Monday, March 31, 2014

Grafting.... Another Sign of Spring

Another sign of spring around the farm is the arrival of fruit trees to plant and rootstock to graft to.  The fridge has been full of bags of scionwood cut in February and obtained from various nurseries and private individuals. It's become an addicting hobby for me, with time spent on long winter nights researching various apple varieties and rootstock types. This year most of my grafting will be to two main rootstocks G202 which will grow into a 10 to 12 foot tree and produce apples in 3 to 4 years for my home orchard and B118 which will grow into a 20 to 25 foot tree and produce apples in 6 to 8 years for the Back40 wildlife I also have a few Antonovka rootstock which is a hardy Russian rootstock that produces a full sized tree, but is slower to produce apples than the B118 rootstock. I'm also building an apple trellis on which to grow some dwarf apple trees.  I'll have more on this project as it advances. 

Below is a pictorial of the simple grafting technique that I use. If I can interest just one person to give grafting a try I'll be satisfied.

This is a rootstock that I had already planted into a pot to make it easier for me to take pictures of the grafting procedure.  First I cut it off several inches above ground level.
 Then with a sharp knife I split the rootstock down the center.
Next you sharpen your scionwood.
 and insert it into the cut that you made in the rootstock.
 If possible your rootstock and scionwood should be the same diameter so that the cambium wood, which is the living tissue of the plant matches up.
 But often your scionwood will be smaller than your rootstock so you need to match up one side so that the cambium layer connects and the two pieces will grow together.

Then you wrap the two pieces tightly together with some sort of tape. Many types of tape will work, black electrical tape, plumbers tape, but I use a tape called Parafilm that was originally made for the medical profession. It seals the graft airtight and doesn't need to be taken off like the other tapes I mentioned. It will degrade with time.
 The tip of the scionwood needs to be protected from drying out. Here I used a tree wound dressing but I also use paraffin wax with good results.
 Finally you attach your tag. With a little luck this will grow into a Centurion Crabapple tree on Antonovka rootstock that will provide small crabapples through the winter for the birds to enjoy.
If this short pictorial tempts anyone into trying their hand at grafting please search U-Tube for much better instructions than I've provided. It has become a very interesting and rewarding hobby for me to enjoy and maybe it will for you too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Opinel Pocket Knife

I've had Opinel pocket knives for over a year now and just wanted to comment on what a great little knife they are. Below is my new stainless steel bladed Number 6.  I find this size to be perfect for a pocket knife with a 2 14/16 inch long blade, with an opened length of 6 1/2 inches and weighing 1.2 ozs. with a Beechwood handle. It's a French knife that has been made since 1890 with the same simple design. They made in several different sizes and offer carbon steel or stainless steel blades and also a variety of different wood handles.
A sliding steel collar at the bottom of the blade called a Virobloc safety ring gives the knife a locking blade. It's a very simple and straight forward design that has stood the test of time. The 1st pic below shows the knife in the open or unlocked position,the 2nd pic shows the locked position.

A #6 Opinel run's in the $12 to $15 dollar price range. An inexpensive, tough little knife I think you would be pleased with. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sunday in the Big Shawnee Covert

Emma and I spent Sunday afternoon enjoying the bounty that the Big Shawnee covert had to offer.

A flight was in and Emma was at her finest.
On the walk out of the Shawnee covert through open timber I paused to consider how many centuries these majestic oaks had stood here, silent sentinels watching the years pass.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Visiting an Old Friend

Emma and I visited the Warrior Ridge covert yesterday. I've hunted this cover for years, it's not a big place just two wet weather runs a couple of hundred yards long separated by a 1/5 of a mile of oak in pole timber stage. Unassuming looking, but it always holds birds when the flights are moving and I've found a nest or two of locals there too.
A few minutes out of the truck and Emma had found one. In the thick cover it didn't let me get much of a pic.
She didn't find any more along the first run so we made our way through the open timber to the second run. Although Emma hunted it hard it looked like we were a day or two late and this was all we found.

As we made our way back to the truck, we worked our way through a sliver of cover above the old logging road. There Emma found our second bird.

As so often has been the case, the Warrior Ridge covert had once again given us an enjoyable hour long experience.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Coverts & A Shocking Surprise

Emma and I headed north to try some new coverts.

Although the cover looked promising after 3 hours we had only found one woodcock.

As a last attempt to save the day I headed for a nearby aspen stand what often held a bird or two.  Walking back the old logging road I saw that the Game Commission had mowed the multi-flora & autumn olive that lined the road with some kind of huge brushhog mower. As the covert came into sight I got the shock of my life.
The nicest aspen cover that I have ever found in my part of Pa. completely gone! I realize that aspen needs to be cut to regenerate but this cover was far from mature. These are  pics from the edges that they left around the outside border.

I'm no trained forester but this cover doesn't seem too mature to hold birds.  Emma had one solid point but when I walked in to her all I found was some splash.

Time will tell if they made the right decision but for now I morn the lost of a beautiful covert.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Searching for Gypsies Part 2

Emma and I traveled about a half hour north of home yesterday to a favorite covert, but it was mostly covered with 3 to 6 inches of hard crust snow, so we didn't hunt it too long. Today we headed back down south to walk the covert we had walked on Sunday. We made another large circle without any finds and were within a couple hundred yards of the truck when Emma's beeper collar went on point mode. I had to fight my way through some kudos vines to find her, crouching with her head turned to the left. After several pics I moved in and out flushed a woodcock. Spring is here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Searching for Gypsies Part 1

Emma and I went out yesterday in search of the 1st woodcock of Spring. We headed for a covert just a mile or so above the Maryland border that I had discovered last spring and had held a few birds.

We were well into the cover before Emma's beeper collar went on point mode. I hurried along a narrow deer trail, with multiflora rose reaching out to slow me down and  reminding me why I should have taken the time to put on a pair of brush chaps. Her beeper got louder and louder but still I couldn't see her until finally there she was crouched beneath a tangle of kudzu vines.

I  moved in anxious to flush the first woodcock of the year, but alas in turned out to be an empty point. Although disappointed I never blame the dog for an unproductive point. I've seen too many birds run out from under a point and flush at a distance to not believe in my dog when she goes on point.

We worked in a big circle through the cover, finding only an old foundation.

At a large clearing I had a nice view of Evitts Mountain in the distance still cloaked in snow.

We made our way down through the open field and back to the truck with brier scratched legs and a muddy belly to show for our efforts, but with the satisfied feeling you get from spending time in a lovely covert.