of brush had lost its leaves.  Seeing the deer would not have been a problem, if they had been moving around.  Only explanation I could think of was that the super moon had given the deer enough light to move around all night, so there was little need to move around in the daylight.

The forth day was not much different, but just enough different that it worked out.  Only one deer came through, high on the ridge south of me, but with the leaves down I could see him as he worked his way along a trail, was able to pick an opening, and we had one down.

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Mark was hunting with us, on the lower part of the property.  He helped me and the girls get him down off the ridge and through the heaviest of the brush, and most of the way, to the bottom of the bluff.

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The last 150 yards to the bottom of the bluff are pretty clear of obstruction, and I managed that with the kids helping.

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We hunted that evening, and the following morning, but those 3 bucks were all we saw.

img_9000Patti and Violet joined us Sunday afternoon to to help me butcher and pack the deer up for transport, and we were all home by about 930 last night.  He was a good sized deer.  We got about 100 pounds of meat off of him, and with the size of his neck and shoulders, there is going to be a lot of hamburger and sausage as well.

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This is the season of plenty for all of us.

 

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