Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Do you want the good news first or the bad news first? Okay, the bad: Temperatures dropped last night to the point where we may have suffered damage. And they're going to drop again tonight. If we freeze, we could lose any portion of the crop. If it's a mild frost, it could do the perfect amount of damage, which is a funny thing to say. But every crop has to be thinned (more on thinning later), and if we lose just the right amount to frost, we don't have to spray to thin or spend serious money for hand-thinning. But if it gets TOO cold, we could lose it all. That would be BAD news.
Now the good: I had a trained professional look at our current business plan last night and he doesn't think I'm crazy! (Wipe that look of surprise off your face, soldier!) I still have a few serious blanks to fill in, but those will have to wait until the second week of May. (Have I mentioned how bad I am at waiting?) But the basics look good. We're not going to get rich off this place, but we might be able to grow apples without spending more money than we have. And THAT'S good news.
Now all we need is to not lose the crop to frost. Think warm thoughts!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I'm sitting here waiting for a FarmNet consultant to get here so we can discuss whether or not Little Dog has a real future. ARGH. I am NOT. GOOD. At WAITING. (He's late, by the way. I'm not that out of control.)
p.s. If anyone out there has a tractor they're not using anymore, send it on over here! Heck, we'll even come get it.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
That right there is a housing development for the most important laborers of all: bees. Without the bees, no one else gets to work, because without them, there's no fruit. These particular bees are serious migrant workers. They travel all over the country for work. Their biggest gig is pollinating almonds in California. I love these guys, even though I'm still afraid of 'em too. It's amazing how long a childhood sting lasts in the old amygdala, eh?
The hives in the picture were rented by the fellow who is leasing the bigger part of our orchard. All the major growers rent hives. Here at Little Dog, we're working on figuring out what to plant that will attract native pollinators. According to a recent article in New York Fruit Quarterly, there are as many as 81 different species of native bees who are willing to hang out and do what needs to be done in order for these trees to bear fruit. Can you imagine? 81 different species in New York alone! That's exciting news for me for a couple of reasons. Reason one is that I don't have to be as concerned about colony collapse disorder. Reason two is because, for some reason, cultivating plants that attract native pollinators is less scary to me than starting my own honey bee hives.
If you have questions about bees, post 'em! I probably won't be able to answer off the top of my head, but this is how I learn.
Monday, April 19, 2010
You know when you're watching a DVD and you hit "Fast Forward" and then you hit "Play" but the movie keeps speeding along? I swear Mother Nature hit "Fast Forward". See for yourself:
I'll explain those funky boxes from the first picture in another post down the line. But for now I'll just say that these trees are putting on their best "come hither" looks...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
There are workers in the part of the orchard that we own but can't yet manage today. They're throwing fistfulls (fists full?) of rodent poison everywhere to kill off the voles (who tunnel and make a hash of orchard floors and rudely gnaw on apple tree trunks).
Here's my plan: I'm about to apply something to the grassy areas called milky spore . It's a bacterium that is harmless to pets, people, beneficial insects ... well, in short, it doesn't hurt anyone but Japanese beetle grubs. See, the beetles will wake up soon, mature into adults, and eat any green matter in sight. The green matter that concerns me most is apple tree leaves. See, without those leaves, the tree can't collect the sunlight that feeds the apples. So I don't like Japanese beetles. You know who *does* like them? Voles. Voles like them when they are tasty grubs, sleeping in the dirt, waiting to become beetles. (You're with me so far, right?) So here I go with my milky spore, which will kill the grubs (so they don't grow up to eat the leaves). And where there are fewer adults, there will be fewer grubs, which means the voles will eventually have to look somewhere else for food.
Sometimes I feel like an evil genius.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Well folks, what can I say? It's STUNNING in the Hudson Valley right now. Spring is busting out all over. And all I have to capture it on is a little phone camera. So I'll just tell you that we're sneaking beyond tight cluster and moving right into pink (these are the phrases/words apple growers use to describe the stages of development. I promise I'll let you know when I make stuff up.)
It's kind of funny how the mind gets used to the starkness of winter. I keep being surprised when I look out the windows. Green, green, green. GREEN! I might have to lean on a certain neighbor for some awesome images. Maple Avenue, here I come...
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Seriously - prunes are EVERYWHERE around this joint. Okay, I'm not sure they're called that, but what would *you* call the stuff leftover after pruning? I'm calling 'em prunes, and that's that.
Even though it's not the ideal season for pruning, we just had ours done. (Ask me about the timing if you're interested. I won't bore the rest of you with the details.) It was beyond necessary this year, as I skipped last year out of frugality and an absolute lack of ability and/or labor for hire. The guys who came were awesome - fast, efficient, and super friendly. One of the guys has been working on these trees for the entire time they've been here. I wish I could download his knowledge right onto my hard drive!
Once the crew has been through to pick up the big chunks of tree (er, rather, the big prunes), someone will swing through with a chopper to dice up the rest. Once that happens, I'll probably start the permaculture plan. That's likely to entail planting fun things like chives (to confuse pests!).
It's getting incredibly green around here, so I'll try to get some good pictures soon...
Monday, April 5, 2010
Sumacs will take over if you let 'em. They're nicer about it than the multiflora, but they're just as determined. Happily, it's pretty easy to pull 'em out by the roots. The roots snake all over the land, and the process would make me sad if we had a "lawn" or anything that we're growing on purpose, but for now, it's all good.
Hail the conquering hero:
Friday, April 2, 2010
In these parts, you can make friends just by talking trash about the multiflora rose. They're evil for many reasons: They're vicious and thorny, they grow like (pardon) weeds, they spawn all over the place and they will take over your land if you let it. Jody discovered on the internet recently that the favorite method for multiflora removal is a bulldozer. Well, we don't have a bulldozer. But we have loppers, and we're not afraid to use them! Here's the before photo:
And here's the after:
The next step is for Jody to get out there with a shovel and dig out the root ball. And then we'll mow with religious fervor. Wish us luck! The next victims are the staghorn sumac...
Apologies, my friends, for not keeping you up to date on the Little Dog daily doings. Winter was so quiet and calm and then BLAM! Spring exploded all over the place. Things are in serious flux over here, but it's all very exciting. We're getting things done and making plans for a brighter future. I don't want to say too much, for fear of jinxing ourselves, but the word for the day is "permaculture". Google it, if you like. Or, check back in here at the blog, because I'm pretty sure it's going to be coming up a lot...