Garden Journal April 2017

April 29th, 2017

I was away from Tuesday through Friday.  When I returned the world had already exploded.

wild loose apples and back of house
Left to right Spitzenberg, Braeburn, Liberty all full throttle

Cherries, Apples, pears and the American wild plums are covered in blossoms.  This is the first year that the size and proportion of what I’ve planted has dawned on me.  In bloom, the apples and pears seem larger than they ever did and in some cases appear to be planted too closely together (though this is not the case).

wildloose lilac, wall side of house for web
A few days from peak.  Lilac in foreground and the wild cherry in the distance about to put forth a tree full of blossoms (excellent source of food for songbirds later in the year)

This season’s volume of blossoms has never been matched.  Northstar, for example, looks like an enormous hydrangea head of flowers,  the wildlife crab is the same.  The Heyer apple tree…just loaded with virgin white, large petaled flowers and the American wild plum looks almost like a spirea.

Wildloose heyer for web
Floral grade blooms, the Heyer Apple (wish the apple tasted as good as the blossoms look.

Oh, and good news, the Liberty graft (I’ve stopped referring to this tree as the Unknown.  I’m convinced it’s a Liberty apple) on the Cox Orange Pippin is blooming…well is almost blooming.  Unfortunately, its full flower stage is not jiving with the COP, so its role as a pollinator may be will.

Wildloose asparagus, quince, etc for web
Maybe not worth talking about, but certainly worth seeing: the double quince, Bechtel crab (budded) and the Wildlife Crab in the background.

The Almada is in full, pink bloom, and being west of the other apples, I’m hoping will wind pollinate the other trees.  For some reason, I believe this tree, as well as the Heyer, are more crab-apple like…and for whatever reason, I associate that with a greater ability to pollinate.

wildloose purple asparagus 2017wildloose asparagus for web

Asparagus is up.  In fact, I harvested a large fistful that I greedily ate last night (and that was an accomplishment, because it was a big fistful).  Grass is a serious issue in the raised beds in the bottom garden (asparagus, currant, etc.). Need to spray today.

Wildloose fistful of asparagus for web
Nothing short of a turn on.

Some of the Indian Magic grafts are looking good, but I’m always so hopeful at this stage of the game.  I have to wait for true leaf out.  Some of last year’s Bechtel grafts are blooming, so I’m encouraged that with time, my ‘little Frankenstein’ apples will be a sight to behold.

wildloose crabapple with graft

The MANY tadpoles in the pond are getting BIG and look healthy.

The chickens are in pig …er chicken heaven.  From the west porch, past my feet up on the rail, they’re trotting around the COP tree, in and out of the barn, mating and generally enjoying themselves.

Heavy water truck traffic on Rte 187.  Someone is fracking.  I hope they crack open another Paulini well.  I’d love to see the barn rebuilt and the house paid off before I get much older.

Some day, after I’m dead, I’m going to remember to ask Satan or one of the other devils I work with in the mines about the apple tree that spontaneously grew up in the part of the garden in which I plant the corn (lower, next to creek).  If I planted that, I’ll be damned if I remember, and yet, for some reason, I kinda remember planting something down there in the very earliest days of owning this farm.  The tree produced two years ago: a green, tennis-ball-sized apple that was tannic and sweet at the same time.  It’s blossoming again this year.  The Whitney Crab Apple graft (whose parent tree died the first year of planting) is flourishing on this tree.   It would be nice to take the time and have the space to try growing out some of the seeds of these apple trees. With the many varieties that could possibly pollinate any given tree, who knows what hybrids might spring forth.

Oh, I forgot to mention.  Two chickens has to go to the chicken hospital (which is a cage, a bowl of water, a bowl of food, and a heat lamp) because they both went lame (one had a large laceration on her foot and the feathers from her breast were stripped bare. The other, one of the Maran roosters, had no outward signs of injury.). Anyway, the care at the hospital must be great, because I opened the cage yesterday and both quickly rejoined the flock (though I can see from here that the white chicken, the one with the laceration on her foot) is limping badly still.  I” should look at her, but it’s encouraging to see her foraging.  I think she must be on the mend, albeit a gimpy mend.

Potatoes.  Did I mention that Danny and I put in all the potatoes and then we heavily mulched with about 3 year’s worth of cardboard that I had collected.  Of course the cardboard blew all over creation and back.  The potatoes went in …oh I want to say about a week or two ago.  It’s probably detailed further down in the journal, I just can’t remember.  The potatoes were seeded using everything harvested from last year, plus a few Kennebecks that I bought at the Tractor Supply.

I’m probably going to hit up Vern’s today for some annuals, feed, etc. I’m sure I’ll pick up more shit while I’m there.  Jesus the money I waste on this folly.

Where are my bees???  Gotta reach out to them today.

April 25th, 2017

Been meaning to write, but I’ve had a heavy work load as of late.  As a side note, part of that work included going to Curacao this week.  Loved it.  Joined the Admiral’s Club so was really able to enjoy things in style.

Not sure what happened in the weather department while I was gone.  I believe that this part of Pa saw some high temps in the 50-60s range and lows at night in the upper 40s.  I thing one night might have gotten into the 30s, but nothing approaching frost.  No sign of frost through May 9th.  Fingers crossed…if its a frost free season, we might have quite a crop!

Close up of blossoms on the Beurre d’Anjou

What’s In Bloom?

All the pear trees (except for the Seckle which is about 2 or 3 days behind) are in full bloom.  And I mean full.  The Beurre D’Anjou…am I spelling it correctly?…the Beurre D’, Beure d’…the first tree on the west side of the orchard is LOADED with blooms.  That’s the first time that’s happened.  The next one in, Luscious I believe is the name, also loaded…just covered.  The next one in is…I think it’s Summer Crisp?  Has a considerable amount of bloom.  The next after that…Cabot?  Not sure…it’s the one that ripens last of the bunch…it has the least amount of bloom.  The Seckle on the end is budded and partially opened.  Also, covered with bloom.

Braeburn about 5 days from blooming.

Apple trees are still budded, none are open.  The sweet cherry, Cherry Gold…is that the name?  Co-vered.  Northstar covered, the next two cherries, are still budded, Balaton is in full bloom as is that worthless sweet cherry in the row below it (can’t remember its name).  All the Montmorency are almost in full bloom.

Gloria peach in full bloom.  Larger blossoms and and a richer red than the other peaches on the property

The peach next to the weeping cherry…at the far end of pear row…is it Gloria?  BEAUTIFUL, full, very pink flowers, peaked about 5 days ago.  All other peaches are in bloom, but none like that Gloria.

Forsythia are still in bloom, the one next to the road, the one from the nursery, is about a week out of prime now.  Went about the whole property last week and moved forsythia children around and took another stab at moving some Quince.  This year I made a witches brew of willow branches to see if I could stimulate root growth.  I soaked each of the volunteer shrubs I pulled from the main quince for about a week in the tea, and then planted.  BTW Quince is now in bloom, but rag tag.  The 7 degree temps we had in Feb really did a number on their swelling flower buds.

Forsythia in front of wild peach tree.  All forsythia are scions of the one you see in the upper right corner or the Altoona forsythia from my childhood home.  The Altoona forsythia blooms later.

Sour Mann is in full bloom…my god the scent!  The american plums (the tart whatchamacall ems that are over there next to the Sour Mann…the DAMSONS!  The damsons…they’re in full bloom and so is that weird prune style plum…the one from the Pacific Northwest.    Both have issues with black canker by the way.  I believe the source of it is that cherry tree that I have in front of the house…the black or choke cherry, whatever it is.  I think that’s the source of it.  But can’t cut that tree down. I love it so much.  The American plum, interestingly enough is still budded.  I certainly hope the grafts of peach and apricot that I put onto the root shoots take.   Perhaps the stock will impart later blooming tendencies.

The most fragrant, the most productive, and the most disease ridden plum tree on the property, the Toka plum.  Delicious fruit, but you’re lucky if you get it.

Oh…though not in bloom, the Cox Orange will be covered this year and for the first time, the graft of the Liberty on that tree will also bloom.  I hope it improves the trees pollination rate.

All in all, the place looks grand and if I live long enough, should put on quite a show in its later years.  The grass is emerald green, especially now that it is freshly mowed.  And the years of planting daffodils and forsythia and lilac is starting to pay off.  The place is a vase of bloom.  Quite beautiful…and once things get a bit larger…it should really knock your eyes out.

Trying my hand at grafting lilacs this year.


It’s heartening to see the many grafts that I did last year are resprouting this year.  I did two waves of grafts explained in the previous journal.  All grafts were done from stock that was refrigerated (in the case of the stone fruits) or stock that had been buried in the manure pile (decomposed…so no heat…and these scions were all pome kinds).  Grafted when leaf development on parent trees was all underway.

Received a new Indian Magic tree….a long whip that I cut up into grafts and put on various apples around the property.  It replaced the one that was girdled by mice two years back, but instead of digging up the old one and putting this new one in, I grafted a piece of it onto the emerging root stock of the former.  The grafts were done earlier this week.  In some cases, there is definite bud growth on the grafts even only a week out.  Others look more dormant.  We’ll see.  In my experience, some catch on quickly while others take their time.  I think it has to do with how good of a union was made during the graft.


Peas are up.  So are onions (from sets that were more than a year old! ) Unbelievably a crop of self sown cilantro wintered over!  Smaller shoots of self sown asparagus are up by about 6 or more inches.  Deeper hand dug ones are still below ground.  Garlic is up. Put in another 80 onion sets in the kitchen gardens.

Hate to travel during growing days such as these, but the work pays the bills. The wild apple trees will arrive while I am away. The cart for the ATV irreparably broke so need to get a new one.  New boyfriend in the city drained me of cash flow in April, but worth every penny and more.  I just adore him.  Beautiful eyes, sweet disposition.  Tough exterior, but inside, a total sweetheart…very kind and good.  Smart too.  Can’t say enough good things about him.

Walking to a date to meet him, I pass this young homeless man.  Nice build, nice face, but worse for the wear and tear of living on the street…unshaven, blackened clothes, dirty hands, etc.  I’m walking slow enough to get a good look.  He rests against a building, his legs crossed Indian style.  A newer backpack is next to him.  In his soiled hands, a moderately tattered-edge book of some kind that looks worn not so much by age, but by fussing.  He’s settled in with this book, intent on this book, and I think to myself, what is this book about?  Fiction?  Self help?  Some philosophy of some kind?  What is in this book that’s drawing him in and holding his focus?  Perhaps the book is his only respite from whatever else swirls around on the city streets and in his own head.  Perhaps it’s not very good at all, but it’s something…like the radio that we keep playing in the background, like the television set we have blaring…something to snuff out thought, not ignite it.

I think about the connection that the author of that book and this young man have made.  Unintented, never-met friends…soul brothers.  I think of this message that was placed in the author’s head, that he or she painfully mined, that was later printed and shipped off all around the world, that landed in this young man’s grimy hands, that lifted from the pages into his eyes and mind on this no-where street in no-where New York City.

Later, I’m with the new bf.  I’m massaging his back and I recall passing the man as I watch my hands cover the back of this virtual stranger.  I’m reminded of our attempts to reach out and connect, of our attempts to union (grafts, people, hopes), and of the chancy  prospects of success.

In the dark, I watch my hands touch this man, rub over him.  I hear my voice whispering to him some truth that I’ve managed to draw forth.   I don’t know what comes of these seeds we scatter.  Sometimes they grow.  Sometimes they don’t.

April 12th, 2017

If I’m not mistaken, the first time that I traveled to Costa Rica was in 2007 or 2008.  There I bought a beautiful handmade writing book that later became my garden journal.  I believe entries….I mean I could get up and look, but it’s 4am and I’m in bed (can’t sleep)….but I believe entries start around the spring of 2008.

At that point, I had owned the farm for perhaps 4 years.  I think I purchased the farm a year or two after mom died which I believe was 2003 (I’m just full of hard facts, right?)

ANYWAY…it was the Spring of 2008.  I had the dog by then, I had already converted the milk house into a kind of camping post and I would drive up here, work all day, get loaded and eat at night, then wake up, drag a portable chair onto the lawn and the morning light, and write in my ‘garden journal’.  I chronicled…well just read what I chronicled, but I chronicled about what was blooming, who was peeping, who was flying around, lurking around, what was eating what, etc.

The garden journals are located…if I’m dead and you’re trying to find them…are located in one of my book shelves.  They have decorative covers made of wood or leather.  I think there’s about 4 of them.  Check them out.  You’ll enjoy.  There’s also a big, leather-sized note book in which I list nearly everything that’s ever been planted on the farm. It’s especially helpful if you are trying to figure out what kind of tree is what.  BTW…there is only one…ONE tree in the orchard that I can’t absolutely positively identify.  It’s because it was the very FIRST tree planted.  David, my boyfriend at the time, purchased it at the local Kmart if I’m not mistaken and we ended up planting it in the middle of a scrubby field.  I think we planted it in July the same year we purchased the property.  I can remember him saying, ‘Bash, you really have to have a vision in your head to plant this thing way out here’.  And he’s right.  I saw it all in my head and for the most part, all of it has come to be a reality.

Back to the tree.  I had the tag for the tree in the car, then I moved it somewhere else and eventually lost it.  I can remember thinking, ‘Halow, write the name of that tree down’, but I didn’t.  I told myself I would remember.  “You’ll remember the name of that tree.”  Well, clearly, I can’t remember when my own mother died, when I bought the entire farm, when I started writing about the farm…it would be a near miracle if I remembered the name of that tree.

BUT, I think I know what kind of a tree it is.  You’ll see it referenced over and over again in the handwritten journals as UK…UnKnown.  Well, I believe it is a Liberty Apple.  If you are wondering which tree in the orchard it is, it’s the one in the semi dwarf orchard (the orchard north west of the house) second row from the top, second tree in from the right (next to the Spitzenburg).  There should be a few grafts of it around as well.  There is an enormous branch of it on the Cox Orange Pippen Tree next to the barn (my friend Yvie and I dug the holes for that one very cold February) and I think there is a branch of it on the Sherry tree in the main orchard.

Okay…the journal entry of April 12th

  1.  Very warm Feb followed by an extremely cold March.  April too started off cool, but it only took a few days of warmth for frogs to lay eggs in the newly dug frog pond. As of today there are dozens of clutches of salamander and frog eggs in there (see blog post on the topic)
  2. Already put two rows of peas in
  3. Moved one of the rows of rooted corkscrew willows to the part of the property bordering the road.
  4. Started construction of a ‘look out point’ on the newly cleared ‘road’ on the north part of the property.
  5. All the fruit trees are in the ‘popcorn’ stage of development.  The peaches are probably fattest and farthest along.  Swollen, pinkish blossoms portend good things to come….provided frost doesn’t intervene.
  6. Sprayed all the stone fruits and some of the apples.  Would have sprayed more, but emptied a tank (15 gallons) and didn’t have time to fill another.
  7. Grafted two sets of scions.  Both had been harvested in January.  One set had been stored in my fridge, another, wrapped in plastic and buried in the rotted manure pile.  The manure pile twigs were cool when I dug them up, but much further along in development than the ones that had been stored in the fridge which I would classify as fully dormant.  The ones in the fridge had been wrapped in plastic but seemed more desiccated than the other bunch.
  8. Grafted a good deal of stone fruit onto the suckers of wild plum in the wild plum orchard.  Tried apricot, plum and cherry.  Additional grafts included my usual attempt to get more of the Bechtel growing around the property.  Nearly all of the crabapples on the farm have an attempt or two of the Bechtel grafted onto it.  I do not have a record of what was grafted onto what.  You’ll just have to guess.
  9. Japanese bantam cross that I purchased from the livestock auction disappeared only to REappear  about a week ago.  She had gone broody onto of the toolshed in the barn!  Several eggs of hers have hatched (I would say at least 4) and each of the chicks died.  Not sure what her deal is.  I found one on the floor of the hay mow.  Two next to her and one all the way downstairs at the feeding station.  Does she abandon them?  I don’t get it.  I keep looking under her to see if others are hatching.
  10. All other chickens are doing great.  None of the young chicks purchased in December are laying yet.  We have Welsummers…is that the name of them?  Marans. Aracaunas, Buff Orpingtons, and  Jersey Giants (which are GIANT).
  11. Rhubarb is up
  12. Daffodils are half open
  13. Forsythia along roadside is full blown OPEN.  Looks great.  The Altoona forsythia puts on less of a show.  BTW…that forsythia, along with the Japanese Quince next to it (and their many siblings scattered around the property) are all from the Altoona house.
  14. Crushed willow twigs in water and added the pulled root shoots of the Quince.  I want to see if I can coax them into rooting.  The quince puts down deep roots.  It’s hard to pull up for transplant in tact.

Getting sleepy now.  More later. Glad I’m doing this.


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