Posts tagged #homestead

Homestead Walkaround Video, 50+ Apple Seedlings Blooming!, Project Updates, Bulb Understories for Fruit Trees

Pretty much all of my productive time is taken up right now by grafting, weeds and other spring stuff. However, I do have a much better action cam now, with clear picture, amazing stabilization and acceptable sound. That device will allow me to do more run and gun, spur of the moment, off the cuff videos. In this one, I just hit some projects and talking points around the property, mostly projects in process.

For one thing, there are over 50 apple seedlings blooming this year! That is a huge jump from probably under 25 that have ever fruited previously. There are also a number of combinations that have not ever bloomed yet, like king david, maypole, cherry cox and sweet 16 all crossed to rubaiyat and some crosses made using the red fleshed columnar Maypole. I’m very much looking forward to what the season brings us in that department and hoping that bears don’t get in the garden again, which could be an epic disaster in those seedling trial rows. I about peed myself when I saw there are 4 Rubaiyat x Cherry Cox blooming.

Pinker than average blossoms on a Rubaiyat x Cherry Cox seedling seems like a good omen. Cherry flavored apple, meet fruit punch flavored apple. May your offspring be blood red to the core and delicious.

Pinker than average blossoms on a Rubaiyat x Cherry Cox seedling seems like a good omen. Cherry flavored apple, meet fruit punch flavored apple. May your offspring be blood red to the core and delicious.

Many of my Maypole crosses are showing this columnar trait. They will produce short, compact trees that grow upward with few side branches and fruits clustered along the stems. The buds are spaced very close together. This can be a valuable trait for restricted spaces. Given how many seedlings are expressing this habit with only a single columnar parent, it should be easy to breed for. Three of these seedlings are blooming this year, and they are the only trees blooming in this youngest block of seedlings, so apparently they are precocious as well, which is nice in a plant that usually takes so long to come into bearing. Oh, AND they take up less space than the other seedlings, so could potentially be planted even closer in trial rows, both in row spacing and between row spacing. I have one other columnar-ish tree, but it’s more like a dwarf. But there are others out there and I think there is a lot of potential here for both backyard and cider production with these compact, pretty, easy to maintain trees. I would not be surprised to get a decent cider apple out of this first generation of Maypole crosses using Wickson and Chestnut Crab pollen.

Many of my Maypole crosses are showing this columnar trait. They will produce short, compact trees that grow upward with few side branches and fruits clustered along the stems. The buds are spaced very close together. This can be a valuable trait for restricted spaces. Given how many seedlings are expressing this habit with only a single columnar parent, it should be easy to breed for. Three of these seedlings are blooming this year, and they are the only trees blooming in this youngest block of seedlings, so apparently they are precocious as well, which is nice in a plant that usually takes so long to come into bearing. Oh, AND they take up less space than the other seedlings, so could potentially be planted even closer in trial rows, both in row spacing and between row spacing. I have one other columnar-ish tree, but it’s more like a dwarf. But there are others out there and I think there is a lot of potential here for both backyard and cider production with these compact, pretty, easy to maintain trees. I would not be surprised to get a decent cider apple out of this first generation of Maypole crosses using Wickson and Chestnut Crab pollen.

This Grenadine x GoldRush seedling showed some promise last year, but only produced one apple. This year there are hundreds of fruitlets, and it will require heavy thinning. It wasn’t really that good last year, but often trees will have to become established before producing exemplary fruit, so I’m keeping an eye on it.

This Grenadine x GoldRush seedling showed some promise last year, but only produced one apple. This year there are hundreds of fruitlets, and it will require heavy thinning. It wasn’t really that good last year, but often trees will have to become established before producing exemplary fruit, so I’m keeping an eye on it.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my flower bulb understory for fruit trees experiment as much as I do in this video. Introducing that project is one of those videos that has been on the back burner, but never seems to get done. I started it a long while back with a couple of blog posts. This system shows promise, but long term comparative trials are critical to an assessment of it’s actual field worthiness and real world performance. Proof of concept is established and the project is ready for phase two. I may be able to set up those trials in the next couple of years using a block of trees that could be used for at least a whopping FIVE different trials at once: trialing seedlings, tree paint, tree training, interstem suckering prevention and bulb understories! Now that is some stacking! Hey, why not add some biochar trials to that! Maybe it really is finally time to look for some help. Those trials could yield a great amount of useful information.

One of my early bulb understory experiments now well established and pretty much out competing all weeds. It is already dying back and will be pretty flat and not really using any water by mid May. It will also leave a nice mat of dying mulch on the ground for the rest of the dry season. I would guess that there are enough bulbs in here now to plant at least 8 more of these, and the project is ready for phase two, long term trials. There are probably also other plants out there which could serve this purpose, but very few and they may be hard to suss out.

One of my early bulb understory experiments now well established and pretty much out competing all weeds. It is already dying back and will be pretty flat and not really using any water by mid May. It will also leave a nice mat of dying mulch on the ground for the rest of the dry season. I would guess that there are enough bulbs in here now to plant at least 8 more of these, and the project is ready for phase two, long term trials. There are probably also other plants out there which could serve this purpose, but very few and they may be hard to suss out.

My tree collard, Peasant King, is sill performing admirably. It is bigger, purpler, fatter stalked, and straighter than all others in that seed grown population. Not only that, but out of all the first batch of seedlings, it is one of only two which have never flowered, the other being a sad looking runt of a thing. Infrequent flowering is one of my selection criteria for this plant. My last batch of cuttings did very poorly, but I have a new batch rooting (I hope) and more cuttings growing. I may try air layering them this year. That means wrapping some rooting medium and plastic around the stem while the cutting is still on the plant, then cutting it off after roots have formed. Ideally, I would propagate many cuttings and sell them in the coming years. If not, I hope to at least get them to people who will.

Peasant King Leaves.

Peasant King Leaves.

I gave what remained of my original Montenegran tree collard seeds acquired from Sophia Bates to Chris Homanics, plant collector, enthusiast, breeder, hunter, preserver and cataloger. He will grow them out and use them in his tree kale breeding project, which you may be able to be part of by growing out seeds: https://www.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/project/14

Or: https://mariannasheirloomseeds.com/seed-catalog/special-crosses/chris-homanics-seeds/homesteaders-perennial-kaleidoscopic-kale-grex-new-2016-detail.html

And here is a Podcast interview with Chris on his work: https://www.cultivariable.com/podcast-8-chris-homanics/

And Website for Chris’ apple farm, Queener Farms, in the Willamette Valley Oregon: https://www.queenerfarm.com/

And now I’m off to graft the many very interesting apple varieties that Chris Homanics brought me this winter. Now that I’m ready to cull out many of the varieties I’ve collected that have failed to perform adequately, I may do one more collecting push this coming winter and re-graft many of those losers over to trial a last batch of promising apples.

Posted on May 1, 2019 .

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.

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.

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.