Posts tagged #Homesteading

Seven Summer Apples, Head to Head Taste Test

Beautiful and Tasty Chestnut Crab

Beautiful and Tasty Chestnut Crab

Untold hours of research into apple geekery has resulted, among other things, in a fair collection of early apples of high reputation. Although many have not lived up their reputations, at least not in my climate, my last taste test of two early crab apples, TRAILMAN and CENTENNIAL was very encouraging  This week I got to taste 7 early apples that are in eating around early to mid August.  The results didn't surprise me. I've tasted most of these apples before. Still, it was very revealing to taste all of them at the same time and compare directly.  What did surprise me was significant red staining in the flesh of William's pride, making it a good candidate for my red fleshed apple breeding efforts, along with it's other merits. 

For anyone searching for good early apples,the winners in this tasting are good at any season and very exceptional for early apples. There are other apples which I grow that ripen in the same season, but for various reasons, like birds, Drought, and alternate bearing, I didn't have any specimens to add. So, they will have to wait for another year.  Most promising among those so far are probably St. Edmunds russet, Irish peach and golden nugget.  I also just today discovered an entire cordon Mother apples (Mother is the variety name) that I hadn't noticed. I've had them before, but I just ate one that was by far the best I've ever had, and it may have been a contender up against the winners of this taste test.  Extremely sweet with lots of rich flavor.  This one may have been an early drop.  It takes a while to learn when to pick and eat each variety.

An old early apple variety known as Mother

An old early apple variety known as Mother

I now have a dedicated Frankentree in one of the orchards for only the very best early apples, which I will graft on over the years as I suss them out.

Turkeysong, The Year in Pictures and Video, 2014

The short version of this year:  Felt like crap most of the year, didn't get a lot done, stopped growing stuff intentionaly for the farmer's market due to unreliable health and too many wasted crops, switched most of my energy and time over to trying to figure out health issues which occupies about 2 to 4 hours or more of research on most days and much of my thoughts.  But, even though I sat on my ass for about 80% or more of the great majority of my days, the pictures I took this year do show that I did get out a little bit. I'm in a full on war to regain my health.  It takes a lot of thought and time, so I haven't done as much cool stuff as usual.  Once I figure that out, I hope to be a fountain of useful output, but until then I'm running on fumes.  This year, I was really just getting by most of the time with little spurts of energy here and there which I generally use to do something interesting so I don't go completely crazy, often with piles of dishes and laundry as a result.  Give me a choice between a pile of dirty laundry with a pile of charcoal and, well... I'll just be adding some charcoal stained clothes to that dirty laundry pile son!  Let me tell you, a life of leisure is just not for me!

The spring ran on through the worst drought anyone can remember.  It was pretty slow, but there was still more water than I ended up using.  The spring really does make it all possible.  I feel like I should build a shrine or something.  Seriously amazing.

I actually got around to filling my deer tag this year!  Skippy the deer is mostly eaten up now, and good riddance.  He was busting down fences, messing up fruit trees and generally being a juvenile delinquent.  I was half expecting to find graffiti somewhere... DEERZ RULEZ! on the water tank or something.  The plan was to do a year long educational video series following the processing of Skippy into all kinds of cool stuff, but it proved too large of a challenge to pull off on my own and just getting him cleaned and in the freezer was enough at the time.  Maybe next year.

My ex partner and currently business and land partner Tamara Wilder has been back more this winter bringing some help in the form of work traders and such.  It's a bit of a challenge to have people here after living in solitude for a year and a half or more and I'm generally not up for managing anyone, but maybe some stuff will get done.

I've been a little more focused this year on video and hope to continue that trend. I still want a better camera, but I have an okay consumer camcorder I can use for now.  I am pretty excited about the great potential of video and the opportunity to reach a lot of people around the world with it.  You can visit my fledgling youtube channel here.  It's always helpful to get comments, likes and subscriptions, hint hint!  So this year it's two for one, The Year in Video and The Year in Pictures.  Or more like two for none, what a deal!

I'll let the images and captions tell the rest.

Watch in HD if your rural connection is fast enough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Vfg3EHQMk

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Edward's Winter apple re-grafted to a better (better here anyway) variety by frameworking.  Frameworking is generally superior to topworking, a more usual method, and I will be pushing this idea more in the future.  The Amaryllis flower bulbs growing beneath the tree are part of my tree understory experiments.

Edward's Winter apple re-grafted to a better (better here anyway) variety by frameworking.  Frameworking is generally superior to topworking, a more usual method, and I will be pushing this idea more in the future.  The Amaryllis flower bulbs growing beneath the tree are part of my tree understory experiments.

The same tree in August, harvesting amaryllis flowers for sale at the farmer's market.  You can see the growth is pretty good on the new grafts.  It almost just looks like a normal tree.  The few fruits are from a few remaining branches of the old variety.

The same tree in August, harvesting amaryllis flowers for sale at the farmer's market.  You can see the growth is pretty good on the new grafts.  It almost just looks like a normal tree.  The few fruits are from a few remaining branches of the old variety.

More fruit tree understory experiments with amaryllis belladona.  This tree literally had only 2 or 3 weeds under it this year. (edit, the following year it had 3 weeds,  so the weed suppression part is definitely working!)

More fruit tree understory experiments with amaryllis belladona.  This tree literally had only 2 or 3 weeds under it this year. (edit, the following year it had 3 weeds,  so the weed suppression part is definitely working!)

The same tree as above in the summer time showing dense mat of dead leaves protecting the soil.

The same tree as above in the summer time showing dense mat of dead leaves protecting the soil.

My neighbors hired me to turn this apple into a frankentree for them.  I think we put on about 30 varieties, all tested by me for this area.  It was dubbed !Bride of frankentree!

My neighbors hired me to turn this apple into a frankentree for them.  I think we put on about 30 varieties, all tested by me for this area.  It was dubbed !Bride of frankentree!

The tree prepared and ready to graft.  One section on the left was retained as the original variety.

The tree prepared and ready to graft.  One section on the left was retained as the original variety.

All the grafts finished and labeled

All the grafts finished and labeled

Some regrowth

Some regrowth

I carved some spoons and spatulas this year from maple and madrone.  When I come across some nice wood, I blank out billets with my hatchet and store them for later use.  The rough shape is made with the hatchet and finished with a knife, rasp and sandpaper.  They sold pretty well, but I don't really do it for the money, because it doesn't pay that well when using hand tools.  A bandsaw would speed it up, but where's the fun in that?
I carved some spoons and spatulas this year from maple and madrone. When I come across some nice wood, I blank out billets with my hatchet and store them for later use. The rough shape is made with the hatchet and finished with a knife, rasp and sandpaper. They sold pretty well, but I don't really do it for the money, because it doesn't pay that well when using hand tools. A bandsaw would speed it up, but where's the fun in that?
this year I got it together to print all my seed pockets and post a how to video on Youtube.  I may redo the video at some point, as the quality is not so great, but it works.
this year I got it together to print all my seed pockets and post a how to video on Youtube. I may redo the video at some point, as the quality is not so great, but it works.
Seeds of Ruby Streaks, a red Mizuna type mustard green.  This hasn't turned out to be a very good market item, but I eat quite a bit of it sauteed in butter.
Seeds of Ruby Streaks, a red Mizuna type mustard green. This hasn't turned out to be a very good market item, but I eat quite a bit of it sauteed in butter.
Bulgarian Giant Leek seeds.
Bulgarian Giant Leek seeds.
A nice batch of leeks on the way to market.
A nice batch of leeks on the way to market.
One of my best customers hamming it up.
One of my best customers hamming it up.
I continue to be amused by frequent hits on my How to Grow Huge Ass Leeks post from people searching for huge ass porn, or how to grow a huge ass.  Hopefully some of those people have been edified somehow by running across this blog.
I continue to be amused by frequent hits on my How to Grow Huge Ass Leeks post from people searching for huge ass porn, or how to grow a huge ass. Hopefully some of those people have been edified somehow by running across this blog.
Possibly the funniest thing I've seen all year.
Possibly the funniest thing I've seen all year.
Newly dug bed for trialing red fleshed apple seedlings. The white color is from ashes and oyster shell.

Newly dug bed for trialing red fleshed apple seedlings. The white color is from ashes and oyster shell.

Beautiful healthy apple seedling from my red fleshed apple breeding experiments headed for the trial rows.

Beautiful healthy apple seedling from my red fleshed apple breeding experiments headed for the trial rows.

Planting the seedlings.  I went for a very close 12 inches apart.
Planting the seedlings. I went for a very close 12 inches apart.
the new crop of apple seedlings overgrown in the flats as usual.  These will be grafted onto dwarfing stock this year.  I just planted the seeds from last year's pollinating.  I'm not sure how many more batches I'll do.  I may just do one more year and call it good.  I've only got so much room and resources to grow out apple seedlings, but there are a few more crosses I'd like to make.
the new crop of apple seedlings overgrown in the flats as usual. These will be grafted onto dwarfing stock this year. I just planted the seeds from last year's pollinating. I'm not sure how many more batches I'll do. I may just do one more year and call it good. I've only got so much room and resources to grow out apple seedlings, but there are a few more crosses I'd like to make.
this was a tree planting site on which I did a charcoal burn. I dug a large pit, burned the charcoal in the pit, crushed it and re-buried it in the pit as it was refilled.

this was a tree planting site on which I did a charcoal burn. I dug a large pit, burned the charcoal in the pit, crushed it and re-buried it in the pit as it was refilled.

Reburying the pit with charcoal mixed in.  The tree has done very well in spite of a serious drought.  It was plump and flushed deep green all year.  I did mix in some urine as I went to charge up the charcoal.  otherwise, it will soak up all the nitrogen during the first year leaving none for the tree.
Reburying the pit with charcoal mixed in. The tree has done very well in spite of a serious drought. It was plump and flushed deep green all year. I did mix in some urine as I went to charge up the charcoal. otherwise, it will soak up all the nitrogen during the first year leaving none for the tree.
More trench burning of charcoal from the  youtube video  I posted on the method. I'm stoked about it. It seems to work very well, and it's fun.

More trench burning of charcoal from the youtube video I posted on the method. I'm stoked about it. It seems to work very well, and it's fun.

People are often skeptical about the alleged durability of charcoal.  I've found charcoal buried deep in the ground and probably associated with artifacts thousands of years old.  Anyway, this seems to prove the point pretty well.  It's a fossil that my friend found with both petrified wood and pieces of charcoal embedded in a stone matrix.
People are often skeptical about the alleged durability of charcoal. I've found charcoal buried deep in the ground and probably associated with artifacts thousands of years old. Anyway, this seems to prove the point pretty well. It's a fossil that my friend found with both petrified wood and pieces of charcoal embedded in a stone matrix.
Digging biochar into a bed. This bed performed very well compared to most of the rest of the garden. In fact, my other biochar amended bed and this one were the best performing beds. This one was done as an experiment. Half is 10% charcoal to 20 inches deep and the other half is 20%, but only dug in 10 inches. In otherwords, same amount of charcoal in each end of the bed just mixed shallower or deeper. No observable differences so far. I have quite a bit of charcoal stockpiled and hope to get a couple more beds prepared this spring. I'm planning more char to greater depth on the next bed and it will be prepared all at once by digging everything out to at least two feet and re-assembling it in layers. That may seem like a lot of work, but given that it should result in a permanent improvement it doesn't seem so bad. Especially given the large amounts of organic matter that people dig into their beds yearly and which disappears yearly. Not that charcoal is a total replacement for organic matter, but it does have some important functional similarities and will probably ultimately either reduce needed inputs, or result in better use of them.

Digging biochar into a bed. This bed performed very well compared to most of the rest of the garden. In fact, my other biochar amended bed and this one were the best performing beds. This one was done as an experiment. Half is 10% charcoal to 20 inches deep and the other half is 20%, but only dug in 10 inches. In otherwords, same amount of charcoal in each end of the bed just mixed shallower or deeper. No observable differences so far. I have quite a bit of charcoal stockpiled and hope to get a couple more beds prepared this spring. I'm planning more char to greater depth on the next bed and it will be prepared all at once by digging everything out to at least two feet and re-assembling it in layers. That may seem like a lot of work, but given that it should result in a permanent improvement it doesn't seem so bad. Especially given the large amounts of organic matter that people dig into their beds yearly and which disappears yearly. Not that charcoal is a total replacement for organic matter, but it does have some important functional similarities and will probably ultimately either reduce needed inputs, or result in better use of them.

Carrots at the Farmer's Market
Carrots at the Farmer's Market
One year of growth on an apple tree after dis-budding and notching to select branches. This method appears so superior to what is commonly recommended that I am anxious to do an article or video on it. It may be a little hard to visualize in 3 dimensions from a 2 dimensional picture, but this tree gave me 4 branches in four different directions in just one year. I haven't taken a current picture, but the tree will be grafted over since the scion wood was mislabeled. It was supposed to be Golden Harvey, a super sweet long keeping cider/eating apple that I was all stoked up to find. It turned out to be some bitter foamy cider apple of no account.

One year of growth on an apple tree after dis-budding and notching to select branches. This method appears so superior to what is commonly recommended that I am anxious to do an article or video on it. It may be a little hard to visualize in 3 dimensions from a 2 dimensional picture, but this tree gave me 4 branches in four different directions in just one year. I haven't taken a current picture, but the tree will be grafted over since the scion wood was mislabeled. It was supposed to be Golden Harvey, a super sweet long keeping cider/eating apple that I was all stoked up to find. It turned out to be some bitter foamy cider apple of no account.

This picture shows the more rapid progress of a bud which has been notched.  note that it is further along than the other buds.  Supposedly that is because the notch disrupts signals from the top of the tree which otherwise would inhibit it's growth, but also possibly because it directs nutrients into the bud instead of letting them pass up the tree.  Whatever the physiological mechanism, it works.  After taking this, I removed the buds I didn't want as scaffold branches.  This is a sour cherry.  Sweet cherry has not responded at all well to notching and dis-budding.
This picture shows the more rapid progress of a bud which has been notched. note that it is further along than the other buds. Supposedly that is because the notch disrupts signals from the top of the tree which otherwise would inhibit it's growth, but also possibly because it directs nutrients into the bud instead of letting them pass up the tree. Whatever the physiological mechanism, it works. After taking this, I removed the buds I didn't want as scaffold branches. This is a sour cherry. Sweet cherry has not responded at all well to notching and dis-budding.
This jar of olives was about 4 years old when I opened it and took the olives to the Olive Odyssey festival.  They were very good.  This is one great advantage to fermenting and then storing in the fermenting jars.
This jar of olives was about 4 years old when I opened it and took the olives to the Olive Odyssey festival. They were very good. This is one great advantage to fermenting and then storing in the fermenting jars.
Said olives looking tasty.
Said olives looking tasty.
Chicken broken down into potentially edible parts.  I was experimenting for a minute with eating as much of a chicken as possible.  Those two things on the table to the left of the chicken that look like dead salamanders taste awful.  Don't eat those.  I don't know what they are, but they taste like chicken poop smells.  I also made several attempts to process and eat the intestines , but they also taste like chicken poo.  I gave up on them.  The actual sphincter is quite tasty though.  Ultimately, that still leave the great majority of the chicken imminently edible.  A lot of chickens have been on death row for a while as they have grown beyond the carrying capacity of the land.  Lucky for them I haven't had enough energy to get around to slaughtering very many of them.  I accidentally shot one of the hens though, because a bout of uveitis had affected my vision to the point that I thought it was a similar looking rooster.  A tragedy maybe, but a tasty one!
Chicken broken down into potentially edible parts. I was experimenting for a minute with eating as much of a chicken as possible. Those two things on the table to the left of the chicken that look like dead salamanders taste awful. Don't eat those. I don't know what they are, but they taste like chicken poop smells. I also made several attempts to process and eat the intestines , but they also taste like chicken poo. I gave up on them. The actual sphincter is quite tasty though. Ultimately, that still leave the great majority of the chicken imminently edible. A lot of chickens have been on death row for a while as they have grown beyond the carrying capacity of the land. Lucky for them I haven't had enough energy to get around to slaughtering very many of them. I accidentally shot one of the hens though, because a bout of uveitis had affected my vision to the point that I thought it was a similar looking rooster. A tragedy maybe, but a tasty one!
Have to have at least one picture of cute baby chicks.
Have to have at least one picture of cute baby chicks.
Finishing some oak tanned leather that was started in 2013.  Here I'm scraping over the flesh side one last time to remove bits of tissue and oak bark.
Finishing some oak tanned leather that was started in 2013. Here I'm scraping over the flesh side one last time to remove bits of tissue and oak bark.
My friend Talcon oiling the flesh side of the leather with tallow before we paste it down to a piece of plywood for finishing and drying.
My friend Talcon oiling the flesh side of the leather with tallow before we paste it down to a piece of plywood for finishing and drying.
In this step, the leather is smoothed out with a rounded polished slate.  This removes wrinkles and dents.  It also sticks the hide to the board because of the tallow pasted over the flesh side.
In this step, the leather is smoothed out with a rounded polished slate. This removes wrinkles and dents. It also sticks the hide to the board because of the tallow pasted over the flesh side.
After setting the skin to dry up on saw horses, the chickens walked all over it, so I had to re-slick it with the slate to smooth it back out.  otherwise it would dry with these permanent marks, just like when leather is tooled to form patterns.
After setting the skin to dry up on saw horses, the chickens walked all over it, so I had to re-slick it with the slate to smooth it back out. otherwise it would dry with these permanent marks, just like when leather is tooled to form patterns.
The finished leather drying slowly in the winter sun.
The finished leather drying slowly in the winter sun.
I'itoi onions (pronounced E E toy) which I started selling on ebay this year.  They are exceedingly rare at this point, but the many packages I sent out this year should help change that.  It is a very small onion that was grown by the O'odam in the southwest.  Thought to be brought by the Spanish invaders, it is well adapted to the droughty South West.  It quickly forms large clusters of very small shallot like onions which can grow perennially as chives or be harvested and replanted to make small onions.  They are awful small, but they're pretty cool and very tasty.
I'itoi onions (pronounced E E toy) which I started selling on ebay this year. They are exceedingly rare at this point, but the many packages I sent out this year should help change that. It is a very small onion that was grown by the O'odam in the southwest. Thought to be brought by the Spanish invaders, it is well adapted to the droughty South West. It quickly forms large clusters of very small shallot like onions which can grow perennially as chives or be harvested and replanted to make small onions. They are awful small, but they're pretty cool and very tasty.
I made quite a few batches of bay nut toffee this year.  about 50/50 pasture fed butter and sugar, a little salt and vanilla, and bay nuts.  I'm still refining recipes, but it has been declared very good by all tasters.
I made quite a few batches of bay nut toffee this year. about 50/50 pasture fed butter and sugar, a little salt and vanilla, and bay nuts. I'm still refining recipes, but it has been declared very good by all tasters.
Bay nut toffee
Bay nut toffee
These are not chocolate, they are ground roasted bay nuts with sugar and orange peel.  They look like chocolate and melt like chocolate.  They also taste more like chocolate than anything I've ever tried, but they are still very different.  These turned out great, but they undergo a process of degredation and separation the same as chocolate will when not subjected to certain processes of tempering, and usually with the addition of lecithin as an emulsifier.  Eventually most of the fat coalesced together leaving the dry powder separate.  I hope to work on experimenting with tempering it like chocolate, but I need access to a muller and hopefully a tempering machine, though I could do that by hand with enough patience.
These are not chocolate, they are ground roasted bay nuts with sugar and orange peel. They look like chocolate and melt like chocolate. They also taste more like chocolate than anything I've ever tried, but they are still very different. These turned out great, but they undergo a process of degredation and separation the same as chocolate will when not subjected to certain processes of tempering, and usually with the addition of lecithin as an emulsifier. Eventually most of the fat coalesced together leaving the dry powder separate. I hope to work on experimenting with tempering it like chocolate, but I need access to a muller and hopefully a tempering machine, though I could do that by hand with enough patience.
Bean trellis in the morning.
Bean trellis in the morning.
Netted bed of lettuce and scallions going to seed.  I have to net most of the greens here.  This is mosquito netting, which is pretty cheap, but it hasn't held up that well in the sun.  Otherwise, I like it.
Netted bed of lettuce and scallions going to seed. I have to net most of the greens here. This is mosquito netting, which is pretty cheap, but it hasn't held up that well in the sun. Otherwise, I like it.
Montevideo Iris.  I thought these would do better at the market, but they were not that popular.
Montevideo Iris. I thought these would do better at the market, but they were not that popular.
Titan's Glory iris.  This iris does everything big.  It has large rhizomes that spread quickly and large flowers that bloom profusely.  All around an excellent variety.
Titan's Glory iris. This iris does everything big. It has large rhizomes that spread quickly and large flowers that bloom profusely. All around an excellent variety.
I don't recall the name of this iris, but it's awesome.  I wasn't too keen on it at first, but now it's become my favorite.
I don't recall the name of this iris, but it's awesome. I wasn't too keen on it at first, but now it's become my favorite.
Oriental Poppy.  I planted 3 varieties of these as experiments in tree understories.  They haven't performed that well in that capacity, but they are still very cool and extremely rugged.  I tried to kill some and the just keep coming back.
Oriental Poppy. I planted 3 varieties of these as experiments in tree understories. They haven't performed that well in that capacity, but they are still very cool and extremely rugged. I tried to kill some and the just keep coming back.
getting OCD with some artichokes.  These were made into canned artichoke hearts.
getting OCD with some artichokes. These were made into canned artichoke hearts.
William's Pride.  This is a very promising early apple.  Here photographed in July it is in eating late July and early august here.  It is surprisingly good for that early of an apple competing with chestnut crab for best early apple, though that isn't really a fair comparison since they are so different.  It is quite large, very crunchy and crisp, has a surprising amount of tannin and pretty complex flavor.  As you can see, it takes a high polish too.
William's Pride. This is a very promising early apple. Here photographed in July it is in eating late July and early august here. It is surprisingly good for that early of an apple competing with chestnut crab for best early apple, though that isn't really a fair comparison since they are so different. It is quite large, very crunchy and crisp, has a surprising amount of tannin and pretty complex flavor. As you can see, it takes a high polish too.
Madrone billets for making stuff on the lathe.  I got my lathe up and running and managed to make a few awls and willow cleaves before the space it was in got repurposed as living space.  These madrone billets were split out of a neighbors fallen tree, hewn into a rough shape with a hatchet, rough turned on the lathe and then oiled with tallow for seasoning.  I stock up on wood like this when it's available.
Madrone billets for making stuff on the lathe. I got my lathe up and running and managed to make a few awls and willow cleaves before the space it was in got repurposed as living space. These madrone billets were split out of a neighbors fallen tree, hewn into a rough shape with a hatchet, rough turned on the lathe and then oiled with tallow for seasoning. I stock up on wood like this when it's available.
This is a willow cleave made from the above madrone.  It is for splitting willow into 3 strands used in certain types of basketry.  Not a tool that many people need.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the only person making them in the states.  They are for sale on Etsy.
This is a willow cleave made from the above madrone. It is for splitting willow into 3 strands used in certain types of basketry. Not a tool that many people need. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the only person making them in the states. They are for sale on Etsy.
Madrone awl.  I started an Etsy account for Paleotechnics and listed my awls, willow cleaves and some jewelry type stuff.  These are ideal for buckskin and a lot of the type of leather work I do.
Madrone awl. I started an Etsy account for Paleotechnics and listed my awls, willow cleaves and some jewelry type stuff. These are ideal for buckskin and a lot of the type of leather work I do.
Strange moth in the garden taking flight from an artichoke leaf.
Strange moth in the garden taking flight from an artichoke leaf.
A bedragled dandelion.
A bedragled dandelion.
Black Sage flower spike.  I like these, they have a cool architecture.  Bugs love them too.  The latin is Salvia mellifera, thousand flowers, and it lives up to the name.
Black Sage flower spike. I like these, they have a cool architecture. Bugs love them too. The latin is Salvia mellifera, thousand flowers, and it lives up to the name.
Diabrotica, or Cucumber Beetle, on Artichoke flower.
Diabrotica, or Cucumber Beetle, on Artichoke flower.
guess what?  Bee butt!
guess what? Bee butt!
Leezard.
Leezard.
chillin' in an apple tree
chillin' in an apple tree
Baby fence lizard.  They start coming out in July.  They are born with large heads so they can start eating right away.
Baby fence lizard. They start coming out in July. They are born with large heads so they can start eating right away.
The ever productive and healthy English Morello cherry tree.
The ever productive and healthy English Morello cherry tree.
a miniature drum necklace, a little bigger than a quarter.  goat rawhide, elderberry wood and brain tanned buckskin.  More Etsy product
a miniature drum necklace, a little bigger than a quarter. goat rawhide, elderberry wood and brain tanned buckskin. More Etsy product
Reliance grape, which I'm increasingly impressed with.  Short video review HERE.
Reliance grape, which I'm increasingly impressed with. Short video review HERE.
large store egg v.s. small turkeysong egg.  I'm always shocked when I see how sallow and pathetic store eggs are.  Organic and "free range" account for very little in store eggs.  The yolks are undersized, pale and contain more inflammatory fatty acids DHA, Arachidonic acid and omega 6 fats from a steady diet of grain.  They probably aren't capable of supporting life, a chick's or ours.  I was running low on eggs, so I bought a dozen, but I ended up just eating the whites and tossing the yolks.  I set up a light on a timer to trick the hens into starting to lay again and got three eggs today and yesterday...whew!
large store egg v.s. small turkeysong egg. I'm always shocked when I see how sallow and pathetic store eggs are. Organic and "free range" account for very little in store eggs. The yolks are undersized, pale and contain more inflammatory fatty acids DHA, Arachidonic acid and omega 6 fats from a steady diet of grain. They probably aren't capable of supporting life, a chick's or ours. I was running low on eggs, so I bought a dozen, but I ended up just eating the whites and tossing the yolks. I set up a light on a timer to trick the hens into starting to lay again and got three eggs today and yesterday...whew!
Finally getting some pears.  The big red one is Souvenir Du Congres.  it was very good.  The others are bartletts grafted from an old homestead tree at the top of the driveway. I'm getting some asian pears too and a few winter pears the name of which escapes me just now.
Finally getting some pears. The big red one is Souvenir Du Congres. it was very good. The others are bartletts grafted from an old homestead tree at the top of the driveway. I'm getting some asian pears too and a few winter pears the name of which escapes me just now.
The first soil enrichment, biochar, latrine, experimental pit/trench/hole is finally dug and slowly accumulating otherwise unused organic matter.  Yay, progress!  I had some help digging, thanks to Will and Gretchen.
The first soil enrichment, biochar, latrine, experimental pit/trench/hole is finally dug and slowly accumulating otherwise unused organic matter. Yay, progress! I had some help digging, thanks to Will and Gretchen.
Vulture hangin' around the compost pile on a convenient roost.
Vulture hangin' around the compost pile on a convenient roost.
Another vulture taking flight.  He was sunning himself on the garden gate.  They scrounge through the food waste after the chickens are done.
Another vulture taking flight. He was sunning himself on the garden gate. They scrounge through the food waste after the chickens are done.
View from up the drive a bit, showing the type of country here, which is pretty diverse.
View from up the drive a bit, showing the type of country here, which is pretty diverse.
Dusk view toward the coast on the other side of the ridge about 300 feet out the back door.
Dusk view toward the coast on the other side of the ridge about 300 feet out the back door.
Venison sushi, my new favorite way to eat venison.  The meat is previously frozen, which should take care of parasites.  I'll be cleaning my deer more carefully next year to maximize sashimi potential.  I'm making some for lunch in a few minutes, yum.
Venison sushi, my new favorite way to eat venison. The meat is previously frozen, which should take care of parasites. I'll be cleaning my deer more carefully next year to maximize sashimi potential. I'm making some for lunch in a few minutes, yum.
Honey mushroom detail.
Honey mushroom detail.
Honey Mushrooms at a great stage for eating, which I of course did!
Honey Mushrooms at a great stage for eating, which I of course did!
I scored some incredibly cheap saffron bulbs this year.  I sold some on ebay to pay for the order, planted some in random field plantings as an experiment to see how long it takes the gophers to eat them all, and put some in a garden bed to multiply for later.  As you can see, I was a little tardy in planting them.
I scored some incredibly cheap saffron bulbs this year. I sold some on ebay to pay for the order, planted some in random field plantings as an experiment to see how long it takes the gophers to eat them all, and put some in a garden bed to multiply for later. As you can see, I was a little tardy in planting them.
This is a knife that an intern/helper gave me.  I was already considering buying this exact knife for carving the flutes in my willow cleaves.  I've been geeking out on knife handles and had this idea for carving the handle for increased grip texture.
This is a knife that an intern/helper gave me. I was already considering buying this exact knife for carving the flutes in my willow cleaves. I've been geeking out on knife handles and had this idea for carving the handle for increased grip texture.
Detail of above
Detail of above
My friend brought over this knife to make a sheath.  I've got an outline made for a video on knife handle design and had to entirely reshape the handle first, which turned into a video segment.  The sheath is made from 4 different leathers, stiff bark tanned wild boar on the inside, soft goat on the outside, a horse hide welt to protect the stitching and braintanned buckskin sewing thong.  It turned out pretty sweet.  I'm not a big fan of this mora style of blade for general purpose knives, but that puts me in a minority among the primitive skills crowd.
My friend brought over this knife to make a sheath. I've got an outline made for a video on knife handle design and had to entirely reshape the handle first, which turned into a video segment. The sheath is made from 4 different leathers, stiff bark tanned wild boar on the inside, soft goat on the outside, a horse hide welt to protect the stitching and braintanned buckskin sewing thong. It turned out pretty sweet. I'm not a big fan of this mora style of blade for general purpose knives, but that puts me in a minority among the primitive skills crowd.
Barktanned bracelet, more Esty product
Barktanned bracelet, more Esty product

Some stuff I think is cool this year:

Gokhale method of posture.  This is different that any other kind of exercise, stretching, yoga etc... It is based on the idea that there is a basic correct type of posture for humans (which is probably a little different than what you've been told), and it really more to do with how you sit, lie, walk, live and move your body than exercises, though there are exercises.  It also requires an attitude adjustment.  Everyone I've turned on to it has been very enthusiastic and it has helped me a lot.  This is really for almost everyone, but certainly people with any kind of posture/pain/joint issues should check it out. Classes aren't cheap, but the book is excellent and a great place to start.

Ray Peat.  Ray peat might best be described as a renegade biologist and science historian.  He has his mind in all kinds of things, but with a focus on nutrition and hormones, with metabolism being at the center of the picture.  Peat is one smart cookie and possesses a vast store of knowledge that he can pull out on demand.  It he always right?  I doubt it, and I'm very unsure you should eat like him, but prepare to have a lot of things you assume to be given truths called into serious question by someone with a rare mind that thinks way outside the box.  Try on for size: CO2 is much more than a waste gas of metabolism and you should make and retain as much as possible, serotonin and estrogen are primarily destructive substances in the body and there is no such thing as estrogen deficiency, and essential fatty acids are not only not essential, but essentially toxic and more of an unfortunate natural occurrence that we have to adapt to.  Often includes the history of where science/medicine went wrong in adopting a certain dogma, and the influence of industry in corrupting scientific research and medical practice.  This is not light reading and listening, but he dumbs it down for us as much as possible.  Warning, Ray Peat can be a deep rabbit hole and lead to food neurosis and extreme self experimentation in a certain type of personality.

Michael Mews.  This stuff is absolutely fascinating.  There are several dominant theories on the prevalence of modern facial malformation and poor dental development, which has become nearly universal these days.  How many kids do you know that are not getting braces around age 13?  I can't think of any.  The genetic explanation is pretty much bullshit, but convenient to point to for medical professionals who don't know the answer.  Michael Mew's point of view deals with oral habits and environment.  The third common view is diet via Weston Price, which probably has considerable substance, but is clearly not the total answer.  Michael Mews is really putting out some amazing stuff about an issue that now affects nearly all modern people.  If you have kids under 18, this is a must watch before subjecting them to the mutilation and idiocy that is standard practice orthodontics.  It's also just plain interesting.

See you around homies!  Have a great and productive year!

Apple Head: from punk to the plunk of falling apples

punk appleOur society has little of use to offer kids when they are coming of age. Whatever the reasons, our lack of any kind of real transition into adulthood is not consistent with traditional cultures.  When I was about 18 and trying to figure myself out I couldn’t see that there was nothing in my human environment that I could use to move toward a life that made any sense to me.  I had become increasingly interested in ancestral skills and learning about nature.  The things I wanted to learn were very obscure and the life path offered to me by convention extremely distasteful.  I had read about Native American youth doing multi-day fasts as part of coming of age trials, the so called vision quest, and decide to go on a four day fast in the woods to help me sort out my path.

crass

I had been very much a social discontent from a young age.  I was raised to ask questions and I latched onto the rejection stance of punk rock.  If there was one message to take home from punk it was that everything was not okay.  This was at a time of false optimism in America.  Ronald Reagan’s head was bobbling around on television telling us everything was great, except that there was an evil empire called Russia that wanted to wipe us out and we might all be blown to bits at any moment by them, or by ourselves, or more likely both.  We walked around thinking any day could be the day the bombs started flying and the world ended.  (BTW, For all we know, that's still the case.)  I wore inappropriate clothing and slogans, went to protests and was just generally making sure people knew things were not alright damnit!  It didn’t take long for me to start realizing that whining was not a very useful tool for social change and that symbols such as clothing, music and language did not take the place of action.  In fact, being whiny and contrary turned out to be less fun than one might imagine!

This is me with Ali and Pete on a rock climbing field trip in high school.  It was GW's birthday (now president's day) and I just thought I should remind everyone that he was a slave owner.  You can find all kinds of apologist crap online trying to excuse him a little because he was good to them niggers, (though accounts vary as to his treatment of his slaves) but it still makes him an asshole first and the president second.

hear-nothing-see-nothing-say-nothing-a

Somewhat earlier when I was even younger, influenced by some of the punk bands I was listening to like Crass, Crucifix and especially the song They (lyrics) by Antisect, and also just because it was logical, I found myself more and more convinced that there was no solution to the worlds ills that made any sense other than changing the way that I actually lived.  Switching my view of problems from a primarily external view to a more internal view gave me a chance at some kind of empowerment rather than wallowing in helplessness at the hands of the Ronald Reagans of the world, or whomever.  In other words, change the things you can change and get your ducks in a row, which is more than enough to stay busy!  This epiphany lead to an interest in self reliance.  At about 16 I traveled across the country with some of my family.  I remember looking in every book store that I could find in various cities for any books on homesteading and related topics.  One store was an anarchist book store.  I was not impressed.  If anarchy was sitting in a stuffy bookstore wearing black clothes and reading philosophy and politics I’d pass.  I came home empty handed.  My sister and I also visited the punk scenes of D.C., Boston, Quebec, Atlanta and Austin that summer and while it was fun, they seemed to consist mostly of a bunch of drunkbag wheelchair butts on the fast track to burning out.

From dehumanization to arms production for the benefit of the nation or it's destruction...  One of my favorite punk bands, Crucifix, like the vast majority of punk bands, mostly piled responsibility for the worlds problems on others.  Easy to do when you are a seemingly powerless kid.  Still, they were mostly right, it's just better to concentrate on the stuff you can actually do something about.  Otherwise, what credibility do we have to complain?

So that sets the stage for my vision quest.

I walked up a small redwood sheltered creek in a desolate State Park that I frequented.  I had my sleeping bag and some supplies.  I hung my pack in a tree, took out my contacts (which meant I couldn’t see shit unless it was right in front of my face, another level of isolation) and with my sleeping bag and a water bottle sat down in a circle of logs and such which I arranged so that I would have definite boundaries.  I drank water from the creek as much as I wanted, but otherwise I stayed put and ate nothing.  This was not a strenuous exercise like many traditional coming of age ordeals are, but for a relatively privileged kid to make a real effort to go through discomfort for personal growth is worth something anyway.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I have never been inclined to be religious, so I wasn't expecting something mystical to happen, but I think I figured a profound epiphany of some kind would be convenient.

It is remarkable how being hungry and having no distractions can focus the mind.  The key word there is HUNGRY, because what grew in my mind the most in those 4 days was a mini food empire.  I thought of every food plant I could, making mental lists over and over so I would remember them.  I thought about how and where I would plant them and how many.  I visualized a farm or homestead dripping with fruit and nuts, crawling with animals and stocked with preserved foods (There was definitely some thought into where to put the skateboard ramp too).  I’m sure I worked out some personal stuff as well, but I don’t recall because it was ultimately food self reliance which was the core of the vision that grew up in me.  Dude, self reliance was where it was at!  I wasn’t content to be livestock and that's just what I felt like being dependent on an industrial food supply.  Nothing could have been more clear.  Food bearing trees played a major part in this mental edifice which was, I realize now, the early stirrings of a life long interest.

All around the country there are groups of fruit enthusiasts who get together periodically to trade fruitwood cuttings and rootstocks and such.  Some people collect cars, guns, ceramic statues of cute animals... we collect fruit and nut varieties.  Although my interest in this area was born largely out of practical goals and a desire to affect my life through action (and still is), I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t driven also by motives that might be considered less practical.  That's  okay, we all need some passionate interest to get us through the day.  Mine, lately anyway, (ok, one of them) is apples.  We have lots of other fruits here at Turkeysong.  I’ve planted well over 100 fruit and nut trees, vines and shrubs in 6 years and more are on the way.  There are almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, pears, nectarines, peaches, plums, persimmons, cherries (yum), feijoa (A.K.A. pineapple guava pronounced fay jo ah with a soft J), figs loquats, grapes and I’m sure I’m forgetting some... but mostly apples.  I have somewhere around 200 unique varieties of apples growing and more being grafted this year.  Apples!  No dude!, Apples!  I want to grab you and shake you until it sinks in  A...A....A....A...A...A...A...P...L...L...L...L...L...E...S....S...S...S DUDE!

King David

This has basically been written before.  Back when people took their fruit very seriously.  Paragraphs and essays extolling the virtues of the apple bespeckle the literature of the last couple centuries and were, I feel sure, well received.  Now I’m not a religious man to say the least, but it is apparent there is some comfort in the converted being preached to in order to affirm that yes belief X or god X, or whatever, is indeed righteous or to be feared, and so on.  I personally love to read essays on the virtues of the apple and will now try to channel the inspired persons of the past who spoke of apples with the gratitude and reverence due them.  Forgive me any errors or inconsistencies.   The truth occasionally falls casualty to something more interesting.  So without further delay, I present to you some unabashed apple propaganda...

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, cats, dogs, hogs, cattle and poultry of various descriptions.  raccoons, opossums, bears, mice, deer, packrats, voles and birds of many kinds.  I have not been asked here today at all, let alone to speak on a subject which others before me have eloquently and thoroughly addressed.  Yet I find myself compelled to address our subject nonetheless, for if I plumb the depths of my motives I feel unsure that it is not necessary; that there may not be some persons in the audience who yet remain lost and in need of a light to find the path; that there may not have been something missed which I might point out or remind one of; and more selfishly, I admit that I simply desire to add my humble voice to the throng in order that I shall not have to contain my own malignant enthusiasm.

Apples.  What more virtuous fruit of temperate regions?  I wager there is none!  The apple: possessed of more flavor variations, a longer season, a greater variety of legitimate uses and broader form in shape and color than any other fruit outside of the tropic regions, and possibly including them.  It can be cooked in savory and sweet dishes alike, dried for the winter, drained of it’s saccharine juice, fermented to cider, distilled into brandy, soured into vinegar, boiled into syrup,  cooked down into apple butter, canned as sauce, and of course eaten out of hand.  Other fruits can be treated the same, but not with the versatility of the apple.  During our partnership with the Apple, we have developed its possibilities to a greater degree than any other temperate fruit.  We could make perry from the luscious pear, squeeze the poor plum of its juices for wine, dry the berry and tuck the cherry into a crust of pie; some may even exceed the apple in a sort of sensational deliciousness, but no other fruit matches the apple for its breadth of suitability for various uses, and it is an imminent suitability at that.  Some Apples are tart, some are sweet, some hold their shape when cooked and others fluff into a delicate froth, all to be chosen from for conformation to our tastes and desires.

Just grind and squish.  It seems too easy!

Nor is the apple so cloying as many fruits.  Where the peach the pear the cherry and the grape, can cloy in their rich juicy sweetness, the apple invites eating over a longer season with less tendency to wear out its welcome on the palate.  Large quantities can be consumed, especially if met with at the dining table as well as eaten bite by bite fresh from the hand.  The apple is wholesome food.

Contributing yet more to the welcome which the apple finds with humanity is its breadth of variation in flavor.  Hidden in the genes of Apples are a broader range of flavors than in any other temperate fruit.  Flavors of banana, mango, fennel, almond, strawberry, raspberry, nuts, pineapple, citrus, cherry, rose, vanilla, spices, herbs, pear, wine, “apple”, melon and more can all be found in apples accented with more or less of acidity and sugar.  These flavors, sugars and acids wait to be further mixed together, by breeding and by chance, into infinite combinations to both suit and broaden our tastes.  From the easy edibility of the understated yet harmonious flavor of the Golden Delicious, to the epiphany of the balanced rubinette, to the sensational cherry bubblegum of Sweet 16, to the compelling symphony of flavor in a perfect Golden Russet or the fruit punch flavor of Grenadine, we have them not only in one species of fruit, but with grafting we can have them from just one tree!  Can any other fruit boast this palate of flavors?  I think not.

Newton Pippin

And all of this over a longer season than any other temperate fruit.  Beginning as early as June in some regions, apples can be plucked ready to eat from the tree from early summer through late winter and probably further on.  While the fine flavored Kerry Pippin is a fond memory of August heat, the Granny smith still clings steadfastly to the tree in mid winter accumulating sugar and flavor.  Granny’s fair daughter Lady Williams clings yet longer to the branch being unsuitable for eating until the end of January.  These fruits and more like them show clearly the possibilities inherent in the apple for an increasingly extended season of fruit straight from the tree.  Add to this already long season the outstanding keeping ability of many of our winter apples and we can, with a little planning and good storage, have quality apples for most, if not all, of the year.  Many of our apples can keep through the winter safe in their protective skins.  Some will keep into spring and even until the following harvest.  The breeder is hard at work developing ever later keeping apples which will come out of long storage in the finest condition and who knows what the limit may be.

In our apples we also have an unprecedented range of form and color.  Solid colors in red, yellow and green.  variously striped with pinks, oranges and reds, washed with flushes and blushes, possessed of sublime translucency or impenetrable opacity, unblemished skins smooth and shining, hanging in un-presuming matte or covered in dusty bloom, overspread with russet and speckled with dots large or small.  The King David demands attention in its redness, the Yarlington mill invites examination with it’s watercolor layers of translucency and cracked map of russet, while the intense red flesh of the Grenadine shines pink through a thin skin covered in speckles.  Artists have time and again been moved to capture the beauty of the apple, It’s bending and refracting of light, its depth and its colors.  Just google apple painting if you doubt me.

Ribbed, smooth, round, lopsided, oval, flat, green, red, yellow, speckled, striped and all manner of nifty...

In these varied colors we have apples which can weigh a pound or more, apples the size of large grapes, and everything in between.  They droop from the twig variously in the shapes of cones, pears, ovals as if pulled by gravity, ovals as if to defy gravity, flattened like a doughnut, or merely round.  They are symmetrical or lopsided, ribbed, or blocky.  Long stems or short stems, clinging to branches or hanging at the ends of drooping twigs.  The trees are willowy or stubby and short jointed, a few feet tall to tens of feet tall.  The smallest ones give us dwarfing rootstocks on which to grow miniature trees.  The bark varies nearly as much as the fruit in color and form as does the outline and growing habits of the tree, from a single spire 2 feet in diameter to spreading branches which may even grow downward, instead of horizontal, let alone upward.  They provide us with pleasant shade and deep intriguing orchards that have lured and moved poets, lovers, scientists and children.

Yes, the Apple.  It represents wholesomeness and good things in American culture, a symbolism which is not arbitrary, but which has grown naturally out of it’s virtues.  One could go on cataloging the Apple’s traits and virtues but that could only suggest the possibility of the poetry of the apple, a poetry that we can feel, but which our attempts to express must be mostly inadequate.  We may be better satisfied to hint at the romance of apples rather than to attempt outright description.  Flowery and detailed renditions will likely fail to impress and we had better stick to tracing the subtle, sublime edges-- delicately suggesting the outline of a feeling and leaving the imagination to fill in the rest or to just wonder.  Still, spreading trees hanging with fruit or dressed in spring blossoms,  dappled light, tantalizing memories of juicy crunching flesh, washes of vibrant flavor, juice flowing from presses and scents of all kinds stir the feelings and can move one to communicate with our limited symbols so that others might see the beauty and value we have witnessed. Autumn Days, engraved by the Brothers Dalziel published 1882 by Frederick Walker 1840-1875 The Apple, guided by man’s hand for millennia into ever more varied form and function is at once servant and king, a humble savant, dripping with abundant beauty, inspiration, pleasure and utility in return for so little!  We chop it’s branches and it grows the more.  We throw filth and waste on its roots and it bears forth a miracle of abundance; each dropping fruit bursting with sugar and juice, a miracle in its own beautiful and practical package.


Apples survive in their variety only with our thoughts and our actions.  We either live a culture of meaningful food, or lose it.  Thousands upon thousands of varieties of apples are already lost forever and we lose more every week to the bulldozer, to neglect, to age, or with the passing away of the only person who remembered the name of that old tree by the woodshed, or even cared.  But the bulldozer, the physical neglect, and the fact that we die are not the real enemies of the apple , it is more that we have stopped cohabiting with the apple.  What was once like a spouse, a lover, a child, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend, with which we lived intimately and relied upon, is now reduced to a commodity.  The apple will not thrive without our love and respect, but will instead be reduced to prostitution, it's production banned to the industrial farm, painted in bright colors and put on the shelves where we can buy her in an attempt to find the love we’ve lost.

photo by Peter Howe

The apple has fed us and made our lives better for eons, and it is a tragedy that we have all met with so many poor specimens, and even more so that poor apples have simply become the norm.  If apples do not improve, we are at risk of losing our faith in them, as some already have.  But the truth is that when properly selected, grown and handled, the apple is awesome.  If you think you don’t like apples so much, I don’t blame you given what is usually available for sale, but maybe you haven’t met the right one at the right time.

Photo by RasksoS

An apple renaissance is afoot and promises to make available to us more and much better apples.  Don’t wait for them to come to you.  Seek out new and interesting apples.  Engage in the simple act of talking about them with friends and strangers.  Support the farmer taking a chance on growing small lumpy apples that taste amazing.  If the apples at the store are no good, don’t buy them, but demand better.   Best of all, Improve your life, improve the lives of others, take care of those who come after you, plant an apple tree.

I stoled this picture off the innernets... sorry.

Posted on August 18, 2013 and filed under Food and Drink Making, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts.