Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The last of the hazel nuts ( at least for now)

This past week, our permaculture guru friend planted another 2800 hazelnuts on our farm. This is the last open area that can be planted with large scale methods, with layout conducive to mechanized harvest. Any other trees we plant from here on out will be small numbers, and done by hand.

The hazelnuts that were planted in 2012 were challenged by drought conditions that year, but many survived, though some died back and are slowly recovering.

Here is one of the 2012 hazels

And here are some of the 2014 hazels (around 2500 all told). They had a well timed rain after planting, and are doing well. I don't mulch or use herbicides, but do mow next to the trees the first two years. These trees get little coddling, but the overall input costs are low as well.
And here are a couple of the brand new 2016 hazels, planted about two weeks ago.

All of these hazels were planted with a tree planter kind of like this one:  pulled behind a tractor .

Unfortunately, we had a late hard frost that hit just as the nut trees were at their most sensitive. It also knocked all the sumacs back  on their heels. Here is one of our chestnuts, not sure if they will recover. Interestingly, the hazels had leafed out earlier, and were past the critical stage, and were not affected.

Even many of the large established hickories and oaks in our woods were hit hard. We'll see if these small ones have enough reserves left to recover, otherwise we'll be doing a lot of replanting.

Bonus photo- Our feral chives patch in bloom, that was already thriving when we moved here. Comes back strong every year.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

new arrivals on the farm

We just got our bees this past weekend. Two hives worth, placed in top bar hives with the help of a beekeeping neighbor. Plexiglass observation ports are behind those hatches on the side.

I had read books, visited websites, talked to a few people who had kept bees in the past, but when it came to opening the packages, and dumping in the bees, it was awfully nice to watch it done in person. It seems like there is always some little detail that I hadn't thought to pin down, and also, everybody has an opinion on how to do things. It turns out that is especially the case with keeping bees.  

These bees were bought from a local business, which emphasizes natural  beekeeping. There are no frames or wires or other impositions on the bee's comb making, simply the wood bars across the top, so it will be interesting to see what they turn out. We'll worry about honey later, maybe not try to get any till next year, depending on how well the hives fare.

Two weeks ago, we also started 30 chicks (Cornish Cross meat birds) and five turkey poults. We are still happy with the Black Australorps and New Hampshire Red hens from our first flock last spring, as they are popping out eggs and free ranging just fine, but wanted some chickens to just feed out quickly, and get in the freezer. So far, the chicks are behaving as advertised, eating like crazy, and gaining size so fast, the feathers can't keep up to cover them. They are supposed to be eight or nine weeks to butchering weight and done. I'm weighing the feed and being careful to ration them, as they will eat themselves into leg problems from too rapid weight gain otherwise. Another week or so, and we'll get them out on pasture, and see how that goes. I've heard mixed reviews.

Here are the turkeys just a couple days after arrival. They feathered out quickly, and their proportions now look more like their adult form. The Cornish Cross still look like round butterballs.

We've had a very dry spring, so I worry for the other newcomers, our trees. We planted 50 Korean pines for enhancing our windbreak and for the pine nuts, and will be planting 50 oaks and 50 chestnuts quite soon.I may have to do some watering to get them established and through their first year.

That's enough new arrivals for now.