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.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Woodcock on the Stripmines

Yesterday was Emma's turn to seek out some woodcock so we headed north to try a new covert.  We first stopped at a classic looking aspen covert that I've been hunting for years. As beautiful as it looks it never produces the birds that I think it should and today was empty except for some splash.

We moved on to a reclaimed strip mine that I had explored in deer season.  I really don't know what draws the woodcock to this type of terrain but I've been hunting more and more of these strip mines with good results and today was no different. They must be using the pines for a resting spot because the ground is very rocky and I can't imagine they can find any worms here.

There are "islands" of cover that you have to seek out, but the birds were there.

Emma put on her usual fine performance with 4 nice points and I saw several birds flush ahead of her as she entered the cover. Overall it was a wonderful day with a new covert to hunt next fall.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My Legacy

People are always asking me when am I going to start sells apples or making  cider from all the apple trees I've been planting.  But my thoughts from the beginning were not to make a profit from my trees but to leave a living legacy for future generations to enjoy. To have the chance to walk through apple trees full of spring blooms or  picking a tree ripened apple, wiping it on their sleeve and taking a crunchy, juicy bite.  My earliest and fondest memories of wandering the woods as a boy were of finding old apple trees, ancient remnants of the past. Planted by some long forgotten farmer who tried to scratch out a living on the poor rocky soil that I now plant my trees in. Most of the rootstock I use for my trees will still be thriving 75 or 100 years after I've planted it and although my name will be long forgotten I can only hope that some wandering hunter or hiker will stumble upon my orchards and wonder about the person who planted these trees all those years ago.

 My first graft of this spring is an Oliver. Grown from a seed on John Oliver's  Arkansas farm in the early 1800's.  It is just one of dozens of old heirloom varieties that I'll be grafting this spring.
My shipment of B118 rootstock.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Back in the Coverts

The snow has melted and the temperature has warmed up so Thicket and I went to Piney Creek in search of woodcock.

The birds were there and Thicket showed more interest in them than earlier trips afield. I was able to get one pic of her on point before she crept in and flushed the bird.
She still has a long way to go, but I believe she's getting over her "distain" for woodcock and hopefully with time and lots of bird contacts she will become a passable woodcock dog.