Experimental Homestead

And a Frankentree in Every Garage


I’ll wager you’ll never see this delicious late blood apple in a store, so you might have to grow it to taste it.  But do you need a whole tree of them, or will it even fruit well in your area?  Frankentrees offer solutions.



If I was president, the essay assignment goes when you’re in grade school.  I remember thinking “but I don’t want to be president!”  But… if I was, I don’t think I’d promise a car in every garage, though I’d probably keep the chicken in every pot.  When I moved here to Turkeysong, I had to decide what fruit varieties to grow.  Inspired by friend and apple guru Freddy Menge, a scrappy young tree that was already here, was used as a framework to test out apple varieties.  Before that it produced hard green apples.  What started as an interest, grew into something like an obsession and the tree became more diverse every year starting with 25 or so varieties and ending now with about 140.  My friend Spring dubbed it Frankentree because, at her house, that’s what they call anything cobbed together from odd parts.  The name stuck.  The term frankentree is also used for genetically modified tree varieties, but it has already taken off among apple collectors, so we’ll just have to see who wins.  And maybe someone searching for info about GMO fruit will run across our frankentrees and be ignited into constructive action instead of plunged into despair at how the world can be dumb enough that we take the risk of genetically engineering an apple just so it won’t brown when cut.

Frankentrees are awesome!  They may take a little attention to maintain, but the advantages are many.  There are so many trees out there that provide too much fruit of one variety in too brief a period for the people that use them.  Other trees just produce fruit that no one likes.   These trees, if they are healthy enough and the form is not too wacky, are very valuable as a base to work from.  A reasonably well formed healthy tree can come to yield nourishment in abundance, interest, variety, valuable information, and even self confidence and self reliance, over a long season.

This isn’t going to be a how to article, it’s more to kick you in the butt and get you started thinking and experimenting this year article.  If you have a tree, or access to a tree that is not very exciting in the fruit department, why not try grafting on something new?  Well, I’ll tell you why you should graft on something new, or actually more like somethings. Continue reading

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, grafting | , , , | 14 Comments

Fruits of Labor: adventures in pomeography

A cross between Golden Russet and Cox’s Orange Pippin.  It’s pretty, but still under evaluation before I can recommend it, or not.

“Annual vegetables are like getting a goldfish.  Trees are like getting a tortoise that might outlive us.”



When we moved here to Turkeysong six and a half years ago, it was a very rainy December.  We moved into a tiny trailer with just a propane oven for heat.  I was rather unhealthy that winter with long continuing complications from Lyme disease, so my physical resources were limited.  But it was an exciting time and full of promise as we embarked on a long held dream.  Bathing was accomplished at the nearby hot springs most of the winter until I built a wood fired bathtub which worked passably well.  Parking was a mile walk down the 4 wheel drive only road, and the winter was so wet that only two trips were made driving in the 1/2 mile driveway before late spring arrived.  I carried office chairs, a desk and sheets of plywood down the half mile drive.   I remember many times walking in at night after bathing at the springs, exhausted, sick, dizzy and weak.  Most days I spent laying down alone in the damp cold miserable trailer feeling ill and tapped out.  The Accommodations were very uncomfortable, but frugality ruled the day and I still knew where my priorities lay.  Rather than move toward better shelter, showers, making the driveway passable or other creature comforts, I started preparing to plant trees and put in a garden. Continue reading

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Garden Stuff | , , , | 16 Comments

An Experiment in Using Winter Bulbs to Create Fruit Tree Under-Stories



Every spring in most parts of California, the rains come to a stop and a long hot rain free period begins.  In these regions summer rains are very rare and, in the rare event that one occurs, it is usually not substantial enough to soak more than a useless 1/2″ or so into the soil.  I live in such a region at the headwaters of a creek which feeds the Russian river.  Like most california creeks in the coastal ranges it is a spawning stream for Salmon and Steelhead.  Any water that I don’t use goes to feed the creek and keep the baby Salmon and Steelhead alive.  If someone doesn’t suck up the water which I conserve here when it gets further downstream in order to water their lawn, flush their toilet or irrigate their wine grapes it keeps the Russian River full and cool and livable for these and other fish.  I have planted over 100 fruit and nut trees and more are on the way, but there is no way I can irrigate them all.  Not only do I like to conserve water but I also don’t have much to work with as the spring we use drops to a modest, but so far adequate, 1/2 gallon per minute by the end of the summer in a normal year.   A small percentage of trees that require extra water for one reason or another might be irrigated in the future, but the rest will have to make it through the long dry summers using whatever moisture is stored in the soil from the winter rains.

I’ve conceived an idea for a dying mulch system using perennial flower bulbs under fruit and nut trees.  If it works the system would provide a permanent solution to soil moisture conservation with a minimal amount of work investment.  In addition it will have the added aesthetic value as well as bulbs and flowers which can also be sold to provide additional income.

Imagine this:  as the fruit tree loses its leaves in the fall and the rains begin hundreds or thousands of Narcissus bulbs start pushing up leaves from the ground.  The leaves grow rapidly with the benefit of the stored energy of the bulbs choking out slower growing weeds completely.  In the middle of winter sometime, the ground beneath the tree is a sea of fragrant flowers.  In the early summer as the tree is growing rapidly off of the moisture stored in the soil, the Narcissus leaves are withering up and dying in the increasing heat leaving a thick carpet of dead leaves which will protect the surface of the soil from the baking sun and the evaporation of moisture it would bring.  Narcissus and another currently favored candidate Amaryllis, are long lived plants dividing into crowded colonies that endure for decades and not unlikely even hundreds of years, so this could be a fairly permanent system. Continue reading

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Garden Stuff | , , , , , | 9 Comments