Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bees and Chicks

Locally we are having a great Locust tree bloom.  The blossoms are an important pollen source for our bees. We're hoping for a good honey harvest this fall.


I've been hatching Cochin bantam chicks almost weekly. These are my latest hatch.
Chicks from my first hatch are rapidly growing.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Morning Walk in the Back40

Aside from following an English Setter through a woodcock covert, a walk through the Back40 orchard is my favorite pastime.  Seeing which apple trees are bearing fruit, looking into my numerous bird boxes, and peering into the vernal pond are things that I love to do. Here are some pics from a recent morning walk.

A Red Limbertwig bearing a few apples for the first time. This old southern variety was listed in nursery catalogs in the early 1800's. Hopefully I'll be tasting one this fall.
A Waubay Crab limbgrafted to an Antonovka apple tree. The Waubay Crab is described as a 1 1/4 inch fruit, brilliant red, with the rich, spicy subacid sweetness of the Grimes Golden (one of it's parents) combined with the long keeping capacity and hardiness of the wild Mercer crab ( it's other parent) It was developed at the Iowa Experimental Station in the early 1930's.
A Wealthy apple.  This was the first apple to survive the harsh winters of Minnesota. Grown from a seed from Maine it 1861 it gave the early homesteaders a chance to grow their own apples. By the early 20th century it was one of the top 5 apples grown nationally.
These are just a few of the many heirloom apples that I have grafted. Each of them having an interesting story.
My nest boxes are being well used by Bluebirds and Tree Swallows.

Sadly the Chickadee nest that I had reported on earlier was taken over by a House Wren. Wren's are noted for being very aggressive and will drive away or even kill other box nesting birds like the Chickadee, Bluebird and Tree Swallow. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Apples, Cochins, and Chickadees

I finished potting or planting all my grafts in the garden. If my records are correct I have 131 apple grafts and 5 pear grafts. With 63 different varieties I grafted at least two of each variety in hopes of having at least one successful graft.

The apples are growing on many of my trees, regretfully I'll have to pull them off because most of my trees are still too young to bear fruit. I run the chance of stunting the tree by letting it bear fruit to young.

My flock of Cochin bantams is growing with chicks hatching nearly every week.
I've been busy building several "summer coops" to house the chicks after they get big enough to leave the brooder. As fall approaches I'll decide which birds I'll keep over winter to breed with next spring and which ones to sell.

This chickadee has claimed one of my bird boxes and wasn't about to be chased away by me and my camera.

The beginning of the next generation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spring Pics from around the Homestead

Spring chores have kept me from having time to work on my blog. I'll try to get caught up with some pics.

The wind and rain have cleaned off the pear blooms already but the apples are in full bloom.

The #5 crab is a favorite of the deer. 
An old southern variety Aunt Rachel is loaded with blooms on my trellis.

The Viola crab looks ready to have a good crop this year.
The Dolgo crab is a reliable producer of crabs used to make crabapple jelly.
I was concerned about the vernal pond because we had some very warm weather in February, but I needn't have worried.
The Tree Swallows have returned and started nest building.

The Bluebirds are also claiming some boxes as their own.

It's truly a magical time of year.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Their Nesting

Thicket found a woodcock nest today so we'll be staying out of the coverts till fall.

There were 4 eggs but Thicket brought me one, that's how I knew she had found a nest. I didn't put it back as it was covered with Thicket slobber. :)


Sunday, April 2, 2017


Those of you who follow my blog know the troubles I've had with Thicket ignoring woodcock.  She had started out in her first year pointing them, and then midway through her first hunting season she started to leave her points and even ignoring birds that flew up right in front of her.  I've been patient and have kept taking her into the coverts in the hope that exposure to woodcock would help her work through whatever situation made her shun them in the first place.  Yesterday my patience paid off. We headed to Piney Creek and minutes after leaving the truck I saw her on point. I hurried to her taking pictures as I went expecting her to leave the point as she had been doing. This time she held perfectly until I walked in front of her and flushed the bird. She showed much excitement as it flew away and I knew she had "turned the corner".

Within minutes she was pointing another bird.
In an hour she had found 7 woodcock. Some she crept in too close and flushed but she showed me a desire to find and point them. Why she suddenly decided to start pointing woodcock again I'll never know, but I do know that having patience with her and letting her figure it out on her own was the right thing to do. Back at the truck I told her she had made this old guy very, very happy.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Keeping Old Apples Alive

A rainy day today was a good reason to get some grafting done. I've bought and traded for dozens of different varieties of scion from old southern apples with names like Black Limbertwig, Arkansas Sweet and Jellyflower Sweet, to old European & English apples called Baker's Delicious, Margil, and Old Nonpareil. Some of the scion are from trees originating in New England that have been known for a century or more like Roxbury Russet, Crows Egg, and Legace and some come from old trees that I've found while hunting for grouse and woodcock. These old trees names have been lost to history so I've given them names like the Wopsy Mountain Sweet from an old tree found on Wopsy Mountain which was holding a sweet apple just before Christmas and the Frugality apple named after a small hamlet of several houses near where it grows. The Clover Run apple comes from a tree in a front yard of a home several hours north of the homestead. I noticed this tree several years ago while traveling to my northern coverts. Every year it would be full of dark red (almost black) apples hanging on after Christmas. Last winter I noticed a man outside and stopped and asked if I could cut some scion. He was very agreeable but admitted he didn't know what variety the tree was so I named it Clover Run after the road he lived on. As much as I enjoy this hobby I have to face the fact that I'm running out of good planting sites on my 66 acres. I've given some away to friends and family and I may just try to sell some locally so that I can keep practicing this hobby (ie. addiction) of grafting apple trees that I've grown so fond of.

Patul is a variety from the Transylvania region of Romania. It's name comes from the place where it was traditionally stored, in hay inside the barn. Harvested in October it was still good to eat in April and May of the next year. It's resistant  to spring frosts and is noted for producing reliable crops each year.

The more uncommon an apple variety is the more I want to grow it.