Turkeysong

Experimental Homestead

Turkeysong, the Year in Pictures 2013 Late Winter and Spring

collecting red fleshed apple pollen header

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It’s been a challenging year.  My love and best friend moved away in the spring, leaving a hole in my life that still feels like it will never close all the way.  In classic bad timing, I was also embarking on diet and lifestyle changes in yet another attempt to improve my crappy health which I had made worse the previous season by going on a very restricted low carbohydrate diet called GAPS (shudder).  My new approach included, as importantly as anything, stress reduction, but with a broken heart, very little money, no energy and pretty much on my own for the first time in forever without anything resembling a reliable income, that didn’t happen so much.  I got pretty low functioning for a while but managed to squeak through the worst of it.

I was only able to make the farmer’s market, my main source of income, about once a month where I average less than 100.00.  I was as chubby as I’ve ever been in my life and pretty damn weak.  I remember killing a chicken to eat and having to rest 3 times in order to finish processing it.  I started plucking it, but it was too much work so I just tore the skin off.  Another time I prepped for the market the night before, and finished washing carrots in the morning.  By the time I was ready, I was too exhausted to make the trip, so I had to blow it off.  A bunch of produce, including a cooler full of amazing carrots, the best crop of the year, went to the chickens.  That sort of thing was not unusual for me unfortunately, but doing it alone was.  I almost never slept more than 5 hours consecutively,usually less, and often only managed to get 4 or 6 hours of sleep total over 24 hours.

Fortunately this nutcase/genius,

Matt-Stone-author-pic

Matt Stone‘s advice on improving my metabolic rate has paid off in the long run, in spite of some circumstantial bumps in the road.  Regardless of all of the difficulties, my mood was greatly moderated throughout by listening to my body and eating whatever I felt like, whenever I wanted, and then some.  I also stopped working unless I felt really up to it and drastically cut my consumption of liquids, especially the holy elixir of eternal youth, plain water.  Over the last couple months I’ve lost fat and gained muscle while continuing to follow that basic approach and adding a very small amount of body weight exercise..  I still have some way to go to be really high functioning, but I have a pretty normal body temperature for the first time in ages, and I feel good with increasing frequency, not just not bad, but actually good, always a great rarity for me and valuable beyond words.  On new years eve I wore a t-shirt outside until about 11:00 pm because my metabolism was so jacked up that it felt like I was pushing the cold air away by radiating heat.  My personality has definitely changed for the better, and I’m more convinced than ever that the severity of peoples emotional and phychological issues is often, if not usually, rooted in physiological dysfunction.  A resilient physiology makes for a resilient person.

Other things have helped me along the way, but this is the ONLY approach that has ever felt like it’s given me a real foundation on which to potentially build back true health after 15 years of lyme related issues, as well as being kind of messed up for most of the rest of my adult life.  Throwing supplements, exercises, superfoods or whatever at health problems is largely a waste of time if the baseline of the organism, the production of cellular energy, is compromised and replaced (as it always is when compromised) by a stress response chemistry.  Metabolism is where it’s at folks.  Low body temperature = an unhappy body.

At this point, I’m pretty much letting my body do the driving, doing my best to make it feel safe, well nourished and well rested, and trusting it to sort out what to do with the resources I give it.  I’m pretty sure now that it’s smarter than me.  I’m hoping that I will continue to improve so I can more fully realize my potential to kick some serious experimental/educational butt in 2014, but everything will take a back seat to gaining and retaining a healthy state, whether I get there or not.

Even with all the challenges and a major lag during the summer, I still managed to do some cool stuff and take a bunch of pictures.  I’ve broken the year in pictures up into two parts of which this is number one.  Hopefully next year it will be in 4 parts!

Erlicheer at the Ukiah Farmer's Market. This smelly small double narcissus, was a big hit. It looks like little roses. It doesn't seem like a good candidate for my tree understory system, but it's very popular as a cut flower.

Erlicheer at the Ukiah Farmer’s Market. This smelly small double narcissus, was a big hit. It looks like little roses. It doesn’t seem like a good candidate for my tree understory system, because it comes up too late, but it draws a lot of attention as a cut flower, so I’ll probably continue to expand plantings of it all over the place.

girl smelling narcissus

Sniffs are free, but sales were a little sluggish.  I think it’s a marketing issue.  I hope so anyway, because flower production from the many bulbs I planted a few years ago is just getting underway now.

Mowgli's Favorite, one of Bill Welch's creations

Mowgli’s Favorite, one of Bill Welch’s creations

A Collet Vert rutabagas. This is the best rutabaga I've grown.

A Collet Vert French rutabagas. This is the best rutabaga I’ve ever grown.

coagulated goat's blood being wrapped for freezing. Incredibly nutritious and surprisingly tasty fried.

coagulated goat’s blood being wrapped for freezing. very nutritious and surprisingly tasty when fried.

Interstem trees

Many of the inter-stem apples that I planted a couple of years ago were re-grafted to new varieties.  Most are dessert or dual purpose dessert/cider apples.  All the grafts took and they grew very nicely, aside from a couple of grafts breaking in the wind when I unwrapped them too early. One broke at about 12 inches long. It still looked plump and healthy, so I trimmed off the leaves and re-grafted a section of it back into a fresh split immediately. It took. That supports the idea that you can get away with grafting at many different times of the year. In a low risk situation like that one, why not try?  Note also crops being grown under the trees.  It benefits the trees with extra water and nutrients they otherwise probably would not get, and the roots help condition the soil and inject organic matter.  I’m hoping this whole strip will eventually have an understory of winter growing flowers ala my winter bulbs under fruit trees project.

Red Fleshed Seedling scions

The cuttings from my first batch of red fleshed apple seedlings pollinated in spring 2011, ready for grafting.  Each has a tag with a unique code, so I can keep track and take notes from here out.  The roots were planted in a block somewhere as a sort of backup.

Red fleshed apple seedlings grafted in nursery

Red fleshed apple seedling nursery.  They are grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks. In a somewhat bold move, I grafted the entire length of most of the scions instead of the usual 2 or 3 buds on a short stick.  Some of them were a couple feet long. I had 100% take on these grafts.  Apparently, the more buds they have, the sooner they’ll fruit, so I’ll do virtually no pruning from here out.  All are staked, and completely painted with grafting wax to prevent drying until the graft can heal. Note also the shade cloth. Overall, it was a good year for grafting. Various experiments I’ve done indicate that the conservative way most of us usually approach grafting is not always necessary, and probably very limiting. I’ll be experimenting more, so hold your breath for EXTREME GRAFTING!!! (THE MOVIE!?)

notching

I’m increasingly impressed by notching.  Notching above a bud encourages it to grow out, or to grow longer and stronger.  This tree was trained by a combination of dis-budding and notching.  By so doing, I got scaffold branches exactly where I wanted them and therefore the basic shape of the tree in one year from a single stem!  I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this cool technique I picked up from a very old tree training study, but for now, it’s really this simple- leave 3 buds grouped together along the whip wherever you want a scaffold, removing all other buds except a couple at the top, notch one bud in each group to grow out the direction you want that scaffold to point in (one in each direction for open center or delayed open center). Let all growth except basal suckers grow through the season. Trim off anything you don’t want next winter. Why doesn’t everyone do this instead of the usual slower training methods? That’s a good question and I think the answer is key to making progress in gardening and farming. The approach to gardening and farming seems to be conservative by our nature, but it is often based on baseless common knowledge that is not infrequently short sighted, overly conservative, or just plain wrong. This method of notching combined with disbudding was proven out starting in 1926, but seems to have had little influence as far as I’ve encountered.

bee

bee on red fleshed apple flower.  The red pigment can infuse the flowers, leaves, bark and wood as well as the fruit. It was an excellent spring for setting fruit.

pollen

Collecting pollen of Red Fleshed apple for breeding effort

Mr. Beethead

Mr. Beethead.  Just a surplus beet from the garden that ended up amusing a lot of people at the local hot springs where it resided in a bowl of water for a few weeks.

Gratuitous cute chick pic

Gratuitous cute chick pic

Chicks eating an unwanted turnip.

Chicks eating an unwanted turnip.

chicken poo. A common sight at turkeysong. Good stuff when it's not on your shoe.

chicken poo. A common sight at turkeysong. Good stuff when it’s not on your shoe (or on the kitchen floor when you forget to close the door) (or all over the front step which it is every day).

The new chicken coop. The floor is 1

The new chicken coop. The floor is 1″ x 2″ screen allowing most of the poop to fall through and dry on the floor below for easy collection. Very convenient and more pleasant for the chickens than most designs.  Some poo still has to be scraped off the wire, but it’s not much and it dries out pretty well with all that ventilation.

Chicks and mom drinking at the watering hole. With mom at the watering hole. It was an epic chick year with probably over 11 hens going broody. Finding the balance between being over the carrying capacity of the land, and maintaining a surplus large enough to offset depredation is proving to be tricky. Over 20 is too many. They're tearing the place up pretty good. I'm working my way through them one Tom Kha Gai and Yakitori skewer at a time. The meat quality is really outstanding. So are the eggs. These chicks are laying now.

With mom at the watering hole.  It was an epic chick year with over 11 hens going broody.  I stopped counting.  Finding the balance between being over the carrying capacity of the land, and maintaining a surplus large enough to offset depredation is proving to be tricky. Over 20 is too many. They’re tearing the place up pretty good. I’m working my way through them one pot of Tom Kha Gai (best thai cooking site eva) and Yakitori skewer at a time. The meat quality is really outstanding. So are the eggs. These chicks are laying now.

What happens when you don't perform here at turkeysong. The batch of Buckeye chickens didn't work out for eggs and in general. Buckeye fail. however, they are really excellent meat birds I have to say.

What happens when you don’t perform here at turkeysong!  I should hang this picture in the egg hutch.   The batch of heritage Buckeye chickens we got a while back didn’t work out so great. Buckeye fail.  They were supposed to howl like dinosaurs, but they whine like chickens.  They were supposed to be cute and friendly, but they’re inelegant and bratty.  They were supposed to not be the best layers ever, but they were the worst.  However, they are really excellent meat birds.  I have to give them that.

Bull hide on tanning beam. This bull hide from the neighbors turned out to be cut up pretty bad which is typical when anyone but a tanner skins an animal. I made a little leather and some glue and some compost.

Bull hide on tanning beam. This bull hide from some neighbors turned out to be cut up pretty bad which is typical when anyone but a tanner skins an animal. I made a little leather from the less cut up parts, and some glue, and some compost.

an experimental piece of skin from the bull hide above that was soaked in hen dung tea. The enzymes from bacteria and the poop itself probably, condition the skin, relax it and take out the remaining lime. This test shows that the

an experimental piece of skin from the bull hide above that was soaked in hen dung tea. The enzymes from bacteria, and probably from the poop itself, condition the skin, relax it and convert the remaining lime into a soluble form so it can be washed from the skin. This test shows that the “bate” (as it’s called), has acted on the skin enough to make it very pliable and impressionable. Now it’s ready for the bark liquor.  Oh, and bating isn’t as gross as it sounds.  Puering uses dog poo instead for even faster softer conditioning- I haven’t gone there yet, but I suppose I’ll have to eventually in the name of something :/

Bull hide scraps cleaned and dried for making hide glue.

Bull hide scraps cleaned and dried for making hide glue.  These were limed, and then rinsed and scraped like crazy to remove unwanted impurities and leave (as much as possible) just collagen, the stuff that glue is made of.

Cooled hide glue gelatin slab made by boiling skin scraps, ready to be cut into cubes

Cooled hide glue gelatin slab made by boiling skin scraps, ready to be cut into cubes

Dried hide glue squares ready for storage and glue making. Glue is made up by soaking in water till swelled and then heating to dissolve.

Dried hide glue squares ready for storage and glue making. Glue is made up by soaking in water ’till swelled and then heating to dissolve.

Just because it's a cool picture.

Just because it’s a cool picture. The deep indentations indicate high quality, because it was able to be cut at a high moisture content. Poor glue would have to be divested of more of it’s water to be handle-able in the jelly stage.  More on making hide glue on paleotechnics.

goat hide stretched in frame to dry. This is mostly for making miniature drums, but also any other crafty things that come up.

goat hide stretched in frame to dry. This is mostly for making miniature drums, but also any other crafty things that come up.

wittle wawhide drums. Popular at farmers market and paleotechnics events.

wittle wawhide drums. Popular at farmers market and paleotechnics events.

Bracelets of bark tanned goat skin. I made a big 'ol pile of them in the spring. I think my design is pretty cool.

Bracelets of bark tanned goat skin. I made a big ‘ol pile of them in the spring. I think my design is pretty cool.

Fallen giant. This spring marked the sad beginning of felling trees infected with Phytopthera ramorum, the organism that causes sudden oak death syndrome. :( If I get them early enough, I can still peel the bark and use it for tanning. Sadly tanoak is sort of a hingepin species in this environment. It is the most reliable mast producer for squirrels, deer and birds. It is also a symbiotic partner to most of the edible mushrooms that grow here. It's loss will be devastating to the ecology and me, since I actually interact with the land I live on here. I may do some experiments planting chestnuts as an experimental replacement, but they'll be a long time in growing to fruiting age.

Fallen giant. This spring marked the sad beginning of felling trees infected with Phytopthera ramorum, the organism that causes sudden oak death syndrome. :( If I get them early enough, before they go into the sudden death phase, I can still peel the bark and use it for bark tanning skins. Sadly tanoak is sort of a hinge pin species in this environment. It is the most reliable mast producer for squirrels, deer, birds and more, and of course ultimately for the things that eat them. It is also a symbiotic partner to most of the edible mushrooms that grow here. It’s loss will be devastating to the ecology and me, since I interact with the land I live on here. I may do some experiments planting chestnuts as a potentiall replacement, but they’ll be a long time in growing to fruiting size.  I expect to lose 90% of our tanoaks in the next 5 to 6 years, which is a lot since it’s a major species here. I totally just pulled those numbers out of my butt, I have no idea what it will really be like except for seeing other areas that have been hit. Fortunately other oaks and tree species are not nearly as susceptible.

Peeling tan bark with a spud. In this case the spud is just a wooden pole sharpened to a wedge shape.

Peeling tan bark with a spud. In this case the spud is just a wooden pole sharpened to a wedge shape.

The bark from the tanoak tree above peeled and drying. Some has already been used, but this is most of it.

The bark from the tanoak tree above peeled and drying. Some had already been used for tanning, but this was most of it.

Chopping bark for boiling. After drying in the sun, the bark was further crushed and boiled to extract the tannic acid.

Chopping bark for boiling. After drying in the sun, the bark was further crushed and then boiled to extract the tannic acid.

Planting out a batch of potato onion seedlings. These were allowed to cross with other onions in the garden to introduce potentially useful, and refreshing, genes.

Planting out a batch of potato onion seedlings. These were allowed to cross with other onions in the garden to introduce potentially useful, and refreshing, genes.  Or maybe that will just screw them up.  Stay tuned for a few years for the results of that project.

A spring harvest.

A spring harvest.  fortunately, the garden was largely put in and running before I declined too far to deal with it.

prepping artichokes for canned artichoke hearts.

prepping artichokes for canned artichoke hearts.  It was a big artichoke year, mostly because I was on top of controlling the voles who like to munch on the plant bases.  They aren’t hard to control with apple slices in mouse traps, it just has to get done.

Next installment, Summer, Fall and Early Winter

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January 8, 2014 - Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Garden Stuff, Lime, Non-Human Animals, Photos | , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. Stevene, I am so sorry about the departing of your very important person. It must be rough, but your ability in dealing with other types of challenges will, without doubt, result in an even better life experience. Just be strong and live in the present. May the best be yours.

    I want you to know that I have enjoyed your work for so many months, starting with your paper on artichokes. Living in Maryland, I have quite a challenge growing them. I have been able to overwinter only a small percentage of my plants, and then only indoors.

    Comment by Ron Shansby | January 8, 2014 | Reply

    • Thanks Ron. I think I’ve had enough character building and opportunities for growth to hold me for a while! Imperial star is supposed to be able to grow and flower in one season, but I’m skeptical. Besides, it’s not going to make 60 artichokes in a season, probably more like 3 and the plants take up a lot of space. I think there are always things you can do to make stuff succeed almost anywhere. Double covering, water as a heat sink under the cover, burying in gigantic piles of mulch, a heated greenhouse! The problem is, where does it stop? If you can’t find a fairly easy and elegant solution it may just not be worth the effort, unless of course it’s something you are passionate about and the process itself is rewarding. They are pretty hardy. We had a good freeze here this year with a week of freezes in the 20s if not lower and mine did fine. Have you checked out Elliot Coleman’s books on winter gardening? I think one is called 4 season harvest. Basically about creating an artificial climate equivalent to a few zones south. He’s in Maine, so should be pretty relevant stuff. I’m spoiled here and still occasionally whine that I can’t grow avocados (eyeroll).

      Comment by Stevene | January 8, 2014 | Reply

  2. Hey Stevene, I’m truly sorry to hear of your troubles and I am really glad to hear that things are beginning to pick up. I’ve been in the same situation myself and it is hard to be motivated when one is wounded and things grow away from you so quickly on the farm and it can just all be a bit much, especially when one adds ill health into the equation. So I wanted to say I feel your pain and share it, but also to say what a fantastic inspiration to me your writings are and over the last year, while I’ve been struggling, getting your updates have been among the things that have kept me going.

    You are a real inspiration to me and this latest post has reminded me that I keep saying I’m going to take pictures of things on the farm but I never do. So I have just rummaged around and found the camera and put the battery on charge – now all I have to do is get someone a bit more techy than me to show me how the thing works!

    Bad news with oak disease, we’re having similar problems with tree diseases, exacerbated by the government’s policy of chopping things down in an attempt to stop the spread of disease, which is typical of their methods of dealing with problems, first ignore it and then go over the top…. Sigh. (I’m in the UK)

    Hopefully you may find a resistant tree to propagate – fingers crossed.

    Lovely pictures, am inspired to do some underplanting myself and of course, breeding apples is now on my list of things to do!

    Sending you a virtual hug xx

    Comment by Shadiya | January 8, 2014 | Reply

    • Thanks. I appreciate the support. Love stinks as J. Giles band put it. Ha ha, I used to totally rock out to that song drumming with chopsticks on the back of the couch when I was like 13. It doesn’t sound nearly as good as I remembered it. I go through phases with remembering and not remembering to take pictures. It can be hard to get in the habit. And then it’s just hard to stop squishing your hands around in whatever dirty or gross thing you’re working on, running off the wash them, dry them, get the camera and take the pictures… and then you have to figure out a safe place to set the camera and hope you don’t leave it out in the dew.

      The first course of action for any SOD management plan is to kill every bay tree in the area since they are the main vector and spore producer of the organism. A cut down the forest to save it kind of thing. But, it’s almost impossible to kill a bay tree, even with ringing! And it’s just going to put it off until no one is here to manage everything anymore, so it seems best to just let it run it’s course. The plant pathologist said that they have found no genetic resistance in tanoaks at all. The only possible protective mechanism I know of is burning. We had a fire about 4 or 5 years ago on the ranch, so we’ll see if those burned areas are afforded any protection. The timing is just right for making an observation on that.

      Just make sure any underplanting meets the design goals for your area. My needs are very specific and my systems might even be a hinderance to your trees? It’s not hard to improve on grass cover. It’s not the greatest unless you’re trying to grow low nitrogen cider apples.

      Yes, breed apples! Nigel Deacon over on that side of the pond has quite a collection of red fleshed varieties if that interests you, including some of the Etter reds. He’s a great guy and a good resource. Unfortunately, that climate is probably not the best for them unless you plant espalier on a wall like the old English gardeners did. The Etter apples were all bred in a salubrious climate.

      Comment by Stevene | January 8, 2014 | Reply

  3. You are amazing Stevene, and your writing too!
    All the best and lots of love,
    Torbjörn

    Comment by Torbjörn | January 8, 2014 | Reply


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