2015 Apple Planting

Today the snow is finally sticking on the ground and the maple sap is running. I find myself thinking of warmer days with family and friends.

In early May 2015 we planted over four hundred trees in nice neat rows. The rows were spaced every twelve feet and the trees were planted on a three-foot spacing. That filled out a little more than half of our one-acre trial field.

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The trees where delivered a week after our youngest, Philomena Rose, was delivered…

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We had orders from two different nurseries. We scheduled delivery a week apart so we could plant on two Saturdays in a row. Our friends and family really came through on both weekends and made this an achievable task. To everyone who helped, thank you so much! We couldn’t have done it without you!

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It isn’t an entirely happy story. Many of the trees never leafed out, including all eight of our cherries. Of those that did, many struggled with disease. May and June had double the yearly average rainfall and the rest of the summer was pretty dry. This was pretty rough on our little trees. Spring will tell us how many are left.

To be fair, I was pretty sure that many of the original 49 trees we planted wouldn’t make it through their first winter, but they all proved sturdier than I expected.

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Strictly Germ-Proof

The  Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;—
It wasn’t Disinfected and it wasn’t Sterilized.

They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.

In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band.

There’s not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

By Arthur Guiterman

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Stripped Bare

The Blunderbus is looking a little naked…

A school bus bench is bolted to a side rail that runs down the length of the bus and through the floor near the center aisle.  With Ohio winters and salty roads, we found that almost none of those bolts could be removed with wrenches.

The dealer offered to grind out all of the benches and scrap them for $200.  $200!?  Aren’t the benches worth money?  I bet we could do it ourselves and make money!

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We borrowed a cutting torch that we really didn’t know how to use.  When that tank ran dry we switched to a couple of angle grinders. Doing this project ourselves put us two months behind our planned schedule because we only get to work on the weekends.

An incredible amount of work went into ripping out these benches.  I cannot tell you how much I wish I’d paid someone else to do this job.  That is a lesson that I hope will sink in.

One good thing to come out of this is that we can reuse some of the benches when we make our dinettes.

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My beautiful supervisor has given her approval of the benches staged to become dinettes.

 

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“Are you going to be making noise again?”

 

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Variations On A Blunderbus

When you attempt to house eight people comfortably in less than 250 square feet, some compromises must be made.  Little things like everyone having a bed…

After lurking on skoolies and watching every conversion video we could find, we broke out sketchup and got to work.  Here are a few of the dozens of steps along the way.

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In our first variation, we sacrificed table space for a couch.  The couch would add some substantial storage and it naturally makes a focal point for a TV on the wall between the dinette benches.  The bunks have private storage, and I played with the idea of a futon for a master so that we could have some decent floor space  if we got stuck somewhere on a rainy day.

This would provide sleeping for eight, though the dinette bunk would be rather short at only five feet.  Today, that’d be fine for six of the eight of us, but kids have this weird tendency to grow.

Reusing two of the original benches would allow us to bolt in seat belts for six, but fitting six butts on two benches requires some  very little butts.

 

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Moving to two dinettes allows us to comfortably sit seven – uncomfortably up to eleven – with seat belts.  This focuses more on dining and less on hanging out and watching shows together in the evening.  It gives up quite a bit of storage space but in return, we get the piece of mind that we are providing a higher level of safety while traveling.

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After measuring a little more carefully we were able to eke out a few more inches on the entry side.  The dinette on that side shifted towards the front.  We eliminated the storage compartments in the bunks and will depend on three totes slid under each bottom bunk to provide space for clothes.  Minimizing all the beds allowed us to add real bathroom facilities and maybe even a combination washer and dryer!

This kitchen has more linear feet of counter-space than the one we have in our home!  When you have a wife who is as amazing a cook as mine is, you need to have your priorities straight.  We are definitely focussed on the food.

If we only use this as a bunkhouse when we are at the farm, it might not be built quite this nicely, but we are getting excited about the possibility of building some serious family memories by taking our Blunderbus on the road.

 

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One of my favorite aspects of this variation is the incredibly vast area under the master bed.  One bus conversion site turned that into a play area for children.  The clear height will be about 28″.  We aren’t sure how we’ll be using the space but we will be keeping it as clear as possible.  When our kids get older they’ll probably have their own space in a tent.  But on particularly wet days, we’d be able to roll out a few sleeping bags under the master and let them come in out of the rain.

That being said, Rachel is pretty excited about the idea of stringing a hammock up over the driver’s seat.

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Strawberry Follow Through

In the spring of 2014 we tilled a 1/4 acre field and planted 1,500 strawberries.

In the spring of 2015, we were able to find a few handfuls of tasty berries among the weeds.

 

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I had read about people starting too many projects at once when they begin farming.  Looks like I should have read a little more carefully.

Next year we are going to try pumpkins in this same patch.  We are going to have the pigs do the tilling for us.

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Meet The Blunderbus

Our latest project is converting a school bus into a motor home that can comfortably handle all eight of us.

Apparently starting a farm while working a full-time job and homeschooling six kids was a little too dull.

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The Blunderbus is a 2001 35ft school bus we picked up locally for $3,000.

 

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We were lucky enough to find one with a 78″ ceiling and 120,000 miles on the Cummins 5.9.  The benches are reinforced for seat belts.  Four of them will be repurposed as two dinettes.

 

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I can already imagine hitting the road.

 

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Anthony, “All right dad, I’m ready to get to work!”

Justin, “Are you sure you know how to use that?”

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Plan 42B

Plan 42B:

Establish a six acre high-density apple orchard providing gainful employment for our family and all the hard and sweet cider we can drink. Start small, get one acre really working, and then expand that working system over another five acres.

Year 1:

  • Plant 50 trees of 6 cultivars
  • Plant 1/4 acre strawberry field
  • Trial 6 stone fruit trees

Year 2:

  • Plant 900 trees finishing the first acre

Years 3+:

  • Expand plantings by one to two acres a year
  • Complete plantout in year 5
  • Full production in year 10

End of Year 1 Score:

  • 49 Apples (lawnmower accident)
  • 1 Peach
  • I think there are still a few strawberries around here somewhere…

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Well, Philomena is awfully cute, but maybe we should cut back this years planting to something that we can manage.

Plan 42C:

I think we need to slow down and focus on learning how to really make things work.  Lets focus on many more small trials vs. a few massive plantouts.

Year 2: 

  • Plant 450 trees of 16 cultivars of apples (and maybe some nuts, cherries, peaches, plums, pluots…)

Year 3: 

  • Plant a 1/4 acre Pumpkin Patch
  • Try many different trial plantings from seed
  • Focus on making our 500 trees really thrive
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