Saturday, February 07, 2009

Spring project kick-off

At the Cattlemen's Winterschool last weekend, we got some info about the Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation. It was formed to fund tree fruit research at the WSU Northwest Research & Extension Center in Mount Vernon, WA. They are holding their annual winter field day on March 7th, with seminars on pruning, grafting, pests, and general fruit and berry growing. Looks like we won't be able to make it, but the websites of the 2 groups have some very helpful tips for fruit growing in the Pacific Northwest.
There were over 700 people attending the Winterschool. We took classes on barnyard drainage issues, beekeeping, cider-making, composting, and chicken processing. We took a lot of notes and got some great handouts from the teachers and exhibitors. Looks like we may be getting a beehive this spring after all! We're really looking forward to next year's workshops, since you can only take 5 classes, there were a lot more we missed out on. And we're hoping they add an intro to draft animals, so we can get some ideas on putting Gemini to work at Seven Trees.
Magnus is teaching his own winterschool in advanced sleeping techniques. I love his method of falling asleep in the rocking chair while doing his laundry. A real professional!

We got the spare coop moved this weekend. We need to paint it before we put it up on pier blocks, and start getting it ready for the new chickies in March. Sometime this summer we'll insulate it and add a layer of plywood inside, so it's as warm & cozy as the smaller coop.

It was quite a workout, walking it across the barnyard. The steers are happy to have a little more room for roughhousing, and now we can enclose both coops in a varmint-resistant run. We're getting ready to start the next project, which is running power to the coops and barn. What a treat to get rid of extension cords and have a real electric light to work by. We'll also add a security light near the end of the drive, since the front porch light doesn't really make it out that far.
We're still eating last season's onions, garlic, squash & potatoes fresh from the garden, but not much left. We'll be planting even more this year. Plenty of canned goods left, green beans, pears & applesauce especially. I'll be making jam out of the blackberries & strawberries left in the freezer, to make room for upcoming harvests. Always something tasty in season here, once we figure out what to grow when, and how much to preserve.
Here's Doug & Buddy showing how excited they are about the coop-moving project. Doug definitely takes after his mom when it comes to being bossy and yelling for food....


Outsider said...

Joanna - Got any tips & tricks on your chicken coops?

I better get mine started, but the enormity of it is a little overwhelming. I want a good coop for maybe 10 chickens & a rooster, easy-ish to clean, comfy, warm in winter, preferably portable, free range but protected from critters at night. Did I mention easy to make and really cheap?

Did you build yours, or have them made?

Seven Trees said...

We built the smaller coop. The big one was from the neighbors. One we built in eastern WA was a lot bigger, but didn't need to be.

This site has some good links to coop & chicken info -

you kind of have to adapt your design to your site, so looking at a variety of coops is a good inspiration.

Outsider said...

Thank you for the link Joanna - I love chickies. But at the cost to house them, they're gonna have a hefty mortgage bill. Better lay lots of eggs. :)

And that's even with my sweat equity. Habitat for Chickens. Wish there was a local chapter.

Anonymous said...

I was reading about Gunieas. If you have a problem with ticks - you might want to look into them.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joanna, Want to read my "disaster porn?" it is really PG rated. I feel like I am channeling something when I write this stuff.


Seven Trees said...

Looking forward to it Nova, thanks for the link!

I love dystopian fiction. It helps me think of things to plan for from a completely different angle.


Anonymous said...

I actually saw the first flowers of spring blooming today! Forsythia.


Bob Mount said...

The raspberries are beginning to leaf out in the warmest spots here in Santa Cruz, CA. No tree fruit bud break yet.

Thanks for the fruit grower links and comments. I'll check into them.

Joanna said...

We have red elders ready to break leaf bud, and I noticed my domestic elders had leafed out and got frozen.

It's still cold enough here that the raspberries on the big farms are just barely pruned back.

I'm looking forward to the lilac & honeysuckle though. I love those smells!

Bob Mount said...

We have a lilac that has broken bud. Received 4 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. That is quite a bit for one storm here. Still barely over a quarter of what we need for the season which ends in May.

Almost time to take scions off some new varieties for use at bud break of our fruit trees. I like to make certain that all of our trees have at least one branch of each others fruit so if one goes down we still have replacements. It is satisfying to have six varieties of apple on each tree. Makes a good conversation piece.

Joanna said...

What a great idea!
I haven't done any grafting since the 80's, but I should brush up and graft some of our 90 yr old apple tree onto something younger.

Love your blog Bob!

Nova, I envy your forsythia. I had a hedge of it at my Seattle house, and it was such a lovely harbinger of spring.

Bob Mount said...

I have found the simplest grafts to be the strongest. I tried getting fancy with it but it just made them weaker grafts and was more time consuming. When you have more than a few you want to do the time aspect is important. Wedge/split grafts seem strongest (they are certainly the easiest) and make a graft that almost disappears in three years. If you time it to first bud break (the taking and applying since you are just walking from one tree to the other) of the receiver/host, you can get a 100% success rate. Oddly enough, duct tape works well and falls off on its own, when it should, while leaving a strong graft. Grafting tape lasts too long and can deform the branch if not removed in a timely manner which weakens the graft at the deformity. So instead of having to cut off the grafting tape (which can be irritatingly difficult and dangerous to your scion) you just pick up the bits of plastic that fall off the duct tape onto the ground the next winter. It is an easier process and better for the tree in every way.

Another consideration is the birds. If a small bird (even the tiny, tribal bushtits) lands on a grafted scion it will push the cambium layers away from each other and kill the scion. I try to apply scions inside a cluster of host branches to "hide" it from random landings and make it a less desirable, exposed perch. That seems to aid in protecting them for the summer after which they can be exposed to more light by cutting back the surrounding host twigs during your usual winter pruning at which time they will be able to withstand all but a crow using them. There is nothing quite like seeing a scion skewed midsummer when it should be straight especially if it is from a tree in decline or unavailable to you again.

Your oldest trees definitely need to be spread over the younger ones. Pencil sized scions are my preference matched to a similar sized host. But you probably know this already.

One last item would be to apply an aluminum tag to the tree indicating the year/variety the scions were applied and/or a ground staple that show gardeners use to identify plants. You will want to monitor the scion growth and undoubtedly will be asked when you did the grafting in years to come and the specifics may get fuzzy.

Thanks for the accolade and thanks for the inspiration to write about grafting. You will most likely see parts of this in my blog in the near future. I apologize, in advance, for double timing on you. /smile/