Summer time trees: pinching, plucking, taming

This is the first post from Nutty Buddy Nurseries about fruit and nut tree care. As we grow, we aim to increase and improve both our nursery offerings and our support to fellow growers of fruits and nuts – including blog posts and other online resources. 

The flowers have bloomed, the fruit has set, the roots and shoots have had sent out their big flushes of early growth.  You’ve got your new trees in the ground, seedbeds planted, mulch spread, established trees fertilized. Perhaps you’re feeling like it’s time to string your hammock between some trees and kick back til the fruit rolls in.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t nap. I believe in naps for all. But don’t hang out in that proverbial orchardist’s hammock quite yet. There’s still critical work to be done that can really make or break a year’s crop and also affect future seasons. The good news is that these are not difficult things to do. Below is an introduction to 3 basic tasks for spring and summer fruit tree care:

  • Thinning – That’s right. Believe it or not, you’ve got to bring yourself to pluck baby fruits off your tree. So full of hope and possibility, their bright little bodies swelling a bit more each day with anticipation of the juicy grandeur they were born to send dripping down your chin…DASHED! by the slice of the pruner blades or the twist of a wrist. Sadly, the majority of the fruitlets on the many fruit trees are best removed. Culling out fruits until there is a space of roughly 8″ between each one will allow light to strike all sides of the fruit, which helps with ripening and reduces habitat for disease and insects who find protection in the delicious enclosure created by fruits that are touching one another. Another good reason is pacing: some species, and some varieties in particular, can get overzealous about fruiting and will cash in on their reserves to set as many fruits as they can muster. Next year, the tree will have to spend its energy recovering and will not set a crop. This two-year boom and bust is known as biennial bearing. You can help your tree pace itself by thinning a heavy fruit set with an equally heavy hand. It’s actually best to do this a bit earlier in the season when the fruitlets are smaller, but June is still not too late. In some cases, like with apricots and peaches, you can get way out ahead of the tree and use a brush or stick to remove large swaths of flowers before or shortly after they’re pollinated. Be careful not to twist off the fruit spur while removing fruitlets. Sometimes this task can be done by hand with the assistance of a stout thumb nail, sometimes hand pruners are the tool for the job. Thin apples, pears, quince, peaches, apricots, nectarines, and plums.
  • Pinch pruning – This is the fine art of nipping an issue in the bud. You can stop your trees from spending energy unnecessarily by cutting out new growth where you’d prune it out later anyway. Sprouts along the truck between scaffolds, sprouts that are growing inward or otherwise cluttering the tree, those vertical shoots of very vigorous green growth called watersprouts – all this undesirable growth can be halted in its tracks by pinching it off.  You ideally will be getting to this growth while it’s still young so you can knock off the spouts with your fingers or with the assistance of a stout thumbnail. If you don’t get a clean break, use your pruners. Pinch pruning can also be used to ‘devigorate’ a tree, to help it relax a bit from all that rampant green growing and encourage it to put its energy into forming lateral, fruiting branches by pinching back the terminal buds of the outside branches. This taming should only be done to trees of fruiting age.
  • Fighting fire blight, battling borers, and other fun
    fire blight

    Beware the shepherd’s crook! Cut it out well past the symptoms, ASAP.


    There are all kinds of bugs, bacteria, and not-so-fun fungi that love to feast on the delicious flesh of fruit trees. There are hundreds of pests and diseases of fruit trees, each one with its own unique, creative way to destroy your hopes and dreams of abundance.  I recommend the sleek and very informative, if not very succinctly titled Tree Fruit Field Guide to Insect, Mite, and Disease Pests and Natural Enemies of Eastern North America if you want to go deep on learning about these ‘enemies of the plate’.  I’m just going to discuss two of the standouts here. First, fire blight: this is a bacterial disease that enters the apple, pear, and quince via the flowering tips and fresh shoots. Infected tissue wilts and remains on the tree, allowing the bacteria to continue to move down the branch. If left untreated, the infection can reach the trunk and eventually kill the tree.  A tell tale mark of fire blight is the ‘shepherd’s crook’ appearance of the wilting tips. Prune out any infected limbs at least one foot below the symptoms as soon as they are detected, but wait for dry weather. Spread of the disease via pruning cuts is more likely when there is more moisture in the air. Disinfecting your tools between cuts is a good idea, especially if they come into direct contact with infected wood, but this isn’t really all that practical if you’re pruning several trees with blight – your best bet is to make your pruning cuts well below (12″ or more) the symptoms. Remove prunings from the area around the trees and burn them or place where they’ll bake in sun, like on a driveway.A second pest to be on the lookout for is the borer. Actually, there are several genera and species of borers that attack the cambium of fruit trees throughout the growing season. Look closely at the trunk and limbs for evidence of boring. If you see little clusters of moist, sawdust-like frass (bug poo) or other unusual marks around the base of the tree, you might have borers. Get down there and feel around for where the bark isn’t holding tight to the tree and peel it back to reveal the borers or their tunnels into the cambium. If you see ’em, squish ’em. If you don’t, get a coat hanger or some skinny, flexible metal, find the boring tunnels, and cram the wire in there. It might seem brutal treatment for the tree, but leaving the borers to their feeding frenzy is much worse. They can eventually girdle and kill a tree.

Alright – now don’t forget to string up that hammock and enjoy some fistfuls of serviceberries and mulberries while you watch the peaches swell and the early apples and pears begin to blush.

Drop us a line if you’ve got a question or need help in your home orchard:  nuttybuddynurseries@gmail.com

 

Pruning ponderings

Pruning ponderings….contact us if you need help making the right decisions for your trees!

May Day Picnic in the Orchard + Spring Biodynamic Orchard Blessing + Opportunity to Earn Nutty Buddy Bux

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Join us for a May Day Picnic Potluck in the Orchard on Sunday, April 30th

in Leicester, NC 
Please RSVP for details and directions to nuttybuddycollective@gmail.com

Half way between equinox and summer solstice is the cross quarter day of May 1st which symbolizes the height of green grass and high tides of fertility and promise for a fruitful year. There is no better place to celebrate this than in pristine fruit and nut orchards. Since time immemorial, humans have gathered in the orchards to give thanks and bless the trees that have nurtured our species for millions of years. The Nutty Buddies will be gathering in the beautiful headwaters of Turkey Creek in Leicester to bless our orchards by applying biodynamics to call in all the goodness of the universe and our community.

We will also have an art station set up for kids young and old to make nut prayer flags. Prayer flags come from the Eastern countries of Tibet, China and Persia. They are traditional simple devices that work with the natural energy of the wind to harmonize the environment, and increasing happiness and good fortune among all living beings. For those wanting to beautify the environment, increase awareness of this community nut project, and continue education about edible perennial nuts, we shall make nut prayer flags!

Sunday, April 30th
9:00-12:00 Biodynamic Blessing, Mulching in the orchard

12 noon – 2:00 pm picnic potluck lunch, Nut Prayer flag making, and discussion

2-4:00 optional tour of orchard/ grafting demo/ or wild woods walk to waterfalls

  • Please bring a potluck dish, something to eat out of, and silverware. On the menu from the NBC: grilled venison,  pesto, creamed sochan, sumac tea, hickory milk, and other wildly delicious and perennial foods and drinks. Lunch will start around 1pm.
  • We’re accepting any goodwill donations you might want to offer – all proceeds will support the development of our nut processing facility.
  • We’ll do grafting demonstrations and tour of the orchards
  • We’ll have a fire and fireside chat about what the Nutty Buddy Collective has been up to

Also, you’re invited to arrive early at 9:00 to participate in applying biodynamic compounds. Please bring a sprig of a tree or bush that is special to you. Afterwards we will mulch trees and take care of some other maintenance tasks in the orchard.

Contact nuttybuddycollective@gmail.com for details and to RSVP.

Please RSVP for details and directions: nuttybuddycollective@gmail.com

Getting crackin’ thanks to you!

Late last summer,  with two 99-year leases in place and our young nut & fruit trees slowly and steadily growing into abundant orchards, we decided it was time to start developing our processing facility. Growing the black walnuts, acorns, hickories, chestnuts, hazelnuts, cider pears and apples, aronia berries, and pawpaws is one thing (or, actually, it’s many things…). Making these crops into fine food products to be sold to market-goers and chefs is quite another thing.

We’re headed into not-very-well-charted territory in our effort to bring these uncommon crops to market. We can’t just go to Amazon.com and buy a continuous-feed black walnut cracker or chestnut sheller, for example. The equipment that does exist is often homemade by other nutty tinkerers and difficult to find for sale, let alone for testing and comparing with other options.

So, we set ourselves to researching and some R&D to explore various options and ideas for how to set up our processing facility. We decided to aim first for a large, powerful and versatile nut cracker that could crack a wide variety of nuts with minimal adjustments. We found the Patriot 600, which can handle up to 600 lbs. of nuts per hour. The cost was about $6000. This would allow us to easily crack any nut we wanted and begin to develop sorting (separating nut meat from shell pieces) methods, as well as begin to offer cracking services to other foragers and growers.

We turned to you all, our community of family, friends, customers and accomplices, to help make it happen. And you did! With your generosity and support, we succeed in raising enough funds to buy the cracker. We feel deeply grateful for your donations and, more importantly, for being a part of this wild vision we have for community that cares for each other and the earth for the long-term. You – whether you donated $5 or $500, or supported us with advice or encouragement or collaboration or by simply caring about what we’re up to – you are a critical piece of the Nutty Buddy Collective. We call our model ‘community-supported perennial agriculture’ because, for these slow-growing, long-lived, semi-wild and ecologically-regenerative crops and ways of growing to work, we need a village. Thank you for being a part of our nascent village and helping us take the next big step.

And there’s something else, too…now that you’ve helped us reach our goal, we’re excited to announce our next big thing. All the community support, research, conversation, and nut gathering, cracking, and snacking  has inspired us to launch the…

Acornucopia Project!

Acornucopia is a place where folks can stroll in the shade of their backyards, parks, and farms, picking up nuts and to sell to their local nut depot, bringing health and wealth to people and planet. It’s a big vision and lots of fun. Check out the website!

And now, without further ado, here is the Patriot 600 nut cracker in action:

Acornucopia

‘When it rains, it pours’ could not hold any truer than with acorns. Without apparent reason other than fall, they just seem to be all over the ground and then they slowly disappear again. It’s one of those magical cycles that come and go with little fanfare and mostly annoyance by the human race. It hasn’t always been that way. Throughout the entirety of man’s evolution oak trees, which dominate most temperate regions around the world, have supported us. Rich in carbohydrates, rich in oils, rich in protein, the deep rooted perennial acorn mining trace nutrients from deep in the Earth could be the original manna from heaven. Oak trees have been known to individually produce up to 1000 lbs of acorns in a year given ideal circumstances.

White oaks have evolved to sprout in the fall as soon as they hit the ground if it is moist. The red oak family, more patient, waits until spring to wake up and send its deep taproot into the soft spring ground. Appropriately, the impetuous white oak is made up of fast burning carbohydrates and the red is much more rich in oil and protein. Both are loaded with tannic acid that makes them undesirable for eating out of hand like a chestnut, hickory, walnut, or peanut butter sandwich.

white-oak-acrons

White oak acorns are lower in tannins than red oak acorns and sprout shortly after dropping

I began seriously fooling around with acorns this fall by gathering whatever I could with my son Gabe. I knew enough to keep the reds and the whites in separate buckets as they are very different foods with very different properties. Just as the commodity brokers keep their corn separate from their soybeans. We harvested with a “Nut Wizard” which is an ingenious device that magically picks up small nuts by rolling a basket type cylinder on the ground and the nuts get forced in under the pressure exerted but don’t come out. This keeps your knees clean, if you know what I mean, and you can pick up an enormous amount of nuts in a very short amount of time. “Clean Knees” means a healthy back. It wasn’t hard for my son Gabe and me to fill a couple of five gallon buckets in an hour under a particularly prolific white oak denuded of grass underneath. There were so many acorns you didn’t need roller blades to glide along. Mind you, Gabe is 4 years old and had to have the wizard at least half the time. It is imperative that the whites get cured out as soon as possible because carbs are relished by the microorganism world even more than the macroorganism world. Some screen doors off the ground, under roof and protected from rodents made perfect drying racks. The oils in the reds which helps carry the germ through the winter makes them more resilient to possible storage issues.

After about a month I was able to get to processing the whites. The shells were brittle and nut meats were very hard and that made for gratifying shelling. As Gabe worked the ‘DaveBilt’ table top nut sheller, processing a 5 gallon bucket in about 15 minutes, I prepared the water bath in which we would pour all the shells and meats. From that 99% of the shells float while all the meats sink, making separation a slice of acorn flour fruit cake. Leaching is the next step and entails further softening of the halves, blending into small pieces and pouring many changes of water over. After drying again, a very nice dark flour product is the result that adds a rich nutty texture to any baked goods you make, or thickener for soup, addition to granola, etc. I was impressed on how easy it really was. All the whites got treated that way and were put away on the pantry shelf in mason jars to protect against grain moths. They will store several years like that.

Then came time to play with the red oaks and little did I suspect how significantly they were going to change my life! To be continued….

Bill

 

Fundraiser and nut cracker update

 

First, just wow. $5,650! We’re overjoyed to be the recipients of so much support and generosity from so many folks who believe in this work. It really puts wind in our sails. Or maybe it’s fertilizer at our roots..

If you want to donated or just learn more about what the fundraiser is about, check it out here: gofundme.com/nutfundraiser

Though we haven’t reached our goal of $10,000 as of yet, the Nutty Buddy Collective is moving forward with development of nut cracking equipment.

Every fall, many thousands of pounds of native nuts fall around us and by nature are an open source food. Every year they are shuffled out of our yards and into the bins , bags, and bottoms never to reach their intended goal of being food. They are of a higher flavor and nutritional quality than foods brought in from afar, organic or otherwise.

The idea of harvesting, processing and selling native black walnuts and hickories is a currently obscure concept and hardly any research and development is out there. Wild native nuts are such a marginal economic crop that it is currently reachable by only one large national operator. It is part of the NBC’s mission to develop a model and open source all its accompanying technology so anyone anywhere can pick up wherever we are and improve upon it, share it, and create a perennial food collective.

In short, we are developing a model relying on social capital and innovation rather than debt bondage. We believe that if grassroots organizers collaborate, we can create small local models around the world of perennial agriculture that will produce food indefinitely, keep wealth in local communities where it belongs, and environmentally, humans will be a net gain for the planet once again.

Would you care to join us on the journey?

An incredible Carnival

 

Franz Kafka apparently said once that ‘God gives the nuts, but does not crack them’

Since the divine gift of nuts doesn’t come pre-cracked, we’re calling on our community to help us set up a commercial-scale nut processing facility. And we’re filled with gratitude at how many fine folks have stepped up to contribute to the cause. Yesterday afternoon, we kicked off our fundraising campaign with an incredibly fun and delicious Carnival of Nuts.  Nearly 200 people came out to learn about our native nut crops and the Nutty Buddy Collective’s work, to sip on locally-brewed chestnut beer and toasted pecan hot cocoa, to play nutty carnival games, to chow down on delicious treats of all kinds.

If you missed the Carnival, that’s OK – you can still chip via our GoFundMe campaign

We would like to extend our deep, tap-rooted gratitude to the following people and businesses who helped make the event a success by donating time, talents, creativity, foods, and/or money:

More to come soon about the Carnival, the fundraiser and other nuttiness..