Posts filed under grafting

Nectarines over Almonds, Grafting Onto Seedling Almonds With Summer Chip Budding

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No, the title of this blog post, Nectarines over Almonds..., does not refer to some kind of dietary cult belief.  I'm simply trying to take advantage of the qualities of almond rootstock to grow an outstanding nectarine variety.

Grafting has it's detractors, and maybe they are right about some of their arguments.  But there are some decided advantages to grafting.  I'm taking advantage of a few of those advantages in this project.  For one, I can secure a new tree very quickly.   It will also probably come into bearing sooner than a seedling tree.  Most important though, is that I'm choosing the roots of the tree by their special qualities.

Almond trees are almost the same tree as peaches and nectarines, which are in turn even more similar to each other.  Almond trees, however, are known for being drought tolerant and resilient under stress, while peaches and nectarines are decidedly not.  So, the thought of grafting a new Nectarine tree onto Almond rootstock, naturally occurred to me when it was time to plant one of my catch pits.  The tree will grow on an 8 foot by 3 foot pit backfilled with layers of charcoal and whatever soil improving goodies manifested on the homestead over a year or more.  This is a special tree site, so I picked a special tree, one tested for decades by a local fruit explorer and veteran plantsman.

Stribling's White Free Nectarine is a gem of a variety that now languishes in obscurity.  My friend Mark Albert has grown and tested a lot of prunus and it is his best, most reliable stone fruit.  The fruits are delicious and good for drying, while the tree itself outgrows the yearly attacks by peach leaf curl that many varieties are set back badly by.  While not immune to the curl, as some varieties are, it does outgrow it reliably without spraying, and that is good enough.  You are not likely to easily find a grafted Striblings White, so it's only for those that take the time to graft.

From Mark:  “Stribling’s White Free Nectarine, a proven gem for our inland climate for 30 years, ripens in July, and has outperformed all other stone fruit varieties. It dependably grows right through the Spring peach leaf curl and makes luscious, white fleshed, freestone nectarines for fresh eating and easy drying. No longer sold by nurseries, only known by collectors now. Must be grafted.”
Wickson looks a little stodgy, but he had a pretty good sense of humor brewing under that stern countenance.

Wickson looks a little stodgy, but he had a pretty good sense of humor brewing under that stern countenance.

I found very little on the internet about grafting peaches onto almond stocks.  But I did find a reference in California Fruits, by E.J. Wickson, which you can read online by following that link.  Our old friend Edward Wickson, left an inestimable legacy in California Agriculture.  Among many other achievements, he edited the important agricultural journal  Pacific Rural Press. for over two decades, so he had his finger on the pulse of California agriculture.  He reports in the later 1920 edition of California Fruits that I own:

"The Hand Shell and Sweet Almonds have long been used as a stock for the peach.  It is held that they give a stronger, hardier root in dry coarse soils especially, but neither have been largely used."

Well, that was good enough for me to make the experiment.   BUT, this just in!  While looking for that quote just now, I found these references to using almond stock  in an older edition of California Fruits:

“The success of Nectarine worked on Almond stock, as has been demonstrated by the experience of many, has led to the grafting over of a good many unprofitable almonds to nectarine, though this has not been done to the extent to which the french prune and some other plums have been worked on old almond stocks.”
“The almond is successfully grafted over with the peach, and this course has been followed with thousands of unproductive languedoc almonds during the last ten years.”
“Trees are changed from one fruit to another, as with thousands of unproductive almonds, which have been worked over into plums, prunes and peaches.”

Well, there ya go.  Looks like I made a good call.  In starting the stocks this time, I did what I always do.  I shelled and soaked the almonds and planted way too many.  Over-planting allows me to select the best stock in the end.  Planting the seeds directly in the ground where they will grow allows the formation of a deep, natural root system.  I’m after a self sufficient, drought tolerant root network.  I want the trees to go deep to look for water in the dry summers, when I don’t always have a lot of water to spare.

I was more or less planning to graft these stocks to dormant scion wood in the late winter, but I decided that since I had some Striblings White Nectarine branches on a nearby tree, I would go ahead and graft one of them with a small chip of wood.  When I contacted  Mark to ask him something about Striblings, he suggested that I chip bud it now, which I had just done.  But, he also offered to shoot a chip budding video at his place, which we did and that video will be out as soon as it's edited.  I went ahead and grafted the other two stocks as well.  Even if the buds don’t take (though it’s likely that all three will take) I can still revert to dormant grafting this winter.

Chip budding with Mark Albert

Chip budding with Mark Albert

 

Ironically, this may be one of the few trees that I end up pampering, but the almond roots will be just fine with that.  In the case that I don’t, I’m hoping that having planted the trees on a huge pit back-filled with charcoal and other goodies, combined with the tough almond stock, will give me a reasonably resilient and productive tree.  In general, peach and nectarine do not thrive on neglect.  They are very domesticated trees and prefer regular watering, fertile soils and pruning.  But, as the rolling stones said, you can’t always get what you want.  While I may not get what I want, a productive, drought tolerant nectarine tree that will produce reliably even with low inputs, the potential reward is worth the risk.  Possibly more important is the information the experiment might yield in the long run.

How to Find Fruit Wood Scions for Grafting, Scion Exchanges and People to Trade Varieties With

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I commonly get requests for scion wood or questions about where to find scions in general, or of a particular variety.  Below are my best recommendations.


Scion Exchanges and Swaps

These are usually free, sometimes with a small entrance fee, but I've never heard of one where the scions are not free.  There are more and more of them, though large areas of the U.S. still don't have any.  Search the web for terms like scion exchange, scion swap, grafting class or grafting workshop along with your large city, state or region.  If there are none nearby, maybe you can find some like minded people and eventually start one.  To my way of thinking, there should be one within easy driving distance of everywhere :)


Online Trading, Fruit Communities and Fruit and Nut Organizations

  Below are listed some online forums, destinations and organizations where people trade cuttings and seeds. They generally are also places to meet like minded people in your region.  The best information and collaborations are often local.

!GROWING FRUIT’S SCION SOURCE PAGE! http://growingfruit.org/t/scionwood-s...   I like this forum a lot.  Friendly with a lot of knowledgeable people.

NORTH AMERICAN SCION EXCHANGE Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/scion...  Started by my Friends Andy and Little John because they had no nearby scion exchanges.  There is a website too, but the facebook group is most active

NAFEX, North American Fruit Explorers: http://www.nafex.org/  A long standing organization of fruit variety enthusiasts.

MidFEX, Midwest Fruit Explorers: http://www.midfex.org/

CRFG, California Rare Fruit Growers: https://crfg.org/  Membership organization with multiple chapters up and down the state.  CRFG scion swaps happen up and down the state over the winter.

Home Orchard Society (Pacific Northwest): http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/  An excellent organization for NorthWesterners.  From what I hear, their scion swap is one of the largest and best in the country.

Temperate Orchard Society: Apparently cloned the enormous Nick Botner apple collection, so they should have over 2000 apple varieties. (scion sales) http://www.temperateorchardconservancy.org/contact-us/

DBG Scion Exchange, EDMONTON CANADA: https://dbgfruitgrowers.weebly.com/sc...

MOGFA, Maine Organic Farmers Association, Scion Exchange: http://www.mofga.org/Events/SeedSwapS...

SEEDS Durham North Carolina: http://www.seedsnc.org/2018/01/upcoming-grafting-workshop-scion-exchange/

WCFS, Western Cascade Fruit Society, Scion and Grafting Fair in March:  http://wcfs.org/

Michigan Home Orchard group:  https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/mi-home-orchard  Group by YouTube user Prof Kent for michigan folks.

For Europe, Fruitiers.net scion trading:  www.fruitiers.net


Buying Scions

Finally, you can buy scions.  They have become more expensive, but if you really want a variety and you can't find it anywhere else, it might be worthwhile.  Also, once you get interesting varieties, it gives you trading leverage.  I sell scions sometimes, but I rarely trade, because I'm not collecting much anymore.  Also, the apples that remain on my wants list are very rare, some probably even extinct or at least lost.  If you want a specific variety, just search the net for the variety name and the work scion.  You might be surprised to find some for sale, or to find at least someone that grows that variety or has it for trade.  If I have scions for trade, they will be in the webstore around January and February.  Unless you have some amazing rare stuff to trade, don't contact me about trading.  I like to help people and will go out of my way to help serious collectors and breeders, but I get way too many requests.  If you can find it anywhere else, please do.

If were to make a list of scion wood sources, they would all be on this page on the GrowingFruit.org site anyway, so I'll just refer you there....   http://growingfruit.org/t/scionwood-sources/3346

Grafting, the collecting fruit varieties and scion trading are fast growing in popularity, and for good reason.  It's always an adventure finding out about new varieties, tracking them down and fruiting them out.  I hope it grows enormously in the future.  It is important to the preservation of food plant diversity that everyday citizens grow, share, eat, talk about and even create many different varieties.  Even at it's most diverse, the larger industrial food model will always lack true diversity and soul.  When there are quite possibly tens of thousands of apple varieties, even 20 varieties in markets looks pretty weak.

Feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you know of other good online communities, organizations or annual scion exchanges.  Happy hunting

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How to Graft onto Existing Fruit Trees, Frameworking and Topworking Explained

I've reached #10 in the grafting video series.  I'm looking forward to finishing the last 2 or 3 segments and moving on to something else.  It's quite an investment to watch it all, and I know it is not needed just now by a lot of people, but it will be there when it is needed.  It will be really great to finally have a grafting resource to refer people to in my writings and videos and it is long overdue.  So here is #10.  I've talked about a lot of the material covered in this video in a blog post about frankentreeing some time back, which can be read here  And here is the video playlist for this series.  The summary below is an outline of what's in this video, mostly for search engines.  The information is covered better in this video and in the blog post linked above.

A distillation of this video:

Grafting onto exsisting trees is approached in one of two basic ways, either by topworking or by frameworking.  Topworking cuts most of the tree off and regrows it, while frameworking retains the main tree structural wood and replaces the fruiting wood with the new variety.  Framework grafting has the advantage of producing fruit more quickly and is less damaging to the tree.  A well frameworked tree may suffer no permanent injury, while a top worked tree is much more likely to have ensuing problems with decay due to the large open wounds created in cutting off large branches or trunks.  Also, it is possible in one year to add many varieties to a frameworked tree.  On a good sized tree you might add 50 to 90 varieties in one season, whereas you would have to wait for the top of a top worked tree to regrow in order to graft on more than a few varieties in the first year.  I favor frameworking in almost all cases except where damage done has to be remedied by growing a new top, or by some other special circumstance.  It does require more scions and more time, but unless the scale of operation is large it is a no brainer to choose frameworking in most cases.

A frameworked tree can be grafted in one year with very little or none of the old fruiting wood left on.  Some sources will recommend leaving some of the old wood and that is okay if you are concerned, or if you are not sure your grafts will take well.  I would not hesitate to work over an apple tree completely in one year if it is healthy.

A common mistake in frameworking is to graft onto smaller wood near the outside of the tree's canopy.  It is better to go back in to wood nearer a limb or large branch, thereby replacing and regrowing all of the fruiting wood.   Don't worry about grafting into stubs the same size as your scion, just set the scion to one side, and if the stub is large, set to scions, one on each side.

Another common mistake is to add a scion, but leave old fruiting and leafing out wood crowded around it.  There is a good chance that the new graft will not grow well if it is not given some room by removing proximal fruit/leaf wood. 

A spacing of about 18 to 24 inches is pretty good between main offshoots on one side of a tree.  If they are 24 inches apart, each only has to grow 12 inches to the side until they are touching.  Branches on the other side of the tree can be the same spacing, but staggered between the branches on the opposite side when possible.

There are many grafts that can be used, but cleft and whip and tongue are good mainstays to use on smaller stubs and on stubs over an inch you can start to think about using rind (bark) grafts, covered in an earlier video.  It is possible also to add a graft into the side of a bare limb or large branch by either cutting into the side of it and setting in a wedge shaped scion, or by using a rind graft of some kind.  Those operations are less likely to succeed than the familiar grafts already mentioned, but if it doesn't take, it can just be grafted again the following year.

Aftercare is similar to other grafting.  Wrap grafts very tightly and very well to prevent movement of the grafts during a couple months of critical healing time.  Seal the scions to prevent drying out, and check them in mid summer to make sure that rapid growth is not strangling the grafts where they are wrapped.  If the grafts are strangling, either remove the tape, or unwrap it and re-wrap around July sometime.

Scions for framework grafting can be much longer than those used for most other grafting.  I like to use scions with 8 or more buds personally.  Very long scions can be used if they are splinted firmly to immobilize the grafted section, but I'm not sure there is any real advantage to doing so.

Tools required are just a sharp knife, pruning saw, pruning shears, some kind of grafting wax or paint or seal and something to wrap with.   See the Tools Video for more on that stuff.  Don't forget to tag them too!

Grafting Series Finally Here! How to Dormant Graft Fruit Trees

partially healed graft

partially healed graft

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

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

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

THE FULL PLAYLIST

 


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

Revisiting Chuck's Apple Frankentree for Training and Maintenance

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

Using Household Items as Grafting Supplies

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

A Visit to FRANKENTREE, With Over 85 Varieties Fruiting This Season!

Wow, frankentree has really kicked some apple tree butt this year with at least 85 varieties fruiting out of 150 grafts.  He looks amazing and I'm pretty excited to retry some old varieties and some new ones as well.  it's just a good apple year in general, and most of the trees are coming through year two of severe drought pretty well.  The apples on frankentree are on the small side, but I've had some pretty tasty ones so far, like the two great crabs I reviewed in July, Centenial and Trailman.  Check it out, its quite a sight!

I know I talk about Frankentree a lot, and multigrafting and frameworking in general, AND I keep threatening to tell you more about how to do it all, but it is coming!  I swear!  A lot actually ;)  I'm trying to tone it down lately, but it's just hard to express myself without cursing like a sailor sometimes!  Well heck, what was I saying?  Oh yeah, it's definitely coming and it's gonna be good.  If I wasn't already stoked enough about the idea, and convinced that it should be the rule rather than the exception, I'm even more stoked after seeing frankentree drooping with so many different apples this year.  I WILL influence thousands more people to do this, either directly or indirectly.  Maybe not to do it like a totally obsessed nutball such as myself, but at least to stick some new and exciting varieties with varying ripening times on that old tree out back.   Well, I'm going to try anyway.  That's the plan.  Help me out by sharing this video on social media!

A Video Tour of my Amateur Apple Breeding Project

A walk around looking at various parts of my apple breeding project.  It doesn't look like much, but I think it's getting the job done.  I spotted my first blossom while filming this.  Way cool, that means I'll probably have some bloom next year, hopefully followed by fruit!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8EdnuyClkk

Interstem Grafting Videos

I just posted up a series of videos on interstem grafting.  This is most of what I know about interstem grafting Apple trees, growing them out, and their advantages and disadvantages.  Maybe a little late for this grafting season, but it's never too early to start planning for next year! interstem thumbnail ONE

Some News, and Videos on Scion Storage and Cleaning Black Trumpet Mushrooms

A couple of videos and a little news on apples and flowers! It's grafting season.  A lot of people have probably already finished their scion trading, but here is my take on storing and shipping scions.  I was so caught up in the details that I kind of forgot the basics, like store them in the refrigerator.  If it were more comprehensive, it would also include storing the scions without refrigeration, which maybe I'll do later, but same basic concepts apply.  Mostly, I was trying to address the potential of excess water and the use of paper to cause problems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx5UwS3SmlU

And for those of you who are lucky enough to have black trumpet mushrooms in your neck of the woods, this video is on how I clean them really fast, and dry them. It also includes a (what in my opinion is an all too short) rant on efficiency and work as a symbolic activity.  It is a long video for how to do something really fast, but I think the stuff about intention and mental attitude is just as important as the physical part, and it will save your a lot of time in the long run if cleaning large quantities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iezTiOBXDc

DOOOOODS!!!  Two flowers from the first batch of Daffodil Seedlings grown from seeds pollinated in 2011 have put forth flower buds!  The bulbs arestill rather small, so I wouldn't be surprised if they are under-developed, but that's still pretty exciting, especially considering that I haven't taken stellar care of them.  I figured I was at least another year off from seeing anything.  I seem to pick breeding projects that take a long time.  Daffodils typically take about 4 years or more, and apples 5 or more years.  They should open within the week, at which point I may have to update the Daffodil Lust series with a new post.  Even more exciting, one of the seedlings is from Young Love, the daffodil that inspired it all!

Young Love seedling
Young Love seedling

I just recieved 50 apple rootstocks in the mail for grafting up my latest round of red fleshed apple seedlings, and last year's pollinations are sprouting up in the greenhouse.  Good news, I just talked to my friend Freddy Menge, who is sort of my apple guru or early inspiration.  We talk about apples on the phone about every other year.  He's getting results from his apple seedling trials, which I believe are mostly open pollinated, but he has a good collection of quality hand selected varieties growing, not just some random stuff.  He say that he gets more apples that are worth eating than ones that aren't.  That's just what I suspected when I started my breeding project and what Albert Etter seemed to be saying.  It also is totally at odds with what passes for common "knowledge".  He has sent me two of his seedlings that I'm trying out, one I've been calling King Wickson (not sure if he has a name for it) which he thinks is a King David x Wickson cross.  The other selection is Crabby Lady a small, more intensely flavored version of the latest ripening apple here, Lady Williams, also thought to be crossed with Wickson crab.  Crabby Lady ripens at the same time as Lady Williams, and sounds like a real improvement on an already very good and super late apple, so that really got my attention.  I'm hoping King Wickson will fruit this year, but I just grafted Crabby Lady this past week.

Freddy also said that about 1/4 to 1/3rd of his red fleshed apple seedlings have red flesh.  I was hoping for a little higher percentage than that, but such is life.  I may do some crosses between red fleshed apples this year to try to reinforce the red fleshed trait.  Another amateur plant breeder just contacted me through the blog who is also gearing up to do some red fleshed apple breeding.  Yay for grass roots apple breeding for the masses!

I'm off to get ready for the farmer's market in the morning.  Not much in the way of vegetables to sell anymore, but I cleaned up selling Erlicheer narcissus flowers on Valentines day and have a new batch ready to go.  It's nice to have that plan working out.  The Erlicheer are planted along both sides of a row of oblique cordon apple trees, so they require no extra care other than what I already do in taking care of the apples.  By the time the apples are leafing out, the flowers are thinking about going to sleep, so they have nearly opposite seasons

Flowers for market.  !Kaching!
Flowers for market. !Kaching!

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!

Introduction to Frankentree Video

This is an introductory video I threw together to stoke people up on the idea of multigrafted trees.  Quite a few fruit collectors use this technique and, while Frankentree is a more extreme example, I increasingly think that multigrafted trees with 3 to 30 varieties or so will serve the average person with a few trees much better than single variety trees do.  Add to that the edifying character of the work, the increased involvement in one's own food supply and the neato factor and it seems like a pretty easy sell, except for the intimidation factor.  I'd like to maybe think this out better and make a more refined version as well as a detailed video tutorial on some of the specific strategies and skills, but this will have to do for now.  The original Frankentree post has a little bit of information on grafting with pictures of a couple of different grafts.

!FRANKENTREE! TRAILER...

!FRANKENTREE!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKE6t08wlBA

Interstem Grafted Apple Tree Update, Year Four

 

 

UPDATE: See my video series on Interstem grafting apples here!

UPDATE: See my video series on Interstem grafting apples here!

 

 

It’s been 4 years since I grafted my first interstem apples.  They were in the nursery for a year, and have been in the ground in permanent locations for 3 years.  This is an update on my experience and thoughts so far.  (Read the original post here)

A couple paragraphs for those who aren’t familiar with interstem trees: An interstem (a.k.a. double worked, archaic) tree is one that has an extra stem grafted between the rootstock and the upper portion of the tree.  Sometimes the interstem (the stem between the roots and the tree) is there for the sake of compatibility and can be used when the fruit variety is not genetically compatible with the rootstock, but the interstem is compatible with both the top and the rootstock.... think of a kidney transplant, the donor and recipient have to be compatible or the graft will be rejected. Often though, and in my case, the technique is used to dwarf a tree. One problem with dwarf rootstocks is that they are weak.  Sure they are small, which is what we want, but so are the roots.  Interstem grafting allows us to select a large vigorous rootstock, that would normally grow a large vigorous tree, for the roots and a weak interstem to dwarf the tree... small tree big roots.  That means, no staking of the tree, which would be required for a weak dwarfing stock.  They also need less water.

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Drought Tolerance:  My primary motivation for grafting interstem trees has been drought tolerance combined with dwarfing, a pairing which I don't know of any other means of attaining.  I’ve had a few of the trees get a little crispy in the end of summer, but over all, I think they are performing much better as m111 / bud 9 interstems than they would on any stand alone dwarfing stock.  I do water them occasionally, but not a lot.  I probably should ideally water a little more, but I want them to grow up tough and self sufficient, not expecting a drink whenever they want one... tough love.  There is a second row of interstem trees that I will probably move, or just remove, which are not cared for nearly as well as the main row along the driveway.  Most of these outliers have survived and, although they are not doing great, I doubt many would have survived the droughty conditions they are growing in if they were on a straight dwarfing stock like MM109 or bud 9.  I probably won't water any of the interstems this season since my spring is lower than it's ever been at this time.Understory:  The original vision for the main row of interstem trees was to establish an understory of flowering bulbs.  The trees are along about 100 feet of the driveway as you drive into the main area, and I had envisioned masses of narcissus in the spring that I could hopefully sell some of at the farmer's market.  I have an ongoing experiment using flowering bulbs to create fruit tree understories... specifically, plants that grow only in the winter and die back early in the summer leaving a mulch of dead leaves on the soil surface to prevent evaporation.  I call this a dying mulch, but it’s more like a living/dying mulch.  This plan was hatched specifically to deal with our seasonally dry climate which has virtually no summer rain.  Two of the intertstem trees are now planted to Hybrid Amaryllis on 12 inch centers, but it will be some years before I really know how well that system works.  Amaryllis is not as spectacular as narcissus and blooms in the late summer, but it is the plant that seems to be performing best in my trials and it’s probably more marketable as a cut flower than narcissus anyhow.  I may plant every other tree for now.  Having half of the trees as control subjects should show over time whether or not it works.

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Root anchorage:  The superior root anchorage has proved to be very nice.  I’ve barely staked the trees and only to keep them growing straight, not because the roots weren't adequate.  Trees this size (8’ x 8’ is the target size) normally require staking because the small and sparse roots simply don’t hold the tree up. Precocity:  Interstem trees are precocious, most of mine bore some fruit the second year in the ground.  That is a whole lot faster than when using your average M111 or larger rootstocks.  Precocity is a great advantage.  The trees grow fast to size, but start bearing early and then quit growing for the most part.  Most would be nearly the size I want them already, if I hadn’t changed my mind and grafted most of them over to different varieties after the first year.  The fruit quality seems good so far, and I think with careful thinning, it would be easy to grow jumbo sized fruits if that matters to you.

no matter
no matter
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Size:  One reason I got into this system is because I harvested some dwarfed apple trees and was so excited that I didn’t need a ladder!  No ladders for pruning or picking.  That’s pretty great.  If you’re around 50 or over, no ladders and early bearing should be lookin’ pretty good!  No one needs to fall off ladders, but for seniors, it's a big deal to break a hip, and coordination typically declines with age.  It’s pretty nice to have a tree where I can reach almost everything.  I might need to stand on a box once in a while, but not a ladder.  I don’t mind working on ladders too much, but moving them around gets old pretty fast.  Not that I would ever advocate planting only dwarfs.  Standard trees live longer making them a great legacy, and they are just cool to have around.  Still, there is a time for dwarfs, and for many of us, that might just be most of the time.  The tallest trees are probably over 8 feet now, but I think I can keep them down once heavy bearing commences and growth slows. Re-grafting:  Like I said, I changed my mind about the varieties I originally planted.  I put in mostly cider trees figuring that I’d test them and work over the ones I didn’t like to other varieties.  At some point, I realized that I have never had a single glass of cider made from swanky European varieties meant for cider only that was even good, let alone great.  However, I’ve had a number of excellent ciders from blends and dual purpose varieties like Gravenstein, Ashmead's Kernel and Rome.  I’m not saying I think you can’t make good cider with those fancy english apples, nor that they aren’t capable of making superior cider, just that I have to look at the big picture and go with my personal experience.  If I can make very good cider from varieties that also make great eating, I've got versatility which is a great advantage.  My last batch of natural yeast cider from Rome Beauty was freakin’ awesome (I haven’t planted Rome Beauty, and probably won’t, so this isn’t a recommendation.  It’s not really a very good eating apple.).  I think that the quality of fruit (hint, dry farmed= lots of sugar, flavor and tannin) and what is done with it, are probably more important aspects of cider making than using cider dedicated apples only.  Sure, you can’t make a great wine from a concord grape, but you can make very good cider from many dual purpose apples and blends.  I also have been drinking less as I went on various health pursuits :-/. So, I grafted all the cider-only varieties to dual purpose and dessert varieties, an approach which gives me a lot more versatility.  If I want to make cider I can, or I can eat them, or sell them, or just press them for juice.  I left the King David and Wickson trees, both excellent dessert/cider apples, but everything else got worked over to varieties that I’m excited about- Sweet 16, Katherine (Etter), Newton Pippin, Gold Rush, Kerry Pippin, Golden Harvey (turned out to be mislabeled), and a couple of the Etter red fleshed varieties.  The grafts did great, with 100% success rate.  Many are bearing fruit this year.  This experience highlights the main reason that orchard owners should know how to graft, VERSATILITY.  More on that in the future.

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Suckering:  The one big drawback I can see to interstem trees so far is that suckering is definitely increased.  Suckers are a pain in the ass.  Most of my other apples are on MM111 stocks and they have suckered very little.  But over half of the interstem trees are producing suckers.  It is generally better to tear suckers off the tree, because that removes the buds near the base of the shoot, improving the chance that it will not grow back.  But many of these suckers are deep and have to be cut off, and they just keep growing back.  Burying the union of the rootstock and interstem so that the interstem also grows roots is said to help reduce suckering.  I didn’t do that, because the bud 9 I used as an interstem is susceptible to woolly aphid and M111 is not.  I wish I had now though.  I doubt the risk of major woolly aphid damage is outweighed by the bane of suckering.  Besides, I’ve never seen woolly aphid here, although I am constantly told it is a major problem in the area.  Even with some aphids on the bud 9 roots near the surface, the great majority to the root system will still be immune to them.  Lesson learned.  I should not have let fear stop me from planting at least half of them deeply.  If done over, I would plant the MM111/Bud 9 unions a good 3 or 4 inches below the soil surface, and will if I plant any more of them. Interstem length:  The foregoing brings up the point of interstem length.  I was very sloppy when choosing the length of interstems.  In fact, choose would be a strong word!  They varied in length quite a bit.  A cursory examination reveals that there is some noticeable effect on tree size, a longer dwarfing interstem creating more dwarfing effect.  I would say though, that none of the trees look like they will end up too small.  Given that fact, and that one would need adequate length to bury several inches of the interstem if planting deep to minimize suckers, I would probably tend to make them on the long side.  You can get away with planting the interstem/rootstock graft below ground, but you definitely will lose much, if not all, dwarfing if the second graft, the interstem/varietal one, is buried and the varietal allowed to root.  I scarcely remember how long my longest interstems were, but I’m thinking that 8 to 10 inches is probably about what I’d shoot for next time, planning to bury 2 or 3 inches of it in the ground.  I don’t know that those numbers are best mind you, it’s just what I will probably try next time around The future:  Aside from the suckering thing, which is a pain not to be underestimated, things are going smashingly.  Right now it's more than enough to keep up with what I have planted, but if my health improves soon, I may plant some more interstem trees using my recently posted biochar pit latrine system to prepare the ground ahead of time.  People are digging my apples at the farmers market, because I have done enough experimental work to be able to bring really unique and excellent fruit.  I also think my growing conditions, basically scant on water, really improves the quality of some varieties.  I have confidence in my ability to grow outstanding apples now, though I’m still refining culture and varietals.  I feel pretty sure some of these interstem trees will be grafted over yet again as I hone in on the apples that really perform well in all areas, flavor, texture, cultural traits, disease, drought tolerance, sun tolerance and so on... oh yeah, maybe consumer preference, though I truly hope that I can sway market goers to buy any outstanding apple, regardless of size or external appearance. Summary:  So, to summarize, I think interstem apples are great.  Ease of maintenance is not to be smirked at, large fruit size is neat, drought tolerance seems very reasonable so far, precocity (early bearing) is extremely valuable, fruit quality seems very good so far, anchorage is awesome for a dwarfed tree.  What’s not to like?...  Well, suckering is not to like.  In fact, suckering sucks.  Thorns in paradise.  So, I guess I'm recommending this technique based on experience.  If you want a small tree, but with a wide foraging root system, drought tolerance and anchorage, interstem trees look pretty good so far.  Interstem trees are hard to find.  You might get someone to custom graft them for you, but my recommendation, as always, is to learn to graft them yourself. Grafting in one year:  BTW, you can read my previous post on interstems for details, but all of these were grafted in one year, making both grafts at once with dormant wood on dormant stock. I did the same thing again this year, and again with 100% take.   It does not take two years to make an interstem tree as is often asserted.  You may not want to tackle two grafts on one tree when just learning, but you could always do the interstem graft the first year, and the varietal graft the second.  Or you could just go for it and do them both at once.  If one doesn't take, you might still be able to salvage it and regraft the following year.

Part One: Interstem Grafting of Apples

Interstem Grafting videos

And a Frankentree in Every Garage

 

If I were president, the essay assignment goes when you’re in grade school.  I remember thinking “but I don’t want to be president!”  But... if I was, I don't think I'd promise a car in every garage, though I'd probably keep the chicken in every pot.  When I moved here to Turkeysong, I had to decide what fruit varieties to grow.  Inspired by friend and apple guru Freddy Menge, a scrappy young tree that was already here, was used as a framework to test out apple varieties.  Before that it produced hard green apples.  What started as an interest, grew into something like an obsession and the tree became more diverse every year starting with 25 or so varieties and ending now with about 140.  My friend Spring dubbed it Frankentree because, at her house, that’s what they call anything cobbed together from odd parts.  The name stuck.  The term frankentree is also used for genetically modified tree varieties, but it has already taken off among apple collectors, so we'll just have to see who wins.  And maybe someone searching for info about GMO fruit will run across our frankentrees and be ignited into constructive action instead of plunged into despair at how the world can be dumb enough that we take the risk of genetically engineering an apple just so it won't brown when cut.

Frankentrees are awesome!  They may take a little attention to maintain, but the advantages are many.  There are so many trees out there that provide too much fruit of one variety in too brief a period for the people that use them.  Other trees just produce fruit that no one likes.   These trees, if they are healthy enough and the form is not too wacky, are very valuable as a base to work from.  A reasonably well formed healthy tree can come to yield nourishment in abundance, interest, variety, valuable information, and even self confidence and self reliance, over a long season.

This isn’t going to be a how to article, it’s more to kick you in the butt and get you started thinking and experimenting this year article.  If you have a tree, or access to a tree that is not very exciting in the fruit department, why not try grafting on something new?  Well, I’ll tell you why you should graft on something new, or actually more like somethings.

Apple trees are an ideal format in which to learn grafting and begin fruit collecting.  Pears are a close second, and then plums.  Apples are easy to graft, very useful, widely appreciated and there are many varieties to be had, thousands actually.  They also are hard to beat in terms of seasonal length.  I have very good to excellent eating apples from August to early February, and that is straight off the tree, not accounting for storage.  You may not be able to get that in a very cold climate, but the season can still be quite long.  The ability to have a long fruiting season is reason enough to make a frankentree, but there are many more motivations.

a riot of variety
a riot of variety

Frankentreeing will teach you something, and you can teach that to someone else.  You’ll learn about different varieties of fruit, what their seasons are, what they taste like, whether they keep or not, and very probably their histories.  You’ll learn the art of grafting, without which we would not have all these varieties of fruits in the first place.  And you’ll learn what varieties do well in your area, which is extremely valuable.

You'll also end up as a keeper and preserver of variety, a sort of seed bank or scion repository that you can share out or trade from.  No doubt some of those varieties will be very old.  And old or not, more diversity in more places is assurance not only against permanent genetic loss, but also that diversity has a real place in our daily lives.  We have to live our appreciation of variety and the romance of diversity in crops for it to be real and not just an abstract idea we picked up from a foodie book.

Multi-grafted trees are not only ornamental in their own strange way, but they’re also a great conversation piece, and a frankentree will make you look cool!  Wait, screw that, if you make a frankentree, you are cool!  Everyone who visits here loves frankentree!

You’ll very likely have more fruit on a frankentree.  First of all, pollination will be great.  Apples can self pollinate to a very small extent, but they really need pollen from other varieties in order to fruit.  Your frankentree will be downright indecent in it’s public orgy of bees and pollen!  But wait, there’s more!  You’ll also get more fruit in the long run because you’ll inevitably end up with some that set fruit very readily and consistently, and some that avoid spring frost because they bloom late.

Your new skill is marketable as I’m finding out.  How many people will pay you to make them a fruit tree that gives them four to six months of the most delicious apples adapted to your region?  Let’s find out!  I just did my first paying frankentree job (bride of frankentree) for my neighbors Dan and Leslie and they seem very pleased to try giving an old apple tree a makeover.  It made good apples before, but it will make lots of different good apples now.  I have another such job scheduled this spring too.

Preparing the bride.  I prefer to prep the whole tree at once so that grafting proceeds quickly.

Preparing the bride.  I prefer to prep the whole tree at once so that grafting proceeds quickly.

bride of frankentree all grafted up and no place to grow.  Note the one branch left to the original variety on the left hand side.

bride of frankentree all grafted up and no place to grow.  Note the one branch left to the original variety on the left hand side.

I’m a problem solver.  I not only solve them, it order to be a good problem solver, I have to look for them constantly in everything.  Just ask anyone who has had to live with me.  So what’s the downside to a frankentree?  There are very few really.

If the tree is too old and you have to cut down to large stubs, you could get some rot that will shorten the life of the tree.  In many cases, that is not necessary though.  I prefer to stay within cuts that are 3/4 inches and down, but you just have to weigh the value of the tree as it is and the value of it as a frankentree, or more usually the value of a certain form of the tree, because if it’s very overgrown, you’ll want to simplify the framework and probably bring the head down.  That’s will make it easier to graft, maintain and harvest.

It takes time and energy.  Sorry, but I see that as a good thing over all.  It’s like saying it’s a lot of work.  If you’re not totally stoked about making it happen, do something else.  Otherwise, activity that gets you outside feeling interested, taking care of your own needs and building self reliance... that’s all up side!

You’ll have to maintain the tree a little more closely.  Some varieties are really vigorous and grow large and some are small and weak, so you can sort of keep an eye out to check the big ones and maintain a little light for the weak.  I lost sleep over that when I first started, but I didn’t need to, because it’s no big deal.  You’ll also have to prune off some suckers here and there as the base tree sprouts a shoot once in a while.  sometimes those shoots will be more vigorous than the grafts, almost like the tree would rather grow itself than be a frankentree, which makes sense.  My guess is that the investment you have in the project will make you more interested in maintaining the tree well.  Your personal investment means value to you.  It’s.... well, personal.

You can introduce disease.  The one that is most common is virus.  It will cause the leaves of some varieties to turn into a mosaic of light and dark areas.  It's not fatal and doesn't seem to affect most varieties here.  I basically don't worry about it anymore.  The affected leaves can become sun burned easily.  Frankentree is infected and so are many of my other varieties.  Probably many more than I know, since most show minimal to no symptoms.

That’s all I can think of.  I may sound like a propaganda machine, but I want to be!  That’s how stoked I am about the idea and my enthusiasm comes from the pleasure, interest and knowledge I’ve reaped from me experience in this realm, and the way I see people respond when they find out you can do this, or take the walk to the orchard to meet “frank”.  I’ll hopefully be giving you more specific detailed resources for frankentreeing in the future.  In the meantime, go to a scion exchange if there is one near you, or join the North American Scion exchange and trade by mail.  You may not have much to trade now, but there are quite a few generous collectors out there, and once you get a few varieties, you can start trading.  If you don’t know how to graft, check out the many youtube videos, and hopefully I’ll add one sometime as well.  I’d even like to do a detailed video just on frankentrees to give you more specific information and tricks to increase your success rates in grafting.  In the meantime, here are some basic ideas to keep in mind.  And for you locals, remember, the Mendocino Permaculture group's scion and seed exchange is this weekend Feb 1st Saturday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  It's free with free grafting classes and rootstock for sale.  I'm teaching hands on grafting coaching after the main grafting lectures.

Keep the framework of the tree, but thin it out and bring it down in height and in toward the framework, especially if it’s poorly trained, neglected and rangy.

Try to make smaller cuts and graft into wood 3/4 inch and down when possible, but don’t graft to the outside of the tree.  Try to graft in closer to large limbs.  If you graft only to small outside wood, you’ll end up with a tree that grows out and out and the inside of the tree will all still be the original variety.

Note long scions.

Note long scions.

Learn cleft grafts.  They are easy and good for grafting small sticks to large stubs, which is usually what you end up doing when reworking a tree.

Wrap tightly in multiple layers

Wrap tightly in multiple layers

Two views of the wedge cut and the scion fitted into the cleft stock.  Note again the flat cuts make a tight fit
Two views of the wedge cut and the scion fitted into the cleft stock. Note again the flat cuts make a tight fit

Use grafting paint (“wax”) liberally (I use doc farwell's, hopefully it’s not too toxic :/).  Use it to really seal the clefts left open after grafting, but also to paint the whole scion lightly.  Painting the scion is helpful to keep moisture in until the graft heals and the tree can start sending moisture and food to the scion.  You might have to paint the open ends of the clefts twice to make sure they are sealed well against rain infiltration.  It's ok if a little wax gets into the cleft.

Keep your grafting knife sharp!

Use long scions of 6 to 9 buds or so.  This will give you fruit sooner.

Thin the area near the graft of other shoots if possible.  You want to direct growth energy into the new graft.

If apples form the first year, leave them!  You don’t usually have to pull them off to favor growth like you do with a young tree, because the tree is driven by an established root system.

Don’t unwrap the grafts too early.  The leafy shoot will act like a sail and can break the graft.  Unwrap before the wood becomes constricted.  If you are concerned, just re-wrap it till the end of the season.

When you unwrap them for good in the fall, paint the graft union with a thick coat of grafting paint so you can keep track of its location.

Always label!  I use aluminum tags with copper, aluminum, or at least galvanized wire.  soda cans cut with scissors work fine and sections of aluminum venetian blind strips and old aluminum printing press plates work great.  Scratch the name in and write with pencil too.

So, if I’ve sparked your interest, just bust a move this year, even if it’s a small one.  Get some scions from a neighbor or a local apple orchard and make a few grafts.  You can wrap them tight with cut rubber band strips and paint them with thick latex paint so you don't have to invest in grafting supplies.  You can use a utility (razor) knife or pocket knife if you don’t have a grafting knife.  Practice on prunings a little until you can make flat cuts and grafts seem to fit pretty well.  You’ll learn something and if your few grafts take, you’ll have confidence to move forward.  Maybe I need to start a career as a motivational speaker.  Are you stoked yet!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgXObaM9i2Q