Friday, December 22, 2023

Christmas Blessings to you all (2023)

I wish all of you a Happy Christmas as another turn around the sun comes to an end.

Please don't look upon this Black Hills Spruce and think of Charlie Brown. This was planted from a 4" seedling about 10 years ago and was doing well as our Tree of Lights going forward.

Until a buck chose the tree to rub his antlers on what should have been about a 30" or so little tree. We plan on bringing the culprit to justice soon.

The spruce will continue to be our lighted tree until it decides it can't fulfill its obligations. We don't feel like giving up on it just yet.

There could be a lesson in there but your mileage may vary.

Happy Christmas from all of us at The Stranded Tree Farm

Same tree from 2021 ( a bit smaller though):



Friday, December 1, 2023

If gold could be grown

This year's popcorn yield was more than double of last year, in part to a dry August, no late severe summer windstorms and a whole lot of luck.

So, mostly out of my control, except for the planting time (earlier than previous years and no spring frosts), manual irrigation, and proper weed control with a heavy dose of bovine scatological inputs.

Some would still say... luck was the key factor. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As the self-proclaimed second largest popcorn producer in my county, we are expanding for next year --- if I get a new transmission so I could till the earth. Plus with some mad-scientist crossed hybrids, we will add a few colorful additions for the snack food consumers here, coming in fall of '24 and beyond.

In the mean time, winter is the time to shell some of this gold and I'd best get to work.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The reasons to plant a tree...

Conservation - water, soil, improving air quality, wildlife habitat

Shade - would you rather relax with a favorite beverage in the blinding sun or in the shade of a sugar maple?

For fun and profit - it may take 80 years but that straight walnut log is worth a little money

We added another reason: Legacy Trees.

Some might call them Memorial Trees but these are planted to honor those who are important to us, such as family, friends, and one planted for a group of people. All of them have an important impact on the farm and each tree is a reminder - a part of the legacy we hope to build.

We've even planted a few for other people who don't have the land to grow a maple, oak, or even a non-native species.

If you don't have the room for a tree, we can plant one for you. Contact me for details.

We have two Catalpa trees that were planted from seed collected from our neighbors who sadly passed away before they had a chance to watch them grow. Late Spring flowers are a reminder that they're still with us in spirit and seeds were given to their children to plant their own memorial. 


Wednesday, May 17, 2023


I don't mind some squatters on the place but I would have liked a better location than my ladder that I store under the eve of the garage.

I'm delaying a new roof until she moves on...

(There's other reasons but now I can blame someone besides myself.)

Monday, May 15, 2023

New Legacy tree

First tree planted in 2023

First legacy tree of 2023

This one is kind of special. Planted for someone who came into our lives a short time ago and this little Norway Spruce will grow in the family reserve above the pond. 

He may be small but he's growing...

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Springtime weather report

 Last Friday's storms left a lot of damage to the south and east of the farm:

One of the two tornadoes at the bottom were rated EF4 and reportedly started in Wapello County. Lots of roofing tin spread about in ours and the neighbors' fields and I'll walk the acreage to see what else I can find.

No damage (so far) just like a bloviating politician - a lot of wind...

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Second batch of aronia wine from 2022

We just bottled up our second batch of aronia wine that we started brewing a few months ago. This recipe had two gallons of juice compared to the first batch which had 2.5 gallons, plus we tried a couple of different things to assist in the clearing.

With each batch, we bottle some as dry and sweeten the rest to between a semi-sweet and a sweet wine. We sweetened it up a bit more in search of a good balanced recipe.

Most of my tasters prefer the sweeter end of the spectrum but I do like how the dry turned out last year. 

This seems to be the best batch we made from 2022 berries and looks pretty good through the light. Our third batch with another variation in the recipe is almost ready for second siphoning to clear the wine.

#1 son and I drank tasted the scrubs, what we call that last bit of wine that isn't enough to fill a bottle, and it's probably the best that we produced this year.

We might be getting close to the preferred recipe but I'm looking forward to finding out how our third one turns out.

Monday, January 23, 2023

From the shadows...

 I'm a little behind on reviewing the trail cameras and found this guy from September last year:

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Goodbye 2022

The picture below serves as a metaphor of 2022 at the farm: not everything went as planned.

Sure, we expanded our popcorn planting but late in the ground because of a wet spring. A dry Summer hampered the yields and late rains ruined a third of the harvest.

We fell well short of our tree planting because of a meager acorn harvest of the fall of 2021 and this past fall was even worse.

While we had our best year at the local farmer's market, I'm reminded of one potential customer's opinion of my "overpriced" potatoes. "I'll take them all. How much?"
she said. I told her to which she replied, "That's too much." My prices were less than the guy 6 tables to the north.

It reminded me of a Monte Python sketch.

Back to the tree:
During my end-of-year cleanup of trash trees like boxelder and dead elm trees, this 8" mulberry unexpectedly twisted on me, turned 60 degrees to the right and landed square on this post.
(No one was hurt, including the post)

Just as in this last tree cut in 2022, not everything went as planned. Is there a lesson to be learned? Will 2023 be better? Will the questions of the universe be answered? 


We'll just plug away the best we can, feed some of our neighbors, and plant a few more trees.



Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Aronia harvest and redneck wine tasting

Our aronia berries ripened about a week to 10 days early this year. "Normally" they are ready on Labor Day weekend which makes the name appropriate - Labor Day. 

With the dry, hot year, I started picking in late August to sell at the local farmer's market and picked for ourselves on the off days. Ripening lasts only a couple of weeks but, again with the hot year, the berries were drying on the vine sooner than I wanted.


Yields were pretty good after sorting through the discards and we sold a good portion of that and kept some for processing into our home-made wine. It takes almost 3 gallons of berries to make one gallon of juice and one recipe uses 2 1/2 gallons of juice. We have enough juice for 3 batches this year, plus I'm looking at a rhubarb/aronia mix for next spring.


We do not sell but have given a few bottles away. Reviews have been positive and I'm looking at further experimentation with recipe mixes. 

We don't have a license to sell and we don't, repeat, don't sell to either family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, or even family we do like. Nope. Once we come up with a proper recipe, we may look into it but danged if there isn't a hundred wineries per county in Iowa.

Which means we have to be different to make it a success.

In the mean time... A little redneck wine tasting.

Aronia dry 2021 and a half bottle of aronia semi-sweet. I use a half-pint jar.

In my earlier life, I visited a few bars where the glasses were pint mason jars, which made for cheap beer glasses for quarter draw nights. Yep, it was a while ago.

But for here, we aren't wine snobs but still, wine deserves glass. No frills label, regular half-pint jar, and a basic home-made red. I could have spruced up with a better cloth and background but I don't want to get carried away with a snooty atmosphere.

The Aronia Dry 2021 was a pretty good year... Cheers!