Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Live and Learn

Last fall we found an awesome apple tree to forage from.

It's in a city park along a trail and we saw it was loaded with fruit!

So we went to help ourselves.  (If memory serves me right I'm almost entirely sure that I was not yet pregnant while climbing this tree, maybe.)

We took home such a haul!  And were equally excited to head back to our favorite forgotten apple tree this year to gather more.  There was just one problem.

There were no apples.

Seriously!  We pulled about four edible apples off the tree, there were probably like 12-18 we could see up in the tree that were in various states of not-good-looking-ness.  And that was it!

We were so confused.  It should have been harvest season.

Where were all the apples?

Then entered my latest bedside table reading material:  The Holistic Orchard, by Michael Phillips

Yeah, I also dream of orchards.  If I was to be a subsistence farmer--I wouldn't farm--I would orchard.  (That being said with all my orcharding experience of the one time we went to a u-pick apple orchard when I was sixteen.)  But I'm talking about dream.  I dream of deciduous trees and crisp autumn days, apple cider pressing, and big pots of apple butter boiling over bonfires. . .

Anyway, reading this book is amazing.  I've been learning tons of information about my future apple trees.  I'm glad to be reading it now, because of how much preparatory information there is.  But there was also a fascinating section about rehabilitating "wild" apple trees.

Apparently (insert eyebrow waggle here) apple trees left to their own devices will naturally fall into a biennial bearing pattern.  Essentially, well-established trees usually produce a ton of fruit and if the crop is not thinned out all the energy goes into producing the current huge crop of apples, and not saving energy for next year.  So only after a "year off", the tree is ready to bear again.  . . . Fascinating!

So our question was answered.

I've also been learning a lot about soil fungi, mycorriza and such, that are essential for fruit tree health. A happy web through the soil that breaks down and makes available more nutrients to the roots of the trees.

And wouldn't you know, I was turning over piles of straw in the backyard that I'd watered for a month or two and I audibly gasped! 

Look at all that happy "fungal duff"--as the author calls it.

White webs under the layer of straw that had been left there just a few months.  So now I can trust the author's recommendations of mulching to create a heathly fungal community in the future when I have fruit trees. 

But I don't have them right now.  So why was I watering piles of straw in my backyard? 

Well, I was trying to grow fall potatoes, and had read this great tip for easier harvest.  Mound your potatoes with straw! I thought that did sound like it would make for an easy harvest. 

So as my potato plants grew I mounded them with straw, until they all keeled over and died. 

(Who knows why.  I think that even though the weather cooled down, it was still too shady in my little glen of a backyard.)  I finally figured I would go turn over the piles of straw and see if --even though the vines were dead--maybe that early vigorous growth produced some little potatoes that were just hiding in the  hay, waiting for me to harvest. (I'm not really that disillusion--it was a garden autopsy for sure.)

But sure enough. . .

Look at those little beauties.

And true to the Pinterest tip--it was a very easy harvest. 

One day (when I'm 40) I'm going to get an awesome piece of property to build a little homestead on, and it's going to be the most successful piece of property you ever saw.  The success of which will be attributed to all the years and years of knowledge I am accumulating and archiving, from the school of hard knocks. 

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