Archive for April, 2012

Hive number two

April 22, 2012

Friday evening I picked up a second nuc of bees at Merrimack Valley Apiaries in Billerica. Saturday morning Emily and I hived them in a new hive inside the orchard fence, so they won’t have any excuse but to work the apple trees. We then pruned Pops’ orchard around the garden – some of the clippings went to the goats for a snack. The peach trees are just starting to flower, and with a week of cold and damp in the forecast I’m not sure how much pollinating is going to happen. But the apples are just barely leafed out, so if there’s nice weather next week the new bees will be able to get busy on them. Afterwards I did some whip and tongue grafts on a birthday tree that I grafted for niece Nola last spring; we put four different types of apples on a small feathered tree, but it did not get a fence around it, and despite it being right in a yard with a fairly active dog, the deer zapped all but one of the grafts. Now it’s got a loop of woven wire around it, and hopefully it will make it this year. I’ve been too busy this spring to do much work among the wild trees on the north side in Gorham, but we have a couple B118 rootstocks in the garden that didn’t take their grafts from last year, so if nothing else I’m going to graft them over to Medaille d’Or (which flowers really late) as a hedge against crazy spring weather.


Pika Energy: Home wind and solar power

April 17, 2012

Posting has been light and progress limited, but there’s a good reason: my colleagues and I have launched a startup, Pika Energy, to develop affordable, high-performance home wind power systems. When I was a kid growing up in Five Islands, we lived off the grid, since the power company hadn’t yet brought lines out the North End Road, so naturally I was fascinated by electricity. On a cross-country trip to California I saw tons of water-pumping windmills, and when I got home I started experimenting with wind turbines to make DC power. Here are some pictures of a turbine I built and mounted on the roof of our barn:


First green in Gorham

April 8, 2012

This messed up weather is getting to be a serious threat to the apple crop. Many of the wild trees in Gorham have broken buds; some of them are at half-inch green. I don’t know exact dates, but most of the time the trees aren’t leafed out for orchard weekend in early May. A hard freeze now could easily ruin the entire year’s crop. The key temperatures are at the bottom of this page at UVM. If it gets colder than the listed range of temps for each stage, the crop is toast. Fortunately, things were relatively slower in Five Islands, where we went for Easter pot luck breakfast. This is making me think to pay more attention to the flowering time of different varieties. One that comes to mind is Medaille d’Or, which is a good strong bittersweet – it breaks buds so late, the first year I thought it was dead. I snipped a bag of M’dOr scions today and stuck them in the fridge; if I can come up with some rootstock I’ll graft a handful as frost insurance.

Holly’s new blog

April 7, 2012

For several years the web has been missing out on the general and anachrotechnological awesomeness of my friend Holly. But no longer: check out for news on antique treadle sewing machines, extreme sprouting, and death-defying experiments with a straight razor.

Rubber boots

April 7, 2012

When we moved up here last July I bought a pair of cheap mud boots from TSC – Tingley brand, $15. I’ve used them a fair amount; whenever it’s wet out in the morning I wear them to walk the dogs around the north side, which is about 3/4 mi around. Last week I noticed a crack in the top of one of the boots, which otherwise look brand new – must be pretty low grade rubber. So I bought a nicer pair, Servus brand, for $35. We’ll see how long those last.