Shelterbelts

Earlier this summer, we obtained 50 chokecherries, several dozen golden birch, and some fast-growing poplars from TreeTime.ca.  The plants were dormant, but quickly grew. I am sure by this time next year, they will actually have enough growth to protect the orchard somewhat from the West winds that blow down that pasture behind there.

 

Currently, we are having the ‘invasion of the grasshopper’. They don’t seem to care that much for fresh Haskap, but there is some damage in the big orchard. Mostly leaves, so I don’t think it’s going to matter that much. At any rate, I’m not going to use anything on them, and they will disappear when the cold weather comes.
There has been no rain for over 2 weeks, but the moisture meter is still reading ‘sufficient’ at 4-6″ depth, so I’m not watering. I think the little drought will encourage the roots to search a bit deeper and develop before the winter sets in, and that’s a good thing.

 

I also got soil samples for the North Big Orchard, and it’s amazing!! After one year, we’ve gone from a pH of 7.2 to 7.5 (as high as 7.9 in some spots), down to 6.9!! And the only amendment that might be needed is a little bluestone (copper sulfate), so we’ll go the natural route on that, and put it on this Fall just before the frost. Most of the other elements are sufficient as are the minerals. We’ve kept the wild oats at bay (they grew rampant) by cultivating around the plants themselves, hours of hand-weeding, and simply mowing between the rows. Next year, we’ll plant dwarf Dutch Clover between the rows. The mowings from the wild oats were beneficial for a natural mulch around the plants, so we didn’t get anything else! I also think the disintegration of the mowings’ mulch put some nitrogen and other much-needed organic matter back into the soil. The Home Acre little orchard is perfect, and needs nothing. I’ve spread a little compost (garden detritus and kitchen scrapings with horse manure from across the road) in the rows as it becomes available.

 

Here are some photos of the tree line in the ‘Home Acre’. The chokecherries are to the left by the fence.

treelinehomeacre treelinepoplartreelinegoldenbirchtreelinepoplar

 

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Water Bearer–Deke Helps in the Orchard

After a couple of rows of hoeing, we get pretty thirsty. Going back to the truck for water was getting tiresome, so we decided to have our dog, Deke, learn to ‘Fetch Water!’  He caught on to this in about 2 tries, and now he loves to do it. I line up 3 or 4 bottles on the tailgate, and every 2 rows, call him to ‘Fetch Water’ and he does. So useful! Pretty soon, he will be ‘Fetching Ducks’ and ‘Fetch Geese’ or ‘Fetch Bird’. Hunting season starts Sept 1!

Deke gets water

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Jewel in the Rough!

Carmine Jewel Cherries have to be the prettiest. I have three small plants–they are in their second year. The Cupid one got disseminated by grackles (they actually made a hole in the net and ate all the cherries in about 5 minutes…). I was able to harvest 3 small bowls full this week from the Carmine.

 

So beautiful!

aug3carminejewel

 

So I made a cherry cheesecake, from scratch. We will get fat tonight 🙂 For the topping, I pitted the cherries, boiled 1/2 cup of orange juice with 1/2 cup of white sugar (2 tsps cornstarch mixed in the sugar), added the cherries and boiled for 2 minutes, let cool, and put on the cheesecake. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Cannot wait to make Haskap Cheesecake!

aug3cherrypie

The veggie patch is coming along faster than I can keep up. Today, I harvested boxes of peas, 4 garbage bags full of greens (the dog breeder mixes them with wild venison, wild goose, and wild salmon to make absolutely perfect dog food, and we get some dog food in trade for the veggies), some broccoli, and I made 16 cups of strawberry/rhubarb jam.

aug3peasshellaug3peasaug3strawrhubarbjam

Not to be outdone, the red cabbage (covered with row cover to protect against the egg-laying little white moths) is doing beautifully. I cook it with apples and little honey for a veggie/fruit relish on the plate. My Dutch mother always cooked her red cabbage with apples. It’s really good that way.

 

 

aug3redcabbage

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More Wild Bee News

A while ago, I mentioned I’d put up several purchased wild bee habitats. They are mostly occupied, and doing what they are meant to do, so we should have plenty of wild bees next year! Then I saw this trash wood pile I’d been meaning to clean. The bees go in the little holes in the wood. This week, I’m going to drill more holes, and leave those little ‘trash piles’ alone for another year. If you over-groom your ‘edges’ of your orchard, and remove fallen down trees, and old grass/weeds that are in little piles? You are destroying wild bee habitat. I don’t want to be doing that! So I have reason to look a little more unkempt. Method to the Madness, as it were…

There is definitely a bee in there. I saw him go in!

wildbeehabitat

 

I’m going to drill some more holes in these pieces of wood. I have three or four smaller piles like this, and will scatter them strategically around the edges near the woods and slough.wildbeehabitata haskaporchardjuly21homeacre

You can see the wild bee habitat zones in this photo. I’ve several spots along the slough and by the trees which naturally attract them (lots of fallen trees, and old grass on little knolls, etc.)

 

Here is the ‘Home Acre’ on July 21. That’s about 8 weeks after planting. The plants are thriving, and I actually picked about 1/2 cup total (or or two berries on about 1/4 of the plants), and ate them…haskapjuly21homeacrebatguanoandbonemeal haskaphomeacrejuly21

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Where have you Bee-n?

Busier than ever in my life is where!

Month started off nicely, with a few strolls in the orchard, a little weeding here and there in the veggies, and some dog walks.

Then a local dog breeder called me in distress. Could I help? They had FOURTEEN puppies that needed bottle-feeding for two weeks. All my plans for weeding orchard, and putting up veggies ground to a halt.

I stayed at their house for 2 weeks, and this is the end result. FOURTEEN live happy puppies, and one healed mother (she had a really bad case of mastitis and couldn’t nurse her puppies for 10 days).

Some photos:

wehaveeachother mrgreenjeanstwoandthreequarterslbsjuly172013 ravenfedandrested ravenslitterat2and3quarters weeks july10threeshadesoffox july11lightestanddarkestravens

Then I no sooner got home, and started hand-pulling weeds in the big orchard (I ignored the garden, since the orchard is more important at this point and the garden plants are big enough to fight off a few weeds), than I adopted this lovely lonely cat, who had been wandering around the local post office for a week, howling and mewling and obviously very hungry.

Here he is, antagonizing my well-trained dog, who won’t touch him because he was told to ‘LEAVE IT’!

His name is Cecil and he’s a very nice cat (except he takes advantage of my well-trained dog…):

dekefearofcat

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Fun stuff–Tractors and Things :)

Peter was so excited when he purchased an old 8N Ford Tractor (1948) from an elderly neighbour (86!), when it came time to pick a tractor for the orchard work, he quickly became enamored of the new 2010 version of the same tractor, the Boomer 8N, also made by Ford, and modeled after the same tractor, including the grey and red colour scheme. So much fun. Turns out the creeper gears were eminently suitable for the planter (it can go as slowly as 0.1 MPH–no joke!!). Our son joked that he fell asleep 3 times in one row on the day we planted the orchard. We never noticed, but perhaps it could explain the little curves in the rows.

Here is a photo of the original vintage 8N (1948) which we own, and use quite a bit for various little projects, plus it’s just so darn much fun to drive! It will be a winter project to refinish it and paint it back to the original. Very workable, though! (Notice Deke guards things and intimidates people. No one need know the doggy wouldn’t hurt a flea, but he looks ominous enough!)

8N

Here is the re-creation of the same tractor, the 2010 8N, which is CVT. Margie learned to drive it in about 5 minutes, maintaining it’s easier to drive than her car (Toyoto Prius C, which is also CVT transmission!)

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Last weekend, we were taking a drive to Prince Albert to pick up a few things (notably the remote hydraulics assembly, and a work light for the tractor). Imagine our surprise when not 30 km down the highway, we spied a 9N Ford Vintage 1940 model of our favourite tractor. Not to be easily deterred, Margie exclaimed, ‘It’s SO CUTE!! Buy it!’. So we did. The elderly gentleman selling it noted that it was used extensively for breaking new ground and was a work-horse in the early 40’s; a very popular tractor indeed! And it is cute. Very cute.

Peter drove it home that same day (after a little money changed hands) and Margie mastered driving it today! She kept exclaiming, ‘This kind of fun should be illegal!’ Can’t wait to try it out in the orchard to cultivate and do general maintenance around the property!

You have to agree, she’s a beauty!

9Nnew1940

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A new feature!

Just testing out our newest feature – readers can now get notification via email of new posts as soon as they appear here! Sign up in the side bar 🙂

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Gifts and things :)

I recently sent a ‘gift-pack’ of 6 bushes via Bernis and Jim Ingvaldson of HoneyBerry USA, to a friend in Oregon who really wanted some Haskap/Honeyberries. Bernis was kind to include the specified ‘2 Indigo Gem, 2 Tundra, 2 Berry Blue TM’ and also 2 Carmine Jewel Cherries!

Jamie Blackburn has been my friend for a long time, via a popular knitting/crochet site called ‘Ravelry’ and she is an avid gardener. She was ecstatic with her received plants, and reports that after 6 days in the ground, they are proving to be very prolific, already blossoming and showing leaf growth.

Thanks, Bernis, for your attention to this order. I’ve recommended you to several others in the USA, who would be able to order from you without having to pay phytosanitary certificates and such, since you are also in the USA!

Here are photos of Jamie’s plants after 6 days in the ground:

Two Carmine Jewel Cherries
jamieblackburncherries

Flowering Haskap after 6 days!
jamieblackburnblossoms

Site of Planting by her house
jamieblackburn

jamieplantsite

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Technical Stuff and more

I was doing some more reading on Haskap history, etc. This article is scientific and I’m adding my own notes, defining things as I go. I love stuff like this, being of the opinion that if you use a word 3 times, it becomes part of you. Now, how will you use ‘tetraploid’, ‘glaucous-green’, and ‘neia-blue’? Challenging, no?

My own 3/4 year old plant:

3yrberryblue
haskap_image.jpg

Crops from http://www.agroatlas.ru/cultural; (bolded words my own) /Lonicera_K_en.htm
Lonicera caerulea L. – Honeysuckle blue
Object map
Taxonomic position. (science of classification)
Family Capriofoliaceae Vant., genus Lonicera L.
Synonyms.
Lonicera pyreniaca Pall., Caprifolium coeruleum Lam., Chamaecerasus coeruleum Delarbre, Xylosteum coeruleum Dum.-Cours.
Biology and morphology.
This is a polymorphic tetraploid (many forms having four times the haploid chromosomes–therefore twin flowered and twin-fruited) species. It is a fastigiate (erect parallel branches tapering to the top) bush that is 1.0-1.8 m tall. Crown is plainly orbicular (circular) with 1.5-2.5 m diameter at 7-9 years of age. Coloring and pubescence (covering of soft fine hairs) of shoots depends on type. The bark exfoliates (peels off outer layer) in longitudinal strips at 2-3 years of age. Root system is rachis-like (having a main shaft/axis), thick-growing. Leaves opposite, simple, smooth-edged, oval, length 3-5 cm, width 2-3 cm, pubescence (fine hairs) on both sides, ciliate, dark green above, glaucous-green (pale grey or bluish green) below. Many types have large discoid stipule (outgrowth of lower zone of young leaf), which do not fall with the leaves and instead remain dark, coriaceous (leather-like) and remain on branches for 1-2 years. Bisexual (both sexes) flowers in difloral inflorescence (two flowers on a stem), auxiliary on drooping or horizontal peduncule (stalk); bracts 5-6 cm in length (leaf-like structure), calyx (cup-like part of the flower) with short ciliate (fine hairy) denticles (toothlike projections), corolla (petals of a flower as a unit) pale yellow or greenish-white, tubuli funnel-shaped, 9-13 cm in length, 1-2 cm in diameter. Has a bottom ovary. Stamens are attached close to the edge of corolla, bilocular ovary, free, dense, enveloped by bractlets that have grown together. Compound fruit formed by mature bractlets cover two ovaries. The shape is orbicular, oval, cylindrical, surface smooth or bumpy in varying degrees. Fruit is neia-blue with a strong waxen bloom. Fruit length 12-40 mm, diameter 6-15 mm and weight 0.5-1.5 g. Fruit contains up to 20 seeds. Seeds are brown, ellipsoidal (cylindrically oval/egg shaped) with fine-mesh surface; length is 2 mm. Weight of 1000 seeds 0.9-1.2 g. Fruit ripens in June-July. The plant fructifies (becomes fruitful) at 3-4 years.
Distribution.
The cultivation of honeysuckle in Russia started in the first half of the 18th century as an ornamental plant. Within berry cultivation it is a relatively young species. It was introduced into cultivation in Nerchinsk (East Siberia) in 1884. It is widely distributed within amateur gardening. There are industrial plantations in Western Siberia, on Altai, Ural, Middle Volga and in northwest Russia only. Northern border of distribution coincides with the northern border of agriculture. There are 17 zoned types in Russia. The most popular are as follows: Ivushka, Golubika, Rfgtkm, Rassvet, Pavlovsk, Amfora, Fialka, Goluboe vereteno, Nimfa, Morena, Sinitchka, Zolushka, and Vas’uganskaja.
Ecology.
It is a typical mesophyte (needing medium moisture). It is shade-tolerant, slow-growing. It likes fresh and damp soil. Its growth conditions can vary greatly. It can survive a large range of soil acidity, from 3.9-7.7 (optimum 5.5-6.5). It is cold-resistant. Factors that limit its distribution in the south are warm winters, dryness of air and lack of soil moisture. For a good crop, it is necessary to plant 3-4 types together, as fruits are not formed when plants self-pollinate.
Economic value.
Fruits contain 5-10% sugars, 1.5-4.5% acids, 0.4-0.8% pectin, vitamins C, A, B1, B2, B9 and D. Berries are used fresh for jam and compote. It is also used for medicinal purposes. The plant has a high decorative quality.

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A Thorny Issue–Harvesters

For two years, we’ve been researching the merits of various harvesters, with a ‘forward looking’ mentality. Obviously, no one can pick 10,000 Haskap bushes by hand, even with the swimming pool method, and even with speedy pickers, at 10 minutes picking per plant, the math works out to 100,000 minutes or over 1500 man-hours….that’s simply not an option. Maybe for the Home Acre, which will likely be designated as a U-Pick Zone, but the other 9000+ plants will need a harvester of some sort.

Peter has talked to quite a few people and corresponded with the major players ‘BEI, OxBo, Joanna’. He’s watched countless videos on their operation, and talked with the sales people about the merits of all the different models they offer.

The biggest issues are several:

1. The Haskap is fairly unique in a harvesting perspective, because it carries a lot of fruit in the bottom 14-16″ of the plant, although that becomes less noticeable after the 4th and 5th year. Many of the harvesters don’t adequately reach that low. Pruning for harvesting equipment (as blueberry growers do) is not the option they seem to think it is, given that many of the shoots come almost directly from the base of the main shoots, although those appear ‘higher’ as the years progress.

2. Is branch breakage going to be an issue with the types like Joanna, that bend the branches 45 degrees? Those who use them say not.

3. Should we have provided berms prior to planting? That was the intention. Curtis (Haskap Central), and Garth (Willow Ridge) and Peter (us) are all working on that issue. Garth actually bermed his entire orchard prior to planting last week. We considered several factors as he was doing that (he’s kind of the guinea pig…). How high and wide, and flat–should the berms be? Would they erode away and be pointless over the next 3/4 years anyway? What would a berm do to drainage (dry out too fast?), and would the height of the berm affect the cold-hardiness of the plants in the winter, since the roots are more exposed? Will Stafford G2S Pickin’ Patch, who owns a Joanna and does custom harvesting, insists that berms are not necessary with the Haskaps, and that the machine reaches low enough to harvest most of the berries, particularly after the 4th year.

4. Production: How many acres/part acres do the machines harvest in an hour?

5. Pull behind (by tractor) or self-propelled (more expensive)?

In a few weeks, we are going to observe Will Stafford (G2S Pickin’ Patch) as he harvests a mature Haskap acreage with his Joanna Harvester. He is the Canadian distributor for Joanna.

University of SK also did a short study on the merits of the Joanna.

BEI Harvesters would like to talk us into their models, but we aren’t convinced they will go low enough to do an adequate job on Haskap.

Oxbo (Korvan) seems a little pricey to me, but if the equipment would be superior and the harvesting low enough not to waste berries, we’d consider sharing the cost with several others and perhaps consider custom harvesting in the future.

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