Expansion plans for 2022

Placed a couple of orders for (15) additional apple trees and two varieties of seedless grapes this week

(5) WHITE HIMROD SEEDLESS GRAPES:

(5) RED CANADICE seedless grape plants :

Red Candice seedless

Aren’t those grape varieties just beautiful!!!! I can hardly wait. 🙂

(5) Cortland semi dwarf : (photo from our orchard)

Cortland Apples

(5) Pink Lady: (photo by others)

https://chestnuthilloutdoors.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/01/Pink-Lady.jpeg

(5) Red Gravenstein : (photo by others)

https://www.selectiveelective.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Red-Gravenstein-set.jpeg
Red Gravenstein

On Friday I talked with Terry, a rep from the Iowa Grape growers association. At that point, I was still kicking around the idea of planting several hundred grape vines, with the end goal of selling grapes commercially to a couple of local wine makers. Night before, we stopped by someone locally who is doing that very thing. I came away from the conversation, thinking I do not have enough “margin” in my life currently to do the things necessary to pull that off, (manage an acre of grape vines), in addition to what I’m already doing, so I scaled back my grape planting aspirations and went with option 2.:

Plant just enough for our personal use and maybe sell a few grapes on the side. Rather than jump into a whole new industry (grapes) I decided I want to tighten up the management of the apple orchard I currently have, and continue to add trees to the orchard. We have a beautiful acre hillside behind our barn that is just begging to have another 96 trees planted there. (If you’re interested, I will be hosting an apple tree planting party the spring of 2022…sometime in early April)

I did a small fund raiser on our Facebook Orchard business page last week… I was selling our orchard T shirts for $15… got 18 orders. In addition, I had (3) people approach me on the side, asking if they cold sponsor a couple of trees (at $26 a pop.)

Planting (15) apple trees, and (10) grape vines is one of the ways I react/ respond to the negative doom and gloom I feel pressing in on me. It takes 4 years for a grape vine to reach full production, and 5 to 7 years before the apple tree to really reach her stride.

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We planted our first 40 apple trees in 2001, followed up with another 60 the following year. They have not lost their magic. When I was talking with the rep from the Grape growers association, we talked briefly about my long range goals. None of us know how many years we have left, and we are arrogant to think otherwise. At the same time, there is a place for long range planning, and I told the guy I “think” I have another 20 good years in me (physically). My dad, did not officially “retire” from construction work until he was in his late70’s, and didn’t quit farming until he was 84. (He is fond of saying “Retirement is not a word in my vocabulary.” (so I come by it honestly) 🙂

So that is a little glimpse into what’s happening here on our humble little farmstead of late.

Thanks for reading along, and would love to hear from you if, you’re so inclined. DM

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Harvest

Just over one ton of apples, and 160 pounds of honey have been harvested on our little acreage so far this season.

Yesterday morning we had a small group of friends here while we extracted the honey.

Josey (whom I am guessing is 5 years old, could not keep her fingers out of the honey as it flowed out of the extractor into the #300 screen.

When her mom told her to stop, she said, “But I can’t help myself. It tastes so good.”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Isn’t that the truth.

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My favorite method of marketing our crop(s) continues to be our self serve stand, operating on the honor system.

We have a metal chicken with a peanut butter jar in it, that serves as the cash register. If you need to make change, you do it yourself.

There were also a couple of notes in the guest book. One was from two brothers moving from Boston to Denver. He told us they’d seen the signs and “just had to stop.” Signed Much Love, Peter.

The best seller on the wagon continues to be the caramel apples. Sold 24 of them yesterday, and I think we’re on track to sell that many today.

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If it seems I’ve been a little quiet on the blog front, it is because in addition to this side hustle of selling fruit, construction season is also in full throttle mode. Last week I oversaw two large roof tear offs and re-shingle jobs, that I am very thankful are behind me.

Well, need to run and check the chicken.

Take care. DM

PS. if you’re interested, I will have the apple and wildflower honey for sale again, starting next week. A couple of you, have gotten it in the past. Just wanted to throw that out there.

View of our East Orchard

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Go to bed with these pictures in your mind….

2021 peach crop
2021 peach crop

Started picking peaches this morning.

We’ll have a few to sell.

Some to make peach jam out of….

And I think I’ll make another batch of peach/ blueberry/ apple wine. Just by dumb luck the batch I made last year was the best sweet wine I have ever tasted. Period. Hoping I wrote down enough notes to replicate what I did last time. 😉

Good night! DM

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Invitation to my You tube channel

As my eldest daughter observed last week, her papa (me) hates drama.

Absolutely hates it.

On the other hand,

I love

love

love

peace

and quiet.

Saw this little darling this afternoon in our milkweed patch.

DM

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My life in pictures the past month

Shingle delivery. View from the roof
fiddler in the roof
New spits in the bee hive
Orchard in bloom
Can you see it?
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Imprint

Had my first (ever) baby chick hatch yesterday.

Out of 24 eggs, it’s starting to look like this one may be an only child

My initial plan was to raise a couple of dozen, eat all the roosters, and raise the hens as replacements.

BUT if this chick does end up being the only one that hatches, I have a feeling it is going to live a long long life.

I promise to post pictures as soon as possible.

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Not For Public Consumption

Just got home from a Sunday morning trip to Wally World. Early mornings are my favorite time to hunt.

(Hunt= shop/ get in/get out/ how guys shop.)

Wanted to pick up four more 25# bags of sugar for the bees to have on hand. After this week, I now have (6) hives to manage. I’m probably almost done feeding them for now, now that the bees have access to other food sources, (dandelions, etc.)

I didn’t get as many looks this time in the check out, as the last time when I bought 75# of sugar. I think the fact I had 3 bottles of Everclear in the cart may have been a distraction.

After I was done checking out, I leaned over to the check out lady and said, “Do you want to hear something funny? I don’t even drink.”

She cracked up.

Asked me if I minded her telling the other checker, that had helped check me out ?

“I don’t care,” I said,

That resulted in a 3 minute conversation between the three of us on what in the world I wanted with 3 bottles of high impact hooch? I told her I was thinking about marketing “Apple Pie” on our self serve apple wagon, Told her my grandpa used to sell moonshine during the prohibition, and maybe, just maybe, I was tapping into my family roots.

Apple pie= apple cider, cinnamon sticks, sugar, and Ever Clear.

Can you legally sell that?” she asked.

No, I said, That would be illegal.”

“What if you put it in glass jars, and sold it out the back door in a bag.” (That was her talking, not me)

You just never know what you’ll find in my shopping cart.

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The Queen

I took the day off Friday to try and stay ahead of things here in the farm. I mentioned recently, all three of our bee hives made it through this past winter, even though many local bee keepers lost several hives. 

You never know. 

In my case, I attributed their survival to that extra insulation wrap I had installed. (to mimic the insulation value a bee would find if they were living in the wild in a big hollow tree…ie. R8) 

Take all of this with a grain of salt..I am still a “new-bee”

One of my  goals this past week was to do what bee keepers call a “walk-away split”.  This is where you prevent your bees from swarming (leaving and never coming back) by removing frames of eggs, pollen, honey, and some nurse bees, giving the main colony more room. If you’re successful, you have another colony.  Bees instinctively  want to split (swarm) as we get into May here in Iowa, so I’m trying to beat the curve.

One of the “issues” I ran into as I went about trying to split the first hive was my vision.  I had a cataract procedures in February and tri-focal implants.  They are not all they are cracked up to bee. I’m not complaining. (at the moment) I lost  close up vision in my right eye completely, and have a massive spiderweb of “floaters” in my left eye. (blurry).  That’s a problem,because when you’re looking @ the frames from the hive, you’re especially looking for uncapped eggs or young larva.  Give you an idea how small those eggs are, the queen bee is laying up to 1700 eggs a day… 

A DAY!

All of those teeny, tiny eggs coming out of one bee. 

They are minuscule.   (One of my mentors suggested taking a magnifying  glass with me next time, which I am going to do).

Here’s what I saw on the 2nd frame I pulled up out of the hive:

(photo by others)

The queen! 

A “marked” queen. 

This was the hive I had bought last Spring.  Took me a minute to figure out what to do with her. I didn’t want to just sit the frame down and she get lost. 

Her hive is bulging at the seams with activity. Very healthy, active mother.

The third hive I checked, I had no intention of splitting.  No activity outside of the hive.  Last time I peeked in there a couple of weeks ago, there was just a small cluster of bees in the bottom right hand corner. 

I figured by now they  had all died.

Wrong.

The bees were still there, and I saw capped brood (that is developing new bees).  

I also saw this:

Another marked queen!  This was the nuc my mentor Jim had bartered with me last summer for some apples. 

Felt like Christmas morning in the hive.

Christmas in April.

Life is good. DM

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Spring Taters

Stumbled across the concept of Spring taters a couple of years ago quite by accident.

I am still sold on the concept of heavy mulch gardening.  It has been around for quite a while so not going to revisit all of the details of it tonight. (Very little weeding and the ones there are, come right up, healthier soil, better moisture retention during dry spells, less work in general,, never have to till again,  earth worms love it, etc.)

(Google Ruth Stout, Back to Eden, Heavy Mulch etc. if you’re interested.)

So, couple of years ago, I came across some potatoes in the spring under the mulch that I’d missed digging in the  Fall that were amazing. Crisp,  firmer even than when I harvested the rest of them.  We live in Iowa, so the ground freezes here, to a depth of 3 or 4 feet most years, some years deeper than that.

Some of the potatoes had rotted and turned to mush, but other  ones were  dense . This is just a guess, but I know there are certain root crops (parsnips?) that seem to get better after they sit in the ground for a spell)….So, this past growing season, I decided to stagger the planting of  my  potato crop. Planted some in the spring just like everyone else, but others not until mid summer (July).   In the fall, rather than dig those, I piled a good 18 inches of hay mulch over the whole bed.  My thinking was, if I wanted fresh potatoes in the middle of winter, just move some  hay and wha-la…better than going to the grocery store 😉

In construction, if we’re planning to dig a foundation and we know it’s not going to be until after the ground starts freezing we will cover the ground with bales of hay, (or some type of insulation), and depending on how cold it gets, the ground under the bales will not freeze for quite some time.

Last Saturday I needed the potato bed space for 10 new apple trees that were coming this week.   I pulled all the hay away, and began harvesting potatoes.  In a little 15 by 20 ft area, there were a good 100 pounds of those amazing taters….95% of them made it just as I’d hoped.

2nd week in April, and I”m harvesting potatoes in Iowa. Continue reading

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Egg Bound with 48 hours to live

Friday afternoon,  I picked up 25 beautiful young laying hens.

I’ve decided to get back into farm fresh egg sales.  These hens will be grazing outside during the day, rather than cooped up in a building.

Saturday morning I went to check and see how they were adjusting to their new quarters, I noticed one of the girls wasn’t moving, and hadn’t  move for several hours.  The words “egg bound” popped into my head.  Not sure where that came from, but growing up on a farm, I thought of first calf heifers.  In the back of your mind, you were sort of holding your breath until their first calf was successfully delivered…(so in my mind, I had a similar train of thought..these hens are just starting to lay..I wonder if she’s got a large egg stuck in her birth canal???

My mind went to All God’s Creatures Great and Small, the mini series we have been watching.

WWJHD?

(What would James Harriot do?)

I got on line and googled “egg bound.”

Sure enough, it’s a thing.

I watched a couple of YouTube videos, read a handful of  articles..several of them mentioned putting the bird in a small tub of water and filling it with Epson salts. Let her soak in there for 20 minutes, then put her somewhere quiet, by herself.  (You can also do more such as attempt to reach up into the bird and see if you can manually extract the “stuck” egg.) I decided, if it came to that, I was not going to do it, because that also brought with it another bunch of risks.

Didn’t have any Epson salt, so went with plan B.

Morton salt.

The poor little hen was obviously in distress,  but seemed to love soaking in that warm water bath.  Took her out to the shop and put  her in a pet carrier/ lots of fresh hay, food and water, and covered the carrier with a towel.  The idea is to put her somewhere dark and quiet so she can relax.

If this didn’t work, she probably had 48 hours or less to live before her bowels backed up and she died from complications.

Sunday morning when I went to check on her, low and behold, she had laid an egg!

It was one of the  highlights of my weekend. 🙂

She was still moving a little slowly, I noticed one of her toes  was bleeding and didn’t seem to want to stop. It must have happened when we brought them home.

How to get a chicken’s toe to stop bleeding?  I knew she could not go back with the rest of the hens, quite yet, because, if they saw and got a taste of blood, it would be all over for little Henny Penny.  Chickens can be nasty like that..They will eat their own, just like pigs.

Pigs will do that too.

I’ve seen it happen.

Never trust a pig.

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Update Tuesday morning.

Toe had stopped bleeding,  I found a 2nd egg.  Little hen was moving around freely in my shop, pooping here and there.  Decided to mark her tail with a tab of red spray paint. That way  I could keep an eye on her to make sure she was not getting bullied.  30 minutes later, I re-introduced her to the flock.  She hadn’t been gone long enough for them to think she was a new bird.  (When you mix older birds together, they will  often fight to establish the pecking order).

The treatment had been a success.

In high school, I wanted to be a vet.

I think it would have been a good fit.

The end.

 

 

 

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