Thursday, May 30, 2019

Every Apple Has a Story

During the 1800's and into the early 1900's the apple was an extremely important crop in the U.S.  Books were written with detailed descriptions and graphics of many of the estimated 7000 + varieties of apples that were grown in the U.S.  The USDA's National Agricultural Library in Beltsville MD contains 3,820 hand painted illustrations of apple varieties that were sent there in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  Before there were movie stars and sport stars the apple was the star. After refrigeration and railroads became common large orchards sprang up in Washington state producing tons of apples for supermarkets, but the apples that they planted were selected for their large size, storage ability, ability to withstand the  rigors of shipping, and their appearance. Taste became secondary as the American consumer began to buy with their eyes instead of their taste buds. Small family farm orchards were quickly cut down to make way for other crops or left to grow wild and unkempt. Luckily apple trees can live 100 years or more and in the early 70's a hand full of people began to look for and graft the old forgotten varieties that still clung on to life in pasture fields and old peoples back yards.  In the south Lee Calhoun and in Maine John Bunker began actively searching out old decrepit apple trees and talking to old-timers who still remembered the forgotten varieties and sometimes even knew where an old tree or two still survived. In the west Nick Botner began grafting rare apple varieties amassing a collection of over 4000 different kinds of apples.  Over the years with the help of the internet more and more people have become interested in these "heirloom" apples myself included.

  One apple that "jumped out at me" in my search for rare apples was the Keim apple. According to historical records it was a seedling tree found growing on an abandoned Indian village in the late 1700's in Berks County Pa. Grown commercial in the mid-west in the mid 1800's it is described as a small to medium apple with light waxen yellow skin sprinkled with light russet dots. Flesh white, tender, crisp, with a delicate aromatic subacid taste. Very good quality, keeps well, late season variety. Tree is moderately vigorous, a biennial bearer. Below is a print of the Keim from the USDA's library.

I found scion wood for this apple at Hocking Hills Orchard in Ohio.  Owned by Derek Mills who is an heirloom apple addict and has over 2000 rare varieties of apples from which he offers scion wood.  I grafted 4 pieces of scion this spring and was lucky enough to have all 4 grafts "take".  Hopefully in 3 to 5 years I'll be biting into a Keim apple and give you my thoughts on its taste.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Miracles of Modern Medicine

An xray of my "new" knee compared to my "old" knee.  The bone touching bone on the outside part of my old knee shows that it too is wearing out and will need replaced.

Today marks 7 weeks since my surgery.  I will not lie, it has been a hard painful recovery but I've "turned the corner" and can see improvement almost daily.  The 5 weeks of therapy while painful was necessary to regain the full movement of my knee. 

Now my only hope is that my old knee will last until after this fall's hunting season.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Blossom Time

The apple trees are starting to blossom.
The Crabapples are the first to bloom

The full sized apples are not far behind.

Now if the pollinators do their part my next pictures will be of small apples.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Bench Grafting Apple Trees

Received my apple rootstock yesterday and began grafting last evening.  Grafting dormant scion to dormant rootstock is known as Bench Grafting. After grafting I place the tree in a bucket of damp sawdust and store in a cool area of the basement for 3-6 week for the graft to callus or heal. If I have matched the cambium on the scion to the cambium on the rootstock the graft will grow together and I will have a successful graft.

My rootstock. This year I am using MM106 rootstock.  It will grow into a 15 to 20 foot tree at maturity.
Everything necessary for a successful graft. The rootstock, scion, grafting knife, and parafilm grafting tape. The double boiler contains bees wax to coat the end of the scion to keep if from drying out.
First graft of the year was a Smokehouse apple. This variety originated in the 1830's as a wild seedling that grew near the smokehouse of a Mr. William Gibbons of Lancaster Pa.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Signs of Spring

Woods Frogs on the vernal pond.

The crabapples are the first to awaken.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Spring Woodcock

Bliss and I took a short walk along Piney Creek yesterday. With my arthritic knee I only managed an hour walk but it was enough. Just out of the truck Bliss bumped a woodcock but then settled down and gave me 2 nice points.

Piney Creek running full with the spring melt off.

One of several old apple trees that some how survive in this wet bottom.
Back at the truck a hug and an ear rub for a job well done.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

A Break in the Weather

With a nice warm wave of weather here I've started pruning and cutting scion from my apple trees.

Slow work with my arthritic knees but these young trees need to be pruned into an acceptable form.  Deciding which limbs will be allowed to grow into main fruit bearing limbs and which limbs need to be pruned.  Bluebirds are keeping me company but refuse to pose for pictures. :)
Scion, packed up and ready to mail to other "apple addicts" across the country.  Swapping scion gets these old heirloom varieties spread out across the country.