Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Legacy Tree updates, April 2021

 A brief update for a few of our legacy trees. 

I took measurements in March while the trees were still dormant (no real good quality pictures - I'll return later with some spring growth) and here's an update:

The pride of the farm, David's Kentucky coffeetree: - 11 feet tall, 2 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Grown from a nut planted on our second summer. David is our advisor-at-large for all manners concerning trees. For contrast, a second coffeetree planted at the same time is only 42 inches tall. I cannot explain the difference but we're working on it.

Jason's pin oak has a way to go but has an excuse of only growing from an acorn for 2 years now. It stands at 21 inches. It could end up being our tallest tree someday (in about 60 years, so be patient, Jason)

In our surprise category, a red buckeye to honor our border collie mix, Buckeye (Buck). Planted 5 years ago from a seedling we got from a vendor in Missouri, it was standing at only 16 inches in March and added 5 and a half inches by April 11th. With frost settling in, I didn't want to risk this new growth and I wrapped it in clear plastic until the dangers of frost ended about a week later. I kept it in this mini greenhouse until last Saturday, the 24th, when I cut the top open to find it was now at 30 inches tall. 

Buck's buckeye (I've got some cleanup to do)

There's always something different, something new to learn at the farm.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Tuesday Triumph - April 2021

 Triumph is back with us this third spring. After wandering around, most likely getting better food at the neighbors, she has made her appearance once again at the farm. I believe it was around Thanksgiving when we last saw her on one of the cameras.


We speculate a lot of what she does when she isn't posing for the cameras here and maybe we will find the answers someday. At any rate, she looks well fed.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Signs of Spring

 

Red oak acorns are starting to break open. We picked these up from a local tree last fall until the first snow and then "floated" the acorns by putting them in water. Whichever sinks, these should be viable. The acorns are placed into a bag of peat moss in the spare frig to simulate the cold winter - this is called the stratification process. If we planted in the ground right away, then squirrels and other critters could get them.

These are ready to be planted in a tube tray with a peat moss/sand mix and will I let them grow in the tubes until next spring. So long as the squirrels and chipmunks stay out, they should be ready to plant. We lost half of our white oak seedlings to them last summer. Previous year's surviving white oak, red oak and hickory will be planted in a few weeks.

We do this every year and we lost access to several white oaks last fall. Still looking for a black oak source that we lost a few years ago.

The numbers: of the acorns we pick up, we throw out 70-80% after floating. Of those seedlings that are planted, only about 20% survive rabbits and other rodents to year three. Putting up wire cages increase the chances of trees making it but no guarantees there.

Looking forward to spring planting.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Spring 2021

Spring has arrived at the farm. Don't tell me that spring is a couple weeks away because when the red-winged blackbird arrives, it's spring.

Dozens arrived on Monday (3/1), a week earlier than I predicted and they were active in a couple of cottonwood trees on the north side of the road. As I approached to get a better picture, they scattered to the soft maples along the creek that runs through the neighbor's field. Usually I can walk within 10 yards of a red-winged but they may be jittery this early in the spring. I waited behind the cover of a row of cedar trees for them to return to the cottonwoods.

When they came back, I was able to get that one picture above and then I left them alone but watched from the truck. With the ground still nearly covered in a foot of snow, there was little open ground but under the cottonwoods was a mound of corn that must have spilled when the neighbor harvested his field last fall. The snow melted to reveal the corn that was almost directly underneath those cottonwoods. 

The flock at the cottonwoods, both males and females, about half stayed perched in the trees while the others fed on the pile of corn. Maybe a half a minute later the birds on the ground flew up into the trees, their "chip" calls among themselves for a few seconds until the group that was perched took their turn to feed. 

I watched for at least 10 minutes as they switched from sentinels to voracious eaters until they decided to move on. Some may stay here at the farm while others fly to greener pastures. Maybe the chicks born at the farm last year will return to weave their nests for their own brood.

The first day of our spring started out on a high note but went down from there. More later on that. In the mean time, I'll remember the behavior of our friends on that day.


Monday, March 1, 2021

Coming Soon - The Project

A new beginning for us here at the farm as we decided to go in a new direction. As many know, I have always been employed off the farm to pay the bills. We bought the land about ten years ago and it doesn't provide enough income to allow us to be a full-time farm operation.

Things have changed.

I've worked for others since I was fourteen when my dad "volunteered" my labor to neighboring farmers. For the past four decades (with only very brief periods) I've earned my wages working for others.

I voluntarily left my salaried job on Friday in an effort to complete what has been a lingering vision/dream/passion that has been sitting there dormant for far too long. More details will roll out as we successfully complete our next steps or we crash and burn - who knows?

I call it by it's sexy title - The Project

Will we be successful? The stubborn part of me is driving the bus right now, so I better say yes.

We will clear more ground for our farmer's markets this summer as well as a couple of side projects that are in the works. My wife is employed, so we won't be living on the streets (for the time being).

This may be insane or one of the stupidest things I've done but life is a crap-shoot and "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." - Attributed to Yogi Berra

I plan to take this fork while I still can. 

Since I don't have a fork, here's a "T"

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Today's Forecast is...

 

Upon hearing the forecast

We've had snow on the ground since December 12th that is now approaching three feet of accumulation. Well, that has to go somewhere.

We currently have one pile about six feet tall, 12-15 feet wide at the base and forty feet long next to the homestead. With the tractor at the acreage and no snow blower available (they always break down anyway) there is only one method to move and pile up snow.

It's currently in my hand in the picture.

The neighbor and I have been trading labor. He digs me out and I dig him out - whoever gets to the snow first. This hasn't been entirely solo but close.

I don't mind shoveling snow that much. One gets into a rhythm and if you don't try to overexert yourself, you could get a lot of work done in the day and into the night. The frustrating part is when you have to move a pile of snow to make room for the next storm, then move that pile to make room for another storm and so on...

It's about three weeks until the red-winged blackbird shows back up. That is the day I consider it to be spring.

Maybe the snow will be gone by then.

Dust of Snow,  By Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Snow Harvest

Snow crop, 2021
 

This year’s snow harvest started in mid-December and continues. Market prices have declined and the futures market has been steady to slightly higher for July but with no storage facilities, that would make it tough for us.

This winter’s harvest has been interrupted with machinery breakdowns and limited repair parts available which means a typical year for the most part. A neighbor, Don Wills, has taken multiple loads to markets as far south as Arkansas for weeks and we wish him well.

This is only the second season in the past seven winters that we’ve had a decent snow although the 2018-19 season was hampered by ice. The snow markets discounted several of our loads that year and times got a little tough during those cold nights.

Old Timers still talk about the snowstorm of ’71 where five-foot drifts made roads to the markets impassable for weeks. There was so much snow they refused all loads for nearly a month and the snow was left to melt in the fields. Another opportunity lost for many farmers and I’m reminded of Deke Williams losing his farm to auction that spring. 

The cold winds have come for all
The bankers demand their due
How can we pay the bills
When the hills of snow turned blue?*

*Ballad of the Lost Harvest – Hank Jenkins Band. From Bend Your Ear, 1973

 Another two inches of snow today – we’ve been blessed.

Taking our snow crop to market

 

 (An early April Fools Day?) 😉

 Linked to Poets and Storytellers United: Writers’ Pantry #53: The Bicentenary of Anne Brontë’s Birth

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas - 2020

For a year that held such promise, these last couple of months have been especially challenging as I suspect many others are in the same boat, leaky vessel or life jacket during these "interesting" times. 

I hope all of you find joy and peace today and hold on to them going forward.

May you all pause to enjoy the company of your loved ones.



Thank you all and may the blessings of the world be upon each of you.

 

From all of us at The Stranded Tree Farm - Merry Christmas

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tuesday Triumph - been missing her

 Our three-legged deer hadn't been seen since February this year and she wandered back onto the acreage in October giving us some time in front of the cameras.

We've missed her and hoped that she would visit a little more often but she makes her own choices.

Maybe she'll hang around for a little longer.




Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Tailgating

Tailgating at the farm:

This is just part of the popcorn harvest that we picked a little early. We found that with the stalks laying over, along with the rains, we were at risk of mold. We separated the bad ears of corn and kept the best to be bagged in onion sacks to hang for ventilation. This will take about two to three weeks to dry. After that, we get the fun of shelling each kernel from the cob.

The local farmer's markets have been closed all summer but this is a crop we can store for next year and we have a few customers that take deliveries. 

This variety is called Ladyfinger, is mostly hull-less and nearly every kernel pops. They are small kernels and the flavor makes it our favorite, although another variety works well for caramel corn. We've had to ration our last crop and are down to less than a cup remaining.

Despite the weather issues, this has been the best popcorn we've produced and we're getting the ground ready for next year. 

With any luck, we'll produce an even better crop.