Category Archives: Apple Orchard

Exciting News!

shiaappleThis morning I was hosing off my shoes after completing a nasty rear hall renovation project on this old house and decided to water the apple trees while I had the water going. One of the trees we presumed had not made it looked like it had a plump terminal bud. I bent down and realized not only did it have a swollen terminal bud, but there was a tiny leaf sprouted off the trunk, well ABOVE the graft. Excitedly, I checked the other tree that we had presumed dead and it was LEAFED OUT! This means EVERY graft we made, apart from the one our dear, sweet son plucked out, is ALIVE!

[[[¬† For those who know me, the use of all caps is strictly forbidden under nearly every and all circumstances, so this is obviously an extremely momentous occasion… ūüėȬ† ]]]

Thirty-nine Shiawassee Beauties brought back from the verge of extinction!

Sheep’s Wool and Apple Trees

Last year, we bagged ram’s wool and hung from our remaining apple trees. The thought was that prey animals (namely the ones who love to nibble our tree buds) will avoid areas in which prey scent is strong, and likely attracting predators. We didn’t know whether it would be successful, and it’s still a bit anecdotal with only one year under our belt, but… the apple trees show zero sign of bud damage and are thriving! And no need to milk a coyote for its urine…

photo (4)

Things to do when not farming…

The seed catalogs are piling up and it’s a constant reminder of how in flux we’ll be as of

photo 5
Identifying cool mushrooms…

June.¬†It’s been a long time since I’ve not put in a large seed order, and frankly, I’m feeling a bit antsy about it this season. So, to take my mind off of what I won’t be doing, I’m thinking ahead to the things this extra time will provide in terms of opportunities for learning.¬†An ever-growing, ever-bearing, zone 1-10 list of things to learn while not farming:

  • Tend to the travelling orchard
  • Improve spinning technique
  • Improve fiber processing set-up and technique
  • Experiment with¬†natural dyes
  • Learn about medicinal herbs
  • Practice grafting techniques
  • Volunteer at school or public garden
  • Help a fellow farmer with farm chores, butchering, shearing, etc.
  • Learn old-fashioned candy-making
  • Focus on food preservation techniques:
    • Pressure canning
    • Smoking meats
    • Drying
    • Fermentation
  • Take a class in business planning for the fiber mill
  • Maybe, just maybe, learn a new knitting skill
  • Explore niche or value added markets
  • Take a botany class
  • Spend some time with growers using methods outside of your own, including conventional, biodynamic, and other permaculture or organic¬†farmers and gardeners
  • Cut up seed catalogs to make art with the kids
  • Cut up seed catalogs to do some companion planting planning
  • Re-read Edible Forest Gardens

The list continues to grow and hope blooms eternal, so… suggestions are always welcome and may spring shine warm sunlight upon your gardens!

Little Beauties

It’s winter, though¬†the breath of spring has touched our cheeks the past few days. It’s close. Hang in there.

photo (5)I have been a worried mama over the apple trees we stored overwinter in a friend’s basement. We felt this was a safer option than risking exposure to voles or deer or bitter temperatures outdoors, after last year’s¬†disastrous orchard failure. The temps in the basement were just warm enough that the trees have begun¬†exiting their dormancy, so today we moved them home¬†for some extra attention in the coming months.¬†photo (4)

They are looking good and eager to bud out, which is both a
huge relief and exciting. Despite being trees, these little beauties have traversed many miles already and are slated to be planted in New York in the coming years.

What stories we’ll all have to tell tasting these apples some day.

[These 40 trees are Shiawassee Beauties, saved off of a single remaining tree in an orchard in Southern Michigan. As far as we know, only handful of trees exist outside of the “travelling orchard” we currently tend. Our plan is to reintroduce this Michigan-born variety back into the state at a later date to preserve this sweet bit of history and a tasty variety, part of Michigan’s¬†rich cultural landscape.]

Letter to the Greater Schoharie Valley

The woman in the photograph is my great, great grandmother, Rose Render.¬†She lived onphoto 3 (1) a farm in middle Michigan, raising her boys and her livestock on her own, without the help of modern conveniences like electricity and running water. My mother¬†remembers going to¬†Grandma Rose’s for dinner, enjoying chicken raised on the farm and processed by our grandmother’s own hands. My mother described her visits to the farm as travelling back through time. The tiny, sturdy farmhouse walled off to the approach of a fast-paced modern era.

I assume the desire to farm runs deep. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, save for that year I wanted to run for president in the seventh grade.¬†Some of my earliest memories involve planting radishes and pumpkins in a garden beside my mother’s house, beside the neat rows of cherry trees that stretched out for miles in three directions.

We’ve faced hardships as farmers. We’ve lost animals to predators and had to learn to harvest our own birds for meat. We’ve had animals get out of the paddock to explore the lake or visit town. Last year, we lost nearly 200 apple trees planted with love, by hand, to a brutal spell of unprecedented cold winter that¬†followed an equally brutal drought. I’ve wept in the soil for these losses and questioned many, many times why we do this thing called farming.


The answer always comes back to the successes. Grafting apple varieties on the brink of extinction in order to preserve this unique living cultural landscape. The raising of sheep, of alpacas, of learning to shear by hand, of washing these fleeces with great care and following this education down to carding each, and learning to spin so that the farm could support raising these beautiful animals. The reward in each of these feats far outweighs any set-backs.

Farming has also taught me to follow my instincts, to see failures as opportunities for growth, to find strength in vulnerability, and to be bold, despite the risks.  And this next bold move has taken us down some narrow roads Рexploring the limits of our own fears and anxiety as we venture forth from Michigan to New York. Last fall we sold our house imageand have been staying with family as we make trips out east to locate a farm where we can finally put down permanent roots.

It has taken several trips out, but we finally feel comfortable¬†in saying we would like to¬†land¬†in the region of the Schoharie valley,¬†somewhere between Canajoharie to the¬†undulating, aged¬†mountains that rise up from Roxbury. And we’re seeking help. We’ve met with farmers, and are currently putting out feelers for any farmer¬†or land owner who may be considering selling their farm. We are hoping to locate a farm with a house (we love older homes and are not afraid of renovations) with as few as four acres (more¬†will be put to good use). A barn is not necessary, but a barn or outbuildings are a plus.

IF you know of anyone who may be able to help us, please feel free to share our email address We appreciate any help and look forward to becoming NY farmers this year! Thank you._o4xWwwKByO91WVxwu-cQcT7gkqweBxIjtCdCjO2G2U,NuqeJjwABcK9WcVXgvNf4Tkear9KK_FbgJqF45848_s

Wild Apples

photo 5There’s something really special about finding that wild apple tree in a clearing within the woods or at the forest edge. Even better when a hint of sweet or cinnamon tames the wild for just a moment and takes you back to an earlier, cherished memory.

This is the time of year when the apples are ripening in orchards, in back yards, and in the wilderness. And this is the time of year to enjoy these delicious fruits fresh, dried, pressed into soft or hard cider, baked into pies, cakes and other desserts, made into apple butter and jams, or cooked down and simmered into apple sauce.

(I was spoiled: A grandmother on each side of the family would prepare her sauce uniquely from the other. One included chunks of apple and the skins and the other made a thicker puree. Both were perfect.)

I’ve found that people unacquainted with wild edibles are sometimes hesitant to eat an apple off a tree growing outside of a commercial orchard. They’ve been toldphoto 4 (1) to stay away from crab apples and are¬†tentative to eat off an apple with blotches or spots. This is only natural in a society that grooms its food for uniformity and perfection¬†for sale in grocery chains. But¬†even those apples with blotches are usually¬†safe for human consumption. That doesn’t mean there won’t be an occasional worm. Inspect your apple first. Some apples will look lumpy (older varieties are lumpy!) and others will be russetted and may appear to wear a bit of a brownish raised surface over the skin (also due to variety – these tend toward that sweet cinnamon flavor I most¬†admire in the older varieties).¬†Blotchy (sooty blotch) or speckled (flyspeck) apples are still okay to consume. Apples with worms will usually show signs to the weary eater ahead of you actually biting into one. Oh, by the way,¬†crab apples aren’t as crabby as they sound. Try a few!

Anyway,¬†it’s apple season! Enjoy.