Archive for May, 2016

Spring mowing

May 28, 2016

It’s amazing how fast the grass grows in the spring, and this time of year it seems like all we can do to keep up with stuff growing.  The orchard was still practically asleep when last I was up there 2 weeks ago, and today the grass was thigh-high.

Dave bought a used 5′ rear-deck mower to replace the 4′ unit we’ve been using for the last 30 years, so I hooked it up and gave it a try.  It’s too big for the 25hp Kubota, but works well on the 50hp.  That tractor (mostly its bucket) is a bit big for convenient maneuvering in among the trees, but it has power steering and a crazy tight turning radius, so it actually worked out OK.  At lunch I read in the manual how to remove the front-end loader, so next time I’ll give it a shot – should make a huge difference.

The mower leaves a lot of grass still in the rows, so I went at them with a two-handled Stihl brushcutter.  I started out with a four-blade grass-cutting disk, but it wasn’t very aggressive, so I switched over to a string trimmer head – burned through a lot of string but it did the job.  It was around 80 and super humid, so I was drenched by the time I was done, but the orchard looks great and the trees will appreciate the lack of competition. It’s amazing how different the orchard feels when it’s freshly mowed. Emily has been doing a great job killing tent caterpillars, and someone in Five Islands has bees, so despite our lack of a hive we should get some pollination.

It’s been quite dry so I hooked up the siphon from the pond and filled buckets to water the trees we planted in the spring; Emily hauled pails and watered trees while I finished the string trimming.  The tide was pretty high by late afternoon so I jumped in the cove to cool off – the water is definitely not frolicking-temperature yet, but it wasn’t too bad.

Late in the day Aunt Weez arrived from Hopkins, so we caught up for a bit  before I hit the road for home.  She has written a book called Mother Time with a cool concept – it’s basically linked stories of thirty generations of women, starting in the present and going backwards in time, daughter to mother to grandmother.  I’m going to download it on my phone.  .

 

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Spring grafting and photos

May 13, 2016

Here are a few pics from this spring.

First, Dave transplanting an apple tree in a bucket as described in the previous post:

bucket transplant

A few weeks back the fiddleheads were popping up when I walked the dogs downriver of a Saturday morning.  So I grabbed a bunch, boiled for 5 mins, and made an omelette:

fiddlehead breakfast

Continuation of the grafting experiment I described from last year, where I notched a large wild apple that had broken off at face level, grafted in some scions, and let the northern half sustain the tree while the new grafts took.  It suffered a setback when a porcupine attacked last summer, but all but one of the scions was live:

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I carefully cut away the top with the small Stihl, so as not to smash the delicate year-old grafts:

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I then made the final cu with a pruning saw to give a nice surface finish, stuck in some Golden Russet scions on the north side for a two-tone tree, and doped up the cut surfaces. I also whip-and-tongue grafted a couple of small watersprouts that were kicking around, so the tree is 100% grafted over.

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Expecting great things from this technique, I applied it to a large (>8″) wild apple near the house that was way too skinny and tall to be fruitful, and had broken large pieces of the top in a previous year’s ice storm.  The extra energy had gone into a profusion of healthy new branches down low, so I took advantage to saw off the top at face level, graft in some scions (again a 50/50 split), and leave the branches to sustain the tree while the grafts take.

decapitation graft

This ‘decapitation grafting’ is pretty aggressive stuff, and I’m not sure if the tree structure below will stay healthy with such limited photosynthetic horsepower above, but I have high hopes.  I think I’ve finally learned the lesson of going too high up or far out in the tree to find wrist-size branches, only to realize that the fruit will be way out of reach. On the other hand, if the topworking is too low the deer just rip it to pieces.  Face level seems to be a pretty good happy medium so far as I can tell at this point.

Blossoms are just starting to show – let’s hope for another good harvest this year!