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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Winter Wonder Land

Just thought we'd post a few pictures and video of the land with the fresh snow we just got.  It is a winter wonderland up there.

We went up to go sledding and quickly realized that we will be needing to purchase a 4wheel drive vehicle that the whole family can ride in (the truck only seats 4).  Every tree was covered and the birch were bent low with the weight of the snow.  It was beyond words!

You can see our bridge just behind the kids.

Up the road.  Around a few corners and you reach the field.

Sledding and Snow Angels!

The snow was coming down!

Mira, the wonder dog, jumping for snowballs.

The Orchard - Part 3

October - December

The push was on.  There had been some scattered snow showers in November and now December was on us.  If we were going to get the orchard mulched it was now or never.  In the shadows snow still lay in a very thin veil on the ground, but in the sunny spots the frost hadn't quite set in yet.

We knew we had to find a reliable source of wood chips so we started making some calls.  Tree service companies were hit-or-miss as they were willing to part with chips but only when they were in the area.  The land is off the beaten track so most companies wanted us to pay them to haul it up there.  So that was a "no-go".

The other thing that is not helping is the fact that our area now has 2 bio-mass facilities where they pay loggers and tree service companies for their wood chips.  Don't get us started on this one.  First, of all this means a lot of loggers will be cutting extra trees that they wouldn't have normally (stuff that would be junk before is now dollar signs).  Second, I had a chance to visit one of these plants and when I asked the general manager how efficient they were he shrugged his shoulders and said, "so-so".  I don't believe that these plants should be labeled as "green energy" sources.  But like I said.....don't get me started.

But all our calling wasn't in vain.  We had known about a large wood chip pile quite near to us in a neighboring town.  We thought it was only for the use of the people who lived in that town.  Denise discovered that anyone could take from it and that the pile was refreshed quite often from town projects or local people who dumped wood chips there. So the wood chip issues seems to be resolved for the time being.

The second thing we needed was a large amount of cardboard.  Nate did some calling on this and on a Friday drove to all the local appliance stores picking up all he could.  He also got in touch with a local manufacture of cardboard boxes (yes we have a plant here in the county that makes cardboard boxes) and asked if they had any scrap or waste.  They told him that they recycle all their waste but they did set aside bundles of boxes for the community, free of charge (you know - for moving, packing a kids for college, putting in an acre of garden space in an orchard....normal cardboard box stuff.)

So in mid-December the mad rush to finish the orchard commenced.  We borrowed one friend's full-size pick-up truck and another friend's double axle dump trailer to move the wood chips (we actually borrowed that first friends tractor as well to load the chips - he lives right near the pile).  Seven full loads later we had all we needed to get the job done.

Here is a video and some pictures to show you the process.


and happy little us

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Orchard - Part 2

July  - October
Now that each apple tree was in, fertilized, and properly protected from pests...it was time to nurse them back to health.  They had been stuck in gallon containers for who knows how long and we wanted to make sure they could spread their roots before the cold weather hit.

With the deer fence (simple concrete mesh) and the rodent mesh (hardware cloth) around the trees we knew they wouldn't get picked on...but they need water everyday.

At first we were trucking up two 55 gallon drums of water from home, siphoning them into buckets and giving each tree about 7 - 8 gallons of water a day.  We slowly weened that back to one 55 gallon drum and 5 gallons of water, per tree, per day. 

We also put in posts to support each tree.  At first they were pressure treated posts - because they were free from a deck that a friend tore down.  Even though they were pretty old posts we decided to tear them out and put in cedar posts.  Not sure what we were thinking when we put them in but who wants chromated copper arsenate leaching into their apples.

As the summer led into fall we started gearing up for mulching around the trees.  We had watched the documentary Back to Eden (which you too can watch for free on their site).  We'd like to get more and more into natural ways for growing food as well as initiating permaculture techniques.  Part of this involves planting crops next to each other that are mutually beneficial.  We also want to try "no till" farming as much as possible.

We knew we had to kill the grass/hay around the trees and put down some organic matter to plant in.  Working at a hardware store provides me with tons of free cardboard.  We have a full dumpster of the stuff every week.  So I take my pick.  We also have a wood chipper at work...and we just happened to cut down 65 trees this summer.  So we planned to lay cardboard, chip the tree tops and lay it all around the trees.

Of course things don't always go as you plan.  The massive amount of cardboard I had scarfed didn't nearly go as far as I thought it would...and then to top it all off the chipper broke down.

But, the kids had a blast with the cardboard.

So, winter is coming and the orchard is far from mulched.  There is not enough cardboard, the chipper is down and out for quite a while, and the days are getting shorter  

Will our heroes finish the job before the snow flies?  Will they have a restful and peaceful winter knowing that the orchard has been put to bed and the ground is being prepared under a blanket of mulch and snow all winter long for the spring planting?
Part 3 Coming Soon

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Orchard - Part 1

Well......way back in July, Nate was looking around the outside of the hardware store he works at and noticed something.  There were about a dozen apple trees still out front that hadn't sold from the spring tree sale.  And they were marked down to 50% off!  Being the smart and thrifty man he is - he put two and two together.  Picking up the phone he called Denise.

"Hello, Honey-Puff," he said.  "Would you like 11 apple trees to plant up on the farm.  We could start an orchard and raise happy little apples."  

"Oh Cookie-Bear,"  she screamed with delight.  "I would love 11 apples trees to plant on the farm in the middle of the hottest month of the year." 

"Super-duper," came Nate's reply back to her.  "I'll bring them home tonight.  By the way....they all look a little sick from being in their gallon containers for the past 5 months....but I'm sure we can pull them through."

So off went 6 Winesap Dwarfs, 4 Yellow Lodi Semi-Dwarfs, and 1 lonely Yellow Delicious Dwarf to the farm....and there was much rejoicing.

Here are some pictures of the progress.  It took a few days but we got them all in the ground.  We mixed Alpaca dung (thanks Kim and Scott) along with rotted hay in each hole as a kind of "fertilizer cocktail".

 We spotted this momma and son prairie dog digging holes down the hill and decided to put their skills to work in the orchard.

 The momma was happy to dig....the son....not so much.

 Pretty good soil here.  It's been a manured hay field for the past 100 years or so.

Happy trees or happy girl or both?

 Alpaca poo and hay....who wouldn't love that slurried yumminess!

 Each tree got a cedar post for support (not installed when this pic was taken), hardware cloth to protect the truck from critters, and two pieces of 10' x 5' wire mesh (the kind used in concrete floors for strength) for it's own personal fencing system.  No way deer are getting near these guys!

All the trees in!  A beautiful sky to end a hard day of work!

Part 2 Coming Soon!