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Monthly Farm Update: March 2023

Jupiter and Venus over the mountains

It's All About Fruit Trees

Spring marches on in the mountains, and the early warm weather caused many early-blooming fruit trees to break buds. At this time of year, it is all about monitoring the fruit trees to see if their flowers will be damaged from cold nights. The Chinese mormon apricot is a done deal. I will wait to see how the early blooming AU Rosa plum fares over the next couple of years to see if it will grow tall enough to set fruit. If not, he is getting the axe like the apricot tree. The earlier blooming peaches were swelling buds or in bloom when we had night lows of 9°F and then 12°F. Fruit tree blossoms are damaged at 28°F and below, so it's safe to say those varieties are not a good fit here. Contender, Carolina Gold, Indian Free Cling, Red Haven, Reliance, China Pearl, and Intrepid are all reported to be late blooming, so we shall see if we can get anything from them. If the warm weather holds up, we can expect a "decent" harvest from our food forest orchards. Fingers crossed, we can enjoy some Asian pears for the first time as they are blooming now, and no frost is in store for at least the following week.

Indian free cling peach

Currently, we have 57 fruit trees on our 1-2 acre house site that are fenced off from the deer. All trees are planted on twenty-foot spacings to allow enough room for mature trees to barely touch. In these contoured rows, I have gone through and planted domesticated elderberries, raspberries, and blackberries so they will be easier to harvest. Due to our frost pocket location, tree fruit is not a guarantee, so we have been shifting towards expanding our berry varieties since they are much more consistent with production. Elderberry blooms long after our last frost, and the chickens adore the berries, so this is a win. I just placed a pre-order from River Hills Harvest for rooted elderberry cuttings to expand our harvest season of elders over the summer.

First week of March snow storm (our only snow this winter)

Nursery Business

I mentioned previously that CM and I are planning to open a mail-order nursery in 2025, so we have purchased various rootstocks to grow out and form the basis of our rootstock supply. Apples, cherries, pears, and some other species will be our primary focus because I am most successful in grafting them and breeding them. Producing our rootstock will significantly reduce overhead, and getting a headstart on it this growing season will mean we can have a large inventory when we launch. Additionally, I have been hard at work removing grass using a pick-axe so there is plenty of space for the rootstock rows along with propagating elderberry, tea, herbs, blueberry, Aronia, and hazelnut. Several of these species will be planted directly in our food forest rows for value-added products or sold online. I am very excited to see everything shaping up with a focus on "large" scale production. Once everything starts growing, I can show it all in future monthly updates.

Some of the rootstocks I planted


I am happy to report that some people are planting gardens this year. This is the first year since the "new era" (starting in 2020), as I like to call it that I see proactive folks making gardens, putting up DIY greenhouses, etc. I hope they stick with it and are encouraged by what they grow. I know so much of these monthly farm updates revolve around the topic of food, but in reality, what is more important? Once you begin to grow some of your food, no matter how small, it's an exciting adventure with many ups and downs. It's not only physically nurturing but soul-nurturing as well. Working with the land and building that partnership is the most grounding thing we can do at this moment in history.

Raspberries, blueberry and sunchokes ready to be planted


I want to amend some of my thoughts in past posts discussing roosters. I do love my two boys. They are stunning birds, just gorgeous. They are, however, so fucking loud. George, the big cheese, crows a lot. I mean at least once every hour and sometimes every 10 seconds for hours. This is not only obnoxious to us, but I am sure it is to our neighbors. This also draws a lot of unwanted attention to our operation with the continuous crowing. Two other neighbors have roosters that I can hear, but they are far from as loud or consistent as George is. I want to breed my own line of Black Australorps, but I am also keeping it in the back of my mind that it may be unsafe in the coming years when food scarcity bites. Every crow is a "look over here" call that might bring unwanted guests to our farm.

Bamboo Goals

I am told April is the month that two online bamboo nurseries will have a bamboo variety I want to enlist as our windbreak, frost protector, fire block, and flood control plant around the house site. CM and I recently transplanted some red margin bamboo along the road to block the trashy young couple's place across the street. We were amazed at this variety's prolific growth in just one growing season.

To contain bamboo, we will dig a shallow trench along one side to stop it from spreading into the field. On the other side are a stream and a ditch with a paved road that will limit its spread in those directions. I know some folks are scared of bamboo, but the new era of resource scarcity is upon us. We need all hands on deck to help us get fed, fueled, clothed, and medicined up. Bamboo will help us in many ways, and our only primary job is to manage it correctly so it does not grow into places we do not want it to. Once again, it's a partnership, and we understand what characteristics this plant has and seek to work with it in the most constructive way possible.

Around the house site, the bamboo will be a much-needed windbreak. The dense growth will reduce cold air draining from the mountains above us and provide privacy. The shoots are edible so we can harvest some in spring for a nutritious meal. After a few years, canes will be long enough for garden trellis, construction, and firewood. If properly maintained, bamboo forests are good fire breaks. I also want to run chickens under them to break up the leaves and provide them with a predator-proof (mostly) forest to work through, especially in winter. Bamboo is an expensive plant, and if we can grow a lot and sell it at a reduced price compared to the competition, that will be an additional source of income.

Web Woes

When it comes to the website, we have not been highly active on it, mainly because we have so many great projects on the farm to work on. As I alluded to above, the endless "the sky is falling" noise from social media, mainstream media, the community, peak prosperity, and many other blogs has drained us of interest in keeping up with that nonsense. None of us will die if we stop reading their fear porn, but a lot will die for not taking active roles in building up their personal resileince. I want to write an article reviewing our thoughts about this more soon. I find so much more joy, passion, and fulfillment sitting with my chickens, planting, grafting, and growing fruit trees that I just do not see the interest that I used to in discussing nothing burger topics. Are you the same way? Do you find working in your garden or reading a good book much more productive than scrolling through the fear?

One of several multi-graft pear rootstocks I grafted onto in a food forest row