Category Archives: Apple Tree

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


photo 4 (1)Ha! It rained and shorted the fan. My grandfather is probably rolling in his grave muttering his favorite: Prepared Planning
Prevents Poor Performance!

We don’t always¬†get it right, do we? Neither do plants. In fact, there’s a lesson somewhere in this fiber fiasco, I’m sure. I’m thinking about my apple tree siblings. Apple trees are heterozygous, in the extreme sense of the word. This means a single apple tree produces significant genetic¬†variations of itself in its seed. The seeds a single apple will each produce a unique variety, some quite different from the parent tree.¬†Imagine how many unique varieties are born¬†from a single apple tree?!

Most farmers don’t rely on apple seeds for propagation. Instead they graft the living wood or scion off of a variety that they like, onto root-stock from another apple variety. However,¬†those incredible apple varieties that humans have¬†propagated throughout the centuries were discovered often via chance seedlings that grew¬†up along fence-lines, where farmers planted apple seeds with that twinkle of hope in their eyes.

I will refrain from diving into the why and how of the conventional mindset toward selecting varieties for market, and instead return to my poor planning. (There’s a point to this, I promise.)

Heterozygosity in apples makes apples extremely adaptable in a multitude of climate and soil types. One tree may be capable of producing annually in harsh cold and high elevation, while another may thrive, but produce only biennially in a warm Zone 7 with wet feet.

Shiawassee apple, a chance seedling of the Fameuse.
Shiawassee apple, a chance seedling of the Fameuse.

The lesson from¬†our apple tree sisters is this: If you¬†don’t know whether¬†something will work,¬†and it’s on a small enough scale to adjust and adapt, then it’s better to try and fail, than not to try. Even with a little failure comes the opportunity to learn. You might learn that your phone really is reliable for things like predicting weather, or that after throwing a handful of different seeds down at the driveway edge, you finally discovered one that will thrive in that location.

Apple trees broadcast their message out into the world, hoping it will take somewhere, somehow, even against some pretty tough odds. And in doing so, not only do they continue to thrive as a tree on this planet, but we have been gifted thousands of nutritious fruits in places as far away as Kazakhstan to those growing in Mexico. So eat up, drink up, and be thankful for the lessons and sweet rewards in all the experiences life affords us.

Blessings and balance.