An apple a day

  (Turtle Lake, Wisconsin)
Musings on life from an apple tree (or 600 of them)
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Harvest is Coming!!!

What a strange year!  Or maybe nothing is strange anymore.  Hit 80 in March , orchard began blooming three weeks early, and then hard freeze Mothers" Day.  We lost about 30% of the blossoms I think so harvest will be low this year.  And then rain, and rain, and more rain.  We needed it, still need more, but it's wrecked havoc with disease in the orchard.  But, I'm still loking forward to harvest.  The Beacons are probably 2-3 weeks from fully ripe and then by late September or early October it will be hard to pick everything that's ripe.  Pray that we have a good fall-frost is ok but no hard freeze until November please. 

 
 

A whole year gone

Wow, a year gone by.  This spring is so different than last year, it's hard to believe it's the same orchard.  Last year at this time there wasn't a blossom to be seen, this year several trees are already in full bloom.  We are 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule this year.  Don't know what that will do to harvest dates.....

In last year's post I mentioned planting 60 trees on an interstem.  Unfortunately, none of the grafts took, so I had to dig them up and replant this spring.  And, the deer got into the new orchard in July last year and destroyed all the new growth.  I hope most survived the winter, but we're a whole year behind in planning the first honeycrisp harvest (now projected for 2013).  In addition to replanting the interstem trees, I also planted 24 Snowsweet and 60 Liberty on Bud 9, and a variety of "antique" or heirloom trees on various rootstocks as well as another 80 Honeycrisp.  Later this week, Bill Meyer, a second generation orchardist from the Kickapoo Valley, is going to come up and topwork about 60 trees for me.  That means we're grafting a new variety onto an existing tree.  In addition to planting, I've been busy with my chainsaw preparing the trees.  I plan on coverting 30 of my Min-Jon to Haralson since I lost all my Haralsons to drought, and 30 Keepsake to a variety called Kickapoo Spice.  It's a fairly early apple and is highly disease resistent. 

 
 

Spring has Sprung

I'm not much of a blogger--you can see that from the long time between posts, but as I walked the orchard yesterday I thought "this is worth writing about."   Despite the picture on my listing page, the trees are not blooming yet, but they're on the way.  The mysteries of life that take an apple tree from the cold and and dark of winter to the fruitfull abundance of fall are overwhelming.  Right now, you can see the stirrings oif life.  Some trees are still dormant to the eye, but inside, in the cambium, life is stirring.  Other trees are showing the first signs of new life-a stage caled silver tip, where the new buds take on a silvery grey appearance.  Yet other trees are at 1/4 inch green, and one variety-Northwest Greening-has trees at 1/2 inch green.  That means there is actual green showing in the buds, and ion the 1/2 inch green, you can see leaves wanting to start popping out.  Next stage-Pink (where the pink of a blossom starts showing) and then on to tight cluster, and eventually full blossom.  

It seems that every season is THE busy season.  I still haven't gathered most of the pruning from winter, and as I walked the orchard yesterday I kept commenting on all the trees I didn't get to prune.  Early spring brings planting, early disease and insect control, equipment repair and maintenance and the list goes on. 

The week before last I planted 140 new trees.  They were all Honeycrisp but I used two different rootstocks and two different planting strategies.  I put 30 Geneva 16 on stakes and 30 more on a five wire trellis, both with a six foot spacing.  I also put 80 Bud 9 on five wire trellis, but a closer spacing of 4 feet between trees.  I was out-of-town working last week, so couldn't work in the orchard, so this this week's task is to plant 60 more trees, these on a Bud 118-Bud 9 interstem.  I'm staking 1/2 of them and leaving the other 1/2 free standing.  I'm hoping the Bud 118 rootstock will anchor the trees sufficiently to keep them from breaking when the storms come.  We'll see.  Other major task this week--repair the air blast sprayer.  I thought i drained all water last fall, but the in line filter broke in a way that screams" You didn't drain me."  Then in the next twoo weeks, I need to install irrigation for the 200 new trees.  So much to do besides contemplate life.

See you in the orchard

 
 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is here and I'm reminded that it's important that I spend time considering all of the things for which I should be thankful.  It's easy to think about the things that depress or worry or bother or irritate, but it's harder to think about the good things of life because they are so easy to take for granted.  For instance, I got up this morning and was warm.  I don't think about being warm very much, but this morning I did because the last few mornings I got up to below freezing temps in the old trailer I have at the deer camp.  It's nice to have a thermostat that keeps the house at 60 all night and then kicks it up to 68 about 5:30 every morning.  And I'm reminded to be very thankful.  I'm thankful that I rediscovered what my great grandparents knew; the benefits and taste of locally grown organic food.  Even though my orchard experiment hasn't been a financial success, yet, sharing the goodness of apples that have been grown without pesticides and fungicides and herbicides was a joy and I'm thankful for the chance to do something I've wanted to do for many years.  I'm thankful that the orchard is resting and I just had a chance to rest by spending time in the woods.  I suppose I could have worked in the orchard the last three days, but as the trees are now dormant, and it's still to early to prune, there isn't any urgency so I can rest too.

The list of things I should be thankful for, and usually don't think about, could go on a very long time but I'll just wish everyone Happy Thanksgiving!

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November

I love the north country!  I love winter, yes I really do, I love spring, I love summer, except when it feels like I'm south of the Mason Dixon line, and I love fall.  I just don't like November.  At least I don't like November the way it seems to turn out these days. 

We had a late spring cold and wet, but eventually the trees bloomed, the bees did their thing and summer came along.  Now, here we are, the leaves are mostly gone, the apples have mostly fallen, except for the Keepsakes, and we're back to cold and wet.  But, and this is important, we're not waiting for the glorious days of sunshine and white apple blossom petals floating on the breeze.  No, we're waiting for even colder and wetter.  Now, I really don't mind cold and wet as long as the wet part comes in the form of snow.  But in November, it is cold wet rain, and sleet, and more cold rain, and an occasioanl snow flake that immediately turns to cold wet mush when it hits the ground.  And those Keepsakes that are still on the trees...they are now cold wet, frozen and rethawed pieces of red round mush hanging on the trees. 

I ought to be mowing for the last time, and puting on the tree guards and cleaning up the windfalls so the scab spores and maggot fly larvae don't have aplace to overwinter, but it's just too cold and wet and miserable. 

Well, at least I can look forward to shooting some of those deer that fed on my new trees  and ate most of the sweet corn I planted last spring.  November does have thanksgiving and the rifle season, so i guess it's not all bad

 
 
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