Orchards and Patience

The saying is true ” The best time to plant an apple tree is five years ago.  The second best time is now.”  Growing up with several fruit trees ,  we knew we wanted to have several on our homestead.

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The thoughts on layout of the homestead is something that has changed several times.  It will also probably change several times in the next few years even,  but where to put the fruit trees was pretty obvious.  The hillside going up from the road to the top of the property  does not look like much of a slope,  but pushing a wheelbarrow up it full of compost ( why did we put the compost pile at the BOTTOM of the hill?? ) and you can certainly feel it.  The sun rises from the “bottom” of the hill  and travels up it during the day creating a micro climate perfect for young trees.

We laid out where the trees would go keeping them minimum 25 ft apart.  Staking out where the first tree would go then folding a 50ft rope around it to measure out  to 25 ft.   Then with two stakes with two 50ft ropes in half can put the next stake where the two ropes meet.  This allowed us to put stakes in while always remaining 25 ft away from any other tree.

Year one we planted apple,  pear,  peach,  plum trees.  Two of each going up the hill. Planted them in October and it did not rain that year again until December that year.   The next two months were spent carrying what seemed like infinite 5 gallon buckets of water to the young trees.  The following Spring showed that all the hard work had paid off and all the trees made it.  We also planted thornless blackberry bushes the first year,  we will cover that more in a future post.

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They are hard to see,  but the trees are there.

List of planted trees

  1. Apple—   Granny Smith                     5. Peach— Belle of Georgia
  2. Apple—   Honey Crisp                        6. Peach— Belle of Georgia
  3. Plum—    Methley  Plum                     7. Pear—  Kieffer
  4. Plum—    Ozark Premier                    8. Pear— Orient

Year two orchard wise was not as big an expansion as year one.  We had run out of open area to plant the trees and a large portion of the “orchard time”  was spent clearing new ground for a few more trees.   October year two we planted only one more apple tree, (we did plant more berry bushes though) an Arkansas Black. It is a later in the year apple which we like the taste of, kind of like wine. We are hoping it will store and cook well .

  1. Apple — Arkansas Black

Year three for the orchard we did a little better  planting three trees.  Two apple and one more plum tree.    One of the apples was to replace the granny smith tree planted from the first year.

  1. Apple—  Granny Smith  (to replace the one that died)
  2. Apple— Gala
  3. Plum—Damson
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Can see a few of them in this photo .

The original granny smith apple tree had been doing great, we thought,  which might have been the problem .  It produced in year 3 about a dozen little apples.  Then the weather shifted and summer hit hard and we probably should have picked off the young fruit.  The combination, we believe, stressed the tree too much and it died. A better course of action would have been to remove the apples so the tree could have focused more on root growth.  So far we have only lost that one out of eleven ,  but even that one could have probably been avoided.   It was a good wake up call on keeping a better watch on the young orchard. We were too excited by the idea and possibility of having apples so soon and it probably cost us that tree.  Patience is really needed here.  There is no rushing a tree growing.

The plans for the orchard going forward is to monitor but not baby the growing trees,  and at their young age, if any show problems to replace it.  At this point in time there is not really anymore room to squeeze in more trees. This could change after the house is built and we know where water lines and septic will be located.  We are discussing adding some figs and pawpaw trees maybe, but we have to see where we have that they could thrive.

As we clean out the woods more and define what will remain woods and what will be pasture we do want to line that with nut trees.  There are no nut trees on the property at this point and that is something we want to correct. We are also looking to add some trees that will change their leaf color and drop leaves in the fall. We get the benefit of the leaves changing and then the benefit of new material to add to the compost. We got a couple of small oak trees around Earth Day last year and hopefully they will take off.

First year garden

It was August when the property was bought,  followed by a large drought in the area all the way till the next year.  No garden that first half year so the following spring we were super excited to get it going.

For the first year we started several seeds to hopefully make it into small plants to hopefully plant in the garden.   We started several types of tomatoes, peppers, and some cantaloupes.  Out of those only the Cantaloupes produced anything for us (and boy did they).

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We ended up having to buy  tomato plants and pepper plants, but there were several for sale around here.  Since we bought ours kinda “late”  we actually got a great deal on them as most plant places were getting ready to change into firework places  as is their usual rotation every year.

The garden itself was designed to be part raised bed part hugelkultur bed.  Knowing the ground was clay dirt it just seemed easier to build something to hold “good” dirt. If you have read the other posts on the site  you know that in our section of woods there was an impressive pile of trash.   Part of that mountain of garbage was fencing that had been pushed down with a bulldozer.  It was a painstaking and slow process but we were able to get enough old cedar fence posts to build the bed.

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(sneak peek of the barn in the background with the walls off and new roof)

The layout went ok,  just carrying up fence posts,  stacking them with wood stakes cut from the woods and driven into the ground.  Cutting a few to fit when need be.  Then the middles filled with sticks/brush/rotten wood gathered from fence rows and previous cleanings of the property .

As for the dirt, my mother and step-father have a spring feed creek that runs down the edge of their property.  This mini creek was great but would flood their yard every year during rainy months.  While it was dry he would dig it out deeper to prevent the flooding, which meant he had dirt.   It was great soil with silt-like qualities from the wet weather creek bed.  Several truckloads of that and we had our garden filled.

The first year garden had several successes and several failures also .

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Failures include– All the seedlings we started died ,  aside from cantaloupes.  The cantaloupes took off –  we probably had about 50 or more.  The problem is they all were ripe at the same time.  We ate as many as we could,  gave away just as many.  Even with all the giving away after a 2 day rain storm the remaining cantaloupe just rotted on the vine.    We grew enough okra for a small army, and much of it went to waste.  That area in our raised bed could have been better used growing something else.  Lettuce was planted late and didn’t grow.  Corn was planted a little late,  and not deep enough or in a good location.  Storms knocked it down so many times we lost count and it stopped trying to stand back up.   Planted the fall garden way too early the first time (on what ended up being the hottest day of the entire year) and wasted several packets of seeds.  We had enough to replant some when it was the right time and did manage a few turnips,  beets,  lettuce and carrots.

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Cucumbers came in numbers we were unprepared for and seemed rushed to make them into pickles.  We probably made 60 jars in one day which seemed like lot for first time trying pickling and canning, too.

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We tried to grow potatoes in tires (remember, we have 250 of the things).   Red potatoes didn’t produce,  but sweet potatoes did alright .

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All in all, the garden produced more than we could have asked for.  The tomatoes were delicious and made amazing sandwiches that summer and delicious soups that winter.  The pickles were so much work that one day,  but delicious all year long. Thinking about the fried squash makes my mouth water even now.  Going to cans and freezer for veggies instead of grocery store shelves every time felt like a win.

Most importantly, we were reminded how wonderful it is to have a garden. The amazing feeling of waking up,  walking outside and picking some spinach , onion, peppers to go with breakfast.   Getting home from work and for dinner having whatever was perfectly ripe that day.  The smell of the freshly turned dirt,  the pride and excitement when sprouts started poking up.  The satisfaction of looking at freshly weeded rows.

If there is only one thing that anyone ever takes away from this blog I hope it is to plant something.  There is a peacefulness and joy we have felt ourselves and have seen in others that came from gardening; we’d have to suggest it.  It really is something special.

 

It was a great first year and we will always love our little raised beds.  That being said it turned out to not be enough space for our ambitious goals .  In an upcoming post we will discuss the 2nd year garden which was two areas each 25ft by 50ft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reclaiming a Barn

The barn has been a long process. The first year was basically clearing around it to even be able to start working on it. The area around the barn and down in the woods was piled with trash. We will share a few photos further in this post but even they can’t show the amount of trash there was. We think there were 20 truckloads of basic house trash that just had to be burnt, 4 truckloads of stuff that had to end up at the dump, and 3 truckloads of random metal items that were able to cashed in at the scrap yard. We plan on going over the woods themselves in detail in a future post.

The right side of the barn was piled with different kinds of trash plus briars. One example was a 55 gallon plastic drum which contained seashells, 10 lbs of various nails, 2 car batteries, scraps of hose pipe, and torn tarps. This drum had no lid and had been outside for who knows how long so it was also full of water. Making a sort of trash bouillabaisse.

Right side barn brush

The left side of the barn had a few things like the right side, but the bigger issue was the down tree on the phone lines. Several attempts were made to get the phone company to come out, but eventually we had to take care of it ourselves. With that gone, we could get the left side cleaned out.

Phone tree

The back side of the barn was more like the right, lots of trash and even more briars and small trees. Moving further away from the barn it became less and less trash but thicker and thicker in underbrush. This was all cleaned out and burned as well which left a nice square. The start of our barn lot!

Behind barnBehind barn trashBehind barn early

 

 

Since we do not have livestock yet the past 2 years we have planted behind the barn with limited success. As in, 4 total pumpkins in 2 years.

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Happy Little Pumpkin

The ground seems good,   but due to the woods and the property line of trees, it gets little sun.   This will be good shade in the summer for the animals though so not cutting anything down.

 

The barn after it was cleaned up around it turned out to be very sturdy still. And colorful…

Old barn as a whole

The plan is to have 3 lots behind the barn. Setting them up with fencing (undecided on exactly what style yet) with the 3 lots be able to rotate some small livestock through those. The lots not being used at the time we can sow with fodder for when they come back to that specific lot.

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The red squares in the photo above are the future barn lots mentioned.

Now that we could actually walk around the barn it was time to get to work on it! That was a slower process and is actually still going on.   We will share more of that later.

More more tires

The first problem was removing the 250 used car tires that were being stored in the barn…….

 

 

Planning a Future Homestead.

Just a short post with a photo of the property.  First photo is untouched to give an idea of what it looks like.    Second photo shows some things we are planning to set up,  and a few things we’ve already got done.

From the photo  the Orchard , Greenhouse,  Garden plots ,  and Grape trellises are already set up.   The House, Herb beds, Future garden spot and rotational barn lots are under future projects.  

    Let us know what you think, in the comments.  Is there anything you’d like to know more about? Thank you for stopping by!

Where we are so far.

We are two and a half years into our little adventure. We do plan on going into each project in more detail but here is a general overview of what we have accomplished so far.

The 4 acres had been for sale for over one year when we bought it. Not sure how long since it had been lived on before that. Nature was taking it back, as you would expect.

Looking at the place from the road, the right side of the property was some overgrown fence rows that we cleaned back. There were also a few fallen trees to get rid of.

Before – Overgrown fence row with some random junk
After- Cleaned up to the property line.

On the back left side from the road was just overgrown , could probably have been cut for hay. You can’t really tell but in the after photo there are young fruit trees planted on a portion of it. The start of our orchard!

Before – Not exactly a field of dreams.

Cleaning back towards that building little by little.

At the back middle of the property there was a hidden decorative pond. We’ve used parts of it, like some of the rock wall and the pea gravel for a “French drain around the green house. Not exactly sure what we will do with the rest of it but for now it is part of the dog pen.

Before- Very attractive snake habitat


After- The rock wall and gravel have come in handy for different projects

In the middle of the property there was a row of Forsythia bushes. From the porch they blocked the view down to the barn so we removed them. It turned out to be one of the hardest jobs we have done yet.

Before- There were five of these behemoths
In Progress- That truck load was only 2 out of the 5. Those things were massive.
After- Opened up the view. Gave room for a garlic bed and future herb garden.

The front middle of the property was overgrown pretty bad as well. Clearing this off gave us room for vegetable gardens and clear view of the barn.

Before – Overgrown field in front of barn.
After- The barn is just out of the picture to the right but you can see our little greenhouse!

That is just a quick overview of the property. In upcoming blogs we will go into more detail on things like the barn, orchard, gardens, and greenhouse, as well as future projects and improvements we have planned.

Welcome!

Welcome to Green Journal Homestead! Starting this blogging journey roughly 2 years after purchasing four acres in Southern Middle Tennessee. The idea started with hearing about making the world a better place. We are taking that challenge literally with our newly acquired piece of run- down former farm. Years of neglect meant it came equipped with all the briars a person could ask for.

It has been an adventure so far and I am betting it will continue to be. We are looking for a place to keep up with our changes and improvements. We want to share our successes as well as our failures in the hopes that it will help someone else on their own adventures!

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” -Thoreau