Saturday, April 20, 2013

Grafting tutorial and more

Someday, when I create a farm calendar, the months will be: January, February, March, Apple, May, etc...and happily, as of today, bench grafting of apples (and some minor amounts of other fruit trees) is complete.  Below you will find Elsie's photo tutorial of how to make a whip-and-tongue graft.  First, you practice by making hundreds of slices to hundreds of scrap twigs until you can produce the perfectly angled, oriented, and flattened cut with a single-bevel grafting knife.

Then you make these cuts on two identical thickness pieces of wood: one side is the rootstock, which is a baby tree that you've lopped off about eight inches tall, and the other is the scion wood, a two-inch section of a young branch from a desirable variety.  That's the "whip" part.

Then you cut matching slits into each piece of wood, slits that go parallel to length of the scion and rootstock.  You push them together, with their "tongues" interlocked.  I guess you could say they're French-kissing.

Then you bind them together with parafilm grafting tape, and hope for the best!

Our greenhouse is rocking out, and getting ready to have another similar-sized one constructed right next door.  The spinach I was hoping to would supply our needs turned out to be a little too copious, and we've been selling it off the farm to much acclaim.  You may have seen it if you've been shopping or eating at the Belfast Co-op, Fresh off the Farm, the Natural Living Center, or Shepherd's Pie.

Newly seeded alliums
Alliums are up!
Fresh new wood on the barn, now covered up with typar, awaiting new windows, trim, and cedar shingling.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April showers, check.

The fury of spring, days longer than nights, warmer weather, and awakening earth are all upon us.  Right now you can assume that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of new blogging about the farm and the amount of new projects on the farm.

Our new apprentices, Miriam and Mark, are also journeypeople through MOFGA's journeyperson program, which basically means they are serious farmers-in-training and have spent many years working on farms already.  It has been an absolute pleasure and boost to the workforce to have their strong arms and minds join our crew.

Currently, Seth is heading up the bench-grafting of 200-300 apple trees a day towards a goal of 4000 bench-grafted trees in by April 12, 2013.  The mudroom/CSA room has been transformed into grafting central and our utility-pantry room has become the "healing in" room where baby trees stay warm and protected while the graft union callouses over and begins to grow.

The barn is being given a serious examination and every bit of rot is being amended in some way.  The windows and doors have all been removed and will be replaced with brand new ones, and the day is not far off when cedar shingle siding will start going on those barn walls.

In the world of livestock, the pigs staged a mutiny after living in their freezing mud-filled quonset hut one cold rainstorm too long and Elsie showed up to evening chores a couple weeks ago to find them burrowed under and around a round bale of hay inside the barn.  Coincidentally, we had been wondering how we would move them into the barn, so it was kind of a relief they moved themselves.  But soon they'll have to go back outside since a barn can't have pigs while cows are being milked in it, and the cows are due this month to start calving out, starting first with two Anguses and followed up by the Devons and Jerseys.  All cows except the yearlings are back on the home front as of yesterday in a paddock outside the barn, eating hay and tapping their hooves while they wait for the grass to grow again.

Here are the week's photos:
Filling the soil-blocker...
Stamping out blocks,

Filling blocks with seeds.

Early summer squash experiment.

Moving pigs from temporary to long-term barn enclosures using the well-known "wheelbarrow method."