Category Archives: Orchards

Surveying Cellar Food Stores_Preparing the Garden Site

The Cellar

The Cellar

I just took some empty jars to the cellar and took an accounting of what is left from summer 2016 canning.

Full shelves from canning season 2016!

They were completely full in October but now supplies are dwindling!

We have a huge pile of potatoes leftover and will probably sell them in the coming months.  I’ll can about 15-20 quarts but the rest will go in the garden for seed and we’ll eat some more until they start sprouting.  They’re bakers and peeling size and have been so good throughout the winter.

Hubby has plowed the garden and we’re hoping we’ll get some spring rain on it before we disk it up for planting.

We use the Kubota tractor for plowing.

Our garden site has very rich soil and always produces more than we can eat and preserve.

It also seems to get bigger each year!!!  This year we’ll plan the usual crops of green beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, broccoli, brussel sprouts, melons, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and in the fall some turnips and field greens.

Hope your planting season is grand and praying we have an abundant season this year.  In the coming weeks I’ll be cleaning off the various asparagus patches we have and watching the rhubarb show its sprouts already.  I had six grape vines started new last year and they all survived but one.  I bought this red grape to replace it.

It’s a red seedless grape and I love them. Hope they get as large as the one’s we buy in the grocery but know it will be a couple of years before that happens.

We also went to Food Lion yesterday and bought three dwarf apple trees for the orchard at the mansion.

Dwarf red delicious – once this starts bearing fruit we’ll take cuttings from it and graft to some new root-stock or some wild apple trees we find every year on the farm that we’ll transplant to the orchard.

Dwarf yellow delicious-dwarf trees don’t last as long as standard trees but they give you fruit quicker.

This is a dwarf McIntosh which is hubby’s favorite. We have one tree in our large orchard but it’s really old and we lose an old standard about every year.

This is the mansion orchard where the dwarf trees will be planted. The pond is close by and a mountain spring runs through it to make for easy watering.

Last years grape arbor is where the new red grape will be planted and is right beside our garden.

 

 

 

Adding To Our Fruit Crop

Apple crops

Apple crops

Grape arbor in the backyard.

Grape arbor in the backyard.

Every spring I try to add 2-4 new fruit trees to our dwindling orchards.  The past few years have been apples and peaches.  My daughter got me two new cherry trees for our anniversary and they’ve been planted in the back of the apple orchard and fenced to keep the deer from eating them up.  Last year I planted four new grape vines along with some English walnut trees .  All of the grapes have survived but I lost one walnut tree.

This year I ordered two Green Gage Plum  trees and two Black Tartarian Cherry  trees from  Aaron’s Farm (http://www.aaronsfarm.com/) .  The plum trees are three years old and about four feet tall and the cherry trees are three years old and 5-6 feet tall.  The were shipped bare root and pre-pruned.  We set them out yesterday evening and watered them well which I will continue to do daily until we get some rain and there after as needed daily or weekly depending on the moisture in the ground.

The Green Gage plum tree is an ancient European plum descendant that has been extensively grown and propagated in England and France since the 1700’s. My grandparents had these plums on their farm in Paint Bank, VA for years when I was a young child and we would eat them until they ran out our ears.  I’ve not seen any for years and have been looking for them for about five years and lucked out with Aaron’s Farms this spring.  I can’t wait to have some “green gages” in a couple of years.  Green Gage plums are green-skinned when completely ripe with a pink overlay at the base of the fruit when tree ripened.  The flavor is deliciously sweet with a slight sour taste to the skin.

The black cherries are my husbands favorite and most of the cherry trees on our farm have died or only produce pea size cherries.  I’m hoping these will bring back some good memories especially when I make him some cherry pies in a couple of years.

Black Tartarian Cherry Tree

The Black Tartarian Cherry tree is a sweet cherry with a black skin and bright red pulp. They  are cold hardy which is one of the reasons I chose this type.
I can’t remember the name of the cherry trees my daughter got for me but think they are a red cherry.
Now we have blue plum, wild red plums, pears, rhubarb, peaches, apples of all kinds, grapes, gojiberries, blackberries, and raspberries on the farm.  Plenty of fruit to add to our meals and snacks.Newest grape arborNewest grape arbor

Changes to the garden and tire beds

Hubby has been working on fences again in the last week and he tore out the east end fence around our garden because it was about to fall down.

tractor tires used for garlic, strawberries and rhubarb

tractor tires used for garlic, strawberries and rhubarb

fencing between yard and garden

fencing between yard and garden

He decided that the fence didn’t keep out the deer so he would not replace it.  We have now moved the large tire planters to the south garden fence and will plant fruit trees along the yard where the fence used to be.  We currently have three pear trees along this line, two grape vines and a blue plum.  On the North end of the garden we’ve planted three peach trees and cut down an old plum tree that died.  I want to put in two more peach trees on that North end, two more plum trees out the fence line and plant two or three cherry trees in the yard close to the pond.  All of the apple trees that used to be there except one have died and been taken out.  These trees we replace will all be of the semi-dwarf size except maybe the cherry because of the space and closeness to the garden.  We don’t want the shade from the trees to shade the garden from the morning sun.  Hopefully hubby and I will be around when they start bearing fruit.

The apple tree rootstock we planted last year have all survived the winter, rabbits and deer and it’s now time to graft them.  We think moving our hound dogs to the apple orchard have saved our new trees from the ravages of the wildlife.  We just hope the wildlife doesn’t realize the dogs can’t reach them as long as they are chained.

Space between yard and garden cleared of  fencing

Space between yard and garden cleared of fencing

Freshly plowed garden lot

Freshly plowed garden lot

Tire planters moved to new area

Tire planters moved to new area

Strawberries starting to green up.

Strawberries starting to green up.

Garlic coming up.  Love that stuff!!

Garlic coming up. Love that stuff!!

Rhubarb coming in but frost burnt the leaves badly.  I'll clip the leaves and start fresh after this weeks frost pass.

Rhubarb coming in but frost burnt the leaves badly. I’ll clip the leaves and start fresh after this weeks frost pass.

Quince tree in south west corner of garden.

Quince tree in south west corner of garden.

Pear trees sprouting.

Pear trees sprouting.

 

We try very hard to replace our fruit trees as the old one’s die which hasn’t been done for many years.  We want the future family members to have plenty of these crops on hand for their use well after we are gone!  If we don’t take care of the future generations, who will??

Frost and the fruit & nut crop

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

Apple bloom full

Apple bloom full

Bluberries bushes

Bluberries bushes

Blueberry bloom

Blueberry bloom

Grapevines blooming

Grapevines blooming

Pawpaw bloom

Pawpaw bloom

Pawpaw trees blooming

Pawpaw trees blooming

Leaves coming out on the pecan trees

Leaves coming out on the pecan trees

 

Everything was either coming out with bloom or full of bloom and we had two nights of frost around the 15th of May.  The English walnut and pecan were burnt bad.  Some of the apples, peach, cherries and pears were blooming really full and got the frost but we may still have a little fruit.  Last night we had frost but not heavy and it didn’t hurt the tomatoes but hubby expects it again tonight.

More trees

We’ve been so busy the last few weeks and it seems like months since I last blogged and I’m trying to make up for lost time tonight.  Bear with me and I promise you’ll understand before this weekend is over.

We have three apple orchards on our farm and all used to be full of old timey apples.  Time, neglect and the weather have really been hard on the trees.  Each fall we try to have a Sunday Cider Fest and decided if we didn’t do something about replenishing the trees that have died or been uprooted by the wind that we would have to start buying apples to continue the tradition.

We’ve replaced about 10 trees in the last two years and I’ve been trying my hand at grafting with not much success.  I think the problem was trying to graft to trees that were not in the ground and established.  Two years ago I started taking classes offered by the county extension office to learn how to graft.  At each class I’ve obtained 10-15 apple root stocks for semi-dwarf trees.

DSCN0655Since I haven’t had much luck with the grafting, Hubby and I decided I need to make sure the root stock was going to live.  When I got the root stock it was bare root and it was too much stress on the grafts competing with the trees trying to get established.  We put all of the stock in large pots with fertilized soil and made sure they got plenty of water throughout the summer.  We did this for two summers and during the winter took the trees (30 trees) into the mansion basement to keep the winter wind from beating them out of the pots.

Potted apple root stock in the sun but the board fence protected them from the summer winds.

Potted apple root stock in the sun but the board fence protected them from the summer winds.

Last month we started bringing them out for some daily sun and acclimating them to the cooler weather.  Last weekend we planted the first 15 in the orchard at the west barn.

DSCN3318

DSCN3319

Hubby used the post hole digger on the tractor to drill the holes and then we had some heavy rains which was great for getting the water to settle the holes and get the water down where the roots would need them.

We set out thirteen more yesterday afternoon and now we wait.  Our biggest challenge will be the deer!!  The trees that we set out last weekend have already felt the damage of  deer.  Each one of the trees lower limbs had been eaten off.  To keep them from completing the damage we will have to make woven wire cages to go about two feet around and out from each tree.  We tried the plastic pipe around them last year and the mice did the damage then.  Apparently they thought the pipe was a good place to set up housekeeping and chewed the bark off at the base of the tree and killed them.    So MICE and DEER are on my hit list at the moment!!

 

Cleaning up the orchards

Storm aftermath June 29th, 2012

Storm aftermath June 29th, 2012

June duratio takes down several apple trees.

June duratio takes down several apple trees.

 

In June of this past summer, we had lots of tree and fence damage from the “duratio” that hit our farm.  I’ve never seen such wind and we were very lucky that we had no more damage than we did.  We did loose several apple trees and hubby has been working hard since that wind storm to get things back in order.

Hubby started the clean up in the orchard today and got all but one of the downed trees cut up and hauled off.  It looks kind of bare now but hopefully we’ll fix that.  Here’s a picture of the cleaned up orchard as of this afternoon.

Fallen apple trees removed and sun shining on the remaining.

Fallen apple trees removed and sun shining on the remaining.

Lots of replacing to do for the orchard at the house.

Lots of replacing to do for the orchard at the house.

 

We won’t be able to replace those trees with the same type because they were trees grafted by the family years ago.  Luckily there are several of the same type in the orchard and I have 30+ apple stock in the cellar that are two years old and ready for grafting.  I need to get out soon and cut scion from the trees we have left and when spring truly breaks I’ll get that new stock in the ground, grafted and wrapped and shielded from all the wildlife that love tender buds.

I’m looking forward to another try at grafting myself.  Hubby is a real pro at it!  I’ve taken the classes but think maybe I try to hard.  We’ll see how they fair toward the end of summer and look for new sprouts on the grafts.  I LOVE FARMING!!!

The year is almost three quarters gone and what did I do?

                                                                                                                                                                    January -Ice and snow

February-Making maple syrup

January-February – grafting fruit trees

February – March – Seedlings started

March – Baby calves arrive

March-April – Spring turkey hunting for two of my favorite people.

April – fire wood for winter 2012

April – New equipment for working the cattle

April – More new fencing

May – Gardening begins

May – Honeybees cleaning house and we prepare for fresh honey

May – Bee swarming begins

May – Fruit trees bloom and we worry about late frosts.

June 2012 – 1st ever “duratio” in our neck of the woods. Lots of cleanup and keeping hubby busy!

June – Duratio takes down lots of our fruit and nut crop and wreaks havoc on our fencing.

June – Hay time

June – Hay lot is full!

July – Spring cleaning almost done!

July – Harvesting & canning for winter in full swing!

July – A little crafting along the way makes life fun!

July – First barn quilt in Craig County on the barn!! More fun!

August-September – Mammoth pumpkin from the garden. He almost didn’t fit the wheel barrow!

July – August – Fresh vegies from the garden.

September – Potatoes harvested and in the cellar.

September – Plowing to sow the winter crops (turnips & parsnips).

September – Spaghetti sauce and barbecue sauce from the last of the tomatoes.

And, here it is the end of September.  Deer season and turkey season is soon to be here.  Baby calves are coming and yearlings are headed to the market.  Two nights of cold temps and frost in the mornings means firing up the wood stoves.  The cycle starts again.

1st Apples of the season

Fall is definitely here.  We have picked our first apples of the season and not because they were necessarily ready but because the sand hornets (huge ugly yellow bee) had started eating them.  We don’t have a lot of apples this year and may not even have enough to do our annual cider press but there were about 30 good apples left on the tree so we decided to get them.

Huge apples in August

We peeled and sliced them pretty quickly and they’re a very dry apple which I thought would make good apple pies and fried pies.

Peeling the apples

Sliced apples

I cooked them up and they’re beautiful.  I didn’t have to press them through a sieve.  I put them in airtight freezer containers and froze them for winter goodies.  I kept out three cups for breakfast and my applesauce cake which I plan to make now.    I’ll share the recipe soon!

End of Summer clues

You know that summer is coming to an end when the kids start back to school but the real clues are when the garden is being cleaned off for the fall crops, the woodshed is full and the cellar shelves are stocked. I was riding home yesterday and saw a hint of gold and orange in the tops of maple trees on our road. Last night we saw a herd of deer near the house and three of the larger bucks had lost the velvet from their horns. The apples are starting to drop and the wildlife is scarfing it up almost before it hits the ground. The hummingbird population has dropped from 30 to 10 or 12. The chickens molt has come to an end and the new feathers are shining. The cats and dogs on the farm have almost quit shedding. The katydids are screaming way before dark and the evening porch sitting is so much cooler. Best of all, the screech owls are calling!! Fall is near!!

Fall Color

I’m so looking forward to fall and the beautiful colors that come with it.  To make my wait a little less painful I thought I would share these photos of past autumns at the farm.  ENJOY God’s beautiful artwork with me!

Fall means cider time and Sassy is guarding the apples!

August/September Preparation for a bad winter

I can’t believe it’s the end of July!  This year has flown by!!  It’s time to start aggressively storing food for the winter, gathering wood, and winterizing all the animal sheds and the house.  I’ll save the house for last since the next two months will probably turn out to be our hottest months.  The farm equipment should be finished for the year except for a couple tractors.  Hubby always cleans them up and checks everything out for worn parts and replacement parts.  I clean up the garden and yard equipment but still a little early for that.  The major thing now is the garden.  I will have more green beans to can this coming week and weekend, more squash to freeze, onions to store and more cabbage to do something with.  The tomatoes and peppers are near ready yet and the summer “duratio” did away with most of the fruit.  Luckily I stored lots last year.

Hubby worked on filling the wood house again today and the split stack is out of the rain.  We still have a large load to split and more down from the storm to cut & split for the following winter.

All of the hay is stacked and ready for winter and hubby is in the process of cleaning up the hay equipment.  The roofs have been taken care of and I have to put new interior tar paper in the chicken house.  All of the major fence repairs have been made and the pastures are being sheared now.

The three bears

We only have four cherry trees on the farm at present.  Three of the four produce pretty decent cherries usually in late May or early June depending on the weather.  My hubby really looks forward to them ripening and he loves cherry pies.  This year only two of the trees outwitted the late frost and produced for us.  Hubby kept checking them and was anxiously awaiting their ripening.  He wasn’t aware that someone else was watching and waiting right along with him.

Guess what??  The critters beat him to them and one of the trees got a very bad pruning.  The smaller of the two was robbed of their fruit by birds and raccoons.  The largest and sweetest cherry producer was invaded by three black bears. On one given day it was visited at the same time by three.  There were two that were probably three years old gageing by their size and then there was the “big boy”.  The last time I got to see them, the two smaller (125-150 pounds) were taking turns up and down the tree and having the times of their lives UNTIL the big guy showed up.  They were pretty quick to leave the area with him around.  The “big boy” stayed for a good while and that’s the last I saw them but hubby watched him tearing that tree to pieces, stripping it clean of all cherries for about two weeks.

After they were all gone and hubby was so disappointed, I went to WalMart and bought him some for the pies and the ice cream.  I froze the last basket to have for out next batch of homemade ice cream because they just won’t keep very well once we get them home.   We were happy to see the bears but not so much when they took all the cherries.  Maybe next spring will be a different story!!

Summer storm to remember

We had a major wind storm with some hail behind arrive at our home last night around 8:30.  We lost power for only four hours and most of the county is still without power.  I’m including some photos of the damage we found today.  We are safe but will be cleaning up the aftermath for several weeks.

God was watching over and kept us safe.  The trees, hay, buildings and fences can be repaired and as I said before that are others in the county a lot worse off than we are!

Love cider time

September and October are my favorite months in the fall. It’s also the one time of the year that we invite friends, neighbors and family in for some fun on the farm making cider. We have two small apple orchards and if the frost is light in the spring it means we will have apples come fall. We always hope for a bumper crop of apples!!

We have about 30 apple trees on the farm and most are old, old trees that have been here through three or four generations and in the last 20 years haven’t been cared for. We are in the process of grafting about thirty new rootstock in hopes of keeping the orchards for generations to be. The grafts weren’t very successful this year but I’ll try again next spring.

My post is to show the fun we have with our family and friends at least one Sunday afternoon making apple cider. About two weeks before we make the cider I email or call everyone we would like to visit and give them the date and time. We usually have about 20-30 adults and children. Our granddaughter helps to entertain the children and our kids help with the preparations if they can. A few days before the gathering we head out on the tractor gather up 15 – 20 bushel of apples trying to mix some tart and some sweet for the best cider. We have our own cider press and some years back a motor was attached to it and the cider making becomes more fun than hard work.

We clean out the barn, clean the press and bring out the gallon jugs I’ve been sterilizing and saving for the cider.

I plan a small menu for a meal at the house after the cider making is complete. We just have some good old fashioned fun and at times teach someone not as lucky as we are what life is like on the farm!

Once the apples are picked and about an hour before the gathering, we bring out a large galvanized stock tank and fill it with cold water, dump in the apples and give everything a good washing. Mind you, we DO NOT spray our apples at anytime of the year. They’re as natural as can be and if a worm might  get in the apple, we figure that some natural protein to add to the juice :)!!

You will hopefully be able to see the REST OF THE STORY in the following photos I’ve taken over the years of our gathering! While you’re at it go to an orchard in the fall. It’ll be the best trip you’ll take all year!!


After all the apples are pressed, we strain the juice through several layers of cheesecloth into those wonderful old milkcans. Then the jugs are filled to the rim and handed out to any and all that would like to have some. Everyone lends hand in the cleanup and then we head to the house to have a meal and drink some fresh cider. Everyone heads home with a full belly and a jug of cider. Those that hang around for awhile sit on the porch to chat or take a spin around the pond in the paddle boat or play a game of badminton or just listen to the quiet (unless the kids are having a good time in the front yard)!