Apple Pollen Available, Plus New Apple Pollen Medleys and Hurray for Genetic Chaos!

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I now have this years apple pollen available in the web store. I was going to wait and sell it in the winter for next year, but I know there must be some of you who can still make the pollination window this spring. Here only one variety isn’t blooming yet and most blossoms are now on the other side of fresh. I’m just making my last pollinations in the next couple of days except for and pineapple flavored Court Pendu Plat.

There is more on the product page, and some instructions and stuff on storage will be sent out with orders, but a few points here and a shortened discussion on the upside of apple diversity and genetic chaos.

This year I have new black paper packets and black cotton swabs for application. This is a much better system and I’m finding that the pollen dries at a nice even, slow rate in the paper, so I can actually ship it before the anthers have even dried and dropped the pollen. It is MUCH easier to see the yellow pollen on these black surfaces.

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I have a lot more variety this year. I’ve processed a lot of blossoms of a lot of varieties and have much of the stuff I didn’t have enough of last year. I’m also excited to offer blends this year, which I’m referring to as Medleys. One medley is apples that I have used for breeding, or think are promising. there must be over 20 types in this blend, including a few red fleshed types. The other is a red fleshed medley, which lots of the Etter reds Pink Parfait, Rubaiyat, Grenadine and Christmas Pink, plus a few other odds and ends in small quantities. At first I thought maybe blends don’t offer enough control, but I’m super into the idea now. I think the gambling aspect is a little bit compelling. I also like the idea of wildcard crosses that we might not think of making normally. I tend to think of some apples as not particularly compatible as far as the offspring they might produce. But who really knows? A cross between Golden Russet and Sweet 16 might sound weird, but maybe it could be amazing. The medleys allow people to get just one packet, but still get a lot of diversity. Not only that, but each blossom pollinated will have more than one pollen parent, because there are lots of girl parts in one flower to pollinate. So, it is a given that any blossom pollinated with these blends will produce seeds with many different fathers. I think it’s the best idea since sliced apples. A little chaotic, but I’m kind of in favor of that.

There was an explosion of North American apple diversity which occurred over 200 years or so and resulted in thousands of varieties. If I recall right, some estimates may have been something like 15,000 named varieties. Whatever it was, it was a LOT! Some of those were imported, grafted types from Europe of course, but many were not. My theory is that a large part of this diversity, perhaps the majority, came from planting seeds for root stock. Cloned root stocks, which are genetically identical duplicates of the same plants are a relatively new phenomenon, at least on a broad scale. Previously, random seedlings were generally used. Sometimes crab apples, but often seeds from any apple. Such an orchard might have hundreds or more trees with root stocks growing under them that were genetically unique. if the top broke off, or the tree was neglected or damaged and suckers emerged from the base. These could fruit in a few years, and be propagated and named if it were any good. Between that, growing seedlings just to see if they would be any good, and hedgerow seedlings dropped by birds and people all over the place, many, many new varieties were discovered. I would more or less like to see a return to that frenzy of apple seedling production.

Since we don’t have seedling root stocks anymore and we have been assured by misguided authors and large breeding outfits that it is a fools errand to plant apple seeds hoping for a good fruit, that explosion not only ground to a halt, but we’ve lost most of those thousands of varieties. And to make it much worse, industry began to favor only a very few types, so that limited the diversity of the seedlings that do manage to find a place to root and come to fruition. Even further, the same fruits have been used over and over in breeding, also narrowing the gene pool.

But many of those apples that were found and named were not actually awesome. To an apple connoisseur especially, they could fall pretty flat. Albert Etter said something to the effect that the average of the 500 apples he grew in trials to find both breeding stock and just suitable varieties to grow in his orchards for market fruit, were rather disappointing. I always recommend that that people plant at the very least a seed from a good apple, but if possible, consider controlling both parents. The idea of apple pollen medleys is awesome, because it throws a large gene pool out into the world and creates numerous new genetic lines from any one apple pollination. In the future, I hope to wax further on the potential awesomeness of this genetic upheaval in the new fruit renaissance, but that is the gist of it there.

I envision the potential for more focused pollen medleys, such as blood apples, cider apples, extra flavorful or novel flavored apples, early apples, cooking apples and late hanging apples. Imagine the diversity you would get by for instance applying an early apple pollen blend to an early tree such as Gravenstein or Trailman crab..

Link to web store.

Happy pollinating!

P.s. Ive also made a seriously huge number of intentional cross pollinations of apples this year. I actually got around to making most of the ones I wanted to, so look forward to a large and diverse offering of apple seeds in the fall, including some made with pollen from a couple of my seedlings.

Posted on April 24, 2019 .

Splitting Axe Handle Blanks From a Windfall Tan Oak Log

Recently I was driving out my road and had to stop in the rain and shovel ditches out. I got so wet that I went back home to change my clothes, but within the hour or less I was out, a large Tan Oak fell down in the road.

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I had been eyeing this group of trees already as potential wood working fodder, but this one just succumbed to heart rot and fell over. While cutting it up, I spotted one straight section and saved it aside to split up later. In this video I’m splitting it into 12 parts to stash away for woodworking projects.

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You really don’t need much to split a log. A maul and disposable wedges can be made almost anywhere, usually from the trunk and limbs of the same tree. There are a couple of pointers here about making wedges, the use of boys axes as a one handed hatchet and methods to keep your splits going with the grain. Also basic wood splitting theory regarding run out, which is perhaps the most relevant problem in splitting rails like this.

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I have begun slowly processing these rough split staves down into billets one or two at a time, by removing the rotten heart and the bark. I’m also chopping off about 3/4” or more of sapwood, which is more brittle, weak and rot prone than the pinker heartwood. I’ll be washing the outsides of each billet with a borax solution to prevent insect attacks by powder post beetles, which are populous here, especially with the abundant food available to them with the big Tan Oak die off that is occurring now. They are very destructive to certain woods, Bay and Tan Oak being among the most affected. I’ll also dip the ends into paint, or seal them with fat or pine pitch to prevent the ends from cracking due to rapid drying. After that I’ll just try to dry them at a reasonably slow rate to minimize warpage and cracking.

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While watching this video footage, It occurred to me that I could have made a really neat drum out of that log, or two or three actually! Also that I should try making a barrel out of tan oak. I may save some of the short ends from this log and others this year to have a stash of well seasoned wood for a possible small keg project. Maybe a Calvados keg, hmmm….

Lessons from Established Fruit and Nut Trees, Training Mistakes and Remedies

This video is a walk around to look at the lessons that can be learned from some of my fruit and nut trees that have been growing for a while. Between careful and not so careful training, lack of training, regular maintenance or neglect, we can see how things go right or wrong and how important early shaping and training are to avoid future problems. I also taste some Lady Williams Apples off the tree, still good in March! These apples, while especially late this year, demonstrate I think that it will be possible to eventually have apple varieties that routinely hang on through winter and ripen in spring. Two new terms I’ve coined are Winter Hanging Apples and now Spring Hanging Apples, because these are classifications we need, beyond winter apples or storage apples. Next steps in that direction are finding more winter hangers and spring hangers if possible and making intentional crosses between them for new seedlings. Another step is simply promoting the idea and phenomenon in general, which will be easier as more of them are discovered or created. Also important is to test more of these apples in various climates to see how cold they can go, or how other climate factors affect them.

The long reach pruner I’m using in this video is a pretty neat tool. It is not cheap, but it can nearly obviate a ladder if trees are pruned yearly and are under 15 feet tall. That is pretty a major boon, especially if trees are spread out like they are here on myu homestead. I rarely use a ladder to prune anymore. They are also still cheaper than a good orchard ladder, even an 8 foot one. They can cut green wood up to about 3/4 inch if cut at an angle. For older people (or those that will be older soon lol) it could save a lot of clumsy ladder moving and setting up and ultimately could prevent a fall and the complications that often come with broken bones past 70. We got my mom one and I’m going to try to convince my 82 year old friend to get one. He is still climbing rickety old step ladders in the backyard. There is a short review on my amazon store page and full video review coming soon.

Training a Pear Tree to Modified Central Leader with Notching and Dis-Budding, Watch Before You Chop Off Your New Fruit Tree

I have two more videos on training fruit trees before I move on to other things. I’d like to do a couple more, but at this point, I have to give up on geeky independent research type of content because it doesn’t get enough views to get by on. More below on that. But this year I wanted to take advantage of this nice long pear whip to demonstrate notching and disbudding again, as it is ideally carried out, because I think it is important that if we are to move toward better trained trees by modified central and delayed open center, that we have tools to get there that actually work.

The crux of the problem is that, while the strong and sensical modified central leader and delayed open center tree forms have become more and more commonly recommended, they are rarely achieved, because the methods used to train fruit trees are best for the open center vase form and not much else. In the 1920’s a long study was done that first asked orchardists what tree forms they thought were best, and then looked at what caused premature death of trees. They aimed to determine how failures and successes were caused by early tree training. Those failures and successes were both in the success at attaining the desired form and tree lifespan, short or long. In this preliminary work they discovered some interesting things. One discovery was that most orchardists expressed a preference for central leader trees, but often ended up with open or vase forms instead, because they were heading back the tree to a short single stem on planting. What is perhaps most interesting is that while the training methods were clearly failing to achieve stated goals, they continued to be recommended and used almost universally. This bit tells us something important about human nature and conservatism in these sorts of things. They also were able to associate the failure of older trees by the mechanisms of rot and branch breakage, to early training mistakes. Next they organized and carried out fairly large scale experiments on a few varieties of apple trees to come up with a new training system. It is a brilliant, pragmatic and contextual study, but as far as I can tell, it did little good. In their review of existing literature going far into the past, they found that the same recommendations to head back leaders and scaffolds at planting had existed for a very long time, and it continues to be the main practice today. The fruit of the entire study was to recommend against that practice and offer more effective alternatives.

I favor the modified central leader and delayed open center for good reasons. Most trees can be trained to them successfully, though some may require more maintenance to keep them there than others. But regardless of the form you’re after, notching and disbudding are powerful tools to shape trees and should be in much wider use. I just heard from the brilliant experimental orchardist Eliza Greenman, that she has become a convert to disbudding, and is planning to write about it on her blog soon. We are going to chat about it and see what we come up with for potentially moving these ideas forward. I hope to influence other people to start trying this stuff as either a full on system of steps to achieve specific forms, or applied randomly as needed. Ultimately my goal is full reform of fruit tree training for homescale growers and reform to industry where it is applicable, though exactly what those methods and implementation look like is not at all clear at this point. I would like to do a full on lecture and articles outlining where I think we are at with fruit tree training and what needs to be done to move forward with updating the stone age methods currently favored. This would involve a lot of writing, some research and communication and one or two lecture videos. I would do that this month if possible because I’m fired up about it, but it is a week, if not weeks, of focused effort. The next logical step after that is a large plot of different species and varieties of fruit trees grown just to test out methods and systems to determine success rates. Such a preliminary experiment would probably cover 1/4 to a full acre over 5 to 10 years, and would no doubt illuminate follow up studies related at least to how nurseries and growers, either individually, or combined, could actually implement progressive methods. If I can’t ever do that myself, I would like to outline what experiments and research I feel need to be done so that someone else might pick it up and do it, either a private individual or an organization with adequate funding, such as a university. The other possibility is to lead a dispersed, semi-organized, private citizen research project where amateur breeders, amateur orchardists and small scale commercial orchardists who are puttiong in new plots, test some of these ideas out and report back to a central hub.

Unfortunately, since starting this blog and my youtube channel I’ve ended up in debt to friends and family and have to rethink my approach and content to favor income over edification. I’m not getting nearly enough views to put a sizeable dent in just basic monthly needs, let alone extra for any larger projects requiring time, labor and materials. Use of my amazon links is down (you can always find them here! :) , and patreon income is about half of what it once was, largely due to an exodus of users over a recent political controversy. Youtube views are up as well as subs, but not enough to amount to much. As much as I’d like to do what I do best as an independent privately funded researcher, it just isn’t working out. My plan for now is to prioritize more mass consumable videos (not bad, just not as geeky ha ha) and work on marketing for as long as it takes to get back in the green and actually generate enough of a surplus to be able to afford to work on influencer and thought leader projects that may generate a lot of social change by influencing some of the right people, but will probably never get enough public attention to generate much income. I can see my influence on some subclutures already, which is the prime directive, but not enough is coming back to make financially viable the kind of content that I think is most important, or will ultimately have the largest ripple effect. In the meantime, I've been selling stuff off on ebay to deal with the most urgent debts and to get by until the strategies I hope to implement start bringing in more income. The good news is my energy budget has increased a little bit lately and I’m hopeful that trend with continue. I’ve proably said that 100 times in the last 20 years, but I still hope it’s true this time.

The next video will be a tour of some of my trees to look at what went right or wrong in training and how early training is critical to the continuing life and health of trees.

When it Rains it Pours, Minor Rain Emergencies, Tree Down, Creek Blockage and Overflowing Ditches, La Vida Homestead

When it rains a lot, stuff goes wrong. I had three issues to deal with at the same time and shot some go pro video. I manage to squeeze in some talking points about road design. Working it the rain is kind of fun, at least for a while. It could have been much worse timing, but having a tree fall in the road over an hour period when I was out was not super convenient.

Posted on March 1, 2019 and filed under Homestead Lifestyle, Homesteading, roads.

The Blood Zone, Common Mistakes In Splitting Firewood On the Ground With Axes

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Since releasing my video on splitting axe cut wood on the ground with axes, I have seen people engaged in what I consider to be risky behavior when engaged in this potentially very dangerous activity. Ben Scott, new head of the axe cordwood challenge project noticed the exact same thing and released a video pointing this specific problem out about the same time that I recorded this one. This is already an awkward and difficult to learn skill without having to stand in strange positions, but standing just any old place when ground splitting wood is something like driving around blind corners and relying on hope that no one is coming the other way. The difference is that we have some control of the tool and ability to read the circumstances. But we are not reliably accurate and faultless machines and that has to be accounted for. The main problem I see is that I don’t think people understand exactly what can go wrong and how serious the consequences might be, and and pointing those things out is the most important aspect of this video.

For learning ground splitting, for instance if working with a group of scouts, you could literally draw a line on the ground and place the firewood in such a way as to form these good visual habits until they stick. Name one side the blood zone and the other the safe zone.

A backing log for the buckstop could be an axecellent axecessory for training this method. Axeidents can easily happen when learning this technique. I’ve seen in happen. It could also make a good fixture in a longer term camp, so that anyone at any skill level can split wood for camp, or practice unsupervised. Flatten the bottom of the log and cut 5 or 6 notches. But, use it to teach good habits and the importance of direction of cut. Also realize that it is not a 100% guarantee of safety, because the buckstop can only be made so tall before the axe handle will be struck against the top edge.

A backing log for the buckstop could be an axecellent axecessory for training this method. Axeidents can easily happen when learning this technique. I’ve seen in happen. It could also make a good fixture in a longer term camp, so that anyone at any skill level can split wood for camp, or practice unsupervised. Flatten the bottom of the log and cut 5 or 6 notches. But, use it to teach good habits and the importance of direction of cut. Also realize that it is not a 100% guarantee of safety, because the buckstop can only be made so tall before the axe handle will be struck against the top edge.

For learning to split against a back log, the buckstop can be used until axe control is developed and direction of cut is understood. Using a buckstop with an accessory backing log tucked up against it could also be useful in a fixed camp where a number of people at different levels of skill, could safely split wood for camp. A backing log alone is not enough. A friend of mine cut her foot trying to learn to split against a back log, because she wasn’t able to learn direction of cut quickly enough and the axe popped over the log.

Flatten the bottom side for stability and to insure the log is low enough.

Flatten the bottom side for stability and to insure the log is low enough.

Historical Care Package from a Pennsylvania Viewer, 1850's Shoemaker Ledger Pages, Leather and Tools

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I received a pretty amazing care package from a long time YouTube viewer Davey Jo of Pennsylvania. He is a lifetime cabinet maker, leather and metal worker. and accumulator of tools. In spite of his apparent humble attitude, I have a feeling anyone could learn a great deal from Davey about woodworking and such practical shop stuff. His Great, Great Grandfather Joseph was a shoemaker and farmer in that state. He sent some interesting pages from Joseph’s Ledger about goods and services purchased, sold and rendered. Sometime I might sit down and analyze those documents a bit for whatever insights they have to offer about life in the mid 19th century. For instance with a cursory going over, it looks like a new pair of handmade shoes or boots were about $1.25 to $1.75. He also sold 3 bushels of potatoes from his farm for $1.50 and purchased cords of oak for $2.00 each. There is also a contract for an apprenticeship in shoe making. I’ll include a few pictures here. The writing is sometimes hard to decipher and it would be a bit of a project to sort it all out and attempt to translate it in historical context. There is also an edge of bark tanned leather from probably the mid 1800s from Joseph’s shop and a very nice looking piece of leather that Davey tanned with sassafras bark following my instructional videos on bark tanning.


1847 firewood prices. About 100% of today? Oak was bought in at 2.00 a cord, but Hickory (which appears to be spelt Hickery) was 3.00 a cord. Likely at that time it was either bucked into long fireplace logs with an axe or saw, or bucked into shorter woodstove sized sections with a frame bucksaw. From the other entries in this ledger, you could calculate how many cords you would have to cut in order to buy some staple foods for winter, oats, corn and potatoes, and a pair of shoes.

1847 firewood prices. About 100% of today? Oak was bought in at 2.00 a cord, but Hickory (which appears to be spelt Hickery) was 3.00 a cord. Likely at that time it was either bucked into long fireplace logs with an axe or saw, or bucked into shorter woodstove sized sections with a frame bucksaw. From the other entries in this ledger, you could calculate how many cords you would have to cut in order to buy some staple foods for winter, oats, corn and potatoes, and a pair of shoes.

Aside from some logging of shoe repairs and sales, this page contains a contract discussing a term of apprenticeship, an annuity, room, board, washing and mending of clothes, and a provision for a promise of three weeks farm labor at harvest time.

Aside from some logging of shoe repairs and sales, this page contains a contract discussing a term of apprenticeship, an annuity, room, board, washing and mending of clothes, and a provision for a promise of three weeks farm labor at harvest time.

Davey’s grandfather’s uncle Mr. Bachman was a tanner. Here is a receipt for bags of hair. Hair was used as an addition to lime plaster and no doubt for other things. It was commonly collected and sold by tanneries. Mr. Bachman appears to have attended a trade school and advertised those credentials on his invoice.

Davey’s grandfather’s uncle Mr. Bachman was a tanner. Here is a receipt for bags of hair. Hair was used as an addition to lime plaster and no doubt for other things. It was commonly collected and sold by tanneries. Mr. Bachman appears to have attended a trade school and advertised those credentials on his invoice.

This glue pot was given to Davey by his mentor John Grott, a woodworker, shoemaker and all around skilled man by the sound of it. I’m honored to be thought worthy of such a gift, which I can actually use as I have no glue pot. Most of them are also too large for my purposes, and as a cabinet maker, Davey found this one too small for his needs. It is essentially a double boiler, which serves two purposes, keeping the glue from burning and keeping it warm while it is being used away from the stove.

This glue pot was given to Davey by his mentor John Grott, a woodworker, shoemaker and all around skilled man by the sound of it. I’m honored to be thought worthy of such a gift, which I can actually use as I have no glue pot. Most of them are also too large for my purposes, and as a cabinet maker, Davey found this one too small for his needs. It is essentially a double boiler, which serves two purposes, keeping the glue from burning and keeping it warm while it is being used away from the stove.

A miniature “finger” plane. There are not a lot of tools on my wants list anymore, but this was certainly one of them. Also some nice air dried Hickery harvested by Davey and seasoned for years. It appears to be very stable, which is an often overlooked factor in handle material. If I have my way with it, there will be an extensive blog post and video soon on handles and handle material, what matters and what doesn’t. Stability matters a lot and is often not considered or attended to.

A miniature “finger” plane. There are not a lot of tools on my wants list anymore, but this was certainly one of them. Also some nice air dried Hickery harvested by Davey and seasoned for years. It appears to be very stable, which is an often overlooked factor in handle material. If I have my way with it, there will be an extensive blog post and video soon on handles and handle material, what matters and what doesn’t. Stability matters a lot and is often not considered or attended to.

Notes for Seed, Scion and Pollen Customers, Storage, Planting, Grafting, Pollination

I have about 50 orders of apple seeds, scions and pollen ready to ship out! It’s pretty neat to send all that interesting genetic material out into the world to proliferate. Here are a few notes on using and storing them. If you dont’ want to watch the whole thing, here is a video index to each and other useful videos and series’ are embedded below:

Scions

Seeds

Pollen

The BuckStop is Here! Training ProphylAXis For Bucking Firewood Safely

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I came up with this simple, but very cool idea for safely learning to buck logs with an axe. Here are the whys and whats and a few options for building one.

Watching people learn to buck in person and on video has been fairly horrifying at times. Most of the injuries we’ve seen during the cordwood challenge over the past two years were cuts made while bucking logs. This simple concept could allow people to train in bucking more safely, and just as important, to progress in that training more rapidly. I just came up with this idea a year or two ago and finally got around to trying it. The device is a simply a low guard wall that can be slapped together with some junk that might be lying around. I put together four different versions in about an hour including running around looking for materials. To make just one out of materials laying around would probably be about a 10 minute job.

This low wall should stop the axe should any cut go over the top of the log or through it, thus protecting the user from injury. This idea comes from the practice of using a backing log to buck, as recommended by Mors Kochanski and others. Using a larger log behind the log you are chopping can be very helpful, especially in preventing the axe from coming all the way through the work and continuing to the other side where we are standing. The Bucking Wall is taller and flatter than a log, so it should be more effective in preventing the axe from coming over the top of the log. It also allows one to stand closer to the work, which to me is preferable with a short handled axe. It is also lighter than a log. Finally, it can be built with a floor of plywood to catch the axe in case of over reaching strikes that would normally cause the toe of the axe blade to end up in the dirt.

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Consistent results and physical competence with an axe requires a certain amount of time served swinging one. They also require a certain amount of confidence to use well. The tool needs to be taken in hand and used with enough confidence to keep it under control and it is hard to be accurate and effective when timid and hesitant. It is possible to be so cautious and physically stiff that mistakes are increased or amplified. But how do we have confidence before being habituated to the tool? We don’t, which is why the learning phase is so dangerous. Observe the following quote from The Axe Manual of Peter McLaren published by the Plumb tool company.

“The danger of an axe is largely a mental hazard. The user is fearful; he stands so far from his work that his axe is not under control, forgetting that if he misplaces a stroke, or hits a glancing blow, the axe will always come home to him.

“Safety lies in learning to swing correctly and in placing your strokes accurately. Then stand within easy swinging distance and chop with confidence.

“Of course, there is always a careless man who minimizes any risk and chops more with abandon than with skill. In his hands the axe (or any edge tool) is dangerous. Play safe! But do not fear your axe. Instead--- Master it.”

Celebrity Axeman of old, Peter McLaren’s Manual of axe work put out by the Plumb Tool company. Download for free here…  https://scoutmastercg.com/the_axe_manual_/

Celebrity Axeman of old, Peter McLaren’s Manual of axe work put out by the Plumb Tool company. Download for free here…https://scoutmastercg.com/the_axe_manual_/

It is a lot easier to have that confidence once a reasonable degree of physical competence is gained. We don’t want to have false confidence, but ultimately McLaren was right. As a dangerous tool, it needs to be taken charge of and used confidently, with commitment and purposeful intent to do the work at hand.

But he recommended that we learn to use the axe, then use it with purpose and confidence. When each swing feels utterly lacking in said confidence as to where it will end up, or whether it will bite or bounce off, and we are not sure how to gauge distance from hands to the blade, how do we learn to use it safely? A certain amount of time must be spent with the tool before it begins to feel natural and go where we want it to. Enter the Buckstop

Because it is vertical and not round like a backing log, it is even more likely to prevent the axe from coming over the back board and hitting the user. So, at a certain height, it is almost 100% sure to prevent deflected and follow through cuts to the legs while bucking. So, there is the obvious advantage in terms of just preventing accidents, but I think the benefits will extent further. With the fear of injury essentially gone, now we can chop with some impunity, which means any timidity caused by being uncertain of striking our target is no longer at play. This may be a significant factor in allowing one to relax a little and chop with more confidence while working on physical technique. A new user can experiment with things like wrist torque for increasing speed, without increasing danger. In order to chop at their best, the lighter axes that I would typically recommend people start with need to be used with a little snap to create adequate head speed. But experimenting with that head speed is the last thing I would want to see a very new user doing. Using the bucking wall though, you could experiment with that acceleration and with tweaking style and technique in general, without fear of injury. Finally, when you do screw up, it is pretty obvious and I would hope that every time the axe hit’s the wall or wooden base, it stimulates the question of what would have happened if that wall wasn’t there. Even when making the final severing cut at the end to separate off the round of wood, the axe hitting the wall means the axe would be coming through, and if we look at footing position it should give some idea of whether we were at risk for injury.

I think this simple device is a solid idea, and could fill a very important need in the learning phase until confidence and skill are gained. I also think it could build that confidence and skill faster if used with intent. It’s not forever, it’s just a training aid. Many axe competitors habitually wear chainmail socks in both training and competition. Safety is good. But, I would recommend not using this indefinitely, because it could very easily foster bad habits and a false sense of security, which brings me to the down sides.

The two caveats I would say are, first that the buckstop should not be used as an excuse to be sloppy and complacent. One should still concentrate primarily on technique and aim, with a relaxed style, and not on speed and power. Ultimately speed and power are earned over time and more importantly they are nearly useless without a good level of accuracy. Forcing speed and power under normal conditions is dangerous, but even with a backing wall, they still will tend to cause aim to suffer and should be pursued intelligently with an aim to improvement of overall effectiveness, of which power is not the main ingredient as every experienced axeman will tell you. I do however, as I said above, think that using the bucking wall could allow one to progress more quickly into not just speed and power, but efficient speed and power by liberating the trainee to experiment more without putting limbs at risk. Which leads to caveat number two.

One could easily develop bad habits and a false sense of security if released from the fear of injury. I actually think it will be hard not to do so, and it is probably even inevitable. If I were training someone from scratch, I would probably approach it as two different stages, where in the second stage with no Buckstop, they have to learn new important habits and reboot the brain into danger mode. There is, of course, the opportunity to learn some safety lessons if you are continually watching that back wall and every time you hit it asking whether or not you would have lost a toe or two, but that requires a sort of intent or presence of mind that many of us aren’t going to have. Try to use the barrier consciously with the intent of hitting that backing wall as little as possible and not as an excuse to flail away with impunity. When the wall is gone, certainly more awareness and presence of mind around possible errors is going to be essential. Regardless, I would try to make the switch from buckstop to no buckstop as consciously and soberly as possible.

As far as design goes, watch the vide All of them work. You can just use a log that is larger than the piece you are bucking, but the wall should work better than a log in that it easier to move around, often easier to come up with, more transportable and allows one to stand very close, which I tend to do in bucking with the short handled axes I use. It is probably also safer, since it is both taller and flatter. If the device is made with a wooden platform for the log, it will also protect the toe of your axe from sticking into the dirt. @watch.your.follow.through on Instagram pointed out that if there is no base at the front for the log to rest on, it allows the device to be moved easily along the back of the log as chopping progresses. That is true, but it is also probably easier to slide a log along a piece of plywood. In a design with no wooden platform at the front, you can just jam a piece of plywood under the section to be cut to protect the axe, though it may not be as effective. Given that this is a training device and not a long term tool, any minor convenience issues like those only matter so much.

I would encourage making something that is super easy to throw together with common materials or junk that is lying around. I like elegant solutions, which means making and using the simple, easy, cheap thing that works. I am very resistant to keep tweaking the thing and turning it into a design project. Many tweaks could prove useful or clever, but the device that works and is actually built because it is so easy to put together is the best one, because that is the one that will actually be in use. Keep it simple and start using it, worry about tweaks later if they really seem compelling for some reason. If you have a saw and either some nails and a hammer or a screw gun, building one should be very fast. So fast in fact that it shouldn’t be a big deal to build an entirely new one or cannibalize the first to build a new one if it seems worthwhile.

I made them at different heights and it looks like 10 to 11 inches will be best. One I made with a 2 x 12 board had to have the front edge chamferred off as I hit the handle on it a few times. If the back stop is plywood, it probably wouldn’t damage the handle. Unless it needs to be shorter for portability, I think that for cutting 16 inch firewood lengths, 5 feet (150cm), or 6.5 feet (200cm), are going to be the magic numbers, with a 5’ wall, you can safely and comfortably cut 3 notches before moving it along and with a 6.5’ wall, you can make 4. But I would not hesitate to use almost any length if it’s easy or what you happen to have on hand.

As far as using the buckstop to train yourself or anyone else, here are my thoughts. First of all, this is so awesome! I’ve not had the opportunity to train someone from scratch, but I’ve often shuddered at the though of teaching someone to buck for the first time. This tool makes that so much easier. We can both exhale a sigh of relief and work on aim and a relaxed technique without worrying about safety. We can also work on the mechanics of acceleration and other technique stuff that would be much more dangerous to toy with otherwise. If used consciously, we can also get some good feedback on when the axe comes through or over the log and whether it might have hit a body part, trying to form good habits regarding body placement. Footing placement should be conscious as otherwise students might tend to stand right behind the cut with feet together, rather than in a safer wide stance. I think in a long term group or fixed camp such as scouts or a multi-day class it might be good to have one for each student. That way every cut in the board adds to a personal history. The wall could also be painted initially so that cuts show up better. Not every cut to the wall really indicates an accident, but it means something. For a more formal training for kids, I could see having a graduation test at some point where you have to buck so many feet of log with a freshly painted wall and if you make no cuts in the wall or base and meet some other criteria, you get to burn the thing ceremoniously and move on.

It could also be very useful for the student to carry out comparative lessons about such things as chopping styles and angles of cut. Also for trying different grinds and tools, but it can all be done safely. You can not only show people what can go wrong, you can have them do it, which will drive the point home much better, without driving the axe into their leg.

I do think that when it’s time to ditch the thing there should be a hard reboot on safety and awareness. I noticed just testing it briefly that I became very lax about footing placement and edge awareness. If you’re working on your own, you have to be your own bad guy, which is not always easy. If training someone else, be the eyes they need to help them cultivate that constant awareness of the edge and of follow through in relation to their body parts. When it’s time to move on, there really will need to be an emphasis on the fact that the game just changed and there are now real consequences and you can’t just hit NEW GAME after a serious accident.

As I said, I don’t think this should be a long term solution. I think it should be used to the best effect, then gotten rid of or it will cultivate bad habits and dependence. Switching back and forth could prove dangerous, because the two mindsets will be quite different. It is also more work to have it available, to move it to the logs or the logs to it. A skills over gear mindset doesn’t accommodate unnecessary accessories. Make a crappy one out of whatever cheap or free junk is available, don’t fix it unless it’s causing you problems, use it mindfully, then get rid of it and reboot your brain into high safety alert mode.

I think this device is going to prove very useful in certain contexts if it is used with intent. Let me know here or on YouTube if you try it, as I would like to get some feedback. As always stay safe and keep the red stuff inside.

Apple Seeds, Scions and Pollen Available Feb 7th

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Apple seeds and scions will be available this year starting Feb 7th. As usual, they are available early to Patrons. The webstore will be password protected for patrons until Thursday February 7th at midnight. Patrons, see member posts for the password if you didn’t get a notice by email already.

I don’t have a lot of scions, because my trees don’t always grow a lot since they are not pampered. It was also a pretty good apple year, so they put more resources into fruiting than into growing wood. They are also often on the small side, though I don’t send out anything I wouldn’t graft. In fact, if anything, I don’t send out a lot of wood that I would graft myself and usually keep the smallest scions for my projects. The good news is that my scions are cheaper than most places.

I do however have a lot of seeds. I actually have quite a few intentionally cross pollinated apple seeds this year. These are crosses that I think are promising for some reason. I can’t grow many more seedlings, so this is a way to get crosses that I think are promising out into the world. The usual caveats apply. Even with intentional crosses, you just don’t know what you are going to get. Some will be bad, some good and probably the great minority will be worthy of further propagation. I also use some fairly primitive genes in the red fleshed apples, which very likely reduces the overall success rate. The Open Pollinated seeds, those that have an unknown parent pollinated by bees, are even more of a gamble. They might be pollinated by any of 100 or more random varieties. Of course the high variability of apples is what makes them appealing to grow from seed as well, because with that randomness comes a lot of possibility.

The pollen is from last year, stored in a freezer. I can’t vouch for it’s potency or viability. I’ve kept pollen at room temperature for a year and used it successfully before, but not frozen. Freezing should keep it better, but it’s an experiment and I’ll be assessing the potency and viability of this frozen pollen myself this year. I may just collect pollen, freeze it and sell it the following year from now on, since it’s hard to get it all picked, dried and sent out in time for use the same spring.

International shipping: Scions I will send to the lower 48 United States and Alaska only. I will ship seeds and pollen internationally, but I won’t be responsible for the shipments not arriving if they are seized by customs, and I won’t lie on the customs forms about the contents. It is very expensive to ship seeds internationally, I remember recent seeds being about 13.00 U.S. Dollars to send. If you live outside the U.S. place your order in the webstore and check out, then I’ll figure out the postage and we’ll adjust the cost.

Here is the link to the webstore: http://skillcult.com/store/



Posted on February 5, 2019 .

Pruning and Training Chuck's Apple Franktree, Year 4 from Grafting

I’ve managed to make an update video every year of grafting and training my friend Chuck’s apple frankentree. The tree has grown quickly into a well balanced, classic Modified Central Leader form. The Main scaffold branches look pretty good and most of the laterals have been set. That only took 3 years. This 4th year, I just notched a few more buds to get the last few laterals where I want them and the rest is mostly maintenance with light training. If I were to do this now, I would approach it with even a little more intent to get exactly what I want, possibly even a little quicker. To understand the tree form a little better and how to get it, watch the video below on tree forms. I like this tree form a lot. It is not the only game in town, but it is good for making long lived, well balanced trees that are relatively easy to control. It is popular with fruit tree enthusiasts for a reason. It also looks very nice, making a somewhat spreading tree with reasonably good light distribution if well maintained.

This is probably the last training and pruning video of chucks tree as the videos are becoming redundant, but the form is in place and from here on it’s mostly thinning excess growth, and then shortening what is left. maybe we’ll check in on fruiting and maturity in a couple/few years. A playlist with all previous videos of chucks tree is also linked below if you want to follow it’s development from the beginning.


The full playlist… https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL60FnyEY-eJCwRV46RC-aoybNgDRjCAw4


The video explains a couple of very good common tree training forms, the delayed open center and modified central leader.

CordWood Challenge 2019, New Leadership and Expansion

This year, I have turned over leadership of the challenge to a young, enthusiastic and very intelligent guy named Ben Scott on the other side of the Atlantic. Though relatively new to the game, he is level headed, confident and truly curious. He posts more to the cordwood challenge facebook page than anyone, including me and has been hammering out axe related YouTube content, much of which shows insight from experience. A lot of that experience and insight comes from doing the cordwood challenge last year where he cut 4 ricks of wood. I think he will not only do a good job, but a much better job than I at facilitating the project, taking it forward into new territory, and being consistently focused and involved. We chatted on skype for quite a long time and have very similar visions and ideas about the cordwood challenge concept and where to potentially go in the future. Pretty early on in the challenge I think I realized the potential and the need to grow or centralize a community and information source around practical axe work. I even took out a domain name, which I’ve offered to Ben if he wants to run with the idea.

I can see clearly the need for such an internet destination that is strictly focused on practical axe work and design and specifically avoids a sort of axe fetishism centered around collecting which tends to take over axe groups and discussions. I think such a project could be run and funded by members, and could house a database of sorts. This might provide a mutually supportive community that learns at an exponential rate and that is instrumental in welcoming novice axe users to facilitate their progress and understanding of the tool and it’s safer use. Ben has also already added some other challenges that could make the project more accessible to people that don’t have access to a forest, or that are doing axe-centric building projects.

I feel like this is really the best case scenario right now. I am also very sure that I know the best place to put what energy and time I can into engaging with the axe community by providing content on axe use, safety and theory. That also has to compete with the many other subjects I want to cover, but I’m quite sure the content I have planned on axe stuff is extremely important, and will do a lot of good and will very likely remain viable into the future. As popular as axes are, my take on them as a practical user who generally buzzkills gearheadism, collecting and fetishism is not very popular, but I feel almost obligated to produce that content, especially in support of the cordwood challenge project.

Any axe head should subscribe to Ben’s YouTube channel. People just interested in the Axe CordWood Challenge in general, or who just want to be supportive of the project are welcome to join the FaceBook page, which Ben is now an administrator of along with myself.

If you want to know more about how my messed up life and health have compelled me to forego this project this year and are limiting my activity, you can watch the video below. My life is pretty messed up lately and I’m having a hard time maintaining anything resembling focus to carry through projects.

As always stay safe choppers.

Tasting Some Late Hanging Apples and Late Seedlings From Breeding Trials

One of my main interests when it comes to collecting and breeding apple varieties is the very late hanging/ripening types. I’ll be heard to proselytize about them frequently and I am not sure why everyone else is not as excited about them as I am. While most would normally think of winter apples as being eaten out of storage, certain varieties can be ripened and held on the tree through at least all of January assuming the climate is suitable. This video is a walkaround checking out what is still hanging as well as tasting the remaining late ripening seedling apples from the breeding trials. I wrote a whole post about late hangers, but I decided to put off posting it until I can make a video that makes an argument for growing them more, ferreting more of them out, and beginning to test the climatic limits of hanging late fruit. Clearly there is going to be a cold limit and folks in places like Michigan will not be able to grow them. But chances are that they can be taken advantage of in much of Cascadia, the southern belt east to west, and other places that you can’t go ice fishing without falling through. Not doubt too there are going to be varieties that are more durable to the cold than others. Unfortunately, many of these late hanging varieties are quite rare and I usually have very limited scion wood available. I will have some this year, quite a bit of some of them and none of others. Scion sales will begin soon and I’ll post when they are available.

Formula Books, The Treasure Chest of Free DIY, Self Reliance Information You Need to Know About

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While I’m inclined to ignore the holidays for the most part, I have a gift for you. Christmas can be downright disturbing in it’s materialism and focus on over consumption. Well, my gift to you is a knife in the corrupted festering heart of that particular Santa of commerce, a downloadable treasure trove of DIY information from a very different time, from a time when DIY was a necessary way of life and not an internet niche. The very fact that we call someone a do-it-yourselfer, indicates that those people are novel in an age where products for almost anything can be bought ready made.

This is about formula books, a phenomenon from the past that would now be a quaint piece of history to most if they even knew about them at all, but which the self reliant minded, and technologically curious, can find immensely helpful and fascinating. I think the reason that these great books are no longer common, is that they were a product of a different time. Cue history fable…

Once upon a time, there were no letters. No, not letters as in I wrote you a letter, I mean the characters that make up words. Ideas spread verbally were slow and limited in range, and culture and community knowledge existed on a smaller scale, with much less homogeneity between geographic groups. Then people invented writing, which gradually grew in scale. At first, few knew how to read and books were only produced as one offs or had to be copied by handwriting and illustrating. Then printing began, followed by more efficient printing, and eventually by more people learning to read. In that era, previous to transmittable media such as radio and television, printed books and periodicals were what allowed ideas and information to be spread broadly. Books were popular enough, but so were periodicals. Periodicals were the way that groups of people with similar interests or professions interacted in their niches with others around a country, or even between continents. It may seem painfully slow in this age of internet forums, instant news and comment threads, but aside from in person meetings, that was what was available. Editorials and reader interaction via letters to the editors were an extremely important mechanism of communication and evolution of understanding among these niche groups. Some of those periodicals were not sent out very often, but it provided a place for readers of similar interest to write in and offer experience or tips and recipes. Being an inveterate researcher of antique information, I have gleaned a lot of knowledge from these periodicals. So there is one piece of our context, and here is the next...

Going back far enough, circumstances determined that people made a lot of stuff from scratch. Not just individuals, but professionals. Most pharmacy items were probably compounded by the pharmacist, not purchased pre-made. Real compounding pharmacies are the exception now, and most just buy finished products and re-package them. Artists mixed most of their own paints, sometimes from the raw minerals, preparing specialty oils, etc. The supermarkets, hardware stores and drug stores with miles of diverse products would drop the jaws of someone in the 19th century. Professionals used books and periodicals for information on how to formulate items for their trades, and average people often compounded raw materials to make what they needed.

I think it’s likely that these two circumstances eventually lead to the phenomenon of formula books. I imagine that at some point, some enterprising individual went through and compiled a bunch of these general formulas and tips from various sources or from their own periodical, and printed them in a book. Many of these collections were compiled and printed well into the 20th century. Some are intended more for the home market, others more for practical “shop dudes”, technical entrepreneurs and inventors. Others were specific to an industry or interest.

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Imagine in a time where your access to a store might even be limited, and when you did go to a store, the products were also limited and expensive. Even raw materials might need to be special ordered from an in-store catalogue or the Sears and Roebuck catalogue, and waited on for weeks. A book like this could prove extremely valuable to have around the house to compile these and common household materials to useful ends. Now it seems that problems are practically invented to sell products. These books are also full of general tips for daily household, farm and shop life.

Keep in mind when perusing these offerings, that whomever printed the book you are reading didn’t actually try all that stuff out! Many of these would be untested recipes from essentially random sources. Just because K.W. Micklemaus from blington New Jersey wrote into a periodical once and sounded like he knew his business when it comes to lubricating an old watch with rattlesnake oil, doesn’t mean he was right. These recipes should be read with a very critical mindset. Another thing you will notice is that they use a lot of toxic stuff. Lead and Benzine were staples, and many other toxic substances. Some of these can be substituted and some cannot, but the recipe may still give you some ideas on making something of your own devising.

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There will also be a lot of materials that you have never heard of. Further, you may not know which form of the material is referred to, or which name a material refers to. For instance, it is difficult to determine for sure what is meant by Plumbago, which seems to usually refer to graphite can be confused with Galena, a lead ore which looks similar. The name Plumbago is derived from the word for lead and many recipes will call for “black lead” when they mean powdered graphite. but which one is called for in your stove polish recipe? I’ve had this exact problem when trying to figure out if the recipes for stove blacking I’ve been looking at are referring to lead or graphite. According to Wikipedia, some guy actually invented the term graphite, now the dominant term, in order to avoid confusion caused by the terms black lead and plumbago.

An example of ambiguity regarding the different forms of substances would be lime. Lime is often called for in recipes, but it is rarely specified whether the reference is to lime putty, which was once very common, or dry lime hydrate. They have similar properties, but would be measured out very differently. Usually if quicklime is called for it will be called either quicklime, freshly burned lime, or maybe lime shells. Freshly slaked lime probably refers to lime putty, but it could conceivably refer to dry hydrate. Having been interested in this sort of archaic information, I have a glossary in my brain of quite a few of these terms, but like learning botany and all it’s specific terminology, newcomers will spend a fair amount of time looking up unfamiliar terms and trying to sleuth out what is actually meant by them. I used to have to do that secondary research in other old books in my collection, but now we have the internet which makes it much easier.

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It’s worth keeping an eye out for these in print. I was introduced to them a long time back when some practical artist friends Scott McGrath, Todd Barriclow and Spring Maxfield busted out a copy as if they were showing me some holy book. It was a big enough deal that I still remember the event lol. More like they were unlocking the door to a technical candy store. You can read most of the old formula books online for free and I’ve set up a file where you can download them. You can also always find the links by going to www.skillcult.com/freestuff With modern search functions, it is easy to find what you are looking for in them... well, sometimes. These books are in PDF form, which is imperfect. When converting a very old book from scans and PDF’s to plain text like kindle’s mobi or to epub, the print character recognition software often misinterprets many letters or runs the characters together into compound words. So, the search functions may or may not find what you are looking for regardless of the digital format. Sometimes (possibly even often, although I’m loathe to admit it :) I find myself looking for the search function while reading an actual book or piece of paper! Search is absolutely awesome as a tool. Most books, especially older ones, have terrible indexes if they have any at all. But, in spite of the lack of a search function, sitting down with an old, yellowed copy of The Scientific American Encyclopedia of Receipts, Notes and Queries is an entirely different experience than skimming through photos of it on an ipad. Unless you go out and search for these books though, you won’t just run into many of them. I just did some quick searching and it looks like ebay is probably the best place to look for them and maybe check out Etsy too. Some were printed later in the century, but they gradually fell out of popularity. There is still a niche of weirdos like me (and I hazard to guess you too :) that will find them fascinating and useful. I own physical copies of Henleys, The Scientific American Cylopedia of etc, etc…, Standard Book of Formulas, Techno-Chemical Receipt book and The Materials of the Artist. Those were collected randomly at bookstores and flea markets over the past 25 years. All but the last are in this digital collection I put together. I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I could find, some of which I’ve barely looked at. Also, keep in mind that there are many, many more niche books of this sort for specific trades. For instance, there are a boatload of old pharmacy compounding books and many painters books.

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, so we are on the right side of that equation now, yay! Last night was the coldest night so far, and here the teeth of winter are really just starting to bite. A couple of days ago I ran through all the formula books looking for stove blacking recipes as I make moves to restore a rusty woodstove I’m trying to get installed. Now I just have to figure out if they mean graphite or lead when they say plumbago! Best wishes to you and yours in this new year and heartfelt thanks to all the people that have supported me from sharing content, to comments, to the thank you notes I receive from complete strangers almost every week, and for the much needed financial support. Things have been very difficult lately to put it mildly, and my ability to produce good content is at a low ebb. I’d like to report that I expect that to improve, but my hope for resolving the chronic health issues that I’m severely hobbled by is also at a low ebb, and unfortunately, I think justifiably so. My plan remains the same though, to continue at whatever pace I can, the work I set out to do from early in my life, which is essentially the pursuit and dissemination of practical knowledge and practical philosophy with a focus on self reliance and archaic skills that I believe still have relevance. Formula books have been exceedingly useful in that pursuit and I hope they are to you as well. <3

And here is a plug for www.archive.org Wow, what a fantastic resource this is. I’ve used google books for a lot of my research of this type in the past, but archive.org has become my go to resource for digging up old books and information. They are a non-profit with the goal of creating universal access to information, including books and periodicals, photos, film and audio. They are in a fund raising drive right now and have a 2 x matching grant. Try it out for a subject you are interested in. The books and periodicals available have generally run out their copyright protection, which I believe is defined by the life of the author, plus 50 years, so the great majority of it is from long ago, which is just what I’m usually looking for. I recently used it to do research on the medicinal uses of turpentine and found a huge number of references going as far back as the 1600’s. So cool!

Here is an example a text search of the entire archive for the term blacksmithing this is using the search text function. The search titles field will turn up fewer results.

By using the lower search field, you can search within a book or periodical.

Well, I either just enabled you to go down endless impractical rabbit holes full of endless wheel spinning information, or offered you the most amazing tool to further your personal development. Which one it will be is probably largely up to you :) Just remember that book learning is only really very useful as part of a trinity composed of INFORMATION, EXPERIENCE and CONTEMPLATION. I might add communication in there as #4, but that is sort of covered by both contemplation and information. In a very real way, information is not knowledge.

DOWNLOAD THE FORMULA BOOKS HERE

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Posted on December 24, 2018 and filed under Books, Homesteading, Self Reliance.

Test Tasting 12 New Apple Seedlings

I had quite a few new apple seedlings fruit this year. Some were still not ripe as of December 10th, while others were over ripe. The overview is that none of them seem super promising, though there are about 4 I’ll be keeping my eye on for the next few years. One had pretty strongly red flesh, several had very light blushing and one was approaching 50% pink mottling. The percentage of apples that come up with some red flesh, may be approaching 30%, but most of those just have a light blush here and there. Many of those that fruited this year are Lady Williams offspring, as those seem to be more inclined toward early fruiting. Some of those are definitely not ripe yet, because Lady Williams is super late ripening and most of them seem to have inherited that trait.

The most interesting are:

Grenadine x Goldrush cross measuring at 25% sugar

Grenadine x Goldrush cross, which has the deepest red flesh, medium sized and very attractive it measures at 21% sugar.

A small Rubaiyat x Wickson cross, also 25% sugar.

And a Grenadine x Golden Russet cross, which picked up a little of Golden Russet’s rusetty flavors, but not a lot.

of those, only the first was probably picked the best time, the rest being picked late as I had some dental trouble right about when they should have been picked and tested. As a result they were about 3 weeks over-ripened on the tree.

While I didn’t find any of these super compelling (more like potentially interesting) it has to be kept in mind that they could improve going forward. For one, the conditions they are growing under are awful. They are very crowded, often shaded and with very little food or water. It’s like a disaster camp in there! As I start to cull some of the trees, it will make room for the remaining ones. Any apples that seem very promising, I will probably eventually graft out onto an established tree, to give them more of a chance to grow and produce fruit that could be closer to reaching their full potential. Another factor is that as grafts or new trees mature, they seem to often start producing better fruit. Hopefully next year I’ll get to taste these again, and better samples of them, along with more new varieties that have not come into fruit yet.

Axe Handle Breakage, Designing For Resiliency, Weak Links and Stress Distribution

An axe head with a wooden handle has some inherent problems. The head and handle are made of very different materials that behave differently. Steel has a very high density compared to wood. Wood is much more flexible than steel and will dent and break more easily. When using an axe, these differences can cause problems, such as the wood being damaged by forceful contact with the hard unyielding metal head, or the relatively high density of the steel head behaving differently than the handle, thereby putting stresses on the weaker wood. Breakage just below the eye is a very common occurrence. This article and video are an attempt to explain some common reasons why axes frequently break near the eye, having to do with design, or perhaps lack of design in some cases. Breakage in the main body of the handle can of course also occur, but I’m not really dealing with that here. I’m pretty sure that the greater percentage of axe handle breakages are initiated right where the handle meets the bottom of the eye, or within the first few inches of handle, especially if the breakage is not due to wonky grain or other defects. Shear stresses seem to be particularly high in this part of the handle.

In this article, I will be assuming that we are dealing mostly with American axe head patterns, which tend to have thinner eyes than European and Scandinavian axes. Even though American axe styles migrated back to Europe (many axe patterns on that side of the pond are actually American or modified American patterns) the axe eye sizes largely remained bigger than American axe eyes. This is an important point when we look at overall handle design, because with any given axe head, the eye shape just is what it is, and the size and shape of the wood where it enters the eye is therefore pre-determined. Some of these problems are obviated by the use of tapered axe eyes, in which the handle feeds in from the top and fits by friction, but that is a separate subject also. The assumption here is that we are dealing with American style patterns that are wedged from the top. For whatever mix of cultural and practical reasons, these axes have pushed the limits of strength and resilience of the wood used in handles, by evolving toward a small eye.

Aside from the size of the axe eye being fixed, there are two other things that are pretty much givens as well.

One is that the section of handle just below the eye, lengthwise (poll to blade) is wider than the rest of the handle. If the whole handle was the same front to back dimension as the eye length, it would be unusable, so the body of the haft has to slim down soon after leaving the eye.

Predetermined factor number two is that we need a slight flair in handle thickness just below the eye at the back of the handle, as well as on both sides, so that the head seats firmly around the bottom as it is driven on. The front edge of the handle can come straight out of the eye if desired, with no rise, but the other three sides need at least some flair, though not very much. In my view, it is always unnecessary, and also a detriment, to come out of the front of the eye and then immediately outward, forming a shoulder. I see no reason to do that, and every reason not to. If the handle isn’t completely straight coming out of the front of the eye, the rise is best made as a gentle transition.

WE CAN CONSCIOUSLY WORK AROUND THESE FIXED PARAMETERS. IN OTHER WORDS, DESIGN AROUND THE THINGS WE CAN’T CHANGE.

Vegetable Tanning Materials, Tannin Rich Barks, Roots and Leaves Used to Tan Skins and Hides Into Leather

I am asked a lot about what tanning materials people should use in their part of the world. Well, be careful what you ask for he he. Here is a very large amount of information to address fill that gap. I had already typed up a partial list for a vegetable tanning book project that I have done some writing on which is mostly presented here (don’t hold your breath on me publishing it anytime soon). That information comes largely from Howe’s book on tanning materials, which I think is still in copyright. But I decided to list a bunch of full text excerpts on tanning materials from some other old out of copyright tanning books. To top it off, at the end there is a surprisingly long bibliography of publications on tanning materials put out by the USDA, with such fun topics as tannin content of some acorns, Tannin content of pacific coast trees, tanning materials in South Africa and the tanning industry of Washington state. There is still much more that could be dug up on the subject. If you want to research a specific material more, you can use sites like googlebooks.com and Archive.org Try different combinations of keywords such and as leather, tanning, tannin, the plant’s common names and the plants botanic name (or names, plural since they often change over the course of 100 years or more in order to keep botanists employed and make them look busy).

Tools You Need to Bark Tan Hides & Skins Into Leather at Home; Traditional Vegetable Tanning

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In this blog post and new video, I cover all the essential tools needed to make good bark tanned leather as well as a few non-essentials. Tanning materials will have to be treated separately and I will try to revisit many of these tools and their making in the future.

Real natural vegetable tanned leather is that which is tanned with tannic acid sourced from plant materials. While there are excellent sources of tannin in not just barks, but in roots, leaves, pods, fruits, nuts and wood, tree barks are the most used sources, thus the common term bark tanning. There are only a few tools and materials that could be considered essential to the process and none are complicated. In fact, if you strip it down to the real essentials, you need very little. Adding a few simple tools will improve your experience though, and in some cases your leather.

Some tools of the Tanner and Currier, most of which are discussed in this article. The slate bladed two handled knife B is especially intriguing. I need to make me one of them.

Some tools of the Tanner and Currier, most of which are discussed in this article. The slate bladed two handled knife B is especially intriguing. I need to make me one of them.


FLESHING KNIFE

The tanner’s knife, or fleshing knife, is the most important multi-tasking tool of the tanner. In a typical vegetable tanning process, I will use this tool for fleshing, dehairing, re-fleshing, scudding, removing excess water and stretching open the skin. It is also handy when re-soaking dried hides to work open dry spots so that they rehydrate faster. Many new models are available on the market, but a lot of home tanners get by well with homemade tools. Read my blog post on fleshing knives, and watch the Fleshing Knives 101 video for more than you probably wanted to know about them. I just received the Wiebe 12” Fleshing knife in the Mail so I can review it for you guys. I like the overall form a lot for general use, and was told by a dealer that it is actually tempered tool steel, not mild steel. Aside from the potentially weak, narrow and probably short tangs, it looks promising, but I haven’t had a chance to use it at all yet. Aside from unknown potential steel/tempering issues and iffy tangs, as a general purpose home tanning knife it seems likely to be a good choice for under 30.00 shipped.

A collection of tanner’s knives

A collection of tanner’s knives


BEAMS

Wood and plastic beams. Left is the outside cur from a log mill and the other is cheap ABS, though PVC would be much better, thicker, more durable and heavier. I haven’t used plastic beams much, but I can see why people might need to use them.

Wood and plastic beams. Left is the outside cur from a log mill and the other is cheap ABS, though PVC would be much better, thicker, more durable and heavier. I haven’t used plastic beams much, but I can see why people might need to use them.

The tanners all purpose scrapping knife is of no use without a beam. For most, a beam around 6 to 6.5 feet long will do well. I’m currently using. 6.25 foot beam, which is just about right for me. It can be of wood or plastic pipe. If wood, it is best to have a smooth work area that is free of knots, large cracks, grain tears or other major blemishes extending at least 18 inches down from the top. I would try to stick with 8” diameter and larger, but to get started, or in emergencies, you can use a smaller diameter beam. If the diameter is very small, you can flatten off the working area to a larger radius. A very small radius results in a small area of contact between the tool and the beam surface. For most vegetable tanning related beam tasks, a larger surface contact between beam and tool is preferable. Large logs should be at least split in half, or even hollowed on the underside to thin them. Most of my old beams were hollowed out on the underside with a hatchet to reduce weight and discourage cracking. Taking the center of the log out by splitting it in half will reduce both the incidence and severity of cracking. Reducing the thickness further will reduce that risk even more. It doesn’t have to look pretty, just chop out some of the wood to form a hollow on the underside.

A good source of nearly ready made beam material are the round sided slab cuts from the outsides of logs removed in milling lumber. You may be able to get some from a local mill, or small custom miller. Check the phone book (under lumber, milling?) or ask about local portable mill owners at your chainsaw dealer or repair shop.

If making a beam out of lumber, choose vertical grain like this over plain sawn face grain if possible as it will be less likely to crack. This is never a choice with a round or split log.

If making a beam out of lumber, choose vertical grain like this over plain sawn face grain if possible as it will be less likely to crack. This is never a choice with a round or split log.

I haven’t done it, but I suspect a pretty good beam could be made by radiusing the working area of a 2x12. I don’t seen any good reason it wouldn’t work. If so, try to choose one that has edge grain on the working face and not face grain. that is to say that the rings of the tree run from about 45 degrees or more toward straight through the thickness of the board. This is usually referred to as vertical grain and will be much less prone to cracking than plain sawn wood faces.

Now that I’m thinking about it, an edge grain (if you can find that good of a board these days) 2x12, backed by another 2x12 could make a pretty nice beam. I would leave a slot in the backing board for a plywood stand, augmented by two 4x4’s firmly attached with lagbolts similar to the arrangement pictured below. For a firmer union, wedges could be used to afix the plywood in the slot.

You can do many different things to put legs on the beam. A good option is to drill large holes, about 2 inches in diameter and plug in round wooden staves for supports. My current beam has two closely spaced boards screwed to the bottom on edge, just far enough apart to slide in a piece of plywood as a support. It works well enough.

Simple support that is easily taken down for transport. I would use 4x4’s next time.

Simple support that is easily taken down for transport. I would use 4x4’s next time.

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DRAW KNIFE AND SPOKE SHAVE

Maintenance tools. The drawknife is probably more versatile and essential than the spokeshave.

Maintenance tools. The drawknife is probably more versatile and essential than the spokeshave.

These tools are used for creating and maintaining, a smooth beam surface. It is ideal to have both. The draw knife is best for major wood removal and repair, and the spoke shave for maintenance and smoothing. You can get away with just one of them though, in which case the draw knife is the more versatile of the two. Draw knives are also handy for peeling tan bark from logs if it is not slipping off easily. If you intentionally shred the bark off of the log in small, thin slices, you may not have to chop it any finer for extracting the tannins.

When shopping for used draw knives watch out for two things, wear on the blade and rounded bevels on the back side. Old draw knives can sometimes suffer severe wear. Look to see that the blade is about the same width it’s whole length. It should also be flat on the back with a bevel on the top side only. Either by long wear, or by mis-sharpening, the back is sometimes not flat. In a very well used knife the back may be subtly dished or rounded off, but if it has an obvious bevel or extreme wear, steer clear.

I would not recommend buying a spoke shave that has only one screw to adjust and no fine adjustment screws. The type shown is common and works well.


WATER AND HOSES

Water is not just a material, it’s a tool for cleaning things off. Skins, tools, boots, hands and tubs need frequent rinsing You will use a lot of water, and the more convenient and available it is the better. I usually use a standard hose end shut off valve to control flow. I like these valves better than most purpose made sprayers, because when opened wide the flow is fairly high, which is nice when you are filling containers with water a lot. If opened only part way, the shut off valve makes a reasonable sprayer for cleaning things off. As far as I have seen, craftsman rubber hoses are the best deal going when they are on sale in the spring, which they usually are.

Better than any sprayer I’ve tried when you want high flow.

Better than any sprayer I’ve tried when you want high flow.

Passable spray pattern and volume if not as good as a purpose made sprayer.

Passable spray pattern and volume if not as good as a purpose made sprayer.


BRUSHES

A stiff cleaning brush will be found almost indispensable for tubs, aprons, beams and tools. You may also need a finer brush to scrub bloom off of the grain side of skins. Bloom is a whitish deposit that forms on the grain surface during tanning. It is more common with certain tanning materials and also when layering or pit tanning is used.

Stiff brushes for cleaning tubs, tools and beams are almost essential

Stiff brushes for cleaning tubs, tools and beams are almost essential

Surface on the right shows bloom deposited in the tanning process. The section on the left has been scrubbed clean with an old hair brush with medium bristles. The dark stain in the center is where the skin floated above the surface of the tan liquor :-/

Surface on the right shows bloom deposited in the tanning process. The section on the left has been scrubbed clean with an old hair brush with medium bristles. The dark stain in the center is where the skin floated above the surface of the tan liquor :-/


PROTECTIVE CLOTHING

BOOTS: Rubber boots are very nice to have if you do a lot of tanning. If you don’t wear them, the hide will inevitably drip all over your feet as you stand at the beam working.

GLOVES: I tanned without gloves for years, but I love my elbow gloves now. Don’t bother with dishwashing gloves, or any other short gloves. You will inevitably reach into a solution and they will fill with smelly liquid. I use these affordable Atlas gloves, which have held up okay. When they die, I may invest in a more heavy duty glove.

APRON: I would avoid buying very cheap aprons. I am still using the same two heavy duty black, rubberized cloth aprons that I bought used at a yard sale over 20 years ago. You can make one from a sheet of vinyl or plastic of some kind, or tie a trash bag around your waist, but if you tan a lot, the protective gear is really nice to have. Hip waders are great if you already own them.

Non-Essentials, but so nice to have!

Non-Essentials, but so nice to have!


CONTAINERS

Vegetable tanning requires certain kinds of containers. Materials that can be safely used for all the processes are wood, plastic and rubber, ceramic, stainless steel and enamel ware. I use galvanized tubs, but only if there is no rust at all on them, and for liming and rinsing only. Aluminum I’ve used for rinsing only. I know aluminum and ashes don’t mix well but I don’t know about lime. While I have no idea if aluminum is safe for tanning liquors, I’ve avoided it. Anything that rusts is out of the question for all processes related to vegetable tanning except for dyeing the skin black. Any rust or iron will darken the skin permanently.

The common rectangular plastic storage tubs with lids are the most versatile. Choose designs that can be rained on without funneling any water into the tub if possible. Some do not have that kind of overhang on the lids, or have holes of some kind on the edges. All of these others also get used, but none are particularly better than rectangular tubs.

The common rectangular plastic storage tubs with lids are the most versatile. Choose designs that can be rained on without funneling any water into the tub if possible. Some do not have that kind of overhang on the lids, or have holes of some kind on the edges. All of these others also get used, but none are particularly better than rectangular tubs.

The ubiquitous 5 gallon plastic buckets are handy to have around for various uses, but tanning anything over the size fur bearers in buckets is unpreferable. Large rectangular plastic storage tubs of 15 gallons and up are very useful as are other large tubs of various sorts. I have used wooden wine barrels cut in half quite a lot. They look really great, but aesthetics aside, they have their down sides. Wooden barrels need to be kept filled with water, or they dry out and fall apart. Since they need to be full of water, they breed mosquitoes unless you dump them regularly and they are quite heavy when full. You can tan hides up to the size of deer in half wine barrels very easily and sometimes large hides if you get creative. The size of the container should be adequate for the size of skins you are tanning. Without getting into specific details, an 18 to 20 gallon tub is adequate for deer, goat and similar sized animal skins. I’ll usually cut cattle and other large hides into sides and bellies, and those pieces can be tanned in a half wine barrel or large rectangular tub easily enough.

Rectangular tubs are an advantage over round ones, when layering, a technique where you put layers of shredded bark between layers of hide and let it sit for a month or three. I can layer a deer hide well in an 18 or 20 gallon tub, by carefully folding it up with layers of bark between all the folds, but if layering a larger hide, or even a very large deer skin, you’ll need to size the tub up. For liming, rinsing, or tanning the skins in liquors, round containers have the slight advantage in being easy to stir, but that is not important enough to favor buying them over the more versatile rectangular tubs. Use what you have or can get cheap or free if it works, but if you buy something storage tubs with lids are probably the best all around. If you are tanning cattle, elk, moose, horse or buffalo skins, and want to keep them whole (not a very good idea unless you really need it that big), start keeping your eye peeled for larger containers. However, too large is too large. You don’t want to have to use excess amounts of liquid to tan, rinse or lime a hide.


BARK CHOPPING

Primitive and slow, but effective enough. The benefits are that it makes you slow down and chill out, and it’s good hatchet practice.

Primitive and slow, but effective enough. The benefits are that it makes you slow down and chill out, and it’s good hatchet practice.

Some materials, like sumac leaves are easy to use, but you will generally have to cut up barks, roots and woods. I have almost always used a hatchet on a block of wood. I lay out a tarp to catch the chips and start hacking away. You could use a small axe, but for most people, an average sized hatchet is a good weight to start with. A heavy hatchet or axe can lead to repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel much faster. Just ask my tendons about that.

Hatchets can also be used to “raze” off the outer dead portion of the bark, which was sometimes so removed in traditional tanning as it was considered unnecessary or even injurious to the leather.

Chipper/shredder machines can be very effective. Garden chippers are often under-powered for thick heavy bark, but they are nice when they work. If necessary, you can break the material up into smaller pieces, or try shredding it while still fresh and softer. If there is a lot of rust in the chipper, it could contaminate and darken your liquor. Consider running some branches and leaves through the unit to clean it out.


COOKING POTS

It is possible to extract the tanning materials from plants with cold leaching, but it is much faster to cook it out. Even though I don’t know that it isn’t safe, I have always avoided aluminum. That is easy for me to do though, because I have large stainless steel pots from 3 to 5 gallons. Enamel pots could work, but be sure there are no rusty spots where the enamel has chipped away. Copper was used at one time, but large copper containers are expensive and uncommon. Large thin walled stock pots with thin bottoms can be very cheap and are fine for cooking bark, but will easily burn food if you are not careful. Try to get at least 16 quart and preferably 20 quart or larger. I find large stock pots like this to be indispensable tools in my lifestyle and they are a lifetime investment. When shopping key points to look at are thickness, build quality (especially handles) and steel quality. Some stainless imports are made of inferior metal. Read reviews carefully. When I won some fancy all clad cookware in a contest, I sold it on ebay and bought a Tramontina stock pot, which I’m happy with.

A 3 gallon stainless stock pot. Get 20 quarts or larger if you can afford it or better, repurpose a stainless beer keg.

A 3 gallon stainless stock pot. Get 20 quarts or larger if you can afford it or better, repurpose a stainless beer keg.

You can also modify an old beer keg, which many home brewers do for cooking beer mash. Full sized Kegs are 15.5 gallons and a 1/4 keg is 7.5 gallons.

I also own a large pool filter housing that must hold around 25 to 30 gallons. I set it up with a valve and cook large batches of canning jars and bark in it. I have never seen a comparable one. In most units the lid is nearly as tall as the body, making them of limited use.

My pool filter housing bark boiler, aka the MEGA CANNER.

My pool filter housing bark boiler, aka the MEGA CANNER.


Happiness is tan liquor on tap. It doesn’t get any better than this folks.

Happiness is tan liquor on tap. It doesn’t get any better than this folks.

SLICKING TABLE OR BOARD

To use the following two tools, the slicking iron and slicker, you need a large flat surface of some kind. The skin is stretched, smoothed and flattened with this trio. These are only used if you want to dry the skin smooth and flat. If the hide is to be softened you dry it in some way that is less involved. A good technique for drying hides flat is to paste them down to the board with fat applied to the flesh side. This technique allows us to finish the grain out perfectly smooth and then leave it on the board to dry slowly. Just put it where your chickens can’t walk on it! You can also nail the skin to a wall to stretch it, or lace it into a frame, but for leaving hides well flattened and finished, you probably can’t beat the slicker and slicking Iron on a smooth slab. If you are doing thick skins, you can get away with something that has a rough surface, such as unfinished plywood. When working thin skins on a slab, the surface should be smooth or the texture of the surface will show through on the grain, much like the technique of rubbing a piece of paper placed over a textured surface with pencil or charcoal. I use plywood and a large slab of thick salvage plastic. Traditionally, stone tables have been used. If you run across a large surface that is very smooth, water resistant and 4 feet or more wide, grab it.

A large sheet of salvaged structural plastic that I use as a slicking board.

A large sheet of salvaged structural plastic that I use as a slicking board.

Cattle leather oiled and pasted out to boards to dry with the slicker. When working with thick skins, the board texture will not show through. When finishing thin skins, you will need a smooth surface unless the skin is to be softened later, or the wood grain will show through on the hide’s grain surface.

Cattle leather oiled and pasted out to boards to dry with the slicker. When working with thick skins, the board texture will not show through. When finishing thin skins, you will need a smooth surface unless the skin is to be softened later, or the wood grain will show through on the hide’s grain surface.

The skin can be pasted to the board with a coating of fat on the flesh side. It will stick well enough if it is dried slowly. When pasting thick skins to boards, you must use wood for thick skins or the skin may mold from drying too slow. For thin skins you can get away with pasting them to a non breathable surface like plastic, but make sure they still dry out within a couple of days. I use this technique a lot. I also often use it if I’m going to use the graining board to soften the skin (see below), but in that case, it is okay to use a rough piece of plywood, because the grain is going to be wrinkled and reworked anyway so the texture of the board showing through the skin is of no consequence.


SLICKER

This tool is usually made of stone or glass and you can make your own with a piece of slate. it is a slab of hard material, with one rounded smooth edge, and and smooth rounded corners. A handle is nice, but not necessary. The tool is used to smooth and even the grain side of the skin and to paste it down onto a slicking table or board with fat for slow drying. You could probably have a glass shop make you one out of a 3/8” glass. A shop that works with stone tiles should be able to make you one as well, or at least cut a slab for you if they don’t already have some spare tiles of the right size. If you want to make one, cut a piece of slate or other clean hard stone and grind the edge round on a slab of cement or sand stone. Use water as a lubricant. If the stone is hard, add sand with water to make a slurry. Slate is fairly soft and easy to work. This method will even work with hard stone or glass if you are patient. It can be finished and polished with diamond sharpening hones and/or sand paper. A belt grinder would also be very handy, but the dust will mess up your lungs. Silicosis fibrosis anyone? Glass grinders are lubricated with water to prevent dust. You can also still buy slickers new, since a few leather workers use them for polishing. I have also used hardwood and moose antler in a pinch.

Size should be around 4x5 inches and 1/4 inch or more thick, with the long edge being the rounded working edge.

Vintage slickers from the museum area of the Muir McDonald Tannery in Dallas Oregon, now sadly closed. Both are slate. In the tool on the left, it appears that there may be screws for clamping the slate into the handle.

Vintage slickers from the museum area of the Muir McDonald Tannery in Dallas Oregon, now sadly closed. Both are slate. In the tool on the left, it appears that there may be screws for clamping the slate into the handle.

Glass plate in a leather working machine. This partly replaced and augmented the slicker. This may be the scariest machine I’ve ever seen in operation. Muir McDonald Tannery, used to polish the grain of tooling leather.

Glass plate in a leather working machine. This partly replaced and augmented the slicker. This may be the scariest machine I’ve ever seen in operation. Muir McDonald Tannery, used to polish the grain of tooling leather.

Smoothing the grain and flattening.

Smoothing the grain and flattening.

Home made slate slicker 1/4 inch thick and a slab of repurposed jade with the edges polished

Home made slate slicker 1/4 inch thick and a slab of repurposed jade with the edges polished

ideal slicker edge is evenly radiused and polished.

ideal slicker edge is evenly radiused and polished.

The slicker at work dealing with wrinkly edges. This tool is always used with fat as a lubricant.

The slicker at work dealing with wrinkly edges. This tool is always used with fat as a lubricant.


SLICKING IRON

My current ideal slicking iron prototype. I would favor a thick blade. This is a tool where weight and rigidity can be advantageous.

My current ideal slicking iron prototype. I would favor a thick blade. This is a tool where weight and rigidity can be advantageous.

This tool is similar to the slicker in size and shape, but it is a metal scraper with a dull edge. It is used on the flesh side of the skin to even out wrinkles and smooth and stretch the skin out toward the edges, before turning it over to use the stone or glass slicker. The slicking iron should not be super wide, about 5 inches wide at most. If I made one to my specifications right now, it would as in the diagram. It would have a very, slight radius across the working edge. I would also add a generously sized hardwood handle that is slightly drop shaped in cross section, copper riveted, and saturated in raw linseed oil. Regular carbon steel is okay to use, but always check it for rust and clean before using. Never leave it resting on the skin.

A serviceable homemade sicking iron and a cheap dough scraper. The dough scraper is on the thin side, is already rusting and should be modified to narrow it. It is probably better to check in with local scrap yards, metal fabricators and sheet metal workers.

A serviceable homemade sicking iron and a cheap dough scraper. The dough scraper is on the thin side, is already rusting and should be modified to narrow it. It is probably better to check in with local scrap yards, metal fabricators and sheet metal workers.

Dough scrapers can be used if modified. Most dough scrapers are wide and could stand to have an inch or more removed from their width to make them 4.5 to 5 inches wide, which you can do with a hacksaw and files. Use a file to sharpen and modify. The corners should be rounded off well to a 1/4 inch radius and the whole thing sharpened from both sides to form a fairly obtuse edge (not too thin) and then dulled enough that it won’t cut the skin. The edge should be of such a dullness that it will easily grab the skin and pull it when the tool is used, but will not cut or gouge it. If shopping for one, look at reviews to make sure it is not too thin. Cheap scrapers will bend under the high stress applied to this tool under normal use. I bought this one and it is barely thick enough. It is also already showing some rust as cheap stainless steel is prone to do. Here are a few that look like they may be thick enough, but it’s hard to say until you see them in person. pizza cutter, RSVP, OXO. Keep in mind that they will still be better if modified by narrowing them, so dropping by your local sheet metal worker or metal fab shop first is probably smarter. They usually have lots of scrap around and all the tools to make something like this quickly, minus the handle. If you have a file, a drill and a saw to cut a kerf in a wooden handle, just have them cut out a slab for you and do the rest yourself. If you have a good metal salvage yard around, look there for scrap stainless.

This paunchy spot was eventually flattened completely by persistent work with the slicking iron and slicker.

This paunchy spot was eventually flattened completely by persistent work with the slicking iron and slicker.

You may very well be able to use some sort of household item or kitchen tool in place of the slicking iron, for instance a thick stainless spatula. You can also do some of this work on the beam with the fleshing knife, like stretching the skin our toward the edges. At times though you may wish you had the slicking iron for dealing with tough wrinkles and lumps in heavy hides. I would definitely say it is more necessary and useful when dealing with big thick skins. It’s not a tool you have to have to start tanning. You will know when you need it. Checkout this image of Talcon working down a paunchy spot in a bark tanned bull hide. That spot ended up totally flat in the end. This is the kind of application where the slicking iron shines.

The same hide flattened, smoothed, pasted with fat to the board and left to dry slowly.

The same hide flattened, smoothed, pasted with fat to the board and left to dry slowly.


OTHER OPTIONS FOR STRETCHING AND DRYING

If you do not have a slicking table, and need to stretch a skin out to dry, you can use a frame with ropes. Cut many holes, parallel to the edge and lace the skin evenly and tightly. This will not always remove wrinkles and paunchy spots like slicking out on a flat surface can. Framing a hide is also a lot of work and wastes skin around the edges. Similarly, you can stake the skin out flat just off the ground. A better option than both for most people will be to nail the skin out to a large board or wall. Use hot dipped galvanized box nails if you can. Any nail that will rust is not recommended and nails that are already rusty are a sure way to leave black stains on your hide.

Horse sides framed for drying. Not the best solution in terms of labor and material conservation. It also does not provide the best options for flattening and smoothing the skin.

Horse sides framed for drying. Not the best solution in terms of labor and material conservation. It also does not provide the best options for flattening and smoothing the skin.


PALM AND ARM BOARDS

Old engraving of a Currier at work with an arm board. If you look closely, you can see that the artist illustrated the wooden teeth on the sole of the board

Old engraving of a Currier at work with an arm board. If you look closely, you can see that the artist illustrated the wooden teeth on the sole of the board

Skins can be softened by rolling on a table with the hands and forearms. These tools are used to make that job easier and work the skin a lot harder.

The soles are designed to grip the skin’s surface. One type has a wooden face with ridges carved into the sole from side to side for when the tool rides on the flesh side of the leather. Boards with cork glued to the soles are used when the tool will contact the grain side.

There are two basic sizes, a hand board, sometimes called a pommel, and an arm board. The hand board is short, 8” or less, with a strap that goes over the hand. The arm board rests along the forearm and has a strap at the back and a peg at the front for a handle. The difference is size and scope of work. Any home tanner ought to do fine with hand boards.

If the skin is worked folded grain side to grain side, the result is a pleasing wrinkled grain surface since the grain is crushed and compressed. The process of creating that grain effect is called graining, thus the term graining board. In this case, the sole of the tool touches the flesh side only and the teeth cut into the wood provide excellent grip.

Postion for graining process. Note the ridged graining board contacts the flesh side only.

Postion for graining process. Note the ridged graining board contacts the flesh side only.

Surface produced by graining

Surface produced by graining

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If a board is used with the skin folded flesh side to flesh side, the grain surface is left smooth because it is stretched instead of compressed. The cork soled board is used in this case to prevent denting and damage to the grain surface.

An antique cork faced arm board from the Muir McDonald Tannery in Dallas Oregon. Note that the cork is partially worn off on the front of the tool

An antique cork faced arm board from the Muir McDonald Tannery in Dallas Oregon. Note that the cork is partially worn off on the front of the tool

Fancy Antique cork soled board.

Fancy Antique cork soled board.


MALLET

In some cases, we may want the skin to be compressed and hardened, not softened and broken loose. The tool for this is a wooden mallet with a polished face, which is used to condense the leather when it’s in a damp, but not wet state. The face can be close to flat, but the edges have to taper off and round out gently. If you are leaving any kind of dents in the skin, then you need to either hit the leather flatter, or refine the edges. The leather should be smooth when finished. Use the heaviest wood you can, mine is probably iron wood and is extremely dense. Polish the face to a gloss finish. In the past, both Iron and brass/bronze mallets have been used, but make sure they are very clean and polished, with zero rust or oxidation. Even so, you are risking staining the skin with a steel hammer, so I recommend sticking with wood.

The mallet for compressing and firming leather should be dead smooth. Use the densest wood available. The hide underneath in the foreground has been pounded leaving it about 1/3 thinner, much denser, stiffer and polished. Otherwise, it was exactly the same as the top piece.

The mallet for compressing and firming leather should be dead smooth. Use the densest wood available. The hide underneath in the foreground has been pounded leaving it about 1/3 thinner, much denser, stiffer and polished. Otherwise, it was exactly the same as the top piece.


STAKE

This is a dull metal blade set into a post that is used for softening and breaking open the fiber of skins. They are useful if you are trying to get skins really soft and for working furs. Unless you are doing one of those two things, it’s not a very essential tool. I find them more useful in braintanning buckskin and working furs of any kind. The post can be permanent or in a stand of some kind for portability. The blade should be rounded at the corners and they usually have at least a very slight radius. The width of the blade can vary. For any kind of large skins, a wider blade would be better. 5.5 inches with the edges rounded to a 1/4 inch radius and a very, very slight radius to the whole edge would be good for general home tanning work of all kinds. A lot of dough scrapers are 6 inches wide, so that might be a good source of material for a blade. It should be stainless if possible, so you can leave it wet or in the weather. Use stainless steel screws as well.

A simple portable stake used for classes. A fixed stake or one on a heavy base is better if you’re going to use it a lot.

A simple portable stake used for classes. A fixed stake or one on a heavy base is better if you’re going to use it a lot.

Use stainless steel screws

Use stainless steel screws

A good stake blade design for the home tanner.

A good stake blade design for the home tanner.

This blog post and similar content is informed by almost 30 years of research, experience and communication with other tanners. You can support my efforts to bring back and preserve these traditional self reliance skills and arts by sharing content to friends, forums and social media, with general financial support on patreon.com/skillcult, or with one time donations using the link in the side bar. I also now keep separate accounts for earmarked donations toward research in tanning and apple/plant breeding. If specified, donated funds will be used for things like tools and materials, and outside labor solely related to either endeavor. Thanks for reading :)

Spoiler Alert, BITE ME Delivers the Goods! Early Oct 2018 Apple Variety Taste Testing, With New Seedling Apples

In my latest apple tasting, Sunrise and my own seedling BITE ME! rose to the top of the heap out of 18 tested. I also taste tested 3 new seedlings, out of which one is decidedly mediocre, one pretty good and one incredibly sweet, even though it is still ripening. Some others were bad others I am ambivalent about.

Rubinette: Intense anise flavor this year with high flavor, sugar and good acid balance. I am still not a big fan of this one for whatever reasons, but it’s very popular. If I approached apple tasting analytically for the most part, I might like it more, but I don’t, and I don’t.

Norcross Red Flesh: Got this from apple collector Nick Botners some years back. It is not very good. Light, juicy, tender, barely any red flesh, low sugar, low flavor.

Sunrise: This was one of the stars of the show in this tasting. Everything comes together really well in this apple. Very juicy, very crisp, good sugar levels, good acid/sugar balance, unoffensive skin and mild, but tasty flavors. More of a modern crisp type of apple than anything else in this tasting. It’s downfall may be a lack of distinctive flavor, but I want to eat them and that’s the best acid test.

Reinette Thounin: I got this from the USDA I believe. It is a true spitter. Totally inedible, bitter, tannic, low sugar. Honestly doesn’t even seem suited to cider, maybe just for the tannins.

Zabergau Reinette: Pretty good, always kind of tart, dry flesh, interesting but not sensational flavor. Could take it or leave it. Alleged to improve in storage.

St. Edmund Pippin: This one was no good when tasted a couple of weeks ago off of another branch on another tree. This time, some small stunted apples off of another tree were quite good, juicy and crunchy enough, with nice flavor and no discernible pear taste like the last ones had.

Tydeman’s Red: Or so it’s labelled, unconfirmed. Large lopsided apple. Open texture, juicy, crisp, tasty enough, more like a cooker and seems like it’s probably great for sauce.

Sweet 16: This year has none of the beloved cherry and almond flavors, but it has anise flavor that is seriously all up in your face. Not my favorite flavor. This apple can really vary drastically from year to year.

Mannington Pearmain: This apple has always cracked badly, but this year it didn’t too much. It’s not very good though and I still won’t keep it. It’s not bad, just not anything I’d recommend for any use.

Saltcote Pippin: the presentation is a little thin, lowish sugar and fairly acid. Good flavor though. probably would be a good sauce apple.

Coe’s Golden Drop: Intense candy flavor, said by some to be “pear drop”. Definitely does have a pear taste, but with more going on too, making it a very singular apple. It is small, dry, hard fleshed, tannic, thick rough skin, and still very intriguing. I think better specimens are coming down the pipe as it ripens more.

Peace Garden: small, stripped red apple. Outstandingly boring in every way.

Seedling, Grenadine x ? (proably Goldrush) 11/4: Kind of boring, a bit tannic, nothing really very wrong with it, just a generic yellow apple. Probably will not make the grade

Seedling, Grenadine x Goldrush, 11/17: A very healthy looking seedling that stood out for scab free, healthy green foliage early in the season. Apples are small for the most part, fairly round, often with flesh protruding out of the stem well, like an outy belly button. Small speckles, yellow skin. Flesh is fine grained and a little chewy. Flavor unremarkable yellow apple flavor. Sugar seems very high! As it is chewed, the fine chewy flesh gradually releases a rising flood of sugar. It also still had a bit of starchiness to it, so the sugar will probably continue to rise even further. Thanks to Mike of Walla Walla’s contributions to my apple breeding project fund, I just purchased a brix refractometer. That measures dissolved solids, which in fruit juice is more or less indicative of the sugar content. So, I’ll get to test this apple next week.

Seedling, BITE ME!: This was the first apple I ever fruited. Read more about BITE ME! here. In this tasting it is probably tied with Sunrise for me, though Bite me has the more interesting flavor for sure, Sunrise is a very pleasant eating experience and has outstanding texture. I’m thinking a Wickson Sunrise cross could be good. Mild flavors as always, with the special crab flavor component inherited from it’s mother Wickson. Any specific analysis and description aside, I want to stuff them in my face and chew them up to get that awesome flavor out. Sugary and low acid, thin skin. Flesh texture can tend toward what is called melting in fruit tasting terminology, or kind of chewy and tender. At least this one was. The downside to BITE ME! is probably going to be apple scab, which is had very bad last year.

Seedling, Wickson, OP, 2010: Red skin, very pretty, with crazing, like the surface of an old cracked oil painting. It has watercore this year, which makes it hard to test. The bits I found without watercore were not super remarkable, though perfectly good. As a small apple, it kind of needs to perform very well as a dessert apple to justify it’s existence, unless it’s some kind of amazing cider apple. Not as promising as I thought earlier in the season. I’ll give it a couple more years and hopefully it will outgrow the watercore.

I hope to have scions of some of my best apples available in the web-store this winter.

The Venerated Golden Harvey, A Late Keeping, Heirloom, Dessert and Cider Apple of Alleged Surpassing Quality

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 11.01.13 AM.png

I have spent a lot of time researching apples. I used to spend hour after hour searching online for references in old books and magazines. I keep notes and quotes which I still add to occasionally. Of the more exciting and intriguing apples I ran across was the Golden Harvey, aka Brandy Apple. Since I started doing this type of research online, there are even more references that have been scanned and digitized. Below are the relevant references I’ve found on the Golden Harvey, which I’m making available here with links to the original texts in the hopes of saving some others the time it takes to dig up this stuff. There are a lot of them, more than can be found for most apple varieties.

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 4.21.42 PM.png

Aside from the apple in question, there are a few references comparing it to others, and most interesting, some references to it’s several offspring. A certain Mr. Knight seems to have been very taken with the Golden Harvey and a few other varieties, and used it in breeding new sorts. Most of those offspring are probably lost for good, unless someone hunts them down and saves any remaining trees. The only one I can find any current reference to is the Bringewood Pippin, which was recently found in an old orchard. It is also in my friend Nigel Deacon’s Collection in England. I’ve also heard of two current amateur apple breeders using Golden Harvey as a parent.

The Golden Harvey came to America along with several other interesting apples including Downton Pippin (on my want’s list), Cornish Gilliflower (have it!), Bringewood Pippin, Bittersweet Harvey. These were sent to the Hon. John Lowell of Massachusetts. Both Bringewood and Bittersweet Harvey were bred by intentional cross pollination by Mr. Knight of England, who you will read more about below.

Alas, I obtained a scion of Golden Harvey, grafted it, grew it for years until it fruited and it turned out to be a useless red apple of unknown variety. If anyone out there has the real Golden Harvey, feel free to send me a scion! I’m very interested in this apple for sugar content, quality and extreme storeability.


The Australasian Fruit Culturist: Containing Full and Complete Information as to the History, Traditions, Uses, Propagation and Culture of Such Fruits as are Suitable to Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, David Alexander Crichton, 1893

Golden Harvey (Brandy Apple).—An old English variety, with small nearly round fruit. Skin roughly russety on a yellow ground, with a tinge of red on the cheek. Flesh yellow, juicy, sub-acid, with an aromatic flavour. Ripens late, keeps fairly well; a good dessert, and first-class cider Apple. Tree moderate in growth, but bears freely.

https://archive.org/details/australasianfrui00cricrich/page/n161


British Pomology Or the History, Description, Classification and Synonymes of the Fruits and Fruit Trees of Great Britain, Robert Hogg, 1851

Fruit, small; oblate-cylindrical, even and free from angles. Skin, entirely covered with rough scaly russet, with sometimes a patch of the yellow ground color exposed on the shaded side, and covered with brownish-red on the side next the sun. Eye, small and open, with very short, reflexed segments, set in a wide, shallow, and slightly plaited basin. Stalk, half-an-inch long, inserted in a shallow cavity. Flesh, yellow, firm, crisp, juicy, sugary, with an exceedingly rich and powerful aromatic flavor.

This is one of the richest and most excellent dessert apples; it is in use from December to May; but is very apt to shrivel if exposed to light and air as most russety apples are.

The tree is a free grower, and perfectly hardy. It attains about the middle size and is an excellent bearer. When grown on the paradise stock it is well adapted for dwarf training, and forms a good espalier.

Independently of being one of the best dessert apples, it is also one of the best for cider; and from the great strength of its juice, the specific gravity of which is 1085, it has been called the Brandy Apple.

Bringewood Pippin: Flesh Yellowish, firm, crisp and sugary, with a rich and perfumed flavor. An excellent, though not first rate, dessert apple, in use from January to March. It’s only fault is the flesh being too dry… This is one of the varieties raised by Thomas Andrew Knight, esq., of Downton Castle Herefordshire, and which he obtained by impregnating the Golden Pippin, with the pollen of The Golden Harvey.

Siberian Bittersweet: This remarkable apple was raised by Mr. Knight from the seed of Siberian Crab, impregnated with the pollen of the Golden Harvey. I cannot do better than to transcribe from the Transactions of the London Horticultural Society, Mr. Knight’s own account of this apple. “The fruit contains much saccharine matter, with scarcely any perceptible acid: and it in consequence affords a cider, which is perfectly free form the harshness which in that liquid offends the palate of many, and the constitution of more: and I believe that there is not any county in England in which it might not be made to afford, at a moderate price, a very wholesome and very palatable cider....”

When the Juice is pressed from the ripe, somewhat mellow fruit, it contains a very large portion of saccharine matter: and if part of the water it contains be made to evaporate, in a moderately low temperature, it affords a large quantity of a jelly of intense sweetness, which to my palate is extremely agreeable: and which may be employed for purposes similar to those to which insipissated juice of the grape is applied in France. The Jelly of the apple prepared in the manner above described, is, I believe, capable of being kept unchanged during a very long period in any climate: the mucilage being preserved by the antiseptic powers of the saccharine matter, and that being incapable of acquiring, as sugar does, a state of crystallization. If the juice be properly filtered, the jelly will be perfectly transparent. [edit: should be good for the real no sugar added, shelf stable traditional apple butter recipes]

The tree is a strong and vigorous grower: a most abundant bearer, and a perfect dreadnought to the woolly aphis.

Siberian Harvey: “Specific Gravity of juice, 1091 [edit: a specific gravity of 1091 is almost 22% sugar! the only higher sugar apple I have heard of is Wickson bred in the early 20th century by Albert Etter, which has been claimed to reach a whopping 25%]. A cider apple raised by T.A. Knight Esq., and along with the Foxley, considered by him superior to any other varieties in cultivation. It was produced from a seed of the Yellow Siberian Crab, fertilized with the pollen of the Golden Harvey, the juice of this variety is the most intensely sweet, and is probably, very nearly what that of the Golden Harvey would be in a southern climate, the original tree produced it’s blossoms in the year 1807...

THE SIBERIAN HARVEY. Check out the RHS collection of apple watercolors here!  https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/heritage-apples/hookers-paintings

THE SIBERIAN HARVEY. Check out the RHS collection of apple watercolors here! https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/libraries-at-rhs/collections/library-online/heritage-apples/hookers-paintings

Hulbert’s Princes Royal:

A seedling from the Golden Harvey, but larger ; flesh more tender, and equally rich. It is a small dessert apple, of first-rate quality; and ripe in May.

https://archive.org/details/britishpomology00hogg/page/92


The fruit manual; containing the descriptions and synonymes of the fruits and fruit trees commonly met with in the gardens & orchards of Great Britain, with selected lists of those most worthy of cultivation. By Robert Hogg, London, Cottage Gardener Office, 1860.

Small, nearly round. Skin roughly russety, on a yellow ground, tinged with red next the sun. Stalk half an inch long, slender. Eye small, open and shallow. Flesh yellow, rich, aromatic and sub-acid flavour. A first rate dessert apple. December to June.

https://archive.org/stream/cbarchive_39329_apples1860/apples1860#page/n17/search/golden+harveu


Pyrus Malus Brentfordiensis:, or A CONCISE DESCRIPTION OF SELECTED APPLES BY HUGH RONALDS, F.H.S. 1831

GOLDEN HARVEY, or BRANDY APPLE.

A dessert apple not larger than the Golden Pippin; the eye broad; the stalk long and slender: colour light yellow with a flush of red and embroidered with a rougish russet. It is called Brandy Apple from the superior specific strength of its juice: is of remarkably close texture, very rich in flavour, and will keep till April or May. The tree is of slender growth, and does not bear well for the first two or three years, but after that time it seldom fails. Blossoms small: colour lilac and white.

https://archive.org/details/pyrusmalusbrent00ronagoog/page/n106


POMONA HEREFORDIENSIS; CONTAINING COLOURED ENGRAVINGS OF THE OLD CIDER AND PERRY OF HEREFORDSHIRE. BY THOMAS ANDREW KNIGHT, ESQ., 1811

THE GOLDEN HARVEY, OR BRANDY APPLE.

Three different varieties of Apples are distinguished by the name of Harveys in Herefordshire, the Golden, the Russet, and the Scotched: of these the Golden alone, which has derived its name from the bright yellow colour of its pulp, is valued for the press. It is doubtful whether the writers on fruits of the 17th century, were acquainted with this Apple: though Evelyn states, that some persons preferred the Cider of the “Harvey Apple (being boiled),” to all other Ciders; and the Harvey Apple, and Russet Harvey, are both mentioned by Worlidge. For if the Golden Harvey had been known to Worlidge, its excellence for the dessert, would have caused it to be cultivated in every part of England; and to be every where esteemed, as it is in Herefordshire, the best fruit of its species. The Cider afforded by the Golden Harvey, generally possesses very great strength, with little richness; and it has been thence called the Brandy Apple: in a very warm situation and season it, however, sometimes affords a most exceedingly rich and fine Cider. The fruit may be preserved for the dessert, in perfection, from December till May, and even later. The trees of this variety still possess a considerable share of health and vigour; and for culture, in the garden only, it is not much impaired by age. The specific gravity of its juice, considerably exceeds that of any other Apple which I have yet had occasion to describe, being about 1085.

https://ia902808.us.archive.org/13/items/pomonaherefordi00kniga/pomonaherefordi00kniga_djvu.txt


THE POMOLOGICAL MAGAZINE; OR, FIGURES AND DESCRIPTIONS OF THE MOST IMPORTANT VARIETIES OF FRUIT CULTIVATED IN GREAT BRITAIN VOL. I, 1828

This is by some supposed to be an Apple of very ancient date. Trees of considerable age are said to be growing on the Cotswold Hills, in Gloucestershire. By others it is doubted whether the writers on the fruits of the 17th century were acquainted with it, though Evelyn says, that some persons preferred the cider “of the Harvey Apple (being boiled)" to all other ciders ; and the Harvey Apple and Russet Harvey are both mentioned by Worlidge. These doubts are very much strengthened by the fact that the Golden Harvey is even at the present day but little cultivated in comparison with its surpassing merits. It is, perhaps, the very best of all our fruits, on which account it is probable, that if of an old origin, it would have been by this time more universally known. It is not to be supposed, that because Worlidge names two sorts of Harveys, this must necessarily be one of them; for in the cider counties there appear to be three distinct kinds under that name, and the Harvey Apple of Norfolk is a sort totally different from either of these three.

A most excellent variety, bearing in great abundance in many situations, ripening in December, and keeping till May, or even longer. Its flavour is more rich and agreeable than that of any other variety of Apple. No garden, however small, should be without it.

It is much esteemed as a cider fruit, on account of the quantity of sugar it contains. The cider made from it is very strong, but not rich, for which reason it has acquired the name of the Brandy Apple. The specific gravity of its juice is said, in the Pomona Herefordiensis, to be 1085.

Wood weak, erect, downy at the extremities, olive green, a little spotted.

Leaves ovate, acuminate, finely serrated, appearing early, but slightly downy in any part. Stipules subulate, smooth.

Fruit small, quite round, often growing in clusters, free from angles or irregularities of surface. Stalk short. Eye small, contracted. Skin dull russet, with a bright yellow ground, often breaking through the russet in patches. Flesh firm, breaking, very rich, juicy, spicy, and high-flavoured.

https://archive.org/details/pomologicalmagaz00lind/page/n165


Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society of London, Vol 10, 1888

Golden Harvey (Wheeler), D. Small, conical, open eye, light russet, flushed red, sometimes streaked, flesh firm, yellow, rich, sweet, mid-season ; first quality.

https://archive.org/stream/journalofroyalho1018roya#page/n1


HINTS ADDRESSED TO PROPRIETORS OF ORCHARDS

The Golden Harvey, or Brandy Apple, This variety is generally esteemed in Herefordshire the best fruit of its species, and I think with reason. Its season commences in November, and it remains in perfection, with proper attention, till May. This variety has long been cultivated, and it has, consequently, passed the period of youth and vigour, but it is still perfectly well calculated for gar- den culture. A coloured plate of this variety is given in the eighth number of the Pomona Herefordiensis, with that of its offspring, the Siberian Harvey, to which alone it is inferior in richness and in the high specific gravity of its juice. It is of little value, except for the press.

The Siberian Harvey. This variety is the offspring of a seed of the yellow Siberian crab, and the pollen of the last mentioned, and it possesses the hardy character of the former with the saccharine juice of the Golden Harvey: the gravity of its juice was .1091.

The Court of Wyck Pippin. This is a fine thriving variety and not an old fruit, it is much cultivated in Somersetshire, and is highly prized. This appears more like the Golden Harvey than any other apple, and I should think, is really an improvement on that fruit. I brought some of the fruit to London, and on giving it to several persons who are judges, it was pronounced one of the best apples. This, as well as the golden Harvey, partakes much of the nature in all respects, of the old golden pippin, except in colour the golden Harvey has a fine yellow russet on a red, and the court of Wyck is so much like it, that except in its being a more freely growing tree, and the fruit somewhat larger, no one I think could tell any great difference in the two.

https://archive.org/stream/hintsaddressedto00sali#page/124/search/golden+harvey


The Illustrated London Almanac, Jabez Hogg, James Glaisher Illustrated London News, 1859

Golden Harvey,—"No garden which can contain ten trees should do without one of this —it is one of the richest and most excellent of our dessert apples, and will keep until May. Parkinson mentions it, probably, in 1623, as "The Harvey apple, a fair, greatly good apple


The Penny Cyclopedia of the society for the diffusion of useful knowledge Vol 2, 1834

Of table apples, the varieties are endless; but by far the greater part of the local sorts, and of those commonly cultivated, is of only second-rate quality. The finest variety of all is the Cornish gilliflower; no other equals this in excellence, but it is unfortunately a bad bearer. Of those which combine productiveness and healthiness with the highest quality, the six following must be considered the best: golden Harvey, old nonpareil, Hubbard's pearmain, Ribston pippin, Dutch mignonne, Court of Wick. Finally, the best selection that could be made for a small garden, so as to obtain a constant succession of fruit from the earliest to the latest season, would be the following, which are enumerated in their order of ripening, the first being fit for use in June, and the last keeping till the end of April.

https://books.google.com/books?id=tP5eAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA190&dq=%22golden+harvey%22+apple+variety&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjC4Z69ptrdAhV6GDQIHZtbA6Y4ChDoAQg4MAM#v=onepage&q&f=false


The book of the garden, Volume 2, W. Blackwood, 1855

Golden Harvey.—Colour russet and yellow; form roundish; size under medium; quality first-rate. In use from November till Juno. One of our best dessert apples, having a peculiar flavour of brandy, hence often known as the brandy apple. It is much cultivated in the west of England, even in elevated localities, for the purpose of making the best quality of cider, as well as for tho dessert. It is, however, by no means a hardy tree, yet succeeds well at Dalkeith as a dwarf standard.

https://books.google.com/books?id=xkJJAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA432&dq=%22golden+harvey%22+apple+variety&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwia0OupptrdAhU1JTQIHZqoDlAQ6AEIWjAJ#v=onepage&q=%22golden%20harvey%22%20apple%20variety&f=false


The English Cyclopaedia: A New Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, Volume , By Charles Knight, 1859

England is celebrated for the excellence of its cider; a beverage which perhaps acquires its highest degree of excellence in Herefordshire, and the neighbouring counties. In those districts, it has been found that the best varieties are the foxtwelp, a worn-out sort, much used for mixing with other kinds, to which it communicates strength and flavour; the red must; the hagloe crab, which, however, is only good in a dry soil, on a basis of calcareous stone, in a warm situation and season; the grange apple; the orange pippin; the forest styre, which is supposed to produce a stronger cyder than any other, but is not a good bearer; the yellow Elliot; the Bennett; the Siberian Harvey; Stead't kernel; the friar, which is very hardy; and above all, the golden Harvey, or brandy apple. The specific gravity of the juice of these varieties has been stated by Mr. Knight to be as follows:— Besides these, the coccagee and the Siberian bittersweet are in much estimation.

https://books.google.com/books?id=vHdBAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA437&dq=%22golden+harvey%22+apple+variety&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwia0OupptrdAhU1JTQIHZqoDlAQ6AEIOjAD#v=onepage&q=%22golden%20harvey%22%20apple%20variety&f=false


The Gardeners' Chronicle: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Horticulture and allied subjects, Vol XL, Third Series, 1906

BRANDY APPLE This is a small Herefordshire Apple called also Golden Harvey. It is globular in form, obscurely five angled, round, with the deep eye and with deep basin in which the short stalk is set. The skin is smooth, deep crimson; the carpels are acute. Flesh white (yellow in Golden Harvey), crisp; sweet with a marked aromatic flavour. Hogg's Manual, fifth edition, p. 88, describes the skin as russety, so that probably our specimen is not correctly named, though in other points it agrees quite well with Hogg's description. It is a good dessert Apple and is stated to be an excellent cider Apple, owing to the strength of its juice.

https://books.google.com/books?id=zlACAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA439&lpg=PA439&dq=hogg+brandy+apple+golden+harvey&source=bl&ots=uUARos9ZjU&sig=_7Y1ZvFlQVtJ5nkKAL2-cFAQhuU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiAlKGMh9vdAhXRIjQIHaelB98Q6AEwC3oECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=hogg%20brandy%20apple%20golden%20harvey&f=false


The Apple, In Orchard and Garden, James Groom, 1883

Golden Harvey, 3 size, 1 quality. December to May. A beautiful fruit, one of the very best

https://archive.org/stream/appleinorcharda00groogoog#page/n6/search/%22golden+harvey%22


A Handbook of Hardy Fruit, More Commonly Grown in Great Britain, Apples and Pears Edward A Bunyard FLS, 1920

GOLDEN HARVEY. (Brandy Apple, Round Russet Harvey.) Dessert, till May, small, 2 by if, flattened, round, even. Colour, greenish-yellow with dull red flush, covered with thin russet. Flesh, firm, yellow, very sweet and rich. Eye, open in a shallow basin, Stem, moderately long, in a small cavity. Growth, moderate; fertile. Leaf, rather small, nearly flat. Origin, English ; known early in the seventeenth century. The original tree was at the Royal Horticultural Show, at Chiswick, in 1821. One of the good old sorts which have been neglected.

https://archive.org/stream/handbookofhardyf01bunyrich#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Fruit Cultivator, John Rodgers, 1834

Golden Harvey. — Ripe in December, and keeps till June. This is one of the excellent apples, of which mention is made in the Herefordshire Pomona; and highly extolled by the first orehardist in the kingdom, T. A. Knight, Esq., who has caused not only this, but many more superior kinds of fruit, to be brought into notice and general cultivation. This apple is small, round, and of a handsome shape; the colour a russet yellow, tinted on the sunward side with bright red. The pulp is yellow, breaking and crisp ; abounding with a high-flavoured juice, which remains long unexhausted. The tree is of moderate growth and size, healthy, hardy, and a good bearer. It falls in among the second grade of orchard trees; and, if worked on the paradise stock, no one answers better for either dwarfs or low espaliers. This apple in fine seasons produces the strongest cider; hence it is called the "Brandy Apple", where that liquor (cider) is manufactured. No collection or orchard should be without a few trees of this excellent fruit.

https://archive.org/stream/perkins73098663#page/n83/search/%22golden+harvey%22


A Guide to the Orchard and Kitchen Garden, George Lindley FRS, 1831

Fruit small, quite round, generally about five inches in circumference, and free from angles or irregularities of surface. Eye small, open; the segments of the calyx narrow, very short and diverging, placed in a flat, very shallow, slightly-crumpled basin. Stalk half an inch long, slender, not protruding beyond the base. Skin dull russet, with a bright yellow ground, often breaking through the russet in patches, and marbled on the sunny side with a lively shaded red. Flesh yellow, firm, breaking, very rich, juicy, spicy, and high flavoured.

A most excellent and beautiful dessert apple, ripening in December, and keeping till May or June. The tree is not a large grower, but very hardy; a great and constant bearer, and no garden, capable of containing ten trees, ought to be without one of it.

There are different varieties of the apple cultivated in Herefordshire under the name of Harvey: the Golden Harvey derives its name from the bright yellow colour of its pulp.

In order to keep some of the more valuable Apples in a perfect state to a late period of the season, they should hang till they can be readily detached from the tree. They should then be placed in casks or boxes, as they are gathered, beginning with a layer of thoroughly dry pit sand in the bottom, then a layer of Apples, placed close to each other, then another layer of sand, just sufficient to cover the fruit, and no more, and so continuing alternately, till the cask or box is full, finishing with a covering of sand. These should be placed in the fruit room; where they may remain undisturbed till the others of the same kind kept on the shelves are nearly done. This method has been practised many years ago at Holkham, where I have tasted the Golden Harvey Apple and some others, so kept, in as high a state of perfection in the month of May

https://archive.org/stream/guidetoorchardfr00lindrich#page/n9/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Gardeners Assistant, William Watson

Golden Harvey. — Dessert. December-May. An excellent table Apple. Tree of moderate growth but healthy and forms an excellent small tree on the Paradise stock, bearing freely. Fruit small, round, flattened, yellow and russety, flavour exceptionally rich.

https://archive.org/stream/gardenersassista04thom#page/n0/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The New American Orchardist, William Kenrick, 1833

A dessert apple not larger than the Golden Pippin; the eye broad; the stalk long and slender; color light yellow, with a flush of red and embroidered with a roughish russet. It is called Brandy Apple from the superior specific strength of its juice: is of remarkably close texture, very rich in flavor, and will keep till April or May. The tree is of slender growth, and does not bear well for the first two or three years, but after that, it seldom fails. Blossoms small: color lilac and white. Specific gravity of its juice 1.085. A tree of this variety was sent by Mr Knight to the Hon. John Lowell in 1823, and has been by him distributed to all who have applied.

https://archive.org/stream/newamericanorch05kenrgoog#page/n62/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Science and Practice of Farm Cultivation, James Buckman FLS FGS, 1865

Golden Harvey, spec. grav. 1085, a first-rate cider fruit. No orchard should be without this.

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924080031127#page/n7/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Apple, it’s History, Varieties and Cultivation, D. T. Fish,

Golden Harvey or Brandy Apple. —Fruit small russety, flesh compact, firm, rich, and highly aromatic. This is a valuable little apple for dessert, and also for stewing in syrup, to be served as a sweet. The solidity of its flesh enables it to keep its form when treated in this way.

https://archive.org/stream/apple00fish#page/8/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Gardener’s Magazine and Register of Rural and Domestic Improvement, Vol IV, 1838

Apples : Golden Harvey (perhaps the richest table apple)

Some years ago, a valuable dessert apple, to which the name of Cornwall pippin has been given, was raised from seed at this place. The appearance of the fruit induces the supposition that its parents were the golden Harvey and the golden pippin, but its real origin is unknown. — October 12. 1837.

...very fine fruit of the golden Harvey and nonpareil apples, in illustration of his manner of keeping fruit of this description. The apples were found, upon trial, to have preserved their flavour in great perfection.

https://archive.org/stream/gardenersmagazi10loudgoog#page/n3/search/%22golden+harvey%22


A pictorial Monthly Magazine of Flowers Fruits and General Horticulture, Thomas Moore, FLS, FRHS, &C. 1876

COX’S REDLEAF RUSSET APPLE.

This Apple was raised from seed by Mr. Cox, of Redleaf, who thus speaks of it:—“The Redleaf Russet is ostensibly, according to my own manipulation, a cross between the Golden Knob and the Golden Harvey, but there is a possibility that I was anticipated by the bees, as a tree of the Old Nonpareil grew near by; and I am the more confirmed in this because the fruit possesses three of the characteristics of the Old Nonpareil—namely, the shape, the long stalk, and the tenderness of flesh. The colour of the skin is that of its parent, the Golden Knob. The yellow colour of the flesh would seem to be derived from the Golden Harvey, while the growth of the tree and manner of bearing resemble both Old Nonpareil and Golden Harvey more than the Golden Knob. When in perfection the flavour is most delicious and peculiar to itself, and it may be considered in perfection from February till the end of May, after which, although keeping sound till the end of July, the flavour gradually deteriorates.

The following description of the Redleaf Russet is from Hogg’s Year-Book (1876, p. 119):—“Fruit round, inclining to oblate; in appearance very like Golden Knob. Skin entirely covered with bright cinnamon-coloured russet, which is thinner on the shaded side, where it exposes a little of the yellow ground. Eye partially open, with flat segments set in a pretty wide and deep saiicer4ike basin. Stalk three-quarters of an inch long, pretty stout, set in a round cavity. Flesh yellowish, tender, crisp, very juicy, and sweet, with a rich flavour and pleasant aroma. An excellent dessert Apple, in use from December to February.

This was raised by Mr. John Cox, gardener at Redleaf, near Pens- hurst, Kent, and received a First-class Certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society, January 20, 1875.” This Apple will undoubtedly prove a most valuable addition to our high- flavoured very late table varieties. The entire stock is in the hands of Messrs. W. Paul and Son, Waltham Cross, Herts, who will be prepared to distribute it in November next.

REDLEAF RUSSET, POSSIBLE OFFSPRING OF GOLDEN HARVEY

REDLEAF RUSSET, POSSIBLE OFFSPRING OF GOLDEN HARVEY

https://archive.org/stream/floristpomologis1876unse#page/n0/search/%22golden+harvey%22


My Garden, It’s Plan and Culture, Alfred Smee, FRS, 1872

Apples which are fine in texture and rich in flavour are selected for the purposes of the table, of which the Irish Peach, the Ribston Pippin, and the Golden Harvey are notable examples.

January produces the large Reinette du Canada (fig. 244), which is generally a good bearer, and gives a large fine apple with excellent flavour. The Golden Harvey (fig. 245), a small apple, ripens about this time.

https://archive.org/stream/mygardenitsplanc00smeerich#page/146/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Fruits and Fruit Trees of America, A.J. Downing 1845

An excellent, high flavoured little dessert apple from England, which bears well, and retains its character with us. It is rather adapted for the fruit garden than the orchard — as the tree is of slender growth, and it would not be a popular market fruit here.

Fruit small, irregularly round, and about two inches in diameter. Skin rather rough, dull russet over a yellow ground, with a russety red cheek. Calyx small, open, with stiff segments, and set in a very shallow basin. Stalk half an inch long, and rather slender. Flesh yellow, of remarkably fine texture, with a spicy, rich, sub-acid flavour. The fruit should be kept in a cellar, or it is apt to shrivel. December to April.

https://archive.org/stream/fruitsandfruitt02downgoog#page/n129/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Hooper’s Western Fruit Book, A compendious collection of facts from the notes and experience of successful fruit culturists, E.J. Hooper 1857

Remarks. — " Unworthy." — Dr. Warder, one of our best Western Pomologists.

[EDIT, In this case western referred to the Midwest, as in Ohio. As you can see from this photo, these pomologists were not messing about when it came to the serious business of fruit.]

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 9.29.40 AM.png

https://archive.org/stream/hooperswesternfr00hoop#page/n17/search/%22golden+harvey%22

American Pomology, Dr. John A. Warder, 1867

[Note. This is the Same Warder that condemned the this variety as simply “unworthy” 10 years earlier in the above Hooper’s Western Fruit Book.]

This highly flavored English apple is often referred to, but is rarely seen in American collections ; but as it may be interesting to some, I quote Downing's brief description :

" Fruit small, irregularly round ; Skin rather rough, dull russet over a yellow ground, with a russety red cheek; Flesh yellow, of fine texture, with a rich sub-acid flavor. The fruit is apt to shrivel."

Tree of slender growth.

https://archive.org/stream/americanpomology00ward#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Fruit Cultivator’s Manual, by Thomas Bridgeman, Gardener, Seedsman, and Florist 1847

A dessert apple, not larger than the Golden Pippin ; colour light yellow, with a flush of red, and embroidered with a roughish russet. It is called Brandy Apple from the superior specific strength of its juice, being 1085; it is of remarkably close texture, very rich in flavour, and will keep till April or May.

https://archive.org/stream/fruitcultivators00bridrich#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22e


Deutchland’s Apfelsorten, DR. TH. Engelbrecht, 1889

Golden Harvey auch llranily Apple

Gestalt 54: 47 — 48, stark uligestumpft liinfrliclirund, raittelUancli. Hälften gleich.

Kelch offen, gross, gelblich, locker behaart. Blättchen ziemlich schmal, am Grunde getrennt, lang, aufrecht, nach aussen gebogen, fein gespitzt. Einsenk. ziemlich tief, weit, etwas ausgeschweift, eben, yuersehn. rund.

Stiel holzig, dünn, etwa IHtnm 1., dunkelbraun, kahl. Höhle massig tief, weit, eben, zuweilen mit Fleisehwulst, brotizefarben berostet.

Schule glatt bis fein rauh, ziemlich glänzend, in der Zeitigung goldgelb, sonnenw. rariuoisin, fast blutrolh überzogen, nicht oder nicht deutlich ge.streift. l’unkte zahlreich, niitteldick bis dick, auch eckig, braun. Anflüge bräunlich gelben Kostes nicht selten. Hie Frucht welkt in einigen Gegenden zienilich stark, (ieruch fehlt. >

Kernhaus 33:27, zwiebelförm. Kammern etwas tiefsitzend 10:14, stielw. stumpf gespitzt, kelchw. abgerundet, fast glattwandig, geräumig, ge- schlossen oder sehr wenig offen. Achsenh. schmal. Kerne meistens zu 2, mittelgross, vollkommen, eiförmig, gespitzt, ka.stanienbraun.

Kelchböhle triehterfVirmig, mit oft recht flacher Mündung, '/j zur Achsenh. Pistille ziemlich kurz verwachsen, am Grunde fast kahl, in der Theilung etwas behaart. Staubfiiilen wenig über mittelständig.

Fleiscb gelblichweiss , fein, fest selbst gegen Ende der Zeitigung, saftig, edel rcinettenartig gewürzt, etwas vorherrschend sehr angenehm weinig, nicht viel weniger süss.

Hie Früchte erhielt ich von Kolbe -Langwarden (Oldenburg) und als Brandy von Hoesch-Hüren, sie waren getrocknet sehr schmackhaft.

Htt H iwOflTuiifcl (Kog.) Almost OOl + t, January to May.

(THE WACKY DIGITAL TRANSLATION BELOW. GERMANS, FEEL FREE TO SEND ME A BETTER TRANSLATION!)

Golden Harvey also Brandy Apple

Figure 54: 47-48, severely uli-stomped liinfrliclund, raittelUancli. halves equal.

Goblet open, large, yellowish, loosely hairy. Leaves quite narrow, on Basically separate, long, upright, bent outward, finely pointed. The immerse. pretty deep, wide, a bit out of sorts, even, yuersehn. round.

Stalk woody, thin, about 1st grade, dark brown, bare. Cave massively deep, wide, even, sometimes with Fleisehwulst, rusted britzizefarben.

Skin smooth to fine rough, rather shiny, golden yellow in the evening, Solstice. rariuoisin, almost blood red coated, not or not clear striped. There are numerous, thin to thick, even angular, brown. Approaches brownish yellow Kostes not infrequently. The fruit withers in in some areas it is strong, (it is missing

Kernhaus 33:27, bulbous. Chambers a bit deep sitting 10:14, stielw. dull tipped, kelchw. rounded, almost smooth-walled, spacious, closed or very little open. Achsenh. narrow. Cores mostly to 2, medium-sized, perfect, ovate, pointed, ka.stanienbraun.

Kelchböhle TriehterfVirmig, with often quite flat mouth, '/ j zum Achsenh. Pistachio rather short, at the base almost bald, in division a bit hairy. Dusting a little above medium.

Fleischb yellowish white, fine, firm even towards the end of the Zeitigung, juicy, noble rincette-like spiced, slightly predominantly very pleasantly vinous, not much less cute.

Hie fruits I received from Kolbe -Langwarden (Oldenburg) and as Brandy from Hoesch-Hüren, they were dried very tasty.

https://archive.org/stream/bub_gb_tR4EMgEACAAJ#page/n619/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Book of the Garden, Charles M’Intosh, 1855

Golden Harvey. — Colour russet and yellow; form roundish ; size under medium ; quality first-rate. In use from November till June. One of our best dessert apples, having a peculiar fLavour of brandy, hence often known as the brandy apple. It is much cultivated in the west of England, even in elevated localities, for the purpose of making the best quality of cider, as weU as for the dessert. It is, however, by no means a hardy tree, yet succeeds well at Dalkeith as a dwarf standard.

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924051991929#page/n431/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Florist and Fruitist, 1859

Class E. — Premiums of 1/. and ]0*\ for the best and second best six of any other dessert Apple in season, excepting old Nonpareil. The first prize was awarded to Mr. James Holder, of Reading, for Golden Harvey, from a standard; soil very rich, subsoil sandy loam, over gravel. Fruit fine coloured, very richly vinous, and sugary in flavour, and, but for being somewhat shrivelled, — probably owing to having been somewhat too early gathered, — they would have been, in every respect, one of the best dishes ever laid before the society. — The same variety was also sent by Mr. Simpson (gardener to Lady Molyneux, Stoke Farm, near Slough). Very plump and juicy, but small and slightly astringent.

https://archive.org/stream/floristfruitistg59lond#page/54/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Horticulturist, 1860

Golden Harvey, syn. Brandy apple. Small, roundish, yellowish russet, firm, exceedingly rich, and high flavoured; in this respect a fruit of the very highest excellence; December to May; the tree is slender, upright, and a moderate bearer.

https://archive.org/stream/cu31924002832552#page/n3/search/%22golden+harvey%22


MONTHLY NOTICES OF PAPERS AND PROCEEDINGS AND REPORT OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF TASMANIA FOR 1879

Mackintosh's Book of the Garden, Vol. II. , p. 345, may assist in throwing some light on the subject. After describing the moth, he goes on'to state that it invariably selects the finest apple in which to lay its eggs, knowing instinctively that these will be most palatable to its future progeny. (In Tasmania the Golden Harvey is most affected).

https://archive.org/stream/papersproceeding1879roya#page/n5/search/%22golden+harvey%22


The Practical Gardener and Modern Horticulturist, Charles McIntosh, 1828

Brandy Apple, Golden Harvey. — Fruit small, resembling a golden pippin in shape, yellowish russet color, fine flavor ; in use from January till March. Is much esteemed in Herefordshire, where it has been long cultivated. Tree handsome habit and extremely hardy.

https://archive.org/stream/practicalgarden00mcingoog#page/n493/search/%22golden+harvey%22


Tilton’s Journal of Horticulture and Florists Companion, J.F. Tilton, 1870

Notwithstanding the efforts which the late Mr. Thomas Andrew Knight made to cross existing varieties of the cultivated apple with the Siberian Crab, they all failed to produce a result which has been of any real benefit. Mr. Knight's object in thus crossing these individuals was, as he states, to obtain such fruits as vegetate very early in spring by introducing the farina of the Sibe- rian Crab into the blossom of a rich and early apple, and by transferring, in the same manner, the farina of the apple to the blossom of the Siberian Crab. At the time Mr. Knight wrote this, the trees so produced had ngt yet borne fruit ; but he observes, 'The leaf and habit of many of the plants that I have thus obtained possess much of the character of the apple, whilst they vegetate as early in the spring as the apple of Siberia, and appear to possess an equal power of bearing cold.' But what was the result of these carefully performed experi- ments ? From this crossing we got the Siberian Bittersweet, which, Mr. Knight himself says, is wholly worthless, except for the press, that is, for cider making. Then the Siberian Harvey has a juice so intensely sweet,' that it, too, can only be used, mixed with other apples, for cider. Both of these were raised from the fruit of the Siberian Crab fertilized with the Golden Harvey, one of our best dessert apples.

https://archive.org/details/tiltonsjournalof71870bost/page/n7?q=%22golden+harvey%2