Posted on

Basketmaking Workshop

Posted on

List of Apple Descriptions (brief overviews)


Akero – Swedish heirloom, 18th century. Nearly red fall apples.

Anoka – S. Dakota 1918. Precocious bearing gold to blushed apple.

Antonovka Seedling – Generally true to form, but variable. Usually tart fall apple.

Antonovka 48 – Yellow, tart fall apple. Good tart fresh eating and pies.

Antonovka 1.5 – Selected for its large size. Late summer, yellow, sweet/tart

Alexander – Heirloom Russian Apple. Parent of Wolf River. Very cold Hardy. Late summer.

Antonovka 1.5 – Yellow tart early fall apple. Russian. Large fruit.

Antonovka 40 – Tart yellow Russian apple. Selected for superior fruit.

Autumn arctic – Early fall apple. Some russeting. Some scab resistance.

Anaros – Antonovka seedling. Canada introduction from 1930s

Almey – Cold hardy jelly crab from Canada. Red and white blooms.

Ashmead’s Kernal – England c. 1700. Highly flavored russet. Late fall.

Bethel – Heirloom Vermont apple. Fall. Great Keeper. Red striped.

Beacon – Beautiful red summer apple. Notes of anise when fully ripe.

Blenheim orange – Blenheim England. Richly flavored fresh eating apple.

Benoni – Massachusetts early 1800s. Good fresh eating. Red/orange/yellow

Bottle greening – 1860s Vermont/NY border. Green aromatic dessert apple.

Beautiful arcade – (Arkad Drasivui) Russia 1800s. High quality fruit.

Britemac – NJ 1930s. Mac like but deeper color and often red stained flesh. Fall.

Burgundy – Purple. Outstanding flavor. Red stained flesh often. Fall.

Champlain – Vermont 1800s. Red blushed yellow apple. Late summer.

Carroll – Red splashed summer apple. Tender, mild, good. Canada 1947.

Chenango strawberry – CT or NY mid 1800s. Tender, fine flavor. Late summer.

Centennial – Delicious sweet-tart crab. Scab resistant.

Creekside crab – Vt. Walden Heights introduction. Scab resistant golfball sized apples. More sweet than tart.

Chestnut crab – Minnesota early 1900s. Scab resistant. Rich almost nutty flavor.

Cox’s orange pippin – Prized English heirloom, superb flavor. Fall

Dayton – Scab immune. Large purple skinned fruit. Great fresh eating.

Dudley – (Dudley Winter) Early fall, good keeper. Maine 1875. Excellent.

Dakota – North Dakota 1960s. Wealthy x Whitney cross. Red splashed. Dessert.

Elstar – Netherlands 1955. Red/orange striped. Fine flavor when well developed.

Erwin bauer – Germany 1920s. Fall. Excellent flavor and texture. Aromatic.

Early harvest – Early 1800s, US (likely). Yellow summer apple. Refreshing.

Ellison’s orange – English early 1900s (likely earlier). Licorice tones.

Early Cortland – Cortland like but earlier season. NY 1930s.

Erickson – Minnesota circa 1910. Deep red over yellow. Dessert and culinary.

Fall harvest – All purpose fall apple.

Fireside – Minnesota early 1900s. High quality late apple. Great keeper. Dull red.

Fantazja – Poland 1940s. Red, juicy, highly flavored. Keeps well.

Greensleeves – England 1970s. Scab resistant. Crisp, tart and aromatic. Yellow.

Honeycrisp – Very crispy. Minnesota. Sweet, but not rich. Keeps well.

Hazen –  North Dakota 1980s. Precocious fruiting. Small stature tree. Mild.

Honeygold – Minnesota 1930s. Golden delicious type but more flavorful. Hardy.

Hunt russet – Massachusetts 1700s. Rich flavor. Russet skin. Eating or cider.

Hiburnal – Russia 1800s. Tart. Excellent culinary apple. Red and orange splashed.

Heyer 12 – Canada 1940s from Russian lineage. Very cold hardy. Tart

Harcourt – Canada early to mid 1900s. Red blushed all purpose apple.

Haralson – Minnesota -1913. Red or red striped. Great all purpose and storage apple.

Haralred – A sport of Haralson. Redder, a week or two earlier.

Howgate wonder – England 1916. Enormous fruit. Striped and patched.

Irish peach – Ireland early 1800s. Delicious early season apple. Pretty tree.

Jordan russet – Canada late 1800s. Yellowish, russeted skin. Late season.

Jubilee – Canada 1920s. Late reddish dessert apple

Kerr crabapple – Culinary crab (we currently have only seedling material still in stock, which has fruit variation)

Karmijn de sonneville – Netherlands late 1940s. Dense, rich flesh. Splashed with russet, orange and red.

Keepsake – Minnesota 1930s. Superb keeper. Very crispy and sweet. Dull red. Need thinning to gain size.

Liberty – NY 1970s. Crisp, sweet-tart red fruit. Immune to scab and resistant to other diseases. Excellent choice for organic growers.

Lodi – NY 1911. Early summer apple with green to yellow skin. Pleasant sweet-tart eating, but perishable. Large crops.

Lobo – Late 1800s. McIntosh like fruit.

Martha –

Minnehaha – Minnesota 1914. Red fall apple. Crisp, aromatic and rich.

Milwaukee – Wisconsin late 1800s. Flat shaped with red stripes. Large fruit. More tart than sweet. All purpose, but is great in ciders. Early fall.

Michelin – France late 1800s. Strictly a hard cider apple. Bittersweet. Fall. Finicky grower. Not reliable in the north.

Mantet – Canada 1920s. The best summer apple we have. Outstanding flavor  with notes of berries. Striped, large, tender apple. Sweet enough for good early cider. Well balanced.

Muscadet de Dieppe – France late 1800s. Hard cider variety. Fall. Bittersweet. Has done fairly well here in Walden.

Melba – Canada late 1800s. Good quality summer apple. Tender, red or red splashed. Sweet-tart. Similar to Mantet but not as good.

Golden Lights – Vermont 1990s. Walden Heights introduction. Mild, crispy early fall apple. Golden skin. Somewhat scab resistant but not immune. Good cropper.

Northwest greening – Wisconsin mid 1800s. Green fall fruit. Somewhat tart, but mild. Decent keeper.

Niagara – NY 1950s. McIntosh-like but with an interesting tannic tone. Nearly purple, and buffs beautifully. Hardy and vigorous tree. Excellent cider, and good hard cider additive.

Niedzwetzkyana – Red fleshed variety strictly for cider and culinary uses. Considered by some authorities to be a distinct species. Parent of many red fleshed varieties.

Norda – Canada 1960. Early red dessert apple. Medium to small, very hardy.

Nova Easygro – Canada 1950s. Scab resistant dessert apple. Keeps well. Best after storage period. Mild. Red skin. Hardy.

Norland – Canada 1970s. Red or red striped. Summer dessert apple. Sweet-tart. Conic. Keeps decently for a summer apple. Very cold hardy. Precocious fruiter. Small stature tree.

Oriole – Minnesota 1914. Excellent summer apple. Large, orange, yellow and red splashed. Often hangs in pairs. Aromatic, juicy, and well balanced.

Prairie spy – Minnesota 1914. Decent fresh eating, but very good pies. Keeps well with good humidity. Red and green with some russeting.

Parkland – Canada 1970s. Crisp and juicy summer apple. Pink to red skin with whitish background. Small unless thinned. Pleasant sweet-tart flavor. Precocious fruiting.

Pomme gris – Canada (Quebec) late 1700s. Generally small fruit. Excellent rich flavor, nutty undertones. Attractive green-gold to greyish russet apple. Scab resistant. Hardy and vigorous.

Priscilla – Indiana 1960s. Scab resistant dessert apple. Red blushed, crisp and aromatic. Keeps reasonably well.

Patterson- Canada 1940s. Yellow with red splashes. Pleasant, juicy late summer apple. Tends to make smaller fruit. Slow to oxidize, so good in salads and for slicing. Very hardy.

Quinte – Canada 1960s. Fine flavored summer apple. Tender. Great sauce. Yellow with red blushing.

Rouville – Canada 1960s. Large red apple, ribbed. All purpose apple, but due to good sugar and tannin level lends itself to hard cider making.

Red astrachan – Russia 1700s. Popularized in Sweden. Very hardy early season apple. Some rust resistance. Tart, tender and aromatic. All purpose.

Ribston pippin – England early 1700s. Green and blushed apple. High quality. Triploid. Not a great choice for northern areas.

Redhook – NY 1920s. Red all purpose apple. Juicy, aromatic. Fall. Not for storage. Can be a tardy bearer.

Redfield – NY 1920s. Red fleshed variety. Deep purplish red skin. Strictly culinary and cider apple. Red blooms.

Red baron – Minnesota 1920s. Red and yellow striped. Crispy, sweeter than tart. Keeps very well. Early fall.

Red wealthy – Variant of Wealthy (sport). Redder and later in season. Keeps better.

Rambo – NJ area,  possibly late 1600s. Swedish lineage. September. Good quality, all purpose, large. Crisp and aromatic.

Shamrock – Canada 1980s. Granny Smith type apple for colder climates. Mild, juicy and sweet. Precocious bearer.

Sandow – Canada late 1800s. Some similarity to its parent, Northern Spy. Good quality. Late fall. Hardy.

Sweet sixteen – Minnesota 1930s. Outstanding apple with cherry tones. Some scab resistance but not immune.

Slovianka – Russia early 1900s, possibly older. Green to yellow midseason apple. Juicy, sweet-tart. Hardy.

Stowe Crab – Vermont mid 1900s. Quarter sized yellow crabs. Sweet-tart and tannic. Hard cider blending.

Scott winter – Vermont mid 1800s. Late fall. All purpose. Red striped. Good, full flavor. Hardy.

Red Selkirk – Red fleshed selection of Selkirk Crab. Quarter sized fruit. Tannic. Good hard cider additive.

Selkirk – White fleshed, white blooming crabapple for culinary use and pollination. Seedling stock selected.

Smokehouse – PA early 1800s. Dense fleshed, rich, excellent flavor. Some russet patching. Attractive tip bearer.

Shiawassee – Michigan mid 1800s. Aromatic, juicy, all purpose apple. Red striped. Late fall.

Three sisters – Vermont mid 1900s. Walden Heights introduction. Small yellow apples with pear notes. Productive.

Trent – Canada 1970s. Dull purple-red. Scab resistant. Later fall. Excellent keeper. All purpose. Fine fresh eating.

Tolman sweet – Massachusetts 1600s(likely). Yellow, sometimes russeted. Very hardy. Late fall. Sweet with moderate texture. All purpose.

Twenty ounce – Massachusetts early 1800s. Large green to yellow apple, sometimes red blushed. Mild sweet flesh. Fall.

Vista bella – NJ 1950s. Red summer apple. Rather crisp and full flavored for an early apple. Keeps a little better than most summer apples. Extremely cold hardy.

Walden Greening – Vermont 1990s. Walden Heights introduction. Antonovka open pollinated. Dense, richly flavored late fall apple. Some russet patching over greenish yellow skin. Keeps well.

Westfield seek no further -Massachusetts late 1700s. Gold, green and red patched fruit with some russeting. Rich, mildly tart. Good all purpose apple. Fall.

Wodarz – N. Dakota mid 1900s. Green skin. Sweet. Late fall. Good storage apple. Very cold hardy. Large.

Wagener – NY early 1800s. Reddish streaks and patches over green. Interesting blocky shape. Late fall. Fruit is rich, excellent. Keeps well, bruise resistant. All purpose.

White pippin – US early 1800s, possibly earlier. Some authorities believe it to be of Canadian origin. Yellow/green with pink blush, occasional russet. Juicy, sweet tart, good for all uses.

Wedge – Minnesota early 1912. Crisp, juicy red apple. Very large fruit. Can develop watercore. Keeps fairly well. Fall.

Whitney crab – Illinois 1850s. Red or red patched egg sized apple. Tender, sweet-tart and juicy. Early fall.

Zabergau reinette – Germany 1885. Very large russet fruit. Somewhat crisp, with moderate acidity. Late fall.

Posted on


Mercer X Duchess of Oldenburg : selected 1918, introduced 1920. Anoka is a large apple with yellow skin striped and patched with red. A good apple for pies and sauce. Pick early for firmer piemaking. Only good fresh eating if eaten soon after picking. Has a mild subacid flavor. Flesh is white with a tinge of green, and is moderately dry. More for culinary uses. Flesh oxidizes (browns) readily. Average fruit weight is 100-150 gms. Slight bloom to the skin. Tree bears very young, being called “the old man’s apple” since he may likely see its fruit before his demise. Productive cropper, generally with two harvest periods. Somewhat small in stature, like most early bearers, managing about 15 to 20 feet tall. Claimed to have moderate resistance to fireblight, but there are conflicting reports. Ripens in summer, usually early Sept. here. cold hardy into zone 3. Moderate tree vigor. Possibly for hard cider.

Known by some as the old man’s apple, due to its precocity. It may produce fruit for before one’s demise. It does hold true, it is a tree that bears early in life. Good crops of fruit. Apples are of average quality, rather mild, but tasty. Here, they remain golden, sometimes with a bit of blush, before they need to be picked. Ready in late summer. Good cold hardiness. Tree can be kept small if needed.

Posted on

Walden Heights in the News


New England Gardens Article 

Branching Out Article – Acres USA

Hunt for Cold Hardy Pears – Good Fruit Grower Magazine

Radio interview with Walden Height’s Todd Parlo

Apple Pie in Local Banquet

It’s Apple Season – Dig In Vermont

Finding a New Orchard Crop – Growing Magazine

Pasture your Bedtime in Cabot, Vt

Apple’s Second Golden Age

These Apples Are Not All Alike – Northstaraug07-north-star

Local Banquet meets Todd and Lori


Posted on

Species variety in the Orchard

pear, grape, black locust, cherry, birch

elderberry, apple, aronia, maple, birch, plum, blueberry, juneberry, currant, raspberry, blackberry, herbaceous spp.

blueberry, Siberian pea shrub, plum, aple, pear, strawberry, maple, birch, spruce, rose, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, lilac, Saskatoon

Leo apple tree, Leo homo sapien, grape, birch, fir, spruce, cherry, maple, hops, plum, meadow herbs.

plum, aronia, currant, blueberry, maple, birch, raspberry, blackberry, elderberry, Saskatoon, hobbits.

blueberry, currant, birch, thyme, honeyberry, grape, kiwi, apple, cherry, mint, verbena, strawberry, spruce, maple, cedar

grape, maple, birch, cherry, rose, hops, kale, herbs

apple, plum, Saskatoon, herbs, maple, birch, blueberry

apple, birch, blueberry, Saskatoon, rose, raspberry, blackberry, blackhaw, grape, maple, cherry, lingonberry, elderberry, viburnum

apple, pear, maple, birch, beech, spruce, fir, cherry, photons, pot of gold

Posted on


History : A Malinda cross, the pollen parent formerly thought to be Ben Davis, but DNA testing has shown that Wealthy is the likely pollen parent developed at the University of Minnesota. Selected in 1913 and released in 1923. Originally Minn.90 (test name). It is named after Charles Haralson, superintendent of the University of Minnesota Fruit Breeding Farm.

Fruit Uses : This is a cultivar that comes highly recommended, especially for the homestead. It is all purpose, an excellent fresh eating apple and a first rate culinary fruit. Firm and crisp when fresh, with a near perfect sweet-tart balance which is far more fully flavored and assertive than modern commercial varieties. In pies and tarts the slices keep their shape and flavor. It is also among the best as a storage apple, keeping 4-6 months in proper conditions (high humidity/ 33 degrees). Keep for months in the fridge while maintaining flavor. Dried fruit is quite strong, but delicious. For sauces, it does better with the addition of a more collapsing variety mixed in (ie mac family selections are a good bet). Excellent for single variety or mixed cider. For hard ciders a higher sugar cultivar mixed in or an additional sugar source is recommended in years when brix is below 12.

Tree : It is moderately vigorous. Blooms are white. Flowering period is mid (about even with Golden Delicious), in Walden about May 18th. Fruit hangs past maturity to a fair level. Standard form and spurring. Not a tip bearer. Tree can set a very heavy crop, needing some thinning, which can help to reduce the incidence of biennial bearing which it is moderately prone to do. We have managed here to keep it in annual bearing with early and heavy thinning. Haralson makes a strong healthy and well formed tree with decent crotch angles, but benefits from some light training. Has a strong central leader tendency. Grows to a moderate size in average soil conditions. They are model trees in form with good management. Very cold hardy, to -50F reportedly. Somewhat precocious in bearing.

Fruit : Partially red stripes and splashes, may become fully red , over a greenish yellow base. Average weight is 400g, 62 x 77mm in size. Rounded conical in shape. With good thinning the fruits can get quite large. Skin is medium toughness. No bloom. About 10% of the skin surface is finely russeted and non- localized. Russet netting sometimes appears. Flesh is cream to yellowish, moderately crisp to firm, and aromatic. A good sweet to tart balance. Average sugar level at Walden Heights has averaged 12.5 % with some fruits nearing 14 in optimal years, or with afterripening. Flesh oxidizes (browns) at a moderate rate when ruptured. Ripens at Walden Heights late September to early October. (Latitude: 44-27’08” N Longitude: 072-15’25” W, 1700ft elevation, zone 3)

Additional physical attributes: Fruit stem length 22mm. Persistent calyx on fruit. Acute shallow fruit basin. Globuse to conical shape. Acute deep stem cavity. Tree form standard/standard. Moderately resistance to fireblight reported. Moderate resistance to cedar apple rust. Susceptible to apple scab fungus.

image and some details courtesy of national germplasm repository records

Posted on

Reading as Meditation

Ok, maybe not meditation really. I have been shuffling through some self help/mindfulness/zen musings a bit these days. It is the stuff of rural winters… rest, calm, and reflection. The trouble is, I really don’t like the methods of most of these teachings. Its a little obvious, and ok, boring. It is well intentioned, but I always feel a bit like an imposter when I try these things. What I do know is that slowing the hell down and taking a few moments each day to slow your head is good practice.

There are other ways. When we first settled here 20 years ago, in the lazy hill country of northeast Vermont I did a lot of reading. Apparently there was a lot more time back then to sit about by the woodstove, I am not sure how. Those books were not my stuff of late, all chocked full of chemical diagrams and 6 syllable botany terms, but real reading. These were things like Aldo Leopold, Hal Borland, Bernd Heinrich. The point is that there are sentences out there that take you somewhere else, where you can feel your head loose its tightness, open its gaze, and stumble upon a sort of relief. After years of a lot of business and busy-ness, and engaging primarily in informational reading, I have returned to those pages as my little life raft.  There are facts about in the rural tomes, but there is an art to it, and an attention to something more reluctant to pin down. The prose of Wendell Berry, or the practical ramblings of Gene Logsdon can both make you smile, maybe think a bit,  and kind of set you free. This, I think, isn’t all that far off from sitting cross legged and finding psychic plateus. It doesn’t mean the latter has no merit. It means some folks are different than others, and some roads fit where others do not. So, reading the reflective and enjoying the power of some of life’s so called simple pleasures, or hardships, can be at once entertaining, and meditative. Maybe where the hippy meets the cowboy in us.

I will end with plug for a good friend. Ben Hewitt has been living a life of quiet reflection, right alongside a life of piss-hard work here in the northeast kingdom. You will not find better words to set your head strait than those in his blog. Mercifully it is updated often, so you get a place to return to get your fix. If it does something for you, do pledge a few bucks. It’s cheap therapy.

Posted on

Hedge your bets by betting on your Hedge

There are a lot of species out there being sold as hedges. That is all well and good, but the truth is, a good deal of woody plants, including trees, can work nicely in this respect even if they haven’t occurred to you. At the end of the post is a list of just a few candidates that maybe you haven’t thought of to border the yard, keep the animals in or out, or simply because it just might look cool. Any bush, shrub or tree that responds well to pruning can work. Respond well means generally that it stays in good health, but the use or look will determine how vigorously you want  it to resprout. A plant of low vigor in general can be expected to regrow slowly. Younger, healthy plants rebound more readily than sad old-timers. In most situations, you will want a good regrowth because it often means a nice, compact and dense system. Think about christmas tree shearing or trimming privet hedge and you will know what I mean. Do not forget that this method produces superb windbreaks, and can be used as privacy hedge.

This can be particularly useful when the desire is an inpenetrable hedge to keep animals out of an orchard or garden, or to keep chickens from wandering too far. Prickly choices like hawthorn or locust are obvious candidates, but even many native plums and wild pears can prove quite formidable. I have often used the prunings to stuff holes in the lower areas of the hedge, or in openings, the new growth tangling around it. This is similar to the old European practice of dead hedging, where farmers would create an impressive barrier by layering  nasty dead brush 6 foot wide and at least that tall.

You get bonus from some for dual use, for example locust as a nitrogen fixer, plums and other fruits for edibles, kindling, and smoking wood. Small wood can also be used in projects and general building.

Plashing is an age-old method developed in the old world. It consisted of slashing the stem of a hedge plant partly through its diameter and bending it down to a particular angle (often 45 or more degrees). Some practitioners would take the time to also weave the branches around each other to both hold the bent stem in place, and to add to the strength and impenetrability of the living fence. Note that any horizontal orientation of the limbs will result in vertical growth, which can in turn be bent in the future. The very act of any pruning will also yield resprouting, both in the plant aerial portions, but also in some species with root suckering.

Some species for hedges aka living fences :

plum–   especially native species like prunus americana and p. nigra, which are often sharp spurred. Will often resprout readily, especially when young.

locust– honey and black locust are common, and very thorny. They also have an irritant in the thorn. Black locust is rot resistant. Rank growth sometimes breaks, so trim stocky.

hawthorn– another very spikey species, and also has an irritation associated with a prick from a thorn. A tough plant with strong wood.

siberian pea shrub – an absolutely beautiful species. Can be trimmed quite bushy for a tree (this “shrub” can get 20 feet tall). Easy to manage. This is a zone 2 plant, with edible (kind of) pods and seeds, and is an awesome nectary for beneficials like bumblebee. Good windbreak or privacy hedge.

apple, plum and cherry – not as dense as other woody plants, they are often espaliered, trimmed, and woven to produce novel fences more akin to fancy split rails in purpose. They can however be nearly sheared (use secateurs please, not hedgeclippers), to make a denser specimen. More wild members, like crabapples and seedling pears can be brushier or pokier. Some species, like malus sargentii (like roselow), are more accurately a shrub than a tree.

shade trees – many species will allow themselves to be hedged, particularly if started young (before 6 inch diameter for instance). Look at the list on this post for more details –                  

Another helpful technique when looking to create a barrier is to commingle species. A successful plan can be to gang woodier examples like plum or crabapple with lower growing simpler species like rugosa rose or blackberry. This will grow well especially if grouped to avoid excess shading in the lower plants. A wide as well as long tangle will result, keeping out unwanted guests.

Posted on

Coppice or Pollard

alder coppice                            photo by Cat James

These will be new words for many of you. These are age old methods for being able to continuously harvest a woody plant. In most cases this really means a proper tree. Some species are better than others, but the procedure between them is pretty much the same. The practice involves cutting the plant back, ideally in the dormant season, then allowing it some time (read years), to reestablish itself. The method goes back a long time, being popular in, but preceding the early middle ages in Europe. In fact, in many areas of old Europe the native forest groves were decimated from excessive harvesting for fuel and construction. By allowing a regrowth on tree species, instead of cutting to the soil line and harvesting at illogical times of year, a more sustainable source of wood was attained. There is evidence that trees managed by these systems allowed longevity of many times their normal lifespan. Fodder for livestock is another use in this system, but cutting is often done during the growing season, which can be more taxing on the plant. Both pollard and coppice management allows hand tools instead of unsustainable fuel based tools due to the small diameter wood. It is also more peaceful and healthier for the worker. It takes me approximately 4 seconds to cut through a 3 inch branch with a silky saw, 1 second to cut one inch segments with pruning shears…and I can do it all day long. I cut 14 cords of limbwood in one winter with loppers and a swedish bow saw, and I enjoyed it.

So, what’s the difference between the two methods? Coppicing, which is more often mentioned in literature, is the practice of cutting closer to the ground. Pollarding is simply the process of cutting it higher up. Any species that responds well to one method, generally responds well to both. Do note, that a higher cut retains more carbohydrates for the plant to feed on. Often, the choice has to do with aesthetics, but some factors, like keeping young shoots away from hare damage by choosing pollarding, can be practical. These methods can both be used to create border hedges as a bonus. This is particularly advantageous with thorny species.

Coppice/Pollard species

acer spp                      
maples- good for firewood and building. Sugar maple has the highest btu rating for maples

alnus spp                    
alders- not only a good nitrogen fixer, but a good c/p species if you have wetter areas. Fuel and small material in building

betula spp                  
the birches. resprouts nicely unless beginning with a very old tree. Great building and firewood candidate. Btu of yellow birch is on par with maple, and it has wintergreen flavor.

corylus spp                
the hazlenuts. Good for firewood/charcoal and small building projects and poles

fagus spp                    
beech. When tree is small, 3-5 inches caliper, it will resprout well. It also may sucker. Good firewood/charcoal, basketry and building. Dense, lightcolored wood.

ash spp                        
the ashes. the green ash resprouts the most readily. Fuel (will often burned unseasoned). Prized for basketry, and good for building.

apple and pear. Pear will resprout quite vigorously. Both are excellent firewoods, and sought after for smoking fish and meats. The dense wood turns beautifully and so isprized by woodworkers.

prunus spp                  
the cherries and plums. Regarding the former, Black cherry, chokecherry and pin cherry all resprout readily, even from older plants. Black cherry is the longest lived. All are good firewood, about medium in btu rating among the hardwoods. Like the pear and apple, all cherries have a delightful odor when burned. Plum is much the same, but the stems need to be harvested more carefully as the spurs can be sharp.

Quercus spp
the oaks. All species sprouts nicely, especially on stumps under a foot diameter. High on the list for firewood, high in btu’s. Has some rot resistance due to high tannin levels. Also for that reason, it is used in tanning. Good for all types of building. White oaks are used in barrel making as the wood is closed pored.

syringa vulgaris          
lilac. Small diameter wood, but can be used for fuel. Very long lived species.

elms. all resprout well. Many uses from basketry to furniture. If this species is used for firewood, coppicing and pollarding are the methods to use, as it is nearly impossible to split large billets due to stringy and sometimes twisted grain.

Note– any tree or shrub species that resprouts can be used. The thorny species I did not include because, although they are often incouraged, they can be a pain, literally. Some plums, pear, and of course hawthorn and locusts can do a number on your skin, or worse, eyeball. However, there is no better fence. A method of continual cutting, using the trimmings to stuff the holes in the hedge, will yield an inpenetrable mass to any creature of good sense.

Posted on

New for 2017

 Fruit CSA    We will be offering a membership that will include fruit and fruit products from July through December, featuring apples, pears, apple cider, fruit juices, frozen berries and other fruit, fresh berries, and extras.  All products are certified organic and grown on our farm exclusively. Not only do you get a price break, but some of our offerings are only available to members. Membership also includes extras like an end of the year party, free tickets to events, and discounts in our farmstand.

  We are looking to have folks sign up this year to plan for next year. Expect the membership to sell out, so let us know if you are interested sooner than later.  

Pickups weekly at the farm.         Contact us for details…through the contact box, email at [email protected], or 802- 563- 3012

Posted on

Attention Hard Cider makers !

Attention hard cider makers !  We are making weekly pressings with a huge diversity of apple varieties for brewing. This is unpasterized and super fresh.

Ordering ahead of pickup is required. Use the contact box, or email [email protected]

7.00 gallon in jugs

50.00 for a filled 5 gallon bpa free plastic brewing pail, and everything else you need to brew. (Includes yeast packet of choice, gasket, and 3 piece airlock)

10.00 for a half gallon fitted with plug and airlock, and yeast packet. Great for trying weekly new blends, or those new to the craft.

All orders come with data sheet listing cultivars in the batch; pH, and brix levels.

Also available- sulfite for disinfecting (important for some brewers)

-hops for cider addition- sold dry or frozen

– cider apples – .75/pound

Posted on

Biochar – fact or fiction ?

Biochar is being touted as the latest silver bullet in both the agricultural realm and that of environmental stability. There is some evidence that the substance can improve productivity in poor soils, and as another (of many) temporary sequesterers of carbon.Biochar can act as a reservoir of exchange sites, water storage, and in some cases decays more slowly than more natural carbon structures (ie plant residues). It, however is a product that needs some manufacturing to exist, either backyard in scale or industrial. Good agricultural or permaculture practices allow for organic matter systems that negate the need for this remediation. Furthermore, the raw materials for biochar are the carbon containing residues so important to a living soil system, be that natural forest systems or crop residues. Therefore, the biochar approach has more appropriate merit for highly weathered and humus poor regions like the tropics, where apparently biochar was rediscovered. Environmentally ethical sources, also, would be those waste products of industry, not of living systems. It is similar to the idea of harvesting forest debris from the lumber industry for biofuel…it leaves nothing behind to support the forest ecosystem. For those farmers or gardeners with well drained or sandy soils and low organic matter, it is likely to aid plant growth and health. Adding any organic matter, charred or not, will do this. The living soil fauna require carbon (along with other nutrients) to survive. These creatures are of paramount importance. This requires the matter to be consumed, so although a slow decay process has merit, a carbon source that takes eons to decay (mixed evidence for biochar on this front), is not necessarily useful, especially in slow decay soils in cooler, acid climates. The purpose of this post is not to write off the merits of a new approach like biochar, but to allow folks to be more informed and to move slowly and think carefully when presented with a magic bullet, particularly when it is surrounded by a plethora of products for sale.

We came across the following article by Rachel Smolker in the Earth Island Journal. It is well written and sobering for those looking for a cure all. Rachel is codirector of Biofuelwatch and a climate justice activist. She has a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Michigan, and worked previously as a field zoologist.

Biochar Article PDF

Posted on

Overstating the Organic Revolution

Growing your own food may not just be a way to fill our plates more economically, it may be the only way to obtain healthy and sustainable food with certainty. While it is apparent that grocers now stock their shelves with organic products, a sight unimaginable only a few years ago, it is still a very tiny fraction of the volume of food we consume in the United States. According to the last census, less than ¾ of a percent of the US food market is organic. Yes, that means that 99.25 or more is conventionally grown. This is not what seems apparent given the media attention to the so called explosion of the organic food market.

Another consideration is exactly what those organic products represent. A good deal of produce is shipped to us in the northeast from California, and often overseas. More than half of all organic produce is shipped over  100 miles, and 20 percent over 500. This calls into question the sustainability question firstly, as many of us organic supporters are also sensitive to environmental and sustainability issues. It should also be obvious to all that policing the practices of farmers in far off countries is likely impossible to any degree of quality.

There certainly is room for improvement in this country.  The US has a bit over 14,000 organic farms. That may sound like a lot, but in comparison  Mexico has around  170,000. Respect must be handed to our southern neighbor, but for us, perhaps, embarrassment. The United States is and has never been an example of healthy habits…quite the opposite. It is however frustrating for this organic farmer to listen to all the accolades we bestow on ourselves for some sort of health epiphany, when in reality our people neither farm or eat healthy in any meaningful way. It is a select few growers and supporters surrounded by a sea of old and unhealthy habits.

The organic farms that do exist also have the same pressures that affect other farms and businesses. Namely, that is profitability. The course, of course, is for small farm numbers to decrease, as consolidation and farm size increases, ie farm profitability by volume. This can still mean healthier food, but it also means most often a decrease in sustainability, especially with the use of fossil fuels. The mechanization also means a net loss in jobs. According to the USDA census,the number of organic farms has decreased in recent years (an example is the 400 farm decrease from 2008 to 2014), due both to small organic farms going under, and consolidation and increase of larger entities. Even though there are increasingly more large scale farms in the organic sector, the total acreage in the US under organic management has been decreasing by many thousands of acres a year. Value added products during the period, incidentally, more than tripled. So, a large percent of the increase in organic food consumption (published as a 74 percent increase in the last decade) was in the form of processed foods, arguably less healthy than conventional whole foods.

So, how does this all affect an individual or family that wants to both eat well, and do the right thing as a steward of this planet? Any product that has such a small market share is vulnerable to high pricing, and to lack of availability. This, for many, means lack of short term sustainability. It means most markets will not carry most foods, will have a long shelf life waiting for customers to buy them, and the prices will be higher. It perhaps more importantly means that both conventional and organic food come at a high environmental cost, since even organic farming by and large supports the heavy use of fossil fuels on farm, distant transportation, and energy intensive mechanization. Most often the only way to really insure a farmer is acting according to your ethics, is to have a relationship with him or her. Some organizations like the certification body for organic certification can help by setting up some arbitrary ground rules, and some (small) degree of policing. The only other way is to grow it yourself, in a community space or at home.

Growing food yourself, in addition to the empowerment and fulfillment itself, is an ironclad way of farming or gardening exactly as your ethics and health concerns dictate. This means no compromising or mysteries. The work you do will likely save you a good deal of money while accomplishing your goals.

above figures derived from the US Census of Agriculture

Posted on

Cider Pressin’

Well over a hundred varieties have found their way into the blends adding to maximum flavor. It is all our fruit, all certified organic, all tree picked.

Available in half gallon plastic jugs for 5.00. Also available in nice glass jugs, also 5.00 but with a 3.50 deposit (you can opt to keep the jug, they are high quality).

We may also have blends of other fruit juices, and 12 ounce sizes as well.

Available through 2018 while supplies last.   Call ahead please.   Pickup only.

Posted on

F.H. King : Professor of Agriculture, Organic Pioneer

“Man is the most extravagant accelerator of waste the world has ever endured. His withering blight has fallen upon every living thing within his reach, himself not excepted; and his besom of destruction in the uncontrolled hands of a generation has swept into the sea soil fertility which only centuries of life could accumulate, and yet this fertility is the substratum of all that is living.”

-F H King

Professor of Agricultural Physics of the University of  Wisconsin and the Chief of Division of Soil Management at the US Dept of Agriculture (turn of the last century).

Mr. King, through his books and research helped lay a foundation for what would become the modern organic movement. His work, like that of Sir Albert Howard, looked to the practice of eastern cultures and their agricultural practices. The highly intelligent mechanics of many of these systems, largely disregarded by industrial countries to the west, provided fodder for good research into sustainable systems. Examples of these so called primitive people were logical, effective, and creative. These were farmers engaged in a system not only innovative, but sustaining itself in some cases for thousands of years. Some figures in the west, like FH King, brought attention to these ideas. It would eventually gain popularity with some farmers throughout the world. Certainly, growers on all continents have historically engaged in natural practices, but it was becoming increasingly out of favor as industrial agriculture evolved. King and Howard brought more academic credibility to natural growing with impressive record keeping, intuition, and good science.


Some good publications to seek out are FH King’s “The Soil” (1908), and “Farmers of 40 Centuries” (1911).

Posted on

Evaluation of apple and pear varieties for cold humid climates under certified organic management

The supporting tables and documents can be viewed by clicking: Pome Study Tables and Documents
 Made possible through a grant from the SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education)
Click to view the study as a PDF document


The aim of this project was to establish an extensive review of apple and pear cultivars for successful organic management in cold humid climates of the U.S. Specifically, an established block of apple and pear trees, representing over 400 distinct varieties, will be assessed as to their commercial feasibility to certified organic orchardists and diversified farms. The fact that cultivar choice has great influence on the success rate of the farming venture, there is little room for error. Available information on plant stock for the cold humid areas of the country is inadequate, and information regarding organic management is further lacking. There is little information available to the public from universities and extension services, a formerly common vehicle for dissemination. Our extensive research over the last 20 years, has found scant (unbiased) cultivar reviews, most being antiquated or presented by nursery catalogs and other partisan sources. Organic fruit growers in the northeast are at a competitive disadvantage with the milder growing regions of the U.S. and overseas. Although the cold and humid climate of this area presents more difficulties for organic tree fruit growers, there is great opportunity if a proper cultivar choice is made. Studying varieties  will help create a pool of choices that will allow growers to capitalize on new trends in the market like heirlooms, hard cider cultivars, red-fleshed varieties and other specialty types.

Introduction and Study Impetus

Reasoning for engaging in the study hinges on the lack of information regarding organic pome fruit growing in the colder climates. Specifically, well documented assessments of apple and pear cultivars under such conditions are almost nonexistent. The northeastern U.S., with its cold and humid climate, is at a competitive disadvantage (commercially) due to this lack of knowledge.  Of the thousands of commercially available pome fruits,   few have been researched under organic management regimes, and still fewer in cold humid climates. Making matters worse, little information on the subject is available to the public.  The high competition of a select few organic varieties (Honeycrisp, Fuji) from overseas and the Western U.S. make it very difficult for Eastern growers to compete. Regional growers can make gains in the market through diversity, while supplying a local and low carbon alternative to imported apples and pears.  An extensive review of the possible cultivar choices in their region, under organic management will be of great merit to these growers.

Of concern is the lack of consistent and well documented points. Disease resistance, being of particular importance to the organic growers, should be listed for all major diseases, or stated as not reviewed. Cold hardiness should be mentioned with respect to its zone, and include the frost free days it will need to ripen satisfactorily (this last point is almost never mentioned at all). With the growing popularity of sustainable growing practices, including organic, this information will be all the more important. Zone hardiness has particular importance to farmers in colder climates, as the upsurge in the interest for locally grown food may allow for financially successful orchards to be planted in those areas. Cultivar choices are choices that will have to be lived with for years to come, and the most in depth information on the subject should be afforded to these farmers.


We addressed the issues outlined above by compiled data over the course of one year, reviewing the information, and then recompiling it into forms that may be useful for fruit growers. In some cases, information from previous years was used.

Specifically this entailed:

A data collection period –  in which spreadsheets were created. These were intended to be useful in their raw form so growers could evaluate particulars on their own or specifically look up attributes or conditions. It was also the vehicle for our creation of other, more finely tuned data sheets, and for our lists of recommendations.

Analysis –  in which various narratives was employed to discuss each body of data, in order to investigate any findings, correlation, and concepts that growers may find helpful. These pages accompany every data sheet we compiled, both to aid in understanding the data, and to help the data become more useful.

Recommendations – lists were created to help farmers make some initial choices. These of course express our preferences based on our experiences, the outcomes and workload considered. This includes both a general list of reasonable choices, and a fine tuned list as well. Also, lists addressing specific issues such as scab resistance, or keeping ability were also created as an adjunct to recommended variety listings.

What This Study is Not

The aim of the work undertaken was to create a body of data distinct from what is already available. That is, a representation of some of the physical traits expressed by the cultivars in this climate, and under this type of management. It includes some disease and insect experiences, physiology, and fruit quality aspects. What it did not attempt to do is repeat general descriptions of either the crop, history, or breeding information. While these particulars are important to many, there is ample literature describing such information currently. We did, however give some additional description of the fruit and trees in the recommendation documents.

Study Location, Climate and Management Practices

The orchard used in the study was Walden Heights Nursery and Orchard. It is located in Walden, which is within Caledonia County in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, and at Latitude: 44-27’08” N, Longitude: 072-15’25” W.   It sits at an elevation of 1703 feet at the point of entrance, and deviating approximately 50 feet in elevation higher and lower. Various aspects are present in the geography, but most, and generally they are on northwestern sloping land. Soil conditions are sandy loam, generally, with very good drainage in most areas. Orchard was installed in a formerly high density woodland environment of mixed hard and softwood species. Landscape is extremely hilly.

Average yearly rainfall in Walden is 45 inches, snowfall is 126 inches, and total days of measureable precipitation is 159 out of 365. It is located in US hardiness zone 3a. Cold temperature data since 1997 (year of orchard establishment) is supportive of the zone rating, having a 2009 low of -41F. Eleven years  have seen temperatures below -30F during the period 1997 to 2014. Frost free days average 100-120 days. Mean temperature for July in 2014 was 64.2F, in January 2014, 9.4F.

Details of soil are:

Vershire-Lombard complex, 15 to 25 percent slopes, rocky   (22.7% of orchard)

Buckland loam, 8 to 15 percent slopes          (12.7% of orchard)

Buckland very fine sandy loam, 15 to 35 percent slopes, very stony              (64.6% of orchard)

The general management of the orchard are as a low input, certified organic system, with emphasis upon hand work and a rich ecosystem. Specifically this means a diverse landscape including various fruit types, and indigenous flora. The test orchard contains bushes, vines and herbaceous planting within and at the peripheries. No tillage is done to minimize leaching and to improve soil quality. No tractors or other heavy machinery is allowed in the orchard, to prevent compaction, damage, offgassing and to maintain a low carbon footprint in our enterprise. Mulching is employed throughout the orchard, generally with farm sourced materials, but some periodic backfeeding with outsourced material is used. These outsourced mulching materials include hay, wood chips, and less commonly, compost. Manure application is not employed in the orchard due to health safety concerns. Commercially prepared fertilizers, including organically approved materials, are very seldom used. This includes lime applications. Instead, the system is supplied with farm supplied organic material, farm produced wood ash, and farm produced composts. Enough organic material is imported into the orchard system to replace losses from produce leaving the farm. Leaching of nutrients is low due to non-tillage, terracing, a wide range of perennial plant life in place, mulching, and other emphases of non-disturbance. Soil lab test have put the soil organic matter in many areas of the orchard at over 10 %, which not only improves the health and resiliency of the matrix, it also buffers a generally low pH in the area. These facts should prove useful in creating a picture of the possibility of creating a healthy orchard, but more importantly to the study is to give growers a clear picture of what environment the study sample was managed under. Although it is clearly distinct from the modern practice of high-density sod or cultivated systems, it has consistently produced healthy plants with good growth rate and fine fruit. For instance, since a majority of the cultivars showed good and healthy growth under such management and conditions, the varieties failing to thrive appears to be an artifact of the genotype and not the growing conditions.

Crop management all conforms to organic protocol. The farm and nursery, in its entirety, is certified organic. We do spray a moderate amount to address disease and pest pressures. Generally it is quite low. We use cultural practices to do most of the work of producing salable fruit and healthy plants. This includes removing or composting materials that may serve as disease vectors, hand removal and physical traps for insects, timely policing of the orchard to remove pathogen strikes, hand thinning and weeding. It should be noted that the test trees in this study were taken out of the spray regime for the test year of 2014. This fact we feel gave a better assessment of the possibility of not only an organic approach, but a low spray program. Furthermore, it gave a better picture of the characteristics of the particular varieties, and especially the fruit quality.

Test Orchard

The test orchard consisted of several blocks within the farm. It comprised mostly apple at 475 distinct varieties, and a small selection of pears, of which were 23 varieties. (It should be noted that many pear cultivars have not survived over the years here. This number is close to 100 but records for these are not part of the study).

The orchard is a very wide pool of cultivars, and of ages. The plantings began approximately 18 years ago, but some trees existed here prior. There are a number of additional cultivars growing on site,  but were considered too young to be useful in the study.

Tree variety selections were generally made, with some exceptions, with the environmental conditions in mind. This means a great number of the plantings were made with cold hardiness in mind. Marginal varieties have been periodically trialed when literature was unclear, or showed argument over hardiness. Some were also included to act as material for breeding, regardless of cold susceptibility. The fact that such a high percentage of the orchard was selected based on this prescreening for resistance to environmental stress, is likely responsible for the survivability and general good health of the trees.

Rootstock should be discussed as regards the study sample. All stock in the test is grafted to standard, full vigor stock. The types were chosen for cold hardiness, but also for consistency in growth rate and anchorage in mind. Dolgo, antonovka, ranetka, prunifolia, Selkirk seedling are used, and in a limited sampling, budagovsky 118 (full vigor) clonal stock was used. Nearly all accessions have various rootstock represented. Although testing was done with dwarfing rootstocks, and a few remain in the orchard, nearly all examples (of over 100) died for various reasons. No dwarf trees were used as grafted rootstock in the study. Some cultivars used as rootstock were tested as trees, and some were grafted upon seedling stock as the scion cultivar. (These were all examples from the budagovsky series).

Trees were grafted here at Walden Heights by the proprietors. As mentioned all varieties are on standard rootstock, and whip grafted.

Data Collection Methods

Particulars of the methods is specifically addressed in each section of the study. These are outlined in the text document accompanying each data sheet or sheets. However, the following is pertinent :

Record Keeping: Each variety in the study was on visited numerous times throughout the growing season. Information was gathered via notebook and audio recording devices, and transferred to a data file. Still digital photos were taken, as needed to document the information.

Observations: It must be stressed that the objective was to observe the results of casual infection and attack from pests in the study location, since plants was not be inoculated directly with pathogens, or pests brought to the location. This is of merit, since the primary issues organic apple and pear growers in northern New England face is with a small very apparent subset of the many diseases and pests that affect these plants.

Disease Assessment:  Of greatest concern to organic pome fruit growers is apple scab, which will represent the bulk of the monitoring. Not only are there to date very few cold hardy scab resistant varieties, but our own research has found misinformation regarding those advertised as such. All detected infections of other pathogens will be noted.

The larger scope or disease monitoring encompassed apple scab fungus (venturia inaequalis), fireblight (erwinia amylovora), anthracnose (Cryptosporiopsis curvispora black rot (Botryosphaeria obtusa), nectria canker (Nectria galligena). These pathogens are widely distributed in our region and will make for a good general assessment of susceptibility. Some minor affectations were discussed in comments.  Not all potential diseases will be discussed; Cedar apple rust for instance, cannot be investigated as we have no natural intermediate host in the area. Varieties will not be directed inoculated with pathogens; casual infection will have to occur.

Insect pest damage on each variety will be noted. Although little resistance has historically been shown with respect to insect damage on fruit, monitoring will still be done. Wooly Aphids resistance in northern spy and apple maggot resistance in denser late apple cultivars are two examples of varietal resistance to insect damage.

Methods for disease and pest identification:

  1. Project manager during rotational monitoring will record instances of infection, including severity. Conversations during the test period, and visits during past years with plant pathologists aided the experiment. The orchard was visited, and assessment methods were discussed with the project technical advisor.

Physiological attributes: Growth rate, general health, branch crotch angle, caliper, fruiting, bloom, and cold or frost damage were investigated. Lengths and calipers were measured using mechanical calipers and tape measures. An angle finder/protractor was used in assessing angles. Damage was observed directly, and through occasional dissection where warranted.

Fruit Qualities: On the varieties that are fruiting, a report on the general quality will be given. Brix reading, texture, sugar, tartness, and to a limited degree, tannin,  was reviewed. Date of ripening, and length of keeping in cold storage was also recorded. A general narrative was  given as to the merits of the fruit.

Recording:  Done by myself (Todd Parlo, project manager). Visiting approximately 1300 trees (in general at least two examples of each cultivar. Each tree was visited periodically throughout the season for general monitoring. During bloom assessment, the visits were done as often as 4 times a week for several weeks. Other visits were done often, but much less frequently.

Outcomes and Impacts

The project resulted in producing a body of work intended to aid potential and current fruit growers in making a more intelligent decision in selecting pome varieties intended for cold, humid climates. The research is directed also to low impact and organic methods of management. We have produced sets of data, along with explanatory narratives to accompany them. The data, compiled generally over the course of the year (2014), is represented as 18 separate data files (attached pdf files). These are accompanied by documents expanding on the methods and interpretations.

These include:

Table 1 : Tree Physical Characteristics – various tree characteristics master sheet with performance factors.

-Document 1 : Accompanying narrative outlining table 1, table 8

Table 2 : Bloom Time Master Sheet – Full data sheet with all bloom stages and commentary

-Document 2 : Accompanying narrative outlining table 2 and the following related tables:

Table 3 : Dates of First Bloom – table listing varieties in order of date of first bloom

Table 4 : Dates of Full Bloom – table listing varieties in order of full bloom

Table 5 : Dates of Petal Fall – table listing varieties in order of bloom termination

Table 6 : Fruit Scab Evaluation – Varieties are grouped according to fruit scab infection

– Document 6 : Accompanying narrative outlining table 6

Table 7 : Fruit Evaluation – Full data sheet on all fruit aspects evaluated. Includes pH, brix, size, weight, harvest date, scab occurrence, keeping ability, and comments.

– Document 7 : Accompanying narrative outlining table 7, 9, 10, 12, and 13

Table 8 : Leaf Scab Assessment – Full variety list noting leaf scab occurrence (see doc 1)

Table 9 : Fruit pH – Varieties are arranged according to pH levels in this datasheet (see doc 7)

Table 10 : Harvest Dates – Varieties are listed according to harvest date (see doc 7)

Table 11 : Arthropod damage- master sheet of variety vulnerabilities to selected orchard pests

– Accompanied by 4 data sheets showing rankings of each pest in the review:

-Document 11a: Apple Maggot – Discusses findings regarding infection to particular varieties

-Document 11b: Codling Moth – Discusses findings regarding infection to particular varieties

-Document 11c: European Apple Sawfly – Discusses its infection in particular varieties

-Document 11d: Leafroller – Discusses findings regarding infection to particular varieties

Table 12 : Fruit Keeping Ability – Varieties are arranged according to storage ability (see doc 7)

Table 13 : Fruit Brix Levels – Varieties are arranged according to Brix levels (see doc 7)

Table 14 : Best Selections – List of Varieties as a recommended short list, with comments

–Document 14 : Outlines the recommendations in tables 14 and 15 and reasoning

Table 15 : Recommended Fruit Cultivars – Longer list of suitable varieties with comments

Table 16 : Cold Damage – Compilation of varieties and their susceptibility to cold conditions

-Document 16 : Winter Hardiness – Outlines table 16 and 18 and general hardiness issues

Table 17 : Pear Assessment – Selected pear cultivars and their performance in the orchard

-Document 17 : Pear Assessment – Accompanying discussion of table 17

Table 18 : Mortality – List of variety specimens not surviving, with suspected causes and notes

-Document 18 : Tree mortality – Outlines table 18 and survivability issues of varieties

– Document 19 : Layout and Soils – Aerial photos of orchard and soil mapping

The preceding data and discussions is intended to be used as an aid in choosing varieties for cold climates under organic management. It should be thought of as a body of work to aid in a larger decision process. Furthermore, it will see its greatest usefulness as part of a larger group of study. Repeating and reviewing results in similar climates and different locations would be a great help in pursuing the best candidates for difficult growing areas and practices. This project, however, should prove of merit as a review of a large body of pome cultivars. We feel we have produced a good variety of information not readily obtained elsewhere. This encompassed a single year in a single location, but did allow for some data from our previous experiences and years in the orchard. It will be a starting point for further study and evaluations as the years progress in this test orchard in Walden, Vt.


The study accomplished what it set out to do at its inception. To gather a body of data, attempt to interpret it, and allow us to make some observations and recommendations. It also acted as a template for us and other orchardists to evaluate their orchards by using careful record keeping. As with any research project, there were surprises, gaps, and ironies present, but the general result was successful. We compiled a basic review of 498 pome varieties, a review of 128 fruits with attribute testing, recorded bloom histories for 209 pome varieties, investigated pest susceptibilities amongst cultivars, assessed disease occurrence, studied cold hardiness effects on varieties, and developed lists of recommended selections. This was done while growing, managing and harvesting this orchard, allowing us a close relationship with the study blocks. The project, even though ambitious in the number of subjects and cultivars involved, is only a small piece of a larger potential for education on the matter. The information displayed here has immediate usefulness, but it bears repeating that it has larger possibilities with further study, and repeat projects elsewhere. It holds the possibility of a very large multiyear investigation and assessment of the thousands of new and heirloom pome varieties that exist, instead of the very limited investigations involving new releases, particularly patented and trademarked varieties, and those pushed by extensive marketing campaigns. We believe we have made a helpful step in helping folks make some more informed decisions regarding what they may plant on their farms and homesteads.

Potential Contributions

We feel the data compiled here, along with our observations and interpretations will be of service to prospective tree fruit growers in the future. This is particularly the case for those in climates such as our, and who are or wish to employ organic management practices. We hope to keep the information updated and the studying continual, and aim to distribute this through our website and other vehicles. Those who view the material included here, will hopefully become more empowered to make an intelligent decision while choosing cultivars. The data can be used to fine tune research, develop databases related to preferences, or used immediately as a referral. The recommendations should be a contribution to many who desire a quick narrowing down of choices, especially for an initial planting in climates such as ours.

Generally, the hope we have is that growers, new and veteran will seek out a wider selection of varieties, both to increase their success in growing organically in colder climates and increase the marketing possibilities. Furthermore, we hope the greater diversity will help foster a richer and more diverse culture in farming and, well, eating. We feel the information here will help those causes.

Posted on

Pome Study Tables and Documents

Table 1 – Tree Physical Characteristics

Table 2 – Bloom time Master Sheet

Table 3 – Dates of First Bloom

Table 4 – Dates of Full Bloom

Table 5 – Dates of Petal Fall

Table 6 – Fruit Scab Evaluation

Table 7 – Fruit Evaluation

Table 8 – Leaf Scab Assessment

Table 9 – Fruit pH

Table 10 – Harvest dates 2014

Table 11 – Arthropod Damage 2014

Table 12 – Fruit Keeping Ability

Table 13 – Fruit Brix Levels

Table 14 – Best Selections

Table 15 – Recommended Fruit Cultivars

Table 16 – Cold Damage 2014

Table 17 – Pear Assessment

Table 18 – Tree Mortality

Doc 1 – Tree Characteristics

Doc 2 – Bloom Observations

Document 3- Apple Maggot Damage

Document 4-Codling Moth Damage

Document 5-European Apple Sawfly Damage

Document 6 -Leafroller Damage

Doc 7 – Fruit Observations

Doc 14 – Recommended Varieties

Doc 16 – Winter Hardiness

Doc 19 – Layout and soils

Posted on

Record Breaking Cold in 2015

The only thing that annoys me more than nay sayers  of global climate change (that’s right not global warming), are those ready to embrace some idea of a local warming trend. That is, with the newly restructured zone hardiness map in North America showing formerly zone 3 areas upgraded to 4’s, and so on. These were altered through long term data, based mostly on minimum lows in a hundred year period. Well, guess what? NOAA printed a very long list of US locations that broke historic records for minimum temps. This was the last week of Feb. 2015. These were in Maine, Michigan, Texas, Kentucky, to name a few. These spanned from NY City to Miami.

What does it mean? Perhaps it means we should thing again about thinking anything positive about weather fluctuation. We have always preached caution when planting marginally hardy plants. As of late, we have had a very large number of folks looking to plant peaches and sweet cherries up here in the north, since the hardiness maps lightened up. Only one year later and they have proved invalid. Our state of Vermont just had the coldest February on record, for instance.

Rootstocks choice for trees such as apples are an example of preparing for the unexpected. Our nursery only sells apple trees on cold hardy seedling stock, taking temps down to 40’s below and colder. Compare that with most cloned stocks that are used, almost exclusively, in the US nursery trade. These latter stocks are only designed for zone 5 (15 to -20). This includes all of the Malling stocks.  In this situation, a tree on the industry standard, could wind battered and bewildered. That is dead.

You can decide from there.

Posted on

HMO Transfer

To the question of whether or not GMO apples can transfer genetics to other apple specimens, the answer is, you bet. Any alteration in the dna of an organism is transferable through sexual reproduction. It should be kept in mind that this would be the seed, it being the progeny, not the fruit (receptacle and calyx tissues). In cider and perhaps other processing, the seeds will be damaged, and it is possible to ingest gmo material, be it in small amounts. It is every person’s decision whether or not this ingestion is an issue. What is certainly true, is that those seeds will sprout somewhere, and they will have those modified genes, like it or not.

Proponents (including Okanagan Specialty Fruits) do not deny the risk of cross-contamination, instead taking the stance that it is unlikely given buffer strips and the like. One might keep in mind that the US had a buffer strip with Japan called the…Pacific Ocean… which wasn’t sufficient to keep those beetles at bay. Bees’ll find a way as well. And by the way, it speaks volumes that we need apple tree free strips to protect our crops from one another.

Whether or not human modified organisms (a more accurate term,), is detrimental, really hasn’t been established. HMO’s may feed the world, cure cancer, and maybe even stop that buzzing sound on my guitar amp. But for those who don’t want those genes in your apples, or food chain in general (for whatever reason), you may be already screwed.