Spring has been busy this year at Cohocton River Rock Micro Farm. I was reflecting about how different two years can be. Last year, on Memorial Day, I gave a farmer friend all of my black raspberries. I had planted them too tightly and they never were able to reach their potential. When the farmer came, the soil was dry almost a foot down. What we all feared, eventually played out, was a long drought. In contrast, this year we have more water than we can deal with. Tractor farmers are struggling to their seed in ground, and get their hay in at the same time. However, I will take more water over not enough.
Nature, and I, abhors a vacuum. Two empty rows, where the black raspberries were needed to be filled. I wanted to keep those rows in fruit production. So I started to dream. Dwarf or small varieties moved to the top of the list. My family really enjoys cranberry. I thought we could save a few bucks if we grew some of our own cranberries. So I chose “Phillips” Cranberry from Fedco Seeds. It is a “highbush” cranberry. Not a true cranberry but looks and tastes like a cranberry. I am told it will grow about eight to 12 feet tall. Regular pruning will help it fit well into the space, and allow me to harvest all the fruits.
I also added a dwarf mulberry tree called “Girardi”. A tip from a farmer friend suggested this variety from Whitman Farms. My farmer friend says mulberries make the best jelly. I figured it will be the right size, six feet, and it is a fruit. Also, it is a rarity so I have a good story to tell. I am excited to taste these fruits. The young tree has a few fruits growing, and I will get them before the birds do.
My neighbor Ted and I were talking this week. He was walking me around his growing totes and garden areas. He needed to clean up a bed, and mentioned he had horseradish wandering into an area that will be planted in squash in a few days. He offered and all the horseradish root I wanted. That was an offer I could not pass up. I dug up the rogue horseradish(es?). I transplanted them in a small area, and hoped they would survive the transplant. I was worried for the first few days. They did not look like they would make it. Recently, it looks like they are enjoying their new home. If the weather does not heat up to fast they will be in good shape.
Neighbor Ted told me a few days later he was given the horseradish by a friend from Prattsburg, NY. He said his friend insisted he take the roots. He took them, planted them, and then never did anything else. Hopefully, I can find a friend or two that would like fresh horseradish next year.
Three out of the last four years I have attended at apple tree grafting class. The Cooperative Extension in the next county over offers this fantastic class. Two years ago I thought I had been successful. The drought and my poor skills were a deadly combination. With renewed vigor and more experience I think this year will be different.
I think I have successfully grafted two heirloom apple trees. I will keep them in the buckets for this year. Keeping them on the back porch should remind me to water them more often, and if they are getting too much direct sun I can move them to some shade. If they do not survive I also do not have to dig a hole. They will go into the ground next spring while they are still dormant. The Newtown Pippin was originally found on Long Island, and was grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Keepsake variety is that is known as a “keeper” apple. The instructor of the class said do not eat this apple until January. It only gets better the longer you wait. He said it “keeps” until late spring with little trouble. One of Keepsakes parents is Northern Spy so I am confident it is a good baking apple. Keepsake is one of the parents of the very popular Honeycrisp. I am excited to see what these trees provide. I am learning the best tasting apples may not be the best looking apples. There are many, many, many, varieties of apples. We do not get to see most of them at the store. I encourage you to search out a new variety of apple. Look with your taste buds, not your eyes. You may really be surprised.
There is much more going on around the micro-farm, but for now…
Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.