I have ruminated enough times on this blog about climate change that it would no longer pop up its ugly head, and yet it never ceases to amaze me as to how well it lends itself to a quick article. As homesteaders, so many of our daily activities lead to the out-of-doors, and therefore keeps us connected to nature and all her changing faces. As an example, currently we are in the middle of a week long rainy stretch (not so unusual for this time of year), but on May 14 (more than a couple days ago), we had high temps in Minnesota ranging from the mid 90’s (Fahrenheit) all the way up to 102 at my friends Permaculture farm an hour and a half south of town (a bit early for temps like that). Three days earlier we had close to freezing temps in the morning and freezing rain on and off throughout the first half of the day. A week or so prior to that we had a significant snowfall which followed one of the most perfect, 80 degree, bug free weekends I have ever experienced! Talk about extremes!
All of this occurred in roughly the last three weeks, a time that can be traditionally summed up with the old adage “ April showers, bring May flowers.” This year everything is mixed up, and a bit delayed. The dandelions are just starting to bloom, as are the haskaps (honeyberries), Creeping Charlie, Lilacs, and for the first time, our multi-cultivar plum tree that I have lovingly named “Plumsy”!
Plumsy now has about 17 varieties of plums and apricots grafted onto him, and if all the blossoms get pollinated, set fruit, and survive through harvest time, I can expect to taste Mount Royal, Pipestone, Red Cherry Plum, and Superior plums for the first time! I have only had a tree ripened plum at my father – in – laws, so this is exciting and something to look forward to!
Keeping on the theme of fruit trees and grafting, the 2013 preliminary results are in. A lot of grafting has been done and I am highly optimistic for the success rate this year! After much trial and error, I have officially switched back to the whip and tongue method of grafting for most of my work. Last year I used the cleft grafting method and had decent results, but the whip and tongue, when executed properly, makes a much stronger graft union due to more cambium layer contact between the scion and the stock.
I started out all this years grafting with the rootstock. 29 apples, 20 plums, 5 apricots (apricots can use the same rootstock as plums) and one Shipova (sorbus x pyrus) grafted onto a sucker root I dug up from my Ivan’s Belle Russian Rowan. I will hopefully know by July which grafts take and then can start planting out trees, or prepare a winter nursery area for the ones that are to be planted or sold next year.
Now onto the monsters in the family! As I mentioned earlier, Plumsy now has close to 17 varieties of plums and apricots. I added two European plums – Imperial Epinuese and Kuban Comet to help pollinate the Mount Royal, a bunch of American x Japanese plums, and two apricots – Apache and Black. Last year I had a 100% success rate with grafting onto to Plumsy, hopefully I can repeat that again this year.
Next is the infamous Son of !Frankentree! 3 years ago I started grafting onto a Haral-red apple tree. That first year only one graft took, but I kept at it and last year added 20 varieties and had about a 90% success rate. This year I added another 20 or so varieties and time will only tell, this fall I may have an apple tree with close to 40 varieties grafted onto Son of Frank!
Continuing with plant propagation, I tried a few other experiments in the last few months with varying degrees of success. I obtained a number of berry cuttings this winter (aronia, currants, elderberries, gooseberries, and haskaps) and continued with trying to root these. Most of the currants are doings pretty well, as are the elderberries, but the aronia and haskaps were complete failures. I am going to try again in a few weeks using green wood, rather than 1 year old growth.
Also mentioned in an earlier post is the package of chestnut seeds I received from my friend Cliff who owns Englands Nursery. I have not had the best germination rate with these (probably because I used a grow lamp rather than the sun!) but there have been a few that have done exceptionally well. The strongest one has found a home on the north end of my property, and will hopefully be the upper story of a future urban food forest!
In other news, a project I first mentioned back in this post, is now functionally complete. The new chicken coop and run was finished a week ago. I am happy to say that this project, except for the nails and screws, used nothing but salvaged and repurposed materials – the shed, window, all the lumber, fence panels, and welded wire fencing were all garbage to someone else, and now have a new lease on life helping to house and protect my flock of yardbirds.
Along with diverting salvageable resources from the waste stream, the new coop and run is functionally superior to the old one. Not only is it larger which will mean happier chickens, it will also be easier to clean. Our composting area is only a few feet away so it will be easier and more efficient than what we have been doing – the beauty in a well designed system!
Aside from the freakish weather, grafting and plant propagation, and the chicken coop project, spring here at the Dead End Alley Farm appears to be winding down quickly. Some blank spots in the food forest/orchard continue to be filled in with more apples, cherries, and plums, all my bee hive equipment is ready to go, but so far the bees I was hoping to purchase have fallen through. Hopefully my swarm traps do their jobs and I end up with some free bees!
A quick note to all my loyal readers, this tends to be the time of year when I get too busy to write on a regular basis. I anticipate this happening again this year, but you never know. I will do my best to keep puttin’ my thoughts down into words for all ya’ to read, but short of that, feel free to follow me on face book and keep up to speed with smaller updates – kind of like Autonomy Acres Lite! Also, I love hearing from my readers, so shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. Until next time, I hope climate change is kind to you and yours! Happy Growing Amigos y Amigas!! Peace & Cheers