Turkeysong

Experimental Homestead

Some News, and Videos on Scion Storage and Cleaning Black Trumpet Mushrooms

A couple of videos and a little news on apples and flowers!

It’s grafting season.  A lot of people have probably already finished their scion trading, but here is my take on storing and shipping scions.  I was so caught up in the details that I kind of forgot the basics, like store them in the refrigerator.  If it were more comprehensive, it would also include storing the scions without refrigeration, which maybe I’ll do later, but same basic concepts apply.  Mostly, I was trying to address the potential of excess water and the use of paper to cause problems.

And for those of you who are lucky enough to have black trumpet mushrooms in your neck of the woods, this video is on how I clean them really fast, and dry them. It also includes a (what in my opinion is an all too short) rant on efficiency and work as a symbolic activity.  It is a long video for how to do something really fast, but I think the stuff about intention and mental attitude is just as important as the physical part, and it will save your a lot of time in the long run if cleaning large quantities.

DOOOOODS!!!  Two flowers from the first batch of Daffodil Seedlings grown from seeds pollinated in 2011 have put forth flower buds!  The bulbs are  still rather small, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they are under-developed, but that’s still pretty exciting, especially considering that I haven’t taken stellar care of them.  I figured I was at least another year off from seeing anything.  I seem to pick breeding projects that take a long time.  Daffodils typically take about 4 years or more, and apples 5 or more years.  They should open within the week, at which point I may have to update the Daffodil Lust series with a new post.  Even more exciting, one of the seedlings is from Young Love, the daffodil that inspired it all!

Young Love seedling

Young Love seedling.  Not sure who dad is.  She was rather promiscuous that year.

I just recieved 50 apple rootstocks in the mail for grafting up my latest round of red fleshed apple seedlings, and last year’s pollinations are sprouting up in the greenhouse.  Good news, I just talked to my friend Freddy Menge, who is sort of my apple guru or early inspiration.  We talk about apples on the phone about every other year.  He’s getting results from his apple seedling trials, which I believe are mostly open pollinated, but he has a good collection of quality hand selected varieties growing, not just some random stuff.  He say that he gets more apples that are worth eating than ones that aren’t.  That’s just what I suspected when I started my breeding project and what Albert Etter seemed to be saying.  It also is totally at odds with what passes for common “knowledge”.  He has sent me two of his seedlings that I’m trying out, one I’ve been calling King Wickson (not sure if he has a name for it) which he thinks is a King David x Wickson cross.  The other selection is Crabby Lady a small, more intensely flavored version of the latest ripening apple here, Lady Williams, also thought to be crossed with Wickson crab.  Crabby Lady ripens at the same time as Lady Williams, and sounds like a real improvement on an already very good and super late apple, so that really got my attention.  I’m hoping King Wickson will fruit this year, but I just grafted Crabby Lady this past week.

Freddy also said that about 1/4 to 1/3rd of his red fleshed apple seedlings have red flesh.  I was hoping for a little higher percentage on that, but such is life.  I may do some crosses between red fleshed apples this year to try to reinforce the red fleshed trait.  Another amateur plant breeder just contacted me through the blog who is also gearing up to do some red fleshed apple breeding.  Yay for grass roots apple breeding for the masses!

I’m off to get ready for the farmer’s market in the morning.  Not much in the way of vegetables to sell anymore, but I cleaned up selling Erlicheer narcissus flowers on Valentines day and have a new batch ready to go.  It’s nice to have that plan working out.  The Erlicheer are planted along both sides of a row of oblique cordon apple trees, so they require no extra care other than what I already do in taking care of the apples.  By the time the apples are leafing out, the flowers are thinking about going to sleep, so they have nearly opposite seasons

Flowers for market.  !Kaching!

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Apples, Daffodils, Foraging, Garden Stuff, grafting | , , , , | 3 Comments

Simple, Efficient, Cheap, Flexible Biochar Trench Video, and Frankentree Trailer

Coming next weekend!  I guarantee the actual video is less exciting than the trailer, but it is much more edifying!  This video will just be an introduction to the idea, and the benefits of frankentreeing.  I hope to put together a much more technical video in the future.

Below is my second fast motion video on the two simple biochar methods I’ve been experimenting with.  A few notes…

Fuels:  I suspect that pieces larger than about 3 inches are better either split down or charred by another method, and chips might be better done in a TLUD or some such device.  I haven’t tried either in the trench though, so that’s just speculation.  I doubt that large wood will char well in the trench because it takes so long to char all the way through, but chips might be just fine if fed pretty constantly in thin layers.  As long as everything you’re putting in turns to charcoal and you’re not getting a lot of ashes or a lot of smoke with it, you’re doing well.  I’ve done green and dry wood.  Dry is better of course.  I think the jury is still out on green wood.  The one I did mostly with pretty green wood was a very hot, large pit and the wood was brushy allowing for the ingress for large amounts of air.  It was still pretty sluggish and I’d certainly tend to let the stuff dry for a summer first if possible. Continue reading

October 4, 2014 Posted by | BioChar, Forestry, Garden Stuff | , , , , | 1 Comment

Simple Biochar Production, and Grape Reviews, a Few Videos

Yay, burn season is here!  Just uploaded a few videos.  A couple of short grape variety reviews, The pretty darn good Glenora and the excellent Reliance (of which I’m eating some right now, and they’re super tasty!).  And a somewhat long winded, but cool, video of burning a top lit open burn brush pile to make biochar (Which Kelpie of Backyardbiochar calls TLOB).  This is one of the two charring methods I’ve been messing with, the slope sided pit (or container), and the open top lit piles.  I think each has it’s merits, but probably more importantly, each might be better suited to certain materials that people commonly have.  Both can be scaled up and down in size and neither should produce a ton of smoke if the wood isn’t either soaking wet or green.  A pit burn video should be forthcoming.  Hopefully I’ll get better at shooting and editing video, learn to talk faster and develop a video personality at some point.  In the meantime, pop some popcorn and check it out.

No Guinea Pigs were harmed during the making of these videos, although some chickens were verbally assaulted.

September 23, 2014 Posted by | BioChar, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Garden Stuff | , , , , , | 12 Comments

Saffron Dreams: Musings and experiments in growing Saffron

 

saffron dreams header

I like to cook intuitively with what happens to be on hand, which means having a certain familiarity with my ingredients.  Recipes are just guidelines in my world and not to be taken at face value, ever.  I’ve never had enough Saffron around to become familiar with it to the point that I can use it with any confidence.  When my mom brought me a small box of quality saffron from Spain, I had a chance to become a little more familiar.  With Saffron now on my radar, I of course decided I should grow the stuff instead of buying it.  I mean if we can grow the stuff here, why import it at 80.00 an ounce?  Saffron seems to be capable of growing in a fairly wide variety of climates from England to Afghanistan.  Then I could sell the bulbs and promote the idea of growing it and start a local industry and…..

A laptop surfing safari turned up a few small scale growers focused on high quality Saffron for local consumption, but none of them in California.  Aside from these geeky boutique producers who have been bitten by the Saffron bug, saffron production seems to be left to areas where it has long been cultivated.

Saffron’s peculiarly unique flavor is subtle and pervasive at the same time.  A few threads too many and it goes from enhancing your dish to ruining it.  Fortunately, it’s intensity means that only a few threads are required and if it wasn’t so intense, no one would likely be able to afford to use it at all, nor probably bother to.  The part used is the intensely red stigma of a pretty little purple/blue flower named Crocus sativus, the stigma being the female part that receives the pollen.   The Latin name is probably pronounced like kroak-us sa-tee’-vus, or sat’-i-vus but no one really knows for sure because Latin is a dead language.  So just say it however you want to and if anyone flicks you shit for pronouncing it wrong, just follow Jepson’s advice of The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California:

“… practice what sounds good to your ear; conviction is important.”    “When someone presumes to correct your pronunciation, a knowing smile is an appropriate response.”

That’s always worked for me :D

Anyway, there are only three stigma or “threads” in each flower.  Not only are there only three, but they have to be removed by hand one flower at a time.  The threads are already small and they dry into teeny weeny little flakey things looking something like pubic hair from a redheaded elf.

soaking saffron progress

Re-soaking saffron threads for use in cooking.

Crocus carwrightianus is probably the parent of the Saffron Crocus, and is a normal seed producing plant that exists in wild seed propagated populations.  Crocus sativus on the other hand is a mutation or hybrid of some type, and it never produces seed, but can only be grown and propagated by redistribution of the underground parts.  So, Saffron Crocus is probably entirely dependent on humans for it’s survival and propagation.  Although the stigma of Crocus cartwrightianus can also be used to make saffron, it is almost exclusively made from Crocus sativus.  All of the sources I can find indicate that the Saffron crocus has either more or better flavor than C cartwrightianus, and/or that C Sativus produces more Saffron per plant due to heavier Stigmas.  Regardless, I’m interested in picking up some cartwrightianus to play with.  Cartwrightianus, now there’s a clunky name that I can never remember.  I guess if I discovered it I could name it Edholmianus.  I’m not sure I like it, and it sounds pretty dirty.

Freshly harvested saffron threads.

Freshly harvested saffron threads.  Only freshly opened flowers are used.  It is necessary to revisit the plants nearly every day for a week or two, since the flowers don’t emerge and open all at once.

Continue reading

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Garden Stuff, Uncategorized | , , , | 14 Comments

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