Grafting Series Finally Here! How to Dormant Graft Fruit Trees

partially healed graft

partially healed graft

Grafting has generally been seen as the domain of experts and super-geek enthusiasts, but it doesn't have to be.  It is a skill that many, if not most, fruit tree owners could benefit from having.  Without it, you are at the mercy of economic and social trends, nursery owners, growers and distributors.  Fruit collecting, testing and breeding are exciting, life affirming, useful and meaningful pursuits which all pretty much require grafting.  There are exceptions, but most grafting is not that hard and once you've assimilated the basics, you don't have to really know or remember all that much.  You can go find any extra information you require on an as needed basis, or come back and review this stuff later. 

I've been meaning to do a basic dormant grafting series for a couple of years.  A week or so ago, I decided if I didn't throw my standards under the bus and just shoot the footage, it wasn't going to happen, and all those people out there with scions sitting in the fridge would be all like "WTF do I do with these?"  So, I shot enough for the whole series in one day regardless of lighting and other considerations that I prefer to pay more attention to.  I actually have to re-shoot the last few segments, but I have 5 of them published now for those of you who don't follow me on YouTube here is the entire playlist, which will be rounded out with segments on why grafts succeed or fail, grafting and grafts, aftercare, and follow up care.  Look down the page for the individual videos published so far.  If you are grafting this year and not totally sure what you're doing, I'd recommend watching all of them.  If not, they'll be here when you need them.  The sharpening video stands alone as a good treatment of what is important in sharpening and will be useful to anyone wishing to learn that skill.

At this point, I don't even make 100.00 a month on YouTube advertising revenue.  Patreon and commissions from people using my Amazon link when they shop on Amazon both bring in more.  Maybe I'll someday get enough views to make it work, but for now Patrons and Amazon link users keep the boat floating, and have so far prevented me from taking a working vacation to generate income.  Anyone who uses and enjoys my content can thank them, as I do.  THANK YOU!  You guys rock.  Onward.

THE FULL PLAYLIST

 


Bookmark this Amazon link and use it when you shop amazon, no cost to you, but a big help to me.

Apple Breeding, Promising Lines and Possibilities, What I'm Crossing and Pursuing

It’s bloom season and time to be out pollinating apple blossoms during sunny late mornings and early afternoons.  Since it’s raining, I’m going to write down some thoughts today on promising directions in apple breeding.  As I’ve pointed out elsewhere before, the interests and goals of large scale commercial breeders who have bred most of the apples now available in stores, are to an important extent different than the goals that benefit home growers and home breeders, and even to some extent, consumers.  While the apple is capable of much further development, entire genetic areas are ignored or even intentionally bred out.  Some of these genetics may actually be desirable to us for various reasons.  Not only do I think they are worthy of pursuit, I feel we have almost a responsibility to pursue and improve some of them if we are to begin to re-take partial responsibility for our own food supply and not simply hand it over to a system who’s first priority is profit.

Anthers, dried to release their cargo of pollen, ready to do the deed.

Anthers, dried to release their cargo of pollen, ready to do the deed.

The big breeders mostly breed for commercial production now.  That means apples have to meet a lot of criteria and be acceptable to growers, shippers, wholesalers and grocers.  Of course they have to be acceptable to consumers too, but with a limited number of choices the consumer by extension has a limited education in their selection and critical estimation of the apples widely available.  Most Americans will have a preference for which apple they like, or what style of apple, but they are familiar with the available options only, and may not even know, for instance, what a russet apple is.  The market has ideas about what we want and will buy as consumers.  Whether those perceptions are accurate or not, I can't say for sure, but even if they are accurate now, I think the market can be trained, or retrained, to want and like other options.  For instance, Cuyama a large organic orchard in California took a chance on Crimson Gold, a very small apple bred by Albert Etter in the first half of the 20th century.  As far as I can tell, they are doing quite well with it.  The apples are no more than a few bites worth, but bags of them appear in the market here every fall and I’ve heard that they are also available on the East coast from the same grower.  It’s no wonder.  It’s an excellent apple, with more flavor than a typical large apple.  Once someone bites into one, they are likely to become a fan.  More on Crimson Gold below.

Busy morning at the apple sperm bank

Busy morning at the apple sperm bank

FLAVORS, AND OTHER EATING QUALITIES v.s. DISEASE RESISTANCE

While growth characteristics and disease resistance can be important when it comes to actually getting apples into our hands, we eat them for texture, flavor, sugar and to a lesser extent appearance and size.  And it is those things that are inspiring to me.  It seems as though we should be able to take any type of apple that we can come up with by mixing crazy flavors and extending seasons etc. and eventually have something like it in a disease resistant apple with long enough effort and intention.  But if we pursue disease resistance first, then our options for parents are much more limited.  So for me, the pursuit of apple breeding is largely a feeling out process to see what can be created in terms of the things that make us want to eat apples in the first place.

I don’t talk about disease resistance much, because I don’t think about it much.  Disease pressure is fairly light here in our dry summer climate.  I’ve noticed some increase over the years and it will likely become more of a problem as I build up a reservoir of disease pathogens and pests.  No doubt they’ll entrench themselves along with my establishing trees.  I understand that folks in less favorable circumstances would naturally look toward disease resistance as a primary goal and I think it’s an important long term goal and a great endeavor.  There are still plenty of good apples to work with that are disease resistant, including heirlooms.  In fact, I’m sure there are more than ever due to the efforts of large scale breeding programs.  While I choose to keep it simple and not avail myself of much information related to plant breeding, there is no doubt much to be gained from studying how the various disease resistant traits are passed or reinforced.  No doubt much has been learned on the subject, which might be found out by reading scientific papers or communicating with breeders at universities.

But for me now, I cross whatever I’m moved to cross and let the cards fall where they will.  I’ve already seen horrid scab on a couple of seedlings, but the information I want is what the apple turns out like as far as other characteristics go and I’ll worry about the rest later, or let someone else worry about it.  I’m particularly interested in the idea of introducing new exotic flavors into the lines I want to work with.  The most intriguing are the cherry and fruit candy flavors and whatever psychotic combination of flavors are contained in sweet 16.  Fortunately, one of the other flavor groups I’m fascinated with, the berry flavors, are found most strongly, in red fleshed apples, one of my other great interests.  Combining the former and the latter to find out what happens is high on my list and well underway already.  I’m also interested in pineapple flavor, but it is not super common in any apples I have fruited, at least not strongly, except in Suntan, which is a triploid and very hard to pollinate.  I think I’ve gotten one viable seed from suntan over the years for all my efforts, and it died.  And then there are the crab apples with the unique flavor they bring to the table and which Etter showed in Vixen and Amberoso, can be brought into larger apples.  My seedling, BITE ME!, a small to medium sized apple, but certainly not a crab, has enough of that special taste to be it’s star flavor component.  I’m hoping that crossing larger tending apples with that flavor component, like BITE ME! and Vixen, with other larger Wickson offspring will reinforce that flavor trait in normal sized apples.  Vixen is the most promising large parent I’ve tasted in this line.

Encouragingly, BITE ME!, has some of it's seed parent Wickson's flavor, though it is not strong.

Encouragingly, BITE ME!, has some of it's seed parent Wickson's flavor, though it is not strong.


SMALL APPLES AND CRABAPPLE GENES

Once I realized that the remarkable flavor characteristics and high sugar content of Albert Etter’s Wickson was due in large part to the crab apple genetics used by Etter in breeding, my gears started turning.  Later I was able to taste some of the other Etter crab derived apples, which have similar flavors, including Crimson Gold, Vixen and Muscat de Venus.  I feel quite sure that small apples with concentrated flavor and high sugar could be a class of popular apple.  You may have noticed as I have that large size often comes with diluted flavor.  Breeding large apples with concentrated flavor and high sugar is a worthy goal as well, and it is possible to do, at least to some extent, but there is no good reason to neglect small apples.  If someone bites into a truly remarkable miniature apple, there will be no turning back.  Is it just coincidence that both Wickson and Chestnut Crab show up so often on favorite lists?  Nope, not a coincidence.

The diminutive and delicious chestnut crab is favored by many who are fortunate enough to taste it.  The phenomenon is very similar to the favoring of Wickson, both of which are commonly cited as favorite apples.  A perfect Chestnut crab is remarkably rich and delicious.  I've crossed it with Wickson, Maypole Crab, and others.  I'm excited now to cross it with high quality russet types, especially Golden Russet, but my chestnut tree died, so I have to wait for a new branch to start flowering next year.

The diminutive and delicious chestnut crab is favored by many who are fortunate enough to taste it.  The phenomenon is very similar to the favoring of Wickson, both of which are commonly cited as favorite apples.  A perfect Chestnut crab is remarkably rich and delicious.  I've crossed it with Wickson, Maypole Crab, and others.  I'm excited now to cross it with high quality russet types, especially Golden Russet, but my chestnut tree died, so I have to wait for a new branch to start flowering next year.

I’m fairly well convinced that the small, intense apple endeavor alone would be a worthy pursuit for an amateur breeder.  Collect all the very best crabs, along with other interesting apples to breed in other traits such as flavors and keeping ability, and start mixing it all up.  The crab derived apples Chestnut, Trailman and Wickson are all already excellent out of hand eating, and a great base to work from.  There are also a lot of red fleshed crabs, though I don’t know of any that are dessert quality out of hand.  I have made a lot of crab on crab crosses and have crossed wickson with many larger apples.  My own thoughts are to continue crab on crab crosses, but also continue to breed crabs with remarkably flavored apples like cherry cox, sweet 16 and golden russet to shake it up a bit.  I’m also mixing in a red fleshed crab called maypole and the red fleshed grenadine.

Muscat De Venus, another probable Etter variety, small with high sugar and the unique taste that comes from crab genetics.  it is not great out of hand eating to me, lacking balancing acidity, but I consider it a very promising breeding parent, thus the orange tags on these hand pollinated apples.

Muscat De Venus, another probable Etter variety, small with high sugar and the unique taste that comes from crab genetics.  it is not great out of hand eating to me, lacking balancing acidity, but I consider it a very promising breeding parent, thus the orange tags on these hand pollinated apples.

More Chestnut crab.

More Chestnut crab.

And why not go even smaller.  My friend Becca sent me an unknown tiny crab that hangs in clusters like cherries and has yellow flesh.  It was allegedly acquired out of an orchard at a North Carolina college.  They are truly one bite apples, the size of a cherry.  Most people would probably find them too tannic for munching, but they are sweet and delicious along with the pucker, and I love munching them down, seeds and all.  The flesh is crisp and juicy and they hang on the tree well.  I’m definitely working with Becca’s crab this year.  Imagine the possibility of a one bite apple that grows in clusters like cherries, and has very red flesh.  The red pigment would bring berry flavors to the mix.  Add some of the cherry flavors of Cherry Cox or Sweet Sixteen and that apple could be something else!  It’s a project that’s not going to come to fruition overnight, if it's even possible, so I’ll not likely see it in my lifetime, but I can damn well start the ball rolling and see what happens.  I also think such an apple could be marketable if it was good enough.  It could be sold on the antioxidant angle since they will contain a lot of antioxidant system stimulants.  It will certainly inherit more natural polyphenol content than the average apple, because of the tannic nature of crabs.  There is also the red flesh, which contains anthocyanins, widely promoted as healthy.  Even further, there are the seeds, which contain cyanic compounds shown to have health benefits as well.  The flavor of the seeds also reinforce the cherry aspect.  Give it a great name and sell them as cherry apples in clusters.  Who would not at least try them?

The apple I acquired from my friend Becca and refer to as Becca's Crab.  About the size of a cherry, crisp, juicy and tasty, if a bit tannic.

The apple I acquired from my friend Becca and refer to as Becca's Crab.  About the size of a cherry, crisp, juicy and tasty, if a bit tannic.

The beautiful cherry-like clusters of Becca's Crab inspired the concept of a "cherry apple".  I've got apples with all the characteristics I'd want in my cherry apple, but getting them all together in one variety could take many crosses and crosses of crosses and crosses of crosses of crosses, if it's possible at all.

The beautiful cherry-like clusters of Becca's Crab inspired the concept of a "cherry apple".  I've got apples with all the characteristics I'd want in my cherry apple, but getting them all together in one variety could take many crosses and crosses of crosses and crosses of crosses of crosses, if it's possible at all.


BLOOD APPLES

I have not sampled all that many red fleshed apples considering the number that seem to be out there, with more surfacing all the time, but my general impression is that they are badly in need of improvement all around.  My suspicion is that being mostly from primitive genes and receiving very little attention in the past from breeders, the red fleshed trait likely comes with a package of other less desirable genes equating to high acidity, low sugar and not so great texture.  Teasing those genes apart and refining selections to get the traits we want from other apples, while retaining the red flesh may be something of an undertaking.  Albert Etter started the process, and while I haven’t tried all of his red fleshed creations, my impression so far is they could use improving.  Greenmantle nursery has put trademark names on some apples that they allege to have salvaged from Etter's experimental orchards, but aside from Pink Parfait, I can see why Etter would not have released any of them.  Pink Parfait, which has only pink mottling in the flesh and very mild berry flavors, is the only significantly red fleshed apple I've tasted that has very high desert quality.  The others would never stand on their own merits without the red flesh, as interesting as that makes them.  The others I’m most familiar with are as follows:

Grenadine: dark pink to reddish with excellent fruit punch/berry flavor.  Variable quality on the same tree in the same year, lots of early drops and some of the apples go mealy early.  Variable size.  In a very good year it is grainy when ripe enough for good eating and high flavor, but more often it is mealy by that time.  Sugar is not particularly high.  Tannin content fairly high.  But that flavor!  The juice is excellent and it's a heavy and reliable producer for me.

Grenadine left, with a grenadine seedling, right, that fruited last year and which very much resembles it's parent.  While it will not be the amazing dessert apple I'm hoping to get eventually, it won't surprise me if it's an improvement on the problematic grenadine.  More importantly, the excellent grenadine flavor is present in force and that is the reason I used Grenadine as a parent in the first place.

Grenadine left, with a grenadine seedling, right, that fruited last year and which very much resembles it's parent.  While it will not be the amazing dessert apple I'm hoping to get eventually, it won't surprise me if it's an improvement on the problematic grenadine.  More importantly, the excellent grenadine flavor is present in force and that is the reason I used Grenadine as a parent in the first place.

Rubaiyat: Very dark pink to almost velvety light red, strong berry flavor, but maybe not as complex or punch like as grenadine.  Seems to be very Scab prone, drops from tree, Often mealy by the time it is really ripe, but it can have a nice texture and it is a somewhat more refined apple than Grenadine.  Not all that sweet.  At it's very best it makes decent eating and has excellent "red" flavor.  It is a very nice looking apple when it escapes the scab.

The velvety fleshed Rubaiyat.  Great potential, but still represents a project that was far from finished by Albert Etter.

The velvety fleshed Rubaiyat.  Great potential, but still represents a project that was far from finished by Albert Etter.

Pink Pearl:  Not particularly rich or flavorful or sugary.  A good cooking apple.  Better texture than the above apples.  Light pink flesh.

There are a bunch of commercial breeders and university programs now working on red fleshed apples.  I don’t know what took them so long.  Albert Etter knew 80 years or more ago that they would be popular, but he just didn’t quite have time to get them off the ground before he died and no one took up his important work.  Any red fleshed apple breeding program should be assessing his apples as possible breeding stock.  I have successfully passed the remarkable Grenadine flavor on to a seedling that I’m already hopeful will best it’s parent (even though I’ve only fruited two apples of it, and one was stolen by a raccoon!)  I’m hoping to get a few more this year.  It isn’t going to be an outstanding dessert apple, I can tell that already, but if it’s better than Grenadine that’s a start.

I haven’t talked to him in a while, but I seem to remember my friend Freddy Menge saying that about 25% of the red fleshed apple seeds he’s planted yield apples with red flesh.  Once crosses with non red fleshed apples are made though, I'm hoping those apples can be crossed with each other to reinforce the trait and bring it out since both parents will carry the gene.  That is the experiment anyway.  I make crosses of non-red fleshed apples with multiple red fleshed apples with just that plan in mind.  I’m also hopeful about crossing the resulting red fleshed x non-redflesh crosses with Pink Parfait and William’s Pride, both only slightly red fleshed, but both excellent desert apples in every other way.  You see where I’m headed I hope.  Take the best apples with red flesh, even if it’s not very much, and cross those to reinforce the red and hopefully also retain the desirable dessert qualities.  That is why I’m crossing William’s Pride and Pink Parfait this year, both great apples with some pink in the flesh.  Check back in about 6 or 8 years, lol.

William's Pride x Pink Parfait ?  Could these two excellent eaters yield a redder apple that retains the fine qualities of it's parents?  Or will reinforcing the red genes reinforce less desirable traits lurking in their genes at the same time?  I'm going to find out.

William's Pride x Pink Parfait ?  Could these two excellent eaters yield a redder apple that retains the fine qualities of it's parents?  Or will reinforcing the red genes reinforce less desirable traits lurking in their genes at the same time?  I'm going to find out.


RUSSETS

Russets are another neglected but very promising line of genetics.  The phenomenon of russeting has been selected against in apple breeding for a long time now, so it’s not likely that large scale breeders will be pursuing a true russet apple, or even using them in the mix at all.  When I had good russets for sale at farmer’s market, people bought them.  They are somewhat wary at first, but once bitten, they almost always buy some.  Heirlooms are big, flavor is becoming more and more important to people, food is huge, foodie-ism is huge, and because of all that, and their inherent value, russets should become popular again.  There is nothing like them.  They have their own character and uses.  Not only should we not let them die out or languish in the background neglected by the monetary interests that drive our food systems now, but they should be taken in hand and improved, which has probably rarely been attempted due to appearance alone.

Not particularly attractive russets.  This trait has been long selected against in breeding.  Unfortunately it is often accompanied by a unique and excellent type of quality and flavor that probably cannot be gotten in a non russet apple.

Not particularly attractive russets.  This trait has been long selected against in breeding.  Unfortunately it is often accompanied by a unique and excellent type of quality and flavor that probably cannot be gotten in a non russet apple.

The best russet I’ve tasted, and still one of the very best apples I’ve ever tasted for that matter, is the Golden Russet, a classic American apple.  At it’s best it has a well balanced symphony of flavor.  The flavor is concentrated and lasting.  It also has an extremely high sugar content and was once widely employed in cider making.  So, what’s not to like?  Well, culturally, it’s a pain in the ass.  It grows lanky and tippy with long bare interstems.  It’s hard to know how to prune it and I’m inclined to just let it grow and then hack off some bigger branches once in a while.  I’ve never seen it to be particularly productive either and I hear the same from others in the area.  Perhaps low productivity is the cost for all that flavor and goodness, but it if it doesn’t have to be so then I want more!  Compare that to another American classic The Roxbury Russet, which is better behaved and more productive.  But alas, though very good and very similar, Roxbury Russet is not the apple that Golden Russet is when it comes to flavor. If I had Roxbury here, I’d probably cross the two of them this year with a view toward an all around better russet.  I may cross Golden Russet with Ashmeads Kernel this season for similar reasons.  Another very high sugar russet I’ve been trying to acquire and fruit for possible breeding purposes is the Golden Harvey.  I’ve run into a couple of other breeders online working with Golden Harvey.

A more attractive russet, probably Egremont's Russet.  It's easy to learn to appreciate the rustic, antiqued beauty of some russets once you taste them.  One bite of an excellent russet will put a big dent in the facade built up thru decades of glossy, polished apple marketing.

A more attractive russet, probably Egremont's Russet.  It's easy to learn to appreciate the rustic, antiqued beauty of some russets once you taste them.  One bite of an excellent russet will put a big dent in the facade built up thru decades of glossy, polished apple marketing.

To anyone well versed in heirloom apples and apple types, the thought of discarding russets from the world of apples would be absolutely horrifying.  Some of the best English, French and American apples are russets.  A person could stay pretty busy just collecting, archiving, researching, testing, tasting, photographing, documenting, making available and breeding russet apples and they’d be doing the world a great favor.  Another of many things I’d love to do, but that someone else will just have to do.


VERY LATE HANGING APPLES

Pink Parfait hanging on the tree around christmas.  This apple was crisp, juicy and delicious!

Pink Parfait hanging on the tree around christmas.  This apple was crisp, juicy and delicious!

Extremely late hanging apples represent another whole area of possibility waiting to be expanded and improved.  Though my latest hanging apple, Lady Williams, is ripe February first, I’m inclined to think the season could be pushed later.  Some apples store really well, but to have fresh apples straight off the tree on a frozen February morning is another thing.  Also, the same apples could probably be harvested in January and store all the better for being picked so late.  I’ve found sound seedling apples hanging in a hedgerow here in March.  They were the pretty sour and useless, but that’s beside the point.  They were not a mushy mess.  We just need those kind of genes in a better eating apple.  Granny Smith, Lady Williams and Pink Lady are all promising apples for this line and all related, Granny smith coming from the very late, long keeping French Crab, Lady Williams from Granny and Pink Lady from Lady Williams.  Other Late hangers that I will probably use, or have used, are Pink Parfait (December), Grenadine (December), Pomo Sanel a selection from a local homestead (January) and Whitwick Pippin (December at least).

Cripp's Pink (aka pink lady) at New Years with ice frozen in the stem-well.  Not only still edible, but better than what you're used to, though this is about the end of it's season.

Cripp's Pink (aka pink lady) at New Years with ice frozen in the stem-well.  Not only still edible, but better than what you're used to, though this is about the end of it's season.

I’ve looked for other late hangers, but not concertedly enough to find much.  I’m sure there are many more out there, but it will take some effort to find them.  Others will not have been noticed, either because the owners always pick them early, or because they are growing in cold regions where the fruit can’t hang so long.  I can hang any of these in temps down to and possibly a little below 20 degrees f, though some will be partly damaged by cracking near the stem well, probably due to ice forming there, and may then start to rot.  Others varieties would probably hang that long in good condition, if they didn’t crack so easily.  Many apples will hang late, but there is a clear difference between something like Lady Williams or Pink Lady not even ripening well until very late, or improving in storage if picked and held for a while, and some apple that looks well enough hanging there, but is declining in eating quality all along instead of improving.  My most promising acquisition aside from the two Ladies and Granny Smith, is Pomo Sanel.  I don’t know much about it, just that it came from a local homestead.  It has some similarity to Grime’s Golden and Golden Delicious in form and color.  The apples hang very late.  They have a coarse flesh and fairly rich flavor, though not quite equal in quality to some of the others.  Pomo Sanel is a little more prone to cracking and not as late as the Granny line, but it is still promising and I’ll probably use it to make some crosses this year.

Apples hanging on Frankentree at christmas.  A video still pulled from the videos below.

Apples hanging on Frankentree at christmas.  A video still pulled from the videos below.

 

#APPLERENAISANCE !

Onward we go into the adventure of apple seeding, breeding and selection.  Those who prefer instant gratification and sure things are probably better off messing about with peaches, which will usually yield decent fruit with less variation from the parents.  But, peaches don’t come in a jillion sizes, shapes, colors and flavors.  You either get it or you don’t.  If someone can read this article and not become excited about playing mad scientist mixing apple genes to see the results, they should go do whatever moves them.  I’ve run into people that are doing the same thing I am.  The apple renaissance is afoot!  Not just the apple revival, but the renaissance.  A new era in which the diversity and awesomeness possible in apples will be realized more than ever.

If I had to do it over, I’d do even more research than I did.  I’d collect potential breeding parents more carefully, collecting and testing everything I could get with very intense flavor, especially fruit, pineapple, berry, cherry and almond.  I’d collect as many allegedly great or super long keeping old school russets as possible and as many out-of-hand edible crabs as possible.  I would also try to acquire more good red fleshed apples to work with.  Albert Etter said something to the effect that breeding up new apples was as simple as breeding up good dairy stock, just start with the best herd you can.  That means either trying out apples that someone else grew, or more likely growing them out yourself for assessment, a several year process, even when using dwarf stock or grafting onto established trees.  Etter trialed about 500 apple varieties and thought most of them were not worth growing.  By choosing the best of those to breed with, he said that he improved on the average of those 500 in the first generation.

I'm very interested in high quality crabs with high sugar or unique taste, truly amazing russets, better red fleshed dessert apples and extremely late hanging apples that are still crisp and solid on the tree after new years as well as being good eating.  If they hang till March and are just okay eating, I'm still interested.  Please contact me if you can help with any of those that are not already listed here.

I've been making tons of crosses this year.  Below are some of the crosses and parents I've been using, though not necessarily in the order presented.  I make up others as I go, like Coes Golden Drop x Muscat De Venus.

Becca’s crab w/ wickson, maypole, sweet 16, cherry cox, trailman, grenadine

Golden Russet w/ Ashmead’s, Egremont, Chestnut (most exciting, but can't make this one till next year), pendragon (red flesh, Welsh), Coe’s Golden Drop, Suntan, St. Edmund's Russet, Muscat de Venus, Roxbury russet (if I had it.  I REALLY want to make this cross!)

Chestnut crab (if I had any blooms or pollen this year) w/ Golden Russet, , Muscat de Venus, St. Edmund’s Russet, Coe’s Golden Drop, Ashmead’s Kernel

Williams' Pride w/ Pink Parfait, Rubaiyat, Pendragon, Sunrise (early), Sweet 16

Cherry Cox w/ N. Spy, Vixen, Muscat de Venus, Sweet 16, Pink Lady, Becca's Crab, Pendragon, Maypole

Pink Parfait w/ Pendragon, Lady Williams, Williams' Pride, Pink Lady, My own seedling Grenadine x Lady Williams #11/12, and Pomo Sanel

Lady Williams w/ Pomo Sanel, Whitwick pippin, Allen’s Everlasting, Newtown Pippin

Sweet 16 w/ Vixen, William’s Pride, Cherry Cox, King David, etc...

Trailman w/ Becca’s, St. Edmund’s, Chestnut Crab, Maypole

Pomo Sanel w/ Goldrush, Lady Williams, Whitwick Pippin

 

THE FULL APPLE BREEDING PLAYLIST

No Brush Left Uncharred! The New Scorched Earth Policy!

It's not much harder to make a big pile of charcoal out of a burn pile instead of just burning it to ashes.  The short version is that you light it from the top and then put it out with a hose.  There is a little management involved and I do like to stack it neatly myself, but you can cut all kinds of corners and still end up with a lot of charcoal.  The charcoal lasts forever, and works amazingly well in my garden, so it's a pretty good deal!

Final Selections are in For the Bulgarian Giant Leek Seed Saving Project

I recently went through and picked the final winners in my seed leek trial.  This time I went for some short stout ones, but all were still probably at least 18 inches long.  I think size and up to almost 3 inches diameter are probably a little more practical than the really tall and somewhat more slender ones.  the leeks will now flower in their new home and seed should be ready by fall.

First Three Axe Cordwood Challenge Participants Finished! Shoutouts, Questions and Comments

Three people have finished the cordwood challenge cutting a cord or more!  Those people rock.  Also a shout out to people that have started or are planning to do it, all of whom are listed below.  Anyone who is doing the challenge should leave a comment on the official web page so that we all know who everyone is, and so that I can keep track of people. 

FINISHED!:

*Tim Springston, Oxbow Farms https://youtu.be/YbeCFT_SIh4?list=PLGQ0YYG8MKkXMuOmeHl_9Bloy5nLnR41d

*Todd Walker, Survival Sherpa https://youtu.be/dRJvHtcS55U?list=PLpxU0SQfqX02pmlspLody0oV8EJKSD2oBhttps://survivalsherpa.wordpress.com/

*Timothy Sutton, Flatland Woodsman https://youtu.be/8zlF4ZLu7v8?list=PLQunotaCvTeKSXcWdUVCU53QWLwxMc8-G

IN PROGRESS OR PLANNING TO DO:

*DevaJones03https://www.youtube.com/user/DevaJones03

*Aaron Fosterhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgwXsfSS1lO3Jj_P0_sJiqA

*Patrick Hale https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYpFteNH2MOaFzQK7JPau_Q

*EmLill Thingshttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl8L71gIPWRs5muBtgUNRHw

*Homestead Boxhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD60T9zMzdmXr696wfqoZOA

*JayDigHsxhttps://www.youtube.com/user/dighsx

*J. Vanier

*Capt Henderson

*Brian Larson

*Crescentson

Axe Handle Shock and Preventing Repetitive Stress Injury in Chopping

These are factors I know of that play a role in the amount of shock you absorb from your axe handle, such as chopping style, grip, handle rigidity, cutting ability and wood type.  These are the kinds of things that can allow a person cut more, longer and in harder wood without incurring numb sore hands, tendonitis, etc.   More text below.

 

Chopping with an axe is a high impact, high energy exercise.  As choppers, we necessarily absorb some of that energy since we are holding the tool.  There are a number of factors I know of which are important in the cause or prevention of repetitive stress injury or discomfort in chopping, most of them at least partially controllable. 

The axe should not be gripped very hard while chopping except as necessary in specific situations.  A hard grip unavoidably tires and stresses the hands, but it also creates a more efficient transfer of the energy from the vibrating axe handle back into the hands.  The Style of chopping is also important and interrelated to grip.  A heavy handed chopping style should be avoided.  Don't think of chopping as pushing or forcing the axe through the wood, but rather as whipping or throwing the axe head into the wood using the handle.  Pushing on the handle after the axe hits the wood adds little if any real power to the cut, but stresses the handle and the hands and probably sacrifices control to some extent.  You can cut plenty deep if you build velocity in the axe head before it hits the wood.  If the work is done before the axe hits the wood, then the grip is only to lightly control the axe after it strikes.

The handle of the axe, depending on it's thickness, density, inherent flexibility of the wood and probably other factors, will transmit more or less shock.  Thin handles transmit considerably less shock than thick ones do and tuning your handle or thinning it down is probably mentioned by authors writing about axes more often than not.  Older axes tend to have thinner handles than modern axes, and vintage axes, old photographs and older illustrations demonstrate this fact.  There is a reason that axe handles have become thicker, which is that they aren't actually used very much.  Most axes are now the equivalent of handbags for men, and are put to real use only infrequently for short periods of time.

If you cut into wood at an angle, usually around 45 degrees, it cuts more easily than if the cut is made at a right angle.  When cutting at 90 degrees the axe stops suddenly and more of the energy embodied in the head is transferred to your hands rather than cutting into the wood.  It's fine to cut at 90 degrees as needed, but generally a poor habit to get into on a regular basis.  Most axe work is done with cuts around 45 degrees for a reason.

Another way to transfer a lot of the energy embodied in an axe head back up the handle and into your hands is to use an axe that is not cutting well for any number of reasons.  The axe must cut well and easily or it will stop suddenly causing more vibration.  Most axes as they come from the factory, nearly all in fact, require at least some reshaping to get them cutting well.  In most cases, a significant amount of metal needs to be removed from the sides of the axe near the bit in order for it to be able to slide easily into the wood.  It is often recommended to file the cheek of an axe in a fan shape, but that depends on the shape of the axe head to start with.

Finally, the wood plays a role.  When chopping hard dry wood, less of the energy from each blow of the axe is dissipated in cutting, whereas when cutting soft and green woods, the energy is dissipated gradually as the axe sinks deeply into the cut.  You may or may not be able to control what wood you end up cutting, but you can control other factors that cause or prevent the kind of handle shock and fatigue that might keep you from working or cause a longer term injury that will put you off of work for a while.  The stuff mentioned here is important if a person want's to be able to use an axe under varied conditions, on varied woods, for longer periods of time, on consecutive days.  What separates the men from the boys isn't being tough enough, young enough or dumb enough to tolerate a club of a handle or an axe that otherwise doesn't cut well, but to be wise enough to work smart and not hard.  If you are going to sit at your computer trying to breath life into your flaccid member to some freaky internet porn, or work your thumbs out pushing buttons on your t.v., remote then I guess maybe none of it matters all that much.  If you're going to dig, carry, lift, hammer, weed, process and otherwise use your hands, wrists and arms, you'll be able to do all of it more, and longer, day after day if you pay attention to these types of details.

Revisiting Chuck's Apple Frankentree for Training and Maintenance

Over a year ago, we grafted an apple tree sucker at Chuck's house to 5 varieties of apples.  Yesterday I revisited that tree for maintenance and training.  I talk about grafting, borers, notching buds, training and other related stuff.

Apple Breeding: Grafting The Seedlings Onto Dwarf Rootstocks.

This is a continuation of my apple breeding project and video series following the process from pollination to fruiting and hopefully beyond.  In this season, the seedlings are cut off and grafted onto dwarfing roostock.  The dwarfing stock should induce fruiting more quickly (or so the common assertion) and keep the trees to a small size in the crowded test rows.  At 12 inches apart, in rows 6 feet apart, I can't afford large trees.  I show the two grafts I commonly use and talk some other basics.  Soon we'll be planting these in new beds to grow until they fruit.

Official BITE ME! Apple Release, and Two Week Hiatus

BITE ME!, my new public domain (and open source for apple breeders ha ha) is officially out.  I have scions in the webstore and a page dedicated to the apple here: www.skillcult.com/biteme  Scions are available in the webstore till they run out.  I may re-sort the short and thin ones in my fridge and relist after that to get as many out there as possible.  I should also hopefully have them available for some years to come.

I'm also taking a two week break from making youtube content and probably any other content, in order to get life on the homestead back on track a little bit.  Some stuff needs doing around the place.  Here is a quick review of the Snow and Neally boy's axe.  The short version is that the head looks pretty nice, but the handle was so, so and the hafting was pretty bad.  The Council Tool Boy's axe seems like a much better at 31.00 shipped, currently less than half the price of the S&N.  The council has a less pollished head, but I think has a much better designed handle and the wood on my counicl is much superior v.s. this S&N.  Too bad I was hoping it would be better.

Introducing Axemanship Series, S.T.A.T.E. Five Factors in Effective Axe Work

Somehow in thinking often and long about what makes using an axe effective, I came up with these five things that I think are pretty fundamental.  Surprisingly, they not only formed a real English word to use as an acronym, but three of them!  Some of these are interrelated and it is not a completely tidy concept.  It's more like a framework to define and identify the things we need to work on or have in line to operate effectively.  But if you think about these five factors and removing any one of them, it becomes obvious that effectiveness will suffer.  I think pursuing these ideas will ultimately make us able to function at a high level.  This video series will be 5 videos long aside from this introduction.

Strategy:  Strategy is all important.  Starting to cut a log with no strategy is like starting on a trip with no map, no idea how to get there, just the general direction and that eventually with enough time and fuel you'll probably get there.  Strategy is the planning of the trip to get to center of that log in the most efficient way.  It may not be the shortest direct distance on a bumpy windy road, but it's something that we think will be the fastest or require the least fuel and time.  Strategy is neglected for two reasons.  One is not knowing that it's important.  A lot of beginners will think about getting to the center of the log, but not how to best get there.  Another is lack of faith in the strategy or abandonment of it due to frustration.  Have a strategy, even if you aren't sure it is the best strategy and stick with it.  Sure, vary it, experiment, adapt, but do those things with intent.

Tool:  An axe is not just an axe.  Most of them need work out of the box in order to cut effectively.  There are seemingly infinite axe head designs, handle designs, lengths, weights and grinds that could work effectively.  But, there are certain parameters outside of which chopping will become much less effective.

Accuracy: with an axe is a hard won skill.  It certainly requires time spent, but I believe it can improve more quickly with intent and a little instruction.  Without it, you can't execute your strategy effectively.  Lack of accuracy is not a reason to abandon strategy or give up on attempting to be accurate. Quite the opposite I think.

Technique:  as I mean it, technique is separate from Accuracy and efficiency, though related to both.  What I mean here is the mechanics of chopping and what you do with your body to actually make the axe cut the wood effectively.  If all the other 4 factors are in place, you will still cut the wood, but there are things you can do to make the axe cut better all else being equal.  Mostly we'll be talking about the generation of velocity, but there are other things and not unlikely some I don't know about or haven't noticed.

Efficiency:  Like the word Technique, efficiency could be interpreted in multiple ways.  What I mean here though is economy of energy and motion.  Basically how much result from a given expenditure of energy.  We already know that it can take one person way more energy to get the same log cut in two.  The ideal of efficiency would be to whittle the amount of energy down to a theoretical minimum by letting go of unnecessary, effort/tension/movement/error etc.

As Onix Pyro said in the comments on this introduction video, "practice makes better, not best"  Any ideal of perfect axemanship is a fantasy when knowledge necessarily has limits, the machine is not perfect and the conditions are variable.  And there is no need for perfection or ultimate speed or any other ideal.  But realizing that there is something out there vaguely resembling a theoretical perfection gives us a measure to observe our effectiveness against.  While I lack the teaching experience to prove it, I believe that a little thought and action around these five points will quickly accelerate a beginners effectiveness with an axe and provide a framework for anyone to measure and improve.  I consider this a work in progress and am willing to revise this list if necessary, but it seems pretty solid as far as I can think and from the feedback I've gotten so far.

 

Using Household Items as Grafting Supplies

Most households have enough stuff already sitting around to do some basic or even advanced grafting.  I like my doc farwell's grafting seal, grafting knife and budding tape, but I graft a lot and it gives me a slight edge when I'm making dozens of grafts in a session.  To start learning to graft and get you feet wet, you may do just fine with any small sharp knife, some strips of plastic bag and some latex paint.

Rawhide, Leeks and Roads

Apparently I can't keep up with myself.  Here is a backlog of recent videos on everything from rawhide to roads.

CULLING LEEKS

The difference between the different sections of the leek bed are even more obvious now, confirming more what I observed this summer, which is that the soil with charcoal (biochar) has what is generally referred to as heart.  That is to say it has staying power and isn't easily used up without regular additions of fertilizer.  I've been very negligent with this leek bed and it really shows on the control end with no charcoal, but not much on the 10% char end.  The 5% section is better than half way between the two others, but there is an obvious difference except that within one foot of the 10% section, the plants are nearly indistinguishable from most of the rest of the 10% section.  The very end of the 10% section drops off in size, but that may be due to the shape, of the bed, which is pointed on the end.  Also, many gardeners will have observed that plants tend to do less well on the ends of beds.  If you took the difference between the control end and the 10% end as at least 600% difference, that could be interpreted as the 10% char end making 600% better use added amendments.  That is a sloppy interpretation and doesn't take into account all possible factors, but it's still impressive and probably on the low side if anything. The leek seed from this project will be ready in the fall for planting about this time next year.


ROAD SERIES PRIMER

This one is a quick primer for what will be a series on the design of graveled roads based on what I learned and have observed building mine, as well as paying attention to other unpaved roads and what happens to them in various circumstances.  It will have to potential to save a lot of people, time, money, unpleasant driving conditions, all while saving resources ultimately and keeping sediment out of stream beds.  In the meantime, you can download the handbook for forest and ranch roads for free here.  It is a dry read, but very worth putting to use if unpaved roads are a regular part of your life.  http://www.pacificwatershed.com/sites/default/files/roadsenglishbookapril2015b_0.pdf


RAWHIDE HANDLE BRACE FINAL

This is the final part of the rawhide axe handle brace.  As usual for me, this series wasn't just about making this one tweak, but about rawhide and sinew and hide glue and context and related stuff.

Maple, Candy Cap Chanterelle Mushroom Recipe

This is my original recipe and probably my favorite way to eat these orange chanterelles.  It uses maple syrup and candy cap mushrooms to overdrive the already present, subtle maple flavor of saut'eed chanterelles.

Clean the mushrooms, but try not to saturate them with water.  Slice to consistent thickness, under 1/4 inch.  Saute in butter slowly enough not to burn the butter badly until the water cooks out and evaporates, and they brown lightly on both sides.  They should be cooked enough to be lightly browned on both sides and have lost enough moisture to be somewhat firmed up.  If you have candy cap mushrooms, add a small amount of crushed dried candy cap during the saute to infuse the mushrooms with maple flavor.

Remove the mushrooms from the pan, add maple syrup to the hot pan and cook until the sugar in the syrup caramelizes very lightly.  Add more butter and syrup to make enough glaze or syrup.  You can add water back after caramelizing to make it more syrupy if desired. Add the mushrooms back and toss to coat them with the glaze.

Toasted walnuts are a nice addition. I'm sure pecans would be even better.  Good with traditional American breakfast stuff, bacon, ham, breakfast sausage, pancakes and waffles.  I just eat it the way it is most of the time.

Original Illustrations From My Book, Buckskin, The Ancient Art of Braintanning

In the 90's I wrote a book with the my partner at Paleotechnics and Wife at the time, Tamara Wilder.  We need to reprint and were sorting through the original copies so I made a quick video showing some of them.  We have a few copies of the book available on http://www.paleotechnics.com but I took it off of Amazon until we reprint, though some sellers may still have a few strays for a while and there will be the inevitable copies selling for hundreds of dollars claiming that it's out of print.  Which, I guess it almost is now.  Hopefully we'll have it back in print soon.