Crops – Fruits

January 8, 2014 – View from Above

I thought it was time to see what our place looked like in Google Maps, and thought I’d show it on the blog. It simultaneously doesn’t look as open or tree-filled as it does from the ground.

Now, for a view with some annotations of some features visible from the air.

1) Fruit Trees (3 groups)
2) Annual Gardens (2 groups)
3) Burn Piles (5 groups)
4) House Windbreak
5) Field Windbreak/Christmas Trees
6) Native Hardwoods
7) White Pine Windbreak
8) Native Marsh planting, with willows to the south of the box
9) Tractor ruts from a bad experience!
10) Raspberries and Blackberries
11) Giant Rainwater tanks (2)
12) Animal Composter
13) Chicken Tractor (can see the daily “tracks”)
14) Old Granary
15) Barn
16) Hog Barn
17) Corn Crib
18) Machine Shed
19) Chicken Coop
20) Old Machine Shed
21) House
22) Garage
23) Wind Turbine
24) Cranberry Hedge

August 21, 2013 – Gardening Overload

Posts have been a bit absent lately.  I’ve been imprisoned by the abundance of the garden and fruit trees.

This is the last of three pendulous peach trees.  Although officially sick of peaches for the moment, we’ve got  canned peaches, peach pie filling, peach jam, dehydrated peaches, frozen peaches, grilled peaches, peach smoothies, and even some rotten peaches rotting in the sun.

In addition to the peaches, the plums are right behind, the green beans are being transformed into dilly beans and frozen beans, and blackberries and raspberries continue the march to ripeness and the next variety of apples is coming into season.

August 15, 2013 – Peach and Pear Season Begins

The best-ever peach, pear and apple season at high hopes continues with the first harvest of pears and peaches.

Taking the earliest-ripening peaches over to the house.

reliance peach

While we knew that pears ripened best off the tree, when the first few started falling, I thought it was time to figure out when to pick them. One source said if you lift a pear horizontal to the ground, if it breaks from the branch, it’s ready to take inside and put in the fridge for longer keeping, or in the house for a few days for immediate eating.

We’ve got three of these baskets of pears in the fridge, waiting…

July 26, 2013 – Pie in a Jar

With the abundance of apples, after freezing many bags, drying many trays, now we’ve moved onto making pie filling.

Here’s a jar that didn’t seal appropriately sitting in front of the apple tree.  Sometimes the headspace is tricky since the filling is so sticky and air bubbles get caught.  This one didn’t seal, so we’ll have to eat it soon -darn!

July 23, 2013 – Apple Season Begins

Let the apple season begin!  Our apple tree that produces ripe fruit ridiculously early in the season is in full swing.

So far, we’ve got over 10 gallons of peeled and cut apple slices in the freezer, waiting for another variety to get ripe, as a mix of varieties is best for applesauce.  Another benefit of freezing is they break down to sauce so much quicker than just off the tree.

July 17, 2013 – First Apricots at High Hopes

After years of pretending it was not a fruit tree, our only remaining apricot tree decided to fruit this year.  It isn’t a pretty tree, it is crooked in the main trunk – a badge of courage after surviving a windstorm that toppled many other trees.

The fruit is smaller than a southern apricot – but I’m still a bit amazed that they can grow this far north at all.

July 9, 2013 – Fruit on the Way!

It’s shaping up to be a great fruit year.

Cherries are almost done.

Pears are looking fine.

Apples are looking pretty bug-free.

More apples, these are Williams Pride.

Blackberries fruiting and blossoming.

Plums on the way.

First year for apricots!

Love how these apricots grew into a bird nest!

July 8, 2013 – Fallen Peaches

While peach trees aren’t known to be particularly strong, this one decided to fall just into fruit set.

It’s loaded with peaches, and has the will to live by the tiny bit of bark still connected.

A sampling of some of the fruit at ground level.  If they come to fruition, we’ll have the easiest peaches ever to pick!

To help insure its sister does not do the same thing, a little extra support is on the way.

May 10, 2013 – Spring has Sprung!

Now with the snow gone and all, it’s time for a walk around the farm to see what’s up.

The plums are usually one of the first out of the gate.

This pear is just starting to bloom, while another variety has already finished.

This one’s just peachy!

Apples are a bit behind the rest of the gang.

This cherry tree was blown horizontal in a storm two years ago and I didn’t have the heart to take it out, and it looks like it’s making a case to stay, even though the trunk is horizontal – easy picking from the top of the tree!

A close-up of the cherry blossoms.

Mushroom logs are beginning to set fruit as well.

Garlic is looking on target as well.

July 15, 2012 – Iowa Peaches

Who says peaches don’t grow in Iowa?

Unfortunately, these peaches represent about 25% of the peach harvest, or any fruit tree harvest for that case.  All the plums, cherries, and most the peaches were lost in the May frost.  If we’re lucky we’ll get a half-dozen apples as well.  So, this won’t be a big jam or canned fruit year.

July 13, 2012 – First Berry Harvest

Blackberries are one of the few success stories so far this season.  The bushes erupted full of berries, so I’ve been trying to keep them watered, in order not to squander the harvest.

This bowl is destined for the freezer and is about 1/6 of what we’ll need for a fine batch of blackberry wine.  Last year we gave 18 pounds of raspberries and were returned months later with 24 bottles of a nice, dry raspberry wine.  I’m not a fan of the sweet fruit wines, but our vinter did a good job making a dry wine.


March 28, 2012 – Peach Blossoms – 5 Weeks Early!

The peaches are in full bloom.

peach blossom

Flowering is about five weeks ahead of normal. The last two years the peaches were in full bloom on May 8 and May12.  Linda’s walking into class, delivering her lecture and thinking that the class is way behind, because usually when things look like this, it is near the end of the school year.

From the “oh well, good thing I never got around to it department” this cherry tree that was flattened by last July’s storm (and I haven’t got around to cutting “down” yet) decided it feels good enough to boom profusely.  It will be easy to pick cherries this year from this tree!

March 22, 2012 – Early Spring Blossoms

The first fruit tree blossoms decided to unfurl the last few days.

This plum is first out of the gate.

Just for a reminder – here’s a shot from exactly today four years ago today!

And this is a shot of our road from earlier in March 2008. All the 80 degree days this March have made snowy Marches a memory.

February 26, 2012 – The Sweetness of February Begins

It was a good Sunday.  I had been pretty much cooped up working indoors the last few weeks, so I was looking forward to a nice day outdoors.  Today was double-duty farm work.  It was time to boil down 15 gallons of maple sap and begin pruning the fruit trees.

mobile sugar shack

Here’s the world famous mobile sugar shack.  An old barrel stove on a metal wagon that can be moved around to account for the wind – and it was windy today – near wind advisory criteria.  This photo pretty much shows it all.  Cart with wood, buckets with sap, coffee cup, willing boy, stove and evaporator pan a bubbling, and maple tree with container in the background.

Today’s enterprise is uber-sustainable.  The wood is from the storm last summer, the plastic cartons that use the sap will be converted to tomato shelters in a few months, and the leftover logs that hadn’t burned all the way were snuffed out for some biochar.  To top it off, we produced more electricity than we used.

boy pruning tree

While we wait, it’s a good time to begin pruning the fruit trees.  Martin starts on this one that needs some attention.

boy sleeping in tree

But eventually, the kids tuckers out and finds a makeshift resting place in the branches of an apple tree.

August 12, 2011 – Putting Away the Apples

We’ve been working at preserving the early Williams Pride apples. It’s a wonderfully tart and sweet apple that ripens this time of year.

teen with apples, bushel of apples

So far, from just one tree, we’ve put up 18 quarts of apple pie filling, and numerous bags of dehydrated apples, and eight gallons of frozen sliced apples, awaiting another later variety to make applesauce next month. There’s still a good number of apples left on the tree for more applesauce fixins. Oh yeah, I also found some blueberries at the store for 99 cents a box, so since we missed out on the berries up north, froze about half and canned the other half.

But by far, the best concoction is the apple pie filling. It’s a bit of a hassle to make, but all Linda has to do is make a crust, pour in the filling and bake. Great for potlucks and last minute desserts with little fuss.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #220″

April 22, 2010 – Spring in Suspended Animation

Despite a couple of 85 degree plus Sundays in April, the rest of the month is just short of miserable. We should be in the mid-60’s by now, but it seems many days it struggles to reach 50.

Most everything seems to be in suspended animation. This asparagus is purple because of the cold and hasn’t  shown appreciable growth in a week since it poked out.

Fruit tree buds, like these plums, are likewise, just holding steady and not advancing like they usually do. Last year the plum trees were in full bloom on April 14 – looks like this year could be two weeks or more behind last year’s blooming time.

Despite being the 8th warmest March on record on a global scale, we did not contribute to that warmth. There’s blue dots over us. April will likely be even much colder from average than March.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #205″

February 8, 2011 – Claire’s Lemon Meringue Pie

OK, it’s back to Iowa farm-grown produce.  Today, we feature lemons. I neglected to post these back over Christmas break, when the lemon harvest began in earnest.

cut lemons

Yes, these lemons were grown at High Hopes Gardens, albeit indoors for some of the year.

Claire shows no remorse shortly after ripping these baby lemons from her long-time companion lemon tree, named Panda.  Being raised on a farm, and around farm animals, I guess she had no troubles tearing this lemon from its mother and immediately cutting it up.

The non-meringuey part of the pie.

lemon meringue pie

The completed pie.

Never one to know when to stop making Panda feeling bad, here Claire returns with a sinister smile to taunt Panda with what her babies looked like after being knifed, crushed, and cooked!

one year ago…”Home DNA”

August 16, 2010 – Pie Filling

The raspberries are just starting to bear heavily. With all the rain, they are prolific. We picked a couple of gallons from a 70 foot row today (after picking for market two days ago). The apple pie filling was such a hit last year, that we thought we’d try raspberry pie filling. We also had the first few blackberries coming on.

We ended up making seven quarts of raspberry filling, three quarts of blackberry, and we unfroze cherries put in the freezer from earlier in the year for this purpose and canned seven quarts of cherry pie filling. Seventeen pie fillings ready for winter!

one year ago…”Bean Trellis”

April 24, 2010 – More Apple Blossoms

Although I’ve posted a few photos lately of orchard blossoms, I can’t resist as the blossoms have taken center stage at the farm the last few days.

Williams Pride apple blossoms

This is a Williams Pride apple blossom.  William’s Pride has been a great performer at our farm.

Apple Tree in Bloom by Beehive

We have a couple of trees and a beehive very close for pollination!

Williams Pride Apple Blossoms

One more parting shot and some summary information from a longer description available from Purdue Extension:

Williams’ Pride is an early-maturing, attractive, dark red apple with excellent fruit quality and field immunity to apple scab. The fruit is of medium to large size and matures with the very earliest known commercial red cultivars in the midwestern United States. It ripens 1 week after Lodi and 7.5 to 8 weeks before Delicious. Williams’ Pride is released as a potential commercial cultivar for use as a summer dessert apple. The apple is named in honor of Edwin B. Williams, Emeritus Professor and long time leader of the disease-resistant apple breeding program at Purdue Univ.

This summer apple is unique in that the flesh is very crisp and firm and that the fruit can be held in storage at least 6 weeks without loss in quality or firmness. The attractive, moderately bright, dark red fruit do not drop easily and retain firmness, crisp flesh texture, and flavor on the tree up to 2 weeks after maturity. During this time they develop nearly a 100% deep dark purple-red and heightened flavor, character, and juice content. Ripening is somewhat uneven and will require more than one picking.

The new cultivar produces a vigorous, spreading tree with sturdy growth, and good branch angles. Moderate to moderately heavy annual crops of moderate to large-sized fruits are produced without chemical or manual thinning.

The new cultivar has good to moderate resistance to fire blight.  Williams’ Pride has also shown moderate to good resistance to powdery mildew.  Leaf bronzing caused by parasitic mites has not been observed even in trees grown without miticides.

Bloom is annually very heavy, with a much extended bloom period. When compared with standard commercial cultivars, the duration of bloom extends from very early season to mid- or late mid-season. This character may provide avoidance of spring frost injury.

one year ago…”85 degrees”

April 18, 2010 – Spring Landscapes

This time of year the contrast between the dead corn and bean fields and life of everything is else readily apparent.

This is probably as good as the south berry garden will look this season, before the weeds overcome us.

This row of plum and cherry trees smells like a roomful of grandmothers who prefer floral perfumes and have lsot judgment as to the proper amount to apply!

This is the newest strawberry patch – the other one petered out, so this is the new spot – for my future reference – top right Evie day neutral, bottom right Cabot, top left Earliglow, bottom left Cavendish.

one year ago…”Old Red Cedar Shingles”

April 14, 2010 – Spring Flowering Begins!

Spring blossoming time has just begun! We’ve been 15 to 20 degrees above normal the last week, so plants have really been amping up.

plum blossoms

The plums are first out of gate in offering the bees the first big rush of pollen and nectar.

pear blossoms

The pear trees are not far behind – looks like our trees are finally old enough to produce more than just a handful of pears this year.

one year ago…”Shed Deconstruction Continues”

October 2, 2009 – Applesauce Day

I’ll spare you the details of the processing, but today might be a record canning day at high hopes!  The girls spent about three hours peeling apples, and we had some bags of apples in the freezer from earlier maturing trees. We made nine canner’s worth of applesauce.  Apples take a while to cook into sauce, so nine batches is a good day’s output.

You’ll notice that the applesauce is red – we had a bunch of frozen strawberries, frozen cherries, and plenty of raspberries.  So, the applesauce is mixed with those fruits – it is tasty!  The total put up for the day is 28 quart jars, 35 pint jars, and 32 1/2 pint jars which are great for lunches.  All in all, it’s the equivalent of about 53 quarts of applesauce.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), there are still lots of apples left on the trees!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #135″

July 20, 2009 – Fine Apple Crop (so far)

The apple trees have set a tremendous amount of fruit this year. Today I tried to make the trees resemble apple trees more so than grapevines. In the first go-round, I probably picked a couple of 5 gallon buckets of golf-ball sized and smaller apples from four trees.

williams pride apples

But the William’s Pride apples are further along and won’t be long before they are ready. I think they are amazingly crisp and tasty for an early apple.

one year ago…”Martin’s View of the Swamp”

June 1, 2009 – Dead Peaches

OK, so today’s picture isn’t so upbeat, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.  We’re on the fringe of the peach range (most people would say we are out of the range), but we’ve planted peaches nonetheless.  Last year was an incredible production year – we harvested many bushels of peaches and sold them, dried them, ate them fresh, and canned about 60 quarts of them.

However, the fragility of the trees comes through this year.  The last winter’s unusually cold temperatures below -20 must have been too much for some of the trees.  Some of them are dead, and others have leafed out substantially less than usual.  That means it’s time to plant some more next year!

one year ago…”Miniature Horse Grooming”

April 30, 2009 – Plum Blossoms

We continue to be in a dark, cold weather pattern.  Hard penance to pay for the 80 degree day last week. Low overcast with continual wetness starts to feel oppressive after a while.  I’m worried that the wetness, cool temps and wind will prevent the pollinators from getting out to the fruit trees.

The plums are first out of the gate and in full bloom.

one year ago…”Wind Turbine Foundation Poured”

March 15, 2009 – Prunings

Now that the pruning has been completed, it is time to haul away all the leftovers. Rather than many trips with the two-wheel cart, I thought I’d fire up the old garden tractor and use the small hay wagon.

Of course, by the time the battery gets charged, then the drive belt slips off the tractor and takes lots of knuckle scraping and colorful language to get it back on, everything worked fine!

one year ago…”Maple Sugaring”

March 11, 2009 – More Pruning

I discovered last weekend that fruit tree pruning is a great complimentary activity to boiling maple sap.  I can prune a tree for 15-20 minutes, take a needed break by wandering over to the stove and throwing another chunk of wood in the fire, and so it goes.  Today it was frightfully cold, down to the single digits – I’m hoping this is the last stretch of lows in the single digits for the season.

What remains on these fruit trees is to pick up the branches and haul them off to be burned.  I must admit, it gives me great satisfaction to see a well-pruned tree.  Even when passing by another farmstead, seeing a pruned tree engenders a feeling of care and competence on the part of the owner.  Likewise, when I see a fruit tree is disrepair, reaching towards the sky in a tangled mess, it makes me sad that the tree does not have a caretaker.

one year ago…”Thermal Imaging”

March 4, 2009 – Tree Pruning

It seems like the fruit tree pruning time has snuck up on me this year. It’s just been so cold, I haven’t been able to get out.I always think I should be able to get it done in one day – but I keep planting more trees and they keep growing, so it is more than a one day job – besides, the hand begins to hurt after a few hours of pruning and sawing.

Here’s a peach tree before the pruners take to the limbs.

And the tree after its annual haircut.  Looking at it now, I see a couple more cuts I need to make!

one year ago…”A First Melting”

September 22, 2008 – Apple Peeling, 2008 Style

The latest round of apple-peeling was assigned to the girls and they approached it 2008 style.

They dragged out an extension cord, a clock radio that has an IPod docking station and an IPod player to help pass the time.  I much prefer the IPod in the docking station to the earbuds, even if that means I can hear music that I might not have picked.  Got to keep the help happy, productive, and talking to each other!

one year ago…”Marshall County Sheriff “takes out” Martin”.

September 17, 2008 – Apples, Apples Everywhere

The wet spring produced a bumper apple crop.  We’re relatively absent orchardists as far as spraying goes, so besides some dormant oil in the spring and being fanatical about picking up the deadfalls to feed the animals, our apples for the most part are not things of beauty.

But we get enough to eat, and preserve.  This year we’ve made raspberry applesauce, peach applesauce, blackberry applesauce, and apple applesauce.

Since the freezers are full, we don’t have much room for frozen apples for winter pies, so I tried canning apple pie filling.  It required a type of ingredient that isn’t readily available, something called Clear Jel A, a type of starch that holds up under the processing time in the boiling water canner.  The finished jars look wonderful!  Linda mentioned that someone at work wanted to buy one – my answer was – he couldn’t pay me enough to part with one of the seven jars!  Depending on how the time goes, I’d like to make some more.

one year ago…”Turkey Roosting”.

September 7, 2008 – Plums!

This is the year for the plum tree in the front yard next to the driveway – the tree is now about 20 feet tall and up until this year, had not produced fruit – I was ready to give up on it and replace it with something else.

But this year it has come through with flying purple colors – baskets upon baskets of plums – plum sauce is put up for yogurt and ice cream, whole plums, plum preserves, and plum and vodka soaking in the basement.

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Purple”.

August 13, 2008 – What to do with Peaches?

Ok, we’re almost ready to say uncle with the peaches, but there still might be half the peaches left on the trees.

Here are the trays right out of the dehydrator.

The contents of each tray fit nicely into one bag in what I call the “suck and seal” machine.  It’s always a bummer to see how small the fruit gets after drying.

Canned peaches and blackberry jam on an intermediate canning day.  The most we’ve done this year is 28 quarts of peaches in one afternoon.  We’re packing them in quarts, pints, and jelly jars for single-serving jars for lunch. Emma is a gifted peach and tomato skinner.  She has great hands for removing the skins from peaches and tomatoes after blanching.

one year ago…”Restored Marshall County Courthouse”

August 8, 2008 – Cherry Leaf Spot

We’ve got a bad case of what I think is cherry leaf spot on some of our cherry trees.

The leaves become spotted, turn yellow, and fall off the tree.

This cherry tree looks like October instead of August.

One of the recommended cultural practices is to remove the fallen leaves to decrease the amount of disease that overwinters in the soil to reinfect the trees the next season.  I’m hoping that the fact that the first six months of 2008 were the wettest on record contributed to this disease that is mainly spread through rain splash and wet leaves.  Our north star cherries in another location do not seem to be suffering from the same problem – I don’t know if the difference in susceptibility is due to a different variety, or location on a southern slope instead of northern slope that .

one year ago…”Claire to Boston: Part 1″

July 27, 2008 – Apple Pickin’

Martin is using the fruit picker to harvest the last of the apples from the tree that was laid down on the ground during one of the spring storms.

The tree is literally hanging on by a thread and we’re hoping to get it through this year so we can grab a graft next spring to continue the tree – it’s an old variety that ripens in mid-July and is good for pies and sauce.

one year ago…”Another Summer Thundrestorm”

June 29, 2008 – Late Cherries

The cherries are late this year, but they are here – a welcome sight after last year’s late threatening frost and this summer’s rain.  The weather service announced that the first six months of 2008 were the wettest first six months of the year on record – we’ve never had a Jan-June stretch of wetter weather.

This is a North Star cherry tree – the other variety – Montmorency still has green balls for fruit.  This tree has already been picked a couple of days and has plenty more cherries ready to pick.  These cherries make great pies and jams.

one year ago…”Welcome Facets Readers”

June 5, 2008 – Enough Already – Battered by High Winds

Last night about 1:30 am I awoke to the power blinking off and on and finally off for good. I went downstairs to find a battery radio to find out what was going as it was an evening of many tornadoes and we’re all a bit edgy after Parkersburg. The lightning was very intense and I had a bad feeling that a huge line of storms was heading our way after taking out a power line to our west – but before I could wake up everyone else, the storm hit and we scrambled into the basement – when I got into Emma’s room to fetch her, the open window on the south side of the house blew rain all the way across the room to the opposite side of the room! Any window that was open even 1/4 inch on the south side let in a torrent of water and it was so intense it even leaked through the floor and dripped out of the ceiling in the living room.

We huddled and found out a tornado was in the neighborhood less than a few miles away. I didn’t sleep very well the rest of the night and when we surveyed damage this morning, here’s what we found.

Our biggest casualty was this 60 foot spruce tree just north of Claire’s bedroom and near Martin’s playground. When we saw the big hole in the sky out Claire’s window at night, we new something was up. We shined our flashlights out and saw the tree had fallen. Claire was a bit shaken, thinking the tree could have fallen on her while sleeping!

Our one and only summer apple tree that bears fruit in July is also a victim of the storm. The chair was by the garage, about 50 feet away when we went to bed.

Maizie’s doghouse also got blown away a bit.

This is most interesting to me – we had placed black landscape fabric between our tomatoes and covered them with heavy hog panels – the wind picked the panels up off the ground and wrapped one around some tomato stakes. I literally sunk in 4-5 inches in the mud in the garden.

Even the hay wagon was kind enough to blow up from its usual resting place by the barn to up near the fallen apple tree to aid in cleanup! We were lucky the shed doors didn’t blow off, but they did blow out on the bottom.

The ground is littered with fruit that was ripped off the trees. These are cherries.

This white pine looks a lot different than it did yesterday – it looks like all of last year’s needles were stripped off the tree and mainly this year’s clumpy new growth were undamaged.

We weren’t the only ones – here’ s the view at a neighbor’s directly 1 mile east of us – they lost this pine and others as well.

Our neighbors immediately to our north had the most hassle as one branch is resting on the house, another limb took out a power line and they lost some shingles and siding as well.

Here’s a picture of nothing! You can see the cement forms which were part of a cattle feeder that usually has a building over the top of it – the cement remains and the building is gone. This is on the blacktop about a mile away near the big curve on E63.

Some of it is up to 3/4 of a mile away – the wreckage is strewn throughout the field – the farmstead that it came from is in the distance.

This barn was in sorry state before, but now it’s worse!

The pile of lumber to the left was in the garage, part of which is on the right! This is at the first house immediately to our north.

A part of an outbuilding roof ended up on the roof of another shed on this place, just about a half mile away. Right now we are feeling grateful and heard from our neighbor at the Sheriff’s Office that they think it was a tornado that didn’t quite touch the ground.

You may be wondering about the wind turbine – it’s up and running this morning!

one year ago…”Farm View Series #2 SE Corner”

May 12, 2008 – Peaches!

In addition to Reliance peaches, we recently planted some “Iowa Peaches” which are evidently smaller and white-fleshed. They bloomed for the first time this year.

The blossoms of the Iowa Peach are much larger and deeper pink than the Reliance peach.

Here’s a “starter” bird nest. It’s nestled in a sturdy place, but at about 18 inches off the ground, probably isn’t in a very safe place from cats and dogs.
one year ago…”Putting the Lambs to Work”

May 10, 2008 – Glorious Spring

We’ve reached a spring day worth living! Most of the fruit trees are in full bloom, the weather is beautiful, and it was dry enough to get some onions in the ground today.

The pinks and whites of the emerging apple blossoms are hard to beat.

Of course, the shy little violets tucked under the apple tree do their part to announce spring as well.

The cherry blossoms outdo nearly every other tree is sheer volume of blossoms.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #71″

May 5, 2008 – Fruit Tree Blossoms

The first fruit trees, mainly the plums and apricots are in full blooming regalia. 

The scents catch you in unexpected places and gently remind yo to notice the wind direction and sweetness of the season.

I’m cheating here by putting this picture from May 6 in today.  Just after sunset a big line of storms moved through to the north.  Emma and I were out on the gravel road watching the huge outflow boundaries of the storm and looking for tornadoes as one had been associated with the storm just one county away (that’s within sight distance out here).  One second we were basking in the warm, humid south breeze and just like someone hit a switch, we felt the cold north wind rush past.

After years of waiting, the first pear blossoms grace the farm!

one year ago…”These Boots Are Made for the Hen House”

March 19, 2008 – Pruning

Today was the beginning of fruit tree pruning.

Some of the apple trees we planted are now large enough to climb up to prune the top branches.

The goats enjoy a little roughage and chew on the tips of the prunings.

Cherry trees generally don’t need a lot of pruning – primarily to get rid of the watersprouts near the base and any crossing or dead branches.

You can do your own “Where’s Waldo” to see what branches were cut from the previous photo.
one year ago…”When I Grow Up…”

February 16, 2008 – Thinking Ahead to Spring…

After a few years of planting “safe” trees, this year it time to go out on a limb in a manner of speaking and try some more unusual varieties.  It was prudent to start with native trees for the bulk of the planting, but now it’s time to experiment a bit a push the growing zones a bit.  All the following photos and descriptions are from Oikos Tree Crops in Michigan (I like to get trees from north of me, to help with hardiness, although I know that most of Michigan is a zone warmer than here due in part to the Great Lakes).  I ordered four of each to start.

New northern pecan selection created by using wild tree germplasm from across the U.S. Selections were based on the early ripening characteristics, so all seedlings would fill nuts every year in southern Michigan. Special thanks to the Northern Nut Growers Association, and some of our more nutty customers, we were able to obtain seed from Minnesota to northern Illinois. Some of this strain has its origin near the ancient portages on numerous Midwestern rivers and streams. It took about 25 years to evaluate this strain completely. In the last 10 years of nut production, there was only one year that the nuts didn’t fill. That was the same year the Concord grapes didn’t reach their normal sugar count and we had a frost at the farm on the eve of July 1. Besides that one extreme, we always have trees producing in our hedgerow. Starting in early October, the nuts will begin filling and be completely out of the shuck throughout the month of October and early November. Although many of the original seed trees have perished on the Mississippi flood plain, we are fortunate to grow and offer these as progenitors of a new generation of the most northern hardy pecan. Height to 60 ft. with equal width. Hardiness -35 °F.


Next to the English walnut, heartnut is the easiest of the walnuts to use for nut production and edibility. The flavor is very mild, similar to cashews. Clusters of nuts are produced in profusion near the ends of the branches. The nuts are fairly easy to crack and come out in halves and wholes. The trees are easy to grow as a yard tree and will develop a wide spreading crown with horizontal branching. Young trees can bear nuts when only 4-6 ft. tall. A few insects attack the tree, but resistant to all fungal diseases that attack butternut or black walnut. Hardiness -25

The American persimmon is one of the most luscious and sweet fruits containing up to 30% sugar. ‘If not ripe,’ said Captain John Smith of Jamestown, ‘it will draw a man’s mouth awrie with much torment.’ ( Hmm – Similar to eating my grandmother’s corn relish.) And that’s the real challenge of growing persimmons north of their native range. Unripe fruit will make it difficult to use them for anything except frozen golf fruit balls and possibly feeding a few birds and deer. As the fruit ripens the astringency decreases and the sweetness increases. Trees can grow throughout the north even in Minnesota or Maine but in short season areas the fruits will not be edible to humans. Contrary to folklore, frost has little to do with ripening. Having a long warm fall something like an Indian summer really does wonders for edibility. About 25 years ago, we began surrounding our property line with American persimmons from different northern seed sources. Today we have many trees producing a wide variety of shapes and sizes of fruit. Ripening occurs from mid-September through late November. After the leaves fall, the fruit hangs on throughout the fall and winter. All types of wildlife consume this high-energy fruit either in the tree or on the ground. A favorite of deer, persimmons are a strong attractant and will bring them in quantity to your property. Deer rarely browse seedling trees since the foliage is poisonous to them. Persimmon is in the ebony family and the wood is very valuable for special uses like golf club heads. Dark heartwood. Persimmons will grow in a variety of soils, including clay, sand or wet muck. Tolerant to shade and competition from grass or other trees. Trees begin producing at 6-8 years of age. Dioecious-male and female flowers on separate plants. A seedling population will contain a 50-50 mix. There is no way to know ahead of time what sex the tree is until it flowers. Space 10-30 ft. Height to 50 ft.-30 F hardiness for our strains.

The largest native fruit – up to one pound – with a rich, custard-strawberry, banana flavor. Purple orchid flowers in early May. Best growth in a rich, moist high-organic soil, although tolerant to sand and clay. Grows extremely well throughout North America from Florida to Maine to Nebraska. Some commercial growers are found in California too. Two are required for fruit set. They need each other’s pollen to produce. It takes 4-8 years before fruiting begins. Slow-growing at first, established plants average 1-2 feet growth. The Louisiana Indians wove the inner bark into fiber cloth. The fruits can be made into jam or custard and mixed to make cookies and cakes. The fruits can be eaten fresh after they become soft and fully ripened in September and October. The seeds are lima bean shape and contain alkaloids that are not ingested by birds or mammals. Raccoons and possums are frequent visitors to the groves we visit in the wild. Deer never eat the foliage of the plant. A pyramidal tree to 20 feet. Plant 10-15 feet apart for a dense grove or 20 by 20 for an orchard. Great understory tree with oak, hickory and maple.

one year ago…”The Cast”

September 8, 2007 – Raspberries & Apples

Today was another big picking day – both raspberries and apples.  I even got tired of picking raspberries today.  We also started on the peach harvest, they seem to ripen better off the tree.  But those will be for another day.

So, 24 more jars of canned raspberries, 11 pints of peach-applesauce, and 22 pints of raspberry-applesauce.  The apple sauce was from some apples we had peeled and frozen earlier in the season, plus some apples the girls picked and peeled today. ‘Tis the season for harvest.  I was thinking, although it might seem like a lot, 33 pints of applesauce is not even one jar a week.  OK, you can subtract summer months when other fruits are in season, and that leaves us with one jar a week from today’s batch!

one year ago…

July 29, 2007 – Peaches!

Today is a day to live for – fresh sun-warmed peaches just off the tree!

This is a day we greatly look forward to – we are cheating the range of peaches to get them this far north – and despite the ice storm and late, hard frost, the trees still managed to produce a tempting basket of fruit.

one year ago…

June 11, 2007 – Cherries!

We have one cherry tree that produced this year (we are grateful as many trees around here have no fruit because of the late cold snap).

This photo shows cherries in various forms of processing – cherries right off the tree, cherries pitted, and the cherry pitter full of pits.  These cherries are destined for cherry jam.

Martin insisted on getting in a picture as well!

one year ago…

November 17, 2006 – Fruit Tree Problems

This year, a number of our fairly new peach trees developed wounds on the south side of their trunks. While I was at the Small Farm Conference I spoke with someone from the Missouri experimental fruit station after a grafting workshop who told me to paint the south sides of the trunks white because the hot winter days followed by cold were causing the splits in the trunks. He said you don’t need fancy paint, interior latex works as well as anything.

It looks kind of strange to see all the white trunks offering striking contrast to the autumn browns.

one year ago…

September 15, 2006 – Peaches and Raspberries

Our raspberries refuse to surrender. We’ve been picking since mid-August. On Monday we picked 2 gallons and today (Friday) 6 more quarts. This is from a 50 foot row!

The oldest peach tree was ready for harvest as well. Three crates of peaches from it this year – about 1/2 or less of last year’s harvest from the tree, but still lotsa peaches.

So, time to make more jam, and depending how the mood strikes us tomorrow – canned or dried peaches. I would not be disappointed if it froze tonight (it won’t for quite some time yet). I’m ready for something else besides picking and putting food up (at least for a while). I don’t think I’d do very well in a place without seasons. It’s nice to anticipate, enjoy, and exhaust each season. I look forward to fall – typically a time to fix up buildings/create contrivances in the workshop after the gardens die.

September 4, 2006 – Gift of Heirloom Apples

Today Helen Gunderson stopped by the farm and dropped off two Wealthy apple trees she grafted from an 80 year old tree on her childhood farm. I’ll have to ask her where the tree was in this arial photo shown in the previous link.

We were able to pick two of the trees to plant at High Hopes. To facilitate this project, Helen learned how to graft and brought these trees from grafted twigs to these nice potted trees over the summer. She is spreading the apples around the state, a modern-day Johnny Appleseed (except the true story of Johnny Appleseed involves lots of hard cider and profit, but that’s another story for a diffent day).

August 12, 2006 – At the Market

Linda had a late morning wedding (one of her ag students) in Tama, so it was up the Martin, Emma and I to man the market booth (Claire went with Linda).

It was a pretty good market day as those things go. Emma alone sold $30 worth of dog treats and cookies.

We did have an abundance of plums this week and had made a bunch of plum jam and bought more than a few home unsold, which we are now canning in earnest.

I told Martin he would get a quarter for each jar of jam he sold. We had some samples on bread and his job was to ask people if they’d like to try a sample. He was very hesitant to start. But even I was a bit taken aback when he asked a young woman if she wanted to try a sample. She did and responded politely that it was good. Then, out of nowhere, he says – “Well, if you like it, then you should buy a jar.” She did.

June 18, 2006 – Cherries are In!

Even though the strawberries are still coming in, the cherries have arrived.

Linda picked them to make her favorite jam – cherry jam. Today to celebrate Father’s Day we went to Ledges State Park – a place we used to hang out when we lived in Ames. I didn’t have my camera so no pics.

We walked down the creek, surrounded by rock cliffs and lots of greenery. Nice place on a hot day. The road that winds through the park, occasionally goes through (instead of over) the creek. Kids line up and urge cars and trucks to drive fast through the water to splash. We also climbed up to a rocky outlook over the Des Moines River and felt nervous with a four year old.

There were lots of people there today picnicing, the most notable, an “absent” father who had a sun shelter set up watching TV! Even the natural wonders and his family around him were not enough to lure him from the TV and watching the cars going around in a circle over and over…

March 29, 2006 – The Ultimate Pruning – A New View!

Today was the day two of the three old apple trees were cut down.

This is the view before the cutting.

After the cutting/Before the hauling.

This is the view after the cutting.
The apple trunks were cut into logs and ends sealed with wax to prepare for Shiitake mushroom spawn in a few weeks. The branches (all four loads) were hauled to the burn pile. It was with both sadness and relief that the trees were cut. They were very bland tasting apples and the trees took longer to prune than the rest of the trees combined and picking up the deadfalls was a pain. However, they were part of this place for a long time. We kept one of them as it has very early (July) apples great for sauce and we’ll give it one more year and graft some branches to new rootstock to continue it on this place.

If you look closely, you can see the first raised bed in place – I’m going to build a bunch of raised beds where the trees used to be for more gardening space. Right now, there is a chicken tractor perched on top – we’ll use that to create the soil.

We also put up a small cold frame to get a jump on lettuce and early spring crops.

March 3, 2006 – Tree Pruning

Today, a few more trees were pruned. I’ll take the easy way and lead with the kid before showing the before and after pictures! After I crawled up this tree to prune it, Martin wanted to try, so here is the little monkey up the tree.

The following pictures show a before and after of a small apple tree.

Now a bigger apple tree before and after pruning:

Tree pruning is as much an art as a science and it is a task I enjoy. I follow some pretty simple rules:
1) Cut damaged branches out first
2 )Cut branches that are crossing/rubbing
3) Cut branches that grow straight up
4) Cut branches to allow light and air circulation in tree

I generally am not afraid to cut out 1/4 or more of the branches out if the tree needs it.

November 4, 2005 – Peach Wrap

Today, nothing was “urgent” so lots of smaller things got some attention. I wrapped tree wrap around the peach and nectarine trees – hopefully that will help with sunscald and winter heat/cold damage.

I also put permanent metal tags on a number of trees, worked some more on the siding on the corn crib, but have reached the height that I can do solo, started sizing up the roofing on the old machine shed, put some summer furniture away for winter. It was another gorgeous day.

June 19, 2005 – First big Flush of Fruit

Today was the first big flush of putting food away. The cherries are beginning and the strawberries are at peak. We’ve got strawberries freezing on cookie sheets, cherries reserved for pie, cherry jam made, cherries drying in the dehydrator, and strawberries left over for eating fresh or waiting for an empty cookie sheet.
strawberry patch
Emma’s helping out in the strawberry patch.
Grandma Jo helped out too!
cherry picking

Martin helped for a short time picking cherries.
cherry picking

Martin examines a cherry.
Later today cousin Jill arrives fro m L.A. and Graunt (combination “adopted”aunt/grandma)arrives from Minneapolis as well.

May 1, 2005 – Bark & Lichen

Here’s all I’m going to say about today from the weather forecast:

“Isolated light rain showers and light snow showers in the afternoon. Breezy. High in the upper 40s. West wind 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Gusts up to 40 mph.” Enough about today!

I’ve been thinking about this bark on an apple tree at the farm.
The bark is starting to get old. There are lichens growing on it. I associate lichens with old places – for example all lichen growing on exposed bedrock in northern Minnesota.

This was one of the first apple trees I planted when we moved to the farm. It was part of a pasture that went to within 75 feet of the house. It makes me think of the consequences of our actions and the understanding that can only come with time and watching life unfold. Anybody can look at a tree, but until you’ve planted one, watched it grow up and get old, you may not really “know” that tree. The time from sapling to maturity gives a deeper perspective. In the past few months, I’ve seen and cut up some trees that were probably planted by some of the first settlers of this farm and I’ve planted some new ones. I haven’t and probably won’t be around to see those trees mature, but seeing the lichen on this tree gives me some sense of the passage of time.

Likewise, I’m aware of the part of life I’m now in – I’ve seen a parent die and watched children be born into the world. There’s a lot more to see – like seeing the children grow to fruition, whatever that may be. There’s something from this passage of time and long-term awareness that seems to be lacking in our disposable and short-attention span culture. I’m grateful that the lichen on a tree can remind me that delayed gratification can indeed be sweeter and richer than a quick fix. Somehow the apple from the tree planted, watered, and pruned by my hand is no contest in satisfaction to the bag of apples I can instantly buy that have been stored in ethelyne-controlled warehouses for months. That’s one reason I like the farm – there are so many of those things in place – and more on the way.

April 24, 2005 – BRRR!

Last night was cool – I was up at 6:30 am and was curious what it was like outside, so I got up and went outside. The weather said it was 28 in Marshalltown and 32 in Newton – so it was probably in between at high hopes. There wasn’t a lot of frost, but there was 1/16 or so of ice on the dog dish. As long as I was up and everybody else was still asleep, I went to the dump pile at the pallet company and got another load of wood shavings. I guess we’ll see in a few weeks, how the cold affected the fruit trees.

April 19, 2005 – Bonus hours

Today Linda had a dinner meeting, so I came home early from work. Claire made dinner on her own for the family and Martin and I went into the back pasture and finished the fence around the “island” planting. We just have about 100 feet of fence by the pine planting to move out 16 feet and the fencing will be done – still no rain, even though there has been a threat.

In the on-going series of spring blossoms – today it’s the nectarine. This is the last year for this tree. It blew over in a storm a few years ago and grew back from the rootstock. We let them ripen last year, but they really weren’t any good, but we thought we’d let it bloom this spring before cutting it down to enjoy the profusion of blossoms. It will be replaced.

April 18, 2005 – Finishing Up Mulching (sort of)

Today, I finished distributing the last of the mulch. Everybody’s tucked in, but I could probably add another truckload to make some thin spots a little thicker. Here’s a look at the pines completed

pine planted
Sharp eyed readers may notice that some of the trees are protected by a fence and others are not. No, this is not the Sven and Ole planting, the nursery sent us about 20 extra trees, so I started an unplanned row and have to move part of the fence over. I’ve also got about 1/4 of the fence around the hardwoods to complete – then I will be done with this project except for watering.

The trees are in full bloom – here’s a peach blossom on a tree in the ground at high hopes for its third spring.
peach blossom

March 13, 2005 – Sunday, Sunday

The day dawned cold and clear, but it was a pleasant cold and clear after all the wind. Of course, by the time we got around to some outside work, the clouds and wind returned. We started pruning the last three apple trees. Here’s Linda hard at work. Martin has proved himself an able tree-climber, so in a decade or so, I’ll have a monkey to climb the trees on my behalf!

Linda Pruning