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Leap Day 2016

I’ve not been very good at keeping up this blog.  This year was a fun year.  I was able to get some crab apples from my buddies over at Eastman’s Antique Apple Orchard.  I foraged some apples from the East side of the Saginaw River and some from the West side of the Saginaw River.  I blended those with the apples that I had picked from my trees.  Made about five gallons of cider with somewhere around 42 varieties.  Not sure on the exact amount because I had to buy some cider from Lehman’s Green Apple Barn to top off my carboy.  I know of 30+ varieties that I put in.  Also, I acquired five gallons of bittersweet juice from Mike Beck at Uncle John’s during their bulk cider sale.  I really like the Beck family; Mike and Dede are great people.

The trees did pretty well this year.  All of them had fruit, including the Northern Spy which I didn’t expect to have anything for another 5-10 years.  The beat up Newton Pippin had a few gnarly apples on them.

Ordered a few cider apple trees again this year.  Same kind of trees…Kingston Black and Dabinett as well as a Spitzenberg for Aunt Dee and Uncle Tim.

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Spring 2015

Well, I tried to order trees.  Ordered a Dabinett and a Kingston Black for myself and a Spitzenberg for Aunt D and Uncle T.  The Spitzenberg was back ordered.  The other two were fresh grafts that hadn’t even lived a year yet.  It was unacceptable.  I want trees that are healthy and something I won’t have to worry as much about.  These were not it.  Mailed them back and am awaiting a refund.

My trees are doing quite well this spring.  I have apples on ALL of them!  Even the Northern Spy has two apples.  The Newton Pippin has a few this year after nothing at all.  The one tree that has gone down in production this year is the Ashmead’s Kernal.  It only has one apple.  I noticed that it didn’t have a ton of blossoms and it was blooming during the time we had multiple days of rain.  Two nights ago I thinned it out a bit.

As far as issues with the trees, I had to kill a bunch of worm looking things.  My uneducated guess is that it was leafrollers.  They had pulled in tight a bunch of leaves and were eating the leaves as well as some of the fruit that had set.  Smashed them with my fingers…those dirty rotten bugs!  How dare they try to mess up my fruit?  hahaha.  Hoping to make some cider from all the apples I harvest this year.  Maybe I can get a gallon or two.

I pruned the trees in February.  I also went to my mom’s house and trimmed their trees as well in hopes that I can get some apples from them.  Want to make some sort of foraged apple cider.

Early Fall Update

This was a bad year in the orchard.  Half the trees produced nothing.  Part of that was expected, as Northern Spy doesn’t typically fruit for something like 10-15 years.  The other was beaten up pretty bad by deer, so it was a year for it to gain some ground.  My other tree that didn’t produce was the White Pearmain.  This surprised me a bit.  It had been my earliest flowering tree in past years.  Not this year!  Then, in late July, I was taking a close look at my apples and noticed many holes.  CODLING MOTH!  NO!  So it was either pick the apples right then and there or worry about the worms getting into the ground and getting more codling moth.  Away with them right then and there.  When it was all said and done, I had three apples left, all on the Hauer Pippin tree.  

It was just not a good year.  The japanese beetles ate many of the leaves.  Ground moles tore up the ground trying to eat the japanese beetle grubs.  Next year I need to do something about both.

Spring/Summer Update 2014

This past winter was incredibly cold.  One of the coldest that I can ever remember.  That being said, I think it affected the trees.  There weren’t very many blossoms this year.  The Ashmead’s Kernel did well and the Hauer Pippin is doing alright.  The Cox’s Orange Pippin, after the awesome crop for a 2nd year tree last season, has two apples on it.  The White Permain has zero.  The Northern Spy has zero.   The Newton Pippin is recovering from being eaten by the deer and being in a low spot.  The Braeburn tree died.

This year is more about maintenance than anything.  It’s busy around the Cottrell Orchard in regards to family.  I did trim the  trees in March.  That might have had some affect on the trees.  Nothing else planted in the orchard because it all died last year.

Stupid Deer!

Yesterday was probably the nicest day we have encountered so far this spring.  After I let the dog out, I walked over to the mini orchard to look at the progress the trees have been making.  That’s when I made the discovery I didn’t want to make; deer had been there.  They bit the tops off of almost every branch on my Cox’s Orange Pippin.  That’s bad news to me because it’s the smallest tree and the one i’m most worried about.  They had bitten the buds off of a few other ones.  The ground was wet and I have somewhat of a ground mole problem, so you could see the deer tracks plainly.

My best guess is that because of the flooding we have had this past week, the deer finally found their way into my front yard.  Dave, my neighbor, commented on my facebook rant that he has seen deer tracks in his front yard.  The only thing I think saved me is that a car probably drove by and scared the deer.  I had to put my fencing back up around the trees to protect them until the flood waters recede and stuff starts growing back in the national wildlife refuge so they will leave my trees alone.

Has Spring Sprung?

That is the question today.  March was rather miserable with the cold and just enough snow to tease.  Either give me snow, or let’s move to the next season.  It wasn’t a total waste though.  We did the usual Easter thing with the trees.  I removed the fencing around them and we hung eggs with giant marsh mellows inside of them.  Talking to my colleague Terry Moore, I learned how I should trim my transplanted Braeburn.  The thing about it was the shape.  It was horrid. Bent over like a 90 year old grandpa.

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He told me to cut it off about a foot above where it branches out.  I’m not 100% sure that’s what he said to do, but that’s how I interpreted it.  Cut quite a bit off.  Fine with me though!  Not all crooked anymore!

Seriously considering planting some blueberries this season.  I made an initial email to the folks at Russell’s Blueberry Farm.  It’s pretty close to here and they also sell plants.  Have been thinking about planting 10 high bushes of different varieties.  To get that many and the kind I want, it might take buying some one or two year plants.  They will be fairly small.  If I can get them at the price I want, then it will be worth it.

Working In The Evening

Like I have been for the past month or so, tonight after my wife went to bed I worked on apple  tree stuff.  Since the trees will be here pretty soon, I figure I should get some of the planning finished.  Trying to figure out how best to lay out the trees.  Ideally, I want to have a wide middle path between the two lines of trees.  This is because of two factors.

  • I would like to be able to walk in between the trees while they are blooming and have plenty of room to move and admire the beauty of the trees.
  • If the rows are a bit wider, I will have room to move a ladder between trees quickly and efficiently.

This method should let me experience what a real orchard would be like if I were to walk down a row in between trees.  If I should ever decide to try and grow a few acres, i’ll totally be ready…to walk among the trees.  Only have a few more things to learn…you know, soil, pruning, how to treat the trees organically but still take care of diseases and bugs.  There is only EVERYTHING left to learn!  Everyone has to start somewhere I suppose.