Archive for the organic farming Category

Grafting – 101.1

Posted in grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, Pruning with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2014 by Grouse Mt. Farm

I’m going to try to do a fairly complete series about grafting fruit trees, step by step throughout the spring and aftercare through the summer. For a quick read on grafting, what it is and why do it, check out this link of a blog entry I wrote a few years ago: https://grousemtfarm.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/grafting/ and look up other resources where ever they may be .

I’ll be working with common fruit trees: apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and walnuts. Some fruits are easier to graft then others. Apples and pears are probably the easiest, with the soft fruits a bit more finicky (mostly timing) and difficult to get a good take. Walnuts are the most difficult for me, I’ve only had scant success grafting them, but we will try… The techniques are similar with other species then those I’ve mentioned, mulberries and persimmons are fairly easy. If you want to try something else, I recommend looking up the specifics for the species on the web or library etc.

The first step is to collect scion wood (pronounced sign or sine). The wood must be collected when the tree you’re collecting from is dormant, mid to late winter is good. If early is the only possible time, as long as it’s dormant and you provide good storage it should be fine too. If it is collected too late in the winter/early spring, the scion will begin to grow after being grafted before it has fused with the tree you’ve grafted to and in short order exhausting  its reserves and drying out. When all goes well, the tree and scion form a connection then as the wood comes out dormancy it’s tapped in to the tree to provide the energy it needs to grow and survive.

Gathering Scion Wood

Gathering Scion Wood

Moderately vigorous one year old wood is optimum for scion wood. That means a branch that had grown in the previous season. Sometimes called suckers, generally upright growth about the size (diameter) of a pencil or slightly bigger, much bigger just makes for more difficult cutting when we get to the knife work. I’ve marked (rather crudely, I admit) an approximate point where you could cut scion wood from, on this particular tree (this tree was grafted two years previous, note the tape and paint on the trunk).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

The second photo shows, in my opinion, optimum sized wood. The piece to right and apart from from the grouping of three is the top of the piece cut, this is usually soft and pithy, it may work , but I usually discard it. The others are firm mature wood ready for storage. I wet a few pieces of newspaper and wrap the scion wood in it, place in plastic bag and in to the refrigerator. Not too wet, but you don’t want it to dry out either, and protect from freezing. AND, remember  to label as to what variety it is, it all looks the same when grafting time comes!

I usually begin grafting cherries in late march or early April because cherry wood doesn’t keep well and begins to sprout while in storage. Apples and pears in April here, and the other soft fruits the third to fourth week in April, during a bit of a warm spell, if possible. The walnuts I’m still trying to figure out, but more towards the end of May when the weather has warmed up. I’ll write about tools in the next post.

Fire & Bears

Posted in farmers market, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, organic fruit, whats fresh with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2012 by Grouse Mt. Farm

On September 8, 2012 we had an incredible electrical storm, and the following two days there were high winds, which took whatever fires had been started on the 8th and kicked them up in to a handful of brush/forest fires. There was a bit of rain with the storm, but the next day was warm and dry and with the wind, many fires were started around the cities of Wenatchee and Cashmere, Washington. There is also a fire on a ridge above us, the First Creek Fire, which at the moment isn’t  a concern for us right now (except for our friends that live in that valley), but it has made for smokey conditions.

Another smokey day, some days better, some days worse

 

There’s a lot of people working to contain the fires and keep peoples houses from burning.

Thank you to all the firefighters!

Firefighting helicopter making its rounds from the lake to the fire

 

Our friends Liz and Eric at River Farm in Ellensburg lost their home in August to the Taylor Bridge fire. They’re hard working and resilient folks and will do alright despite their losses but still a tough go. Here’s a link for more info: help  

So a little smoke really isn’t too bad..

 

We’ve been having some bear activity here lately. When it gets as dry as it is in the wild lands our peaches, apples, pears and etc. must smell pretty good to a bear. So far we haven’t lost too much, some apples, Asian pears and grapes. Our current dog isn’t as interested in chasing the bears as Blaze was, not sure why… One of our tricks to dissuade the bear from sticking around is a motion sensor with a light and tape deck (in the plastic bag) to, hopefully, startle and move them along.

It’s effective in the area where it’s set up, limited to how much extension cord we have.

The bears only eat what’s ripe, we often find fruit still hanging on the tree with a bite taken out, usually not ripe enough.

I came across this recent bear feast :

Remnants of Yellow-jacket nest (in ground) dug up and the larvae eaten by bear, that’s some hardcore dining! Those are some fierce insects. It’s no wonder they want fruit.


This week we’ll have:

-Many more Tomatoes (Brandywine, Aunt Rubys German Green, San Marzano, Stupice, Cherokee Purple, Sungold, Matt’s Wild Currant)

-Friar Plums

-Fantasia Nectarines

-HoneyNectarCot Peaches

-Akane, Swiss Arlet, McIntosh, Tydeman Apples

-Hosui and Shinseiki Asian Pears

-Red Kalle (Clapp) Pears

See you Saturday.

Walnuts – They’re here !

Posted in farmers market, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, whats fresh with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by Grouse Mt. Farm

We will have walnuts at the University District Farmers Market in Seattle, this Saturday, October 22. These walnuts have quite a following, we have people asking about them all season. They are good tasting, easy to crack with a well filled nut and good sized. There is a limited quantity, so we recommend being at the market early. We will have more walnuts in the following weeks, some smaller ones and our bigger BIG  nut as well.

Walnuts on the tree, the cracking husk indicates a ripe nut

A couple of years ago we made a short video about part of what we do to harvest and process the walnuts. Here’s a link: http://youtu.be/arpGitU-S6o

When the husks on the nuts begin to crack is a sure sign that they’re ripe. In a vacuum the nuts would all fall from the tree as they ripen and we could pick them up minus the hull. But with squirrels and Stellar Jays getting the jump on them we have to shake the trees and gather them, husk and all before they all disappear. Once gathered the nuts need to be de-husked. With a nut whose husk has begun to crack the nut pops right out but since I shake the tree, not all the nuts are as ripe so those not need to be put aside for a few days before the husk will  release itself from the walnut. After husking the nuts are quite wet and need to be dried for three to four days in a food dehydrator. If they’re not dried fairly quickly, the nuts will mold inside. We’ve found that if we remove the husks and store the nuts, still wet, while waiting (more then a few days) to put them  in to the dryer they’ll mold. But storing for up to a couple of weeks in the husk they won’t mold. Once dried, then at last: ready to eat!

Walnut Exposed

Also this week we’ll have:

Nickajack, Prairie Spy, Gala, King David, Belle de Boskopp, Macoun (not many), and a few Coxs Orange Pippin Apples.

Hosui and Shinseiki Asian Pears,

Bosc and Abate Fetel European Pears,

Elephant Heart and Italian Prune Plums,

Hardy Kiwis,

Concord Grapes,

and O’Henry and Honey Nectar Cot Peaches (Last peaches of the season)

See you Saturday.

Belle de Boskoop Apples

First Market This Season- July 23, 2011

Posted in farmers market, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, whats fresh with tags , , , , on July 22, 2011 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Mid Summer

We’re two weeks later then most years, but it looks like this weekend will be our first market at the University District Farmers Market (in Seattle) for this season. Its was a cold wet spring and a very cool summer so far, great living weather , but not so good for growing fruits and vegetables. Similar to last year, it rained quite a bit during blossom time which makes it difficult for the bees to get out and pollinate the flowers, so less fruit. And with it being so cool everything is ripening a couple weeks later then normal ( hard to tell what normal is any more, but later then what we’ve been accustomed to).

This week we’ll have Chelan cherries, raspberries, pluots (a cross between an apricot and plum, this particular cross resembles the cot more with some of a plums tartness) , Black currants, sugar snap and snow peas . We don’t have a lot of anything, so I recommend getting to the market early.

 

 

Early Flowers for Bees

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, honey bees, organic farming with tags , , , on April 17, 2011 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Witch Hazel blooming in early February(!) on through March


Early Spring and cold, wet and windy weather can be a hard time for honey bees this time of year. They need pollen to feed the new larva and nectar for themselves. If their winter stores are used up, and if its too cold or wet out, they don’t get out. Last spring we lost a hive after they ran out of honey and it was too cold for them to forage, so they perished. Last Fall we didn’t take any honey off the hives and they have all seemed to come through the winter strong and buzzing. (As a result, we didn’t get any honey, depending on how much is left in the honey supers, we may get some this spring when it does warm up)
A few of the early flowers we have are crocus, anemone (Anemone blanda), Witch Hazel and Daphne.

early flowers: Crocus


Witch Hazels are the first blooms here. We have a few cultivars, the one pictured started blooming here in early February. (It is Hamamelis Japonica- Jelena, Copper Witch Hazel)
Which is way early for bees, but it continued through March and when the bees did get out they were all over it.
The Crocus’ are the next to bloom, the bees seem to really love these things. Sometimes there will be four or five bees in a single flower. They come up just after and sometimes through the snow.

Anemone blanda


The Anemone are another low growing, early blooming flower like the crocus are started with bulbs planted in the fall. And also like the crocus they spread on their own and make a beautiful early ground cover. Both are also low growing, which when its windy (a lot this time of year) is where the bees tend to fly. One close observation of the pic above you can see the pollen sac on the bees rear legs getting full. Good food for raising baby bees.

Anemones spread easily, from bulbs


Daphne’s are another early flower which the bees seem to like, and the fragrance alone is worth planting these.

Daphne in bloom


Honey bees aren’t the only insects that benefit from these early flowers, whatever natural and local pollinators are around will be happy to find any early pollen. And after a winter , most anyone will be pleased to see and smell these floral wonders.

Thinning

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, organic fruit with tags , , , , on June 18, 2010 by Grouse Mt. Farm

June is when we thin the fruit on the trees here in North Central Washington. You can pretty much tell which fruits will drop and which will stay ( I mentioned June drop in a previous post).
Even a week or two ago it was hard to tell which fruits would mature but now there no mistaking them. The pics below show a plum limb as was and then just after it was shook to knock off the ‘June drops’


This plum variety (Santa Rosa) is set very heavy, as is usual for these trees of ours, amazingly year after year. ( Most of our other plums don’t have much fruit on them this year, as a result of poor pollination) So there is still much thinning to do on it, to space out the fruit so they’ll size up to a desired proportions. Its too easy to under thin, I usually have rule of thumb or hand and try to go about 6 to 8 inches between fruits (do the Hawaiian hang loose sign, basically the space from thumb to pinkie). Its always difficult to tell when the fruits is so small, I try to imagine what it would look like with full size pome hanging there, to gauge my progress. Every year I tell myself “make sure & take enough off”, and I think I do but when I come back to pick I wonder if its even been thinned. So I’m resolved this year to thin everything twice to make sure theres less I miss. I usually do a fair job, but there are always clusters that are missed and fruit invariably under thinned.

nectarine before


and after thinning


When a tree has a heavy fruit set, probably 95% of the fruit gets thinned off, so its a bit disconcerting to see all the fruit on the ground. But if it wasn’t done you would end up with loads of real small (marbles) fruit.