What Have We Gotten Gotten Ourselves Into?

It was an incredible rush to finish the Blunderbus in time for an epic family road trip to Colorado for a graduation. We focused more on getting things done than on writing about what we were doing. Unfortunately, new mechanical problems cropped up 2 miles down the road and we had to turn around. It was actually a blessing in disguise as we had a great trip in spite of leaving the bus behind.

I do have a lot of rage towards the mechanic who performed our pre-purchase inspection…

The end result is that we now have a poorly-documented, uninsured, mechanically-unsound skoolie. Luckily, the first problem is one we can fix so expect more posts on the conversion process!

The farm has us equally demoralized, as our tree losses are much higher than we expected. The farm has been thoroughly relegated to the status of “hobby” and we’ve given up the idea of making a profit for the time being. This takes a little pressure off and lets us focus on having some fun again. We are also doing several experiments at home in our tiny back yard so there are more posts to come.

In the meantime, perhaps I can appease my dear readers with gratuitous cuteness?

Gratuitous Cuteness

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.

20150510_125954

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

20150510_130011

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!

20150510_130121

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.

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.

 

20150607_144916

 

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.

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…

IMG_6873

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