Friday, December 22, 2017

The ducks have a new yard, my future tomato and bean garden. 12.22.17

 We've had some problems with the chickens and ducks together, although I don't know if it's the birds or local predators.  The duck eggs have had holes punched in them, with some contents removed and the rest left to spoil.  Chicken beaks poking the holes?  Rodents?  Meanwhile, two hens were murdered, leaving their corpses mutilated and missing parts.  We did see then ducks eating at the hen remains.  Did the ducks do it, or racoons, or other predators?

So, I built a new duck enclosure.

This is completely separate from the chicken yard.  The area will become a warm-season kitchen garden bed in May or June, for tomatoes and beans.  I wanted fencing against deer, but for now it's fencing to keep the ducks in and, hopefully,  potential predators out.  They have a grassy area, and areas that I already turned over, and lots of tree leaves for rooting around in, and dry tree leaves for bedding.

They already started rooting around in the grass.  As they eat the bugs, slugs, maggots and worms, I hope this will feed the ducks and make the garden bed more hospitable for future gardening.  Of course, the ducks also fertilize it. 

In May, I have two potential new areas for ducks and/or chickens to work.  The first is orchard, and the second is around the raised beds, which will be separated by an expanse of grass.  Meanwhile, we'll see if the egg damage and hen murders come to an end.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Moving an Established Fig Tree. Delayed post from Nov 2017

Moving an Established Fig Tree.  Nov, 2017
 I decided to move a fig tree, that I originally planted in 2001.  It was at my old house in town, which I have been gradually converting the yard into a more conventional lawn and specimen planting lawn, for eventual sale.  That process is almost complete, but I didn't want to lose this good fig variety.

This tree was bought via mail order from Wayside Nursery on the East Coast in 2001.  It was sold as Petite Negri.  They sell fig trees using the same photo, but different name, currently.  On the defunct figs4fun website, it was identified as Aubique Petite.
Root Ball of Fig Tree.  Nov, 2017

Planted and a Little Wilted.  Nov, 2017
Whatever the true name, this tree does not grow as fast or large as many other varieties.  I 16 years, it's grown to about 8 feet tall, and similar spread, and bushy.  I had it pruned to a single trunk, but let some suckers grow in case the main tree does not survive the move.

This is probably my favorite fig by flavor, richly flavored figs, black skin and dark red flesh.  On the down side, it has almost no breba crop, and the main crop usually ripens when the rains come, so most are lost to mold.  The tree  grows slowly, and cuttings take a few years to start producing, so I wanted to preserve the tree rather than just taking cuttings.

The old location was near the base of a slope, shaded on its South and Western sides and a little Eastern shade as well.  Maybe it will produce earlier and better in a sunny spot.  The new location has full sun on South and West, and almost full sun on East.  It is near the top of a slope.  North of the location is the light yellow painted house.  This change of location might have the intended effect of earlier figs, although Battleground is a higher elevation and a little colder during winter, than the old Vancouver location.  The soil in the new location is also softer and more fertile.

I'm not getting younger.  It took 2 days to dig.  I had to remove some lower branches and suckers, to dig a trench, then dig under the tree.  I got all of the root ball that I could handle.  Obviously, a lot of root mass was lost, probably 75% of it,  a couple of roots as big as 3 inches diameter.  Leaves were already starting to yellow and fall before the move, and many fell completely, within a week after the move.  It's a drastic trauma to the tree, but fig trees are tough and resilient.  The stems continue to look healthy, with healthy looking buds.  I think it will adjust it's top growth next Spring, with slower growth, while the roots branch out and re-establish during Winter and Spring, in the new soil.  I will have a nice mulch, and water weekly.

As a backup, one of the suckers already had roots, so I had already severed that from the parent tree, and planted into a container. 

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Planting a New Bare Root Chestnut Tree. 12.1.17

Precose Migoule bare root chestnut tree.  11.30.17
 This is chestnut Precose Migoule, a French hybrid between European and Japanese species.  I chose it because some reports have it bearing at 2-3 years after planting, although others state 3-5 years.  It is described as a good pollinator for others, and with good nuts.  Also disease resistant.

This replaces the Marigoule chestnut that barely grew in 2017, and wasn't much to start out with. 

Burnt Ridge did a great job with packing.  I asked for the tallest tree possible.  They bent the top foot over in a wide loop, to fit into the box.  Other trees have been topped instead.  I provided a brace to straighten it.  That may be removed by Spring.

I gave it the usual protection, 1/2" hardware cloth sleeve to discourage voles, and a 5 foot tall circle of wire fencing.  Later, I can add 1 inch mesh plastic fencing to reduce deer problems with pulling on leaves that stick through.
Newly Planted Precose Migoule Chestnut Tree.  11.30.17

No mulch, yet.  I don't want to provide vole habitat.

Fall planting usually works well for me.  This is a little late but I think OK.   It won't grow or heal immediately, but I think that's OK too.

Now comes the wait for Spring!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mushrooms. 11.29.17

 Some mushrooms around my yard. I don't know what kind they are, except for the lovely red cap Amanita muscari. Those have emerged a little more fully too. I think they are more plentiful here because I apply so much tree leaves and arborist chips to the yard.

As I understand it, the visible mushrooms are just a visible manifestation of a much more extensive underground soil network of mycelium, connecting with tree and plant roots and nourishing the connected plants and trees. I don't know which ones are edible, and which ones are not. Since I prefer to keep my current liver, I'm not eating them.

I ordered some morel spawn, online.  Maybe there will be morels in a year or two.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Drying Ripe Cayenne and Thai Peppers. 11.24.17

The darker peppers are cayenne.  They ripen earlier, than Thai peppers.  It's chilly and rainy outside now, and there has been a light frost.  I don't think these hybrid Thai peppers will ripen further outside, so we strung them up.

Simple.  Use needle and thread.  Run the needle through the green stems.  These are hanging from a light fixture.  They might make a nice Xmas wreath, done a little differently.

Moving a 16-year-old Fig Tree. 11.24.17

Recently Transplanted, 16-yr-old Petite Negri Fig Tree.  11.24.17
I moved this fig tree about 3 weeks ago, but  just now catching up on blog entries.  I moved this fig tree from my old suburban place, to the country place.  This is part of preparing the suburban place for sale, making a more conventional landscape - mostly lawn, with a few specimen plantings - while trying to keep the favorite, established varieties where they can grow for many more years.

This was a challenge.  This was one of the first fig cultivars that I grew.  The figs are delicious, dark red interior with black exterior.    The negative side is, there are not a lot of Summer (breba) figs, and the Fall (main crop) figs ripen so late that most wind up spoiled in the chill and rain.  I wonder if location change will help.  The old location was shaded on the South by the house, and down a slope, and shaded on the West by a majestic, old, ornamental cherry tree.  The new location is on the South side of the house, with no shade on West or South side, and near the top of a slope.  So it should be warmer and sunnier. 

The trunk was about 5 inches in diameter.  This variety doesn't grow as tall as most fig trees, and was sold as "dwarf".  But in its 16 years in that location, it still grew into a thick trunked, extensively rooted tree.  I dug as large a root ball as I could, with as much soil as I could handle, pruned back the biggest branches and some of the suckers, and still had to cut some large roots.  It may not survive.

Meanwhile, this old guy wound up with a hip strain from the digging.  I should act my age.  That's one reason for fewer entries during the past couple of weeks.

The tree still had some leaves, but most were ready to fall when I dug it up.  Moving it in the fall, there is less watering to worry about during the rainy winter.  I think it will have a chance to settle in, and spend the next year establishing new roots.  If some of the top dies, that's OK.  It would be nice if some of the top does live, since deer don't seem to bother branches about 5 feet.  The highest growth on this tree now, is about 8 feet.

There was also a sucker with roots.  I had already cut that off and planted in a container.  If the main tree doesn't survive the move, I can still grow a new one.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Why the ideas of "native" and "invasive" need to be reworked. 12.19.14

These are some of my semi-random thoughts.   I try not to be too contrarian, but I also think we have to think for ourselves.

I saw this was in my unpublished blog from 2014.  No idea why I didn't publish then.   The thoughts are still what I think.

Many websites and authors express strong preference for growing native plants.  The thought is, native plants are best adapted for a particular local area, and plants that originate elsewhere, by definition lack certain properties, such as being adapted to the local provenance, soil, climate, water conditions, temperature, and insect populations.

American Chestnut.  Source
I really love quintessential "American" plants and trees.  It's a reason I like the idea of growing Pawpaws and American persimmons.  And, American linden, some maple species, and some native orchids.  And, if I could, mayapples, morels, chantrelles, tulip poplar, and others.

But what, in most urban suburban, and rural settings, outside of actual wildlands, exists of the original conditions?  Those are the conditions that American plants are best adapted to.  The temperature?   Climate zones have migrated.   Climate change is remodeling the climate condition everywhere.  So once native plants are adapted to a former, often gone, condition.  In general, local climates are warmer than before, but there is also shift in rain patterns.  The soil?  Much is gone.  In the highly modified lands of urban, suburban, farm, former farm, and logged forest, phenomenal amounts of topsoil are gone forever.  Much blew away in the dust bowl, and in farming practices.  Forestry, logging, and farming, resulted in washing away a big fraction, sometimes most, of the original soil.   The remaining soil is populated with trillions of earthworms - highly beneficial to the gardener and farmer, but causing a paradigm shift in the soil structure, nutrition, texture, water holding capacity, and presence of protective layers of undecomposed leaves.

Looking around populated areas here, what remains of original species of trees and plants?  The vast majority seem to be gone.  Instead, the yards and gardens contain plants from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and many hybrids and human-modified plants.  The grasses are foreign.  Many of the trees, if not most, are foreign.

In wild places, there may still be mostly original species but again, the climate itself is different.  The soil is different.  Even the air is different - increased CO2 may change growth of some plants, more than others.  The water is different - the more acidic pH of the water means the soil itself is more acidic.  Plants that are adapted to a local soil pH, texture, nutritional constitution - those may be local, but no longer adapted to transformed environmental conditions.

Dead American Chestnut.  Source:

In addition to changes in soil, climate, some species have been erased - a "cleansing" from the local ecosystems.  The vast forests of chestnut were killed off by Chestnut blight, and no longer exist. The vast forests of Elm were killed off by Dutch Elm disease - they also no longer exist.  Bison, gone.  Passenger pigeon, once present in the billions, gone.  Ash, on the way out.   If each member of a forest or prairie, is an essential part of the fabric, then that fabric is already permanently changed and cannot be regenerated.  Not even if the few members of the erased species can be re-engineered, or re-hybridized, or re-generated, to be resistant to the introduced diseases and changed environment.  Then there are the introduced insects and mammals, which are probably here to stay as well. 

There are indications that the North American forests and prairies have long been more like gardens and farms, than wild forests.  Native Americans transformed them by burning and planting, and their ancestors destroyed the megafauna to the point of extinction.  Megafauna - mastedons, wooly mammoths, sloths, tapirs, bison species, pronghorn, giant beavers, horses - were part of an ecosystem, interacting with and affecting plant growth, keeping some in control, controlling others.  Removal of native predators, means deer have proliferated to the point of being an invasive species, even when native - destroying palatable plants, and leaving unpalatable ones in place. 

Megafauna are thought to have lead to proliferation of pawpaws and persimmons.  Later, it was Native Americans who planted them. Now, it's us.  Both of these species range from the Southeast to the Mississippi basin, nowhere near where I live in Pacific NW.  So here, they are exotic tree species, like apples, peaches, pears, figs,  most plums and most cherries.

I know, there are lists of harmful exotics.  Especially, highly invasive ones.  In the southeast, that's kudzu.  In the Northwest, it's English Ivy, Himalayan Blackberry (actually, European), and Buddleia, Tansy ragwort, and others.  Some of these are really harmful, replacing other species and crowding others out, or toxic, like giant pigweed.  We don't think of it, but our lawn grasses are invasive species.  The dandelion, ubiquitous, and probably harmless, even beneficial, is invasive.  And probably can not be eradicated.  In our yards, many more - but maybe more annoying, as opposed to harmful on a vast scale, like Hyacinthoides, Bishopweed, in the Northwest, may fill a niche, and have a role where others don't survive.  Especially Hyancinthoides, which deer leave alone.

Pawpaw.  Image source:  vintageprintablecom.  Pawpaws don't look much like this.
 I have read that native pollenizing insects also are best adapted to the native plants, and not to exotics.  That may be true.  There are philosophical, as well as scientific, reasons.  But insects evolve fast.  That's why we have an ongoing chemical war against insects in factory farming - they evolve to resist each chemical that is sprayed against them.  I suspect they will also adapt, and many probably already have, to the different flower shapes and colors, different pollen types, and other characteristics of exotics.  Certainly, I have watched many pollinating insects devour nectar and pollen from nonnative alliums like Chinese chive, shallots, onions, and from buddleia, apple, non-native plum, non-native cherry flowers..

In the typical American garden, farm, suburban yard, locally derived plants can be nice, and have a clear role.  But there is no reason to avoid plants from the world's vast resources of centuries of importation, adaptation, genetics, and breeding.  Plants from elsewhere will often be better adapted, more useful, and more suitable to the highly changed and changing ecosystem.  

Replanting Collard Greens Stems. 11.23.17

Two replanted collard greens stems, and 2 plants left in place.  11.23.17
A couple of collard greens plants were in the way when I completed the blackberry fencing, so I pulled them up and threw them into the chicken yard.  The hens picked them clean, leaving just the stems and roots.

They still looked viable, although there were some buds that were also eaten off.  Last year's collard greens plants are still growing, so I thought maybe these would regrow if replant them.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  So I replanted them near two collard greens plants that are still growing from this summer.  We'll see what happens.

Horseradish Harvest. 11.23.17Horse

Horseradish Harvest.  11.23.17

Prepared Horseradish.  11.23.17
I dug and ground some horseradish.  Most of it broke off, so there is more to dig later, and will doubtless grow back anyway.  This was more than enough for enough horseradish sauce to last a few weeks.

Prep is very easy.  Wash off the soil, pare off the skin so the remaining root is pure white.   Cut into chunks.  Chop in food processor to tiny chunks but not pureed.  Drop into jar with vinegar.  I used white vinegar.  Store in fridge.  Don't sniff too aggressively - this stuff is potent!

I did re-plant some of the smaller roots, in a different raised bed, for easy harvest next year.

Chickens liked eating the leaves.  They ate every scrap of horseradish leaf, that I gave them.  I sniffed the leaves, and they didn't seem potent like the root.

A nice big chunk of horseradish, ready to chop.   11.23.17

Blackberries trellised, penned, and ready for winter. 11.23.17

These are the main blackberry bed now.  I built the trellises using logs salvaged from fallen trees, last year, and bamboo poles from our stand of bamboo.   I like the rigid cross beams, instead of wire or string, because rather then pulling inward, they provide some strength.

There is also a small fig tree in the blackberry garden.  I thought that tree was killed last winter, and just hadn't gotten around to removing it yet.  Smith fig.  If it doesn't bear next year, I might remove it anyway.  That's 5 years with less than 1 fig per year, so far.  I think Smith needs a hotter summer.  The origin is Louisiana.

The deer fencing is a recurring theme here.  Not much I can do about that, unless someone gets a permit to harvest the deer.  Might not be possible or safe in a neighborhood, however rural, with children and other people around.

The blackberry garden is completed for winter and beyond.  All I can think of as needed now is dormant pruning, and provide a bird net, next summer.

Prime Ark Freedom seems to have no sense of season.  It's still blooming.  If there is no true dormancy, that doesn't seem good for winter.  However, survival was sufficient last winter to provide a taste.  They are excellent, delicious, sweet, huge berries.  Since we are going into this winter with bigger, more established plants, they might survive better than they did last winter.

This is my first try with Arapaho and Triple Crown.  If Prime Ark Freedom isn't suitable, maybe they will be.

Mushrooms I Won't Touch! 11.23.2017

I'm guessing these are Amanita muscaria.  Regardless, we won't try eating them.  But nice to look at.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Young Chestnut Tree Follow-up. 10.31.17

Grafted Maravale.  10.17.17

Grafted Maravale.  10.17.17

Grafted Marigoule.  10.17.17
 I have the chestnut trees tucked in for the fall/winter, with an arborist chip mulch and good fencing.  The fencing is a double layer, 5 feet tall, welded steel 4 inch by 2 inch mesh, with fine pastic net 1 inch by 1 inch mesh so the deer can't pull the leaves and branches through the stronger but larger mesh.  If they grow as well next year, as they did this year, they should only need the fence for another year, maybe two.

I'm being extra diligent because deer are becoming a bigger problem - increased population, fewer food sources, no predators, no hunting in my area.

There was a big difference in vigor and establishment.  Two grew about 3 or 3 1/2 feet, one grew a few inches.  That was Marigoule.  I moved it to a different spot, where it doesn't matter as much if it flourishes.  I have an order in for a replacement in the spot where it was.  That is already set up with fencing as well.
Seedling of Marissard.   10.15.17

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Planted Garlic. 10.17.17

Today I planted garlic.  Three rows from my own harvested garlic, I think German Red.  Four rows of this Duganski from Territorial.  I also bought another type from Territorial, but the cloves were soft and shriveled.  I don't know if they are worth planting, or could have a disease.  I may try those in an unused raised bed, not anticipating planting onion family in that bed so maybe it would be worth a try.

Why The Biggest Expense Isn't Trees and Plants, It's Fencing. 10.17.17

Thursday, October 12, 2017

First Turnip.  10.12.17
First turnip from the ones I planted this summer in July in a raised bed.  Looking good.  Nice flavor, crisp, not at all woody.

Nerine and Geraniums. 10.12.17

I moved these out of the rain, and will let them dry out as much as possible before moving them to the garage for the winter.  This planting is about 3 or 4 years old now.  The nerine is a nice surprise.  I thought they had died out.

New Load of Arborist Chips. Mulching Young Trees and Borders for Next Year. 10.14.17

 We had a large, old, dead tree cut down.  The arborist had a truck load of chipped tree branches, including those from our tree, so I asked for them to use as mulch.

It will take several truck loads to haul all of them.  So far, I've mulched a major section of the woods edge border, which I spent the last 18 months cleaning up and planting with trees, shrubs, and perennials.  It was fairly clean already, but with about 4 inch thickness of arborist chips, should not need any significant maintenance for most of 2018.
Chestnut Tree, One Year Old.  Double-Fenced, Mulched, and Ready for Winter.  10.12.17

That's a major step in reducing my workload next year.  Many of the things that I planted there, were unwanted plants and shrubs that needed a new home.  Some were sizeable.  I didn't want to buy things that might not do well, or more likely, be eaten by deer.  Deer are the major limitation to what I can grow.  At this point, I just want to get trees growing above deer browsing height, and stick to the ornamentals that they don't like to eat. I know they won't eat the dwarf mugo pines, crocosmia, gladiolas, ferns, Helleborus, daffodils, or hyacinthoides.  Not sure about the Rhododendrons.  I'm watching for deer damage to the Dawn Redwood, but so far they have not taken a liking to it.

I also mulched the year old Chestnut trees.  They still need some hardware cloth to protect from rodents, then they too are set for the winter and for 2018 as well.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Update: Transplanted Old, Minidwarf Apple Trees, 2 seasons later. 10.8.17

Jonagold on M27.  10.8.17
 These are dwarfs, on M27 rootstock.   I transplanted them last winter.  I think they are around 16 years old.  They did fine.  The Liberty had about 20 apples, maybe as much as it can handle anyway.   Then Jonagold only had 3, and of those only one looks edible.  That one is alternate year bearing anyway, and this was to be the off year.

I'm happy with how they responded to transplanting and care. 
Liberty on M27.  10.8.17

Kitchen Garden Harvest. 10.8.17

 The turnips were planted in a raised bed in July.  This is a massive turnip now.

The squashes are butternuts, scallops, and some compost volunteers.  Those may be natural hybrids of different types that I grew last year.

Fall/Winter Projects. A New Deer Cage for Young Chestnut Tree. 10.8.17

Maraval Chestnut Tree in Deer Cage.  10.7.17
Things are winding down for the gardening season.  I am starting some maintenance and improvement projects to help next year go better.

The make-shift deer cages mostly worked for the young chestnut trees.  Minimal damage.  However, I wanted room to grow for next year, potentially the last year or next-to-last year they will need deer cages.

This year, some parts of my orchard had major, disappointing, set-backs due to failed deer cages and more aggressive browsing.  I think there are more deer this year, and saw a group of five in a neighbor's yard this week.  There are no deer predators now, and hunting is not  allowed.  I don't know what will happen as the population increases above what the ecosystem can handle.  Meanwhile, with a hot dry summer, and probably more hunger and thirst, they ventured into tree and plant varieties that they would normally not eat, and they were more aggressive about getting into barriers that they would normally not bother with.

I usually use standard welded wire fencing, holes are 2 inches by 4 inches, and height 4 feet.  That was usually fairly secure, but then deer learned to grasp leaves that stuck out through the fencing, pulling to rip off branches much further in the cage.  In some cases, branches were pulled off the trees, leaving big wounds.  One tree was completely destroyed.  Deer also reached over some of the fences to chomp down branches that emerged above the cages.  So, I changed some of the fences to plastic fencing with 1 inch gaps.  That prevented leaves from sticking out through the gaps, but the material was too flexible, and in some cases the deer pushed the fencing down, giving access to entire trees to eat the tree.  I want to be more prepared for next year, and avoid more disappointing damage if possible.

Maraval Chestnut Tree in Deer Cage.  10.7.17
Two of the new chestnut trees put on roughly 4 feet of growth this year, growing from about 2 feet tall to a little more than 6 feet tall.  I cobbled together protective fencing as they grew, which mostly worked but didn't feel stable.  I used the heavier metal fencing, and added either chicken-wire fencing, or plastic 1-inch mesh fencing, as a second layer of protection.  Anticipating next year's growth, I wanted wider, taller fences, so built a new one yesterday for one of the trees.

Now it has stronger fence posts to prevent knocking the fencing over.  The fencing is 6 feet tall, and is 2 layer, with both the sturdy, wide-mesh metal, and the narrower mesh plastic.  As the tree grows next year, I may need to add a bit more, higher, level, but I think this will be good, for the most part, for protection in 2018.  After that, I think these trees will be tall enough to dispense with the fences.

This was the chestnut variety Maraval.  Next, I need to to the same for the Marissard seedling that grew as much, and the smaller Marigoule that I moved to a new location last week.

Edit 10/8/17:  Now Marissard seedling is also in a new, larger, double-fencing cage too.  I hope these work.  It's really disappointing to check on trees and discovered that a year of effort, or more, has become a salad for roaming deer.
Marissard Chestnut Tree in Deer Cage.   10.8 17

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Yates American Persimmon. First Taste. 10.7.17

Yates American Persimmon.  10.7.17
Today was my first taste of any American persimmon, and in this case, the Yates persimmon that I planted in early 2015.  This tree has about a dozen fruits.  The ripe persimmons almost fall from the tree, when touched. 

These are smaller than Nikita's Gift, and earlier.  Not quite as sweet, I think as Nikita's Gift or Saijo.  They are a wonderful rich flavor, thick texture, not as liquidy as some ripened astringent Asian persimmons I've eaten.

All I can say is, definitely worth growing.
Yates American Persimmon.  10.7.17

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Airlie Red Flesh Apple. First Harvest. 10.5.17

 Last year I picked up some scion of "Arlie Red Flesh" apple at the Home Orchard Society scion exchange.  It took, grew rapidly, and there are a few apples on that branch.  This was my first one, ever.  Cool to look at, slightly tart, sweet, pretty good tasting apple.   Others have re-named and trademarked this apple as "Hidden Rose", but it is not patented.