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…
The seed catalogs are piling up and it’s a constant reminder of how in flux we’ll be as of
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:
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!
There’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 told 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.
"In healing, we teach others; and in teaching, we heal."