Every time I write one of these monthly update posts, I think to myself: “a whole month has passed already?!” Every single time. I can’t even believe spring is here and half over already. It’s been a busy one!
An Apple a Day
We’re turning into pretty serious (crazy?) apple growers- we have 26 different varieties of apples so far, and now that some of them are getting older we’re learning more about natural and organic pest and disease control, and how to grow the best tasting apples possible.
One goal for this year’s orcharding is frankly to take better care of our trees. We let some of the weeds around them get too big last year, and we wanted to change that. So this spring each tree is getting a layer of pea gravel, which helps to hold in moisture, keeps weeds away from the trunk, which promotes good airflow and makes it easier to spot possible problems with the trunk wood, plus it makes a good base for anchoring our vole fencing.
We’ve even done some of our own grafting! We had a few little grafts from last year that the scion (a piece of branch from the tree variety that you want your new tree to be) died but the rootstock was growing and thriving. So this year we took some new scion wood and grafted it right on to the rootstock in the field. It was hard to do and a little awkward (that’s what Karl is doing in the photo above)… but it worked!
It’s so nice to see everything coming together and watch our orchard grow before our eyes!
You’re Invited to a Dirt Party!
Karl thinks I underestimate the amount of time and work that projects will take. Karl is absolutely right.
We knew that we wanted to plant a lot of our smaller fruit trees and shrubs (like blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, and currants) in raised garden beds, and this was the spring we finally broke ground on that project. Karl built a bunch of raised beds this winter, we started installing them as soon as the ground was workable, and we knew that we would fill them with dirt as we had the time and energy for this spring. Turns out that hauling THIS much dirt is a LOT of work.
Thankfully, our neighbor with the skid-loader came over… and in 30 minutes did what would have taken me probably all spring and summer to complete. Our raised bed orchard was off to an incredible start! To date, all of the beds are filled with dirt, and so far we’ve planted in them: honeyberries, elderberries, six different types of raspberries, and two types of strawberries.
We also built a few taller raised beds for the the front of our house, which I will be filling with some of my rare and unique vegetables- mostly different kales, Chinese greens, and some edible flowers. And as always, the chickens were around to help with dirt detail!
From Barn to Barren
I’ve been talking about our barn demolition project for months now… and finally it’s just about wrapped up. A week or so ago we had a gigantic hole dug, all the leftover rubble and brick pushed into it and buried, and then the whole thing smoothed over with a layer of topsoil.
The last step will be to plant grass seed (seriously, wish us luck!) which will be happening any day now.
Last spring, almost exactly one year ago we inoculated a whole pile of oak logs with shiitake spawn. We tucked the logs into the woods to incubate for a year, and this spring we woke them from their slumber in hopes they would produce beautiful shiitake mushrooms for us.
Karl built a few wooden racks to stand the shiitake logs on (for ease of harvesting) and as soon as the temperatures warmed, they started popping out mushrooms! I love it when things go as planned… which doesn’t happen all that often on the homestead.
The particular strains of shiitake we used will produce mushrooms when the temperature is between 55F and 75F. In early spring we were able to harvest a couple bowls full, but then it turned cold and the logs stopped producing. The weather is forecasted to warm up, so I expect we will have plenty of mushrooms again- we plan to eat as many as we can fresh, and dehydrate the rest.
Karl and I both like mushrooms in general, but neither of us had ever actually tasted a shiitake before we inoculated the logs last year. Risky, I know! But I am pleased to report that they are outstanding!
Thanks for being here with us and following along on our homestead journey!
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