Mary Wildfire

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since Jan 27, 2015
the relevant thing is that my community, four leaseholds on a ridge in WV, has one leasehold available. Land is paid for but we impose a one-time $1000 join fee, and although there is a shed to live in during the warm season, you need to build your own house. No building codes. Find us on ic.org, Hickory Ridge Land Trust.
rural West Virginia
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Recent posts by Mary Wildfire

I'm a little surprised not to see the two that came first to my mind--quiche (you can find a recipe--most call for four eggs) and potato salad. The potato salad is something my dad used to make in several versions because each kid didn't like a different ingredient. With everything left in, you boil potatoes chopped small, no need to peel them if they're homegrown or organic-- hard-boil eggs, peel and cool and cut the eggs into about 6 pieces each, add a gob of mayonnaise and a big shot of mustard, and small amounts of finely diced raw onion plus a good bit of chopped pickle, preferably both dill and sweet, and a little salt.
But mostly I wanted to say--if there are times you have too many eggs (I give a lot away) there are also times (November, December) when you have too few. The solution if you have a freezer, is to freeze the surplus in spring and use them in early winter. It took me a little experimentation to find what worked--ice trays did not. I had to half-melt the egg cubes before they would come out of the ice cube tray, then refreeze them--greasing them didn't help. What I do now is lightly beat two eggs (our typical breakfast is two eggs) in a 6 ounce plastic dip container, then freeze it. The next day I run a little water over the bottom of the container and within a minute, pop the frozen egg disk out. I then stack about a dozen of these inside a half gallon milk carton, with a plastic breadbag liner, twist tie that bag shut and duct tape down the top of the carton. Sometimes I have two of these in my freezer--each accounts for 12 to 14 breakfasts. But I need to remember to remove a disk or two in advance of needing them--though in a bowl on top of the woodstove, they don't take long to thaw. It's usually not too difficult to pry one disk loose--sometimes there is an easier gap two disks down and I thaw a couple at once, parking them in those same 6 ounce containers in the fridge till needed.
1 week ago
I am in zone 6, and cold winters or short summers are not our problem (except for figs...) I suppose anyplace has the potential problem of warmups followed by frosts, but i read once that my area is especially prone to that pattern. WV produces a lot of apples and peaches, but they're all grown on the eastern panhandle, what I consider really Maryland. We have prunus serotina too...once I tried the bush cherries but had no luck and nor did anyone else I know who tried them. But I now have two goumis, also known as silver cherries--they're actually related to autumn and Russian olives but unlike those #$%%$#@, they won't take over your whole place. Last year I got a respectable harvest...they're sour, small and have soft pits, but they're bigger and sweeter than their kin, I'm sure they're full of antioxidants and they fix nitrogen so they're worth their space in my orchard even is the birds get all the fruit. I am perfectly satisfied with one sour cherry--cherries are not on the top of my list for desirable fruit. By the way another thing I tried was an American cranberry bush viburnum from Jung's which grew fast and is ornamental, but I got a few berries last year and they were horrible, not only sour but bitter--the birds aren't eating them--which likely means they're really the closely related European cranberry bush. So if you try that, don't get it from Jung's.
3 weeks ago
I forgot to mention that Goldrush is possibly the best storage apple in existence, able to maintain quality for six months or more under good conditions. According to what I've read; I've never had enough to last more than into maybe January. My trees are semi-dwarfs, like ten feet tall.
3 weeks ago
The thing about the Surefire cherry is that my area is really prone to early spring warmups, followed by later spring frosts. So late bloom is important in a cherry. From what I've read, sweet cherries are much harder; you need two, for one thing, unlike sour cherries which are self-fruitful. Also the sweet cherries are more prone to sunscald in winter (maybe not a problem in NC) and I think diseases--as for birds, with either one you pretty much need to throw a net over the tree, Mine is about ten feet tall so this is still possible with poles and a helper.
3 weeks ago
I live in West Virginia, where we have plenty of moisture and plenty of summer heat and winter cold, which means our big challenge is disease. I've had a small orchard for ten years; I've never sprayed anything, am not willing to use any chemicals, so disease resistance was my top priority. I got advice from the nursery I got my trees from, which I recommend, Cummins in upstate NY. My three trees are Goldrush, Enterprise and Priscilla. Priscilla is ripe in July or August and is not bad for a summer apple. I prefer hard, sweet, sour, late apples; Enterprise and Goldrush both fit this category. Goldrush is my favorite; I don't know as it tastes better than Enterprise but it was very early, bears nearly every year regardless of conditions and must be heavily thinned as it sets so heavily. One of its parents is Golden Delicious which it mostly resembles, but it has more flavor and character. My neighbor has Arkansas Black, I like that one too and have a freshly grafted start; I also put in Winecrisp a couple years ago but it's not growing fast--the deer are picking on it. And, you didn't ask but I have a Surefire sour cherry--you only need one of those, and Surefire is bred for late bloom--it actually blooms after my peaches, pears and apples.
3 weeks ago
To answer a couple of questions: recent research has illuminated the distinction between what happens in woody--and probably leafy--compost, versus the manure/vegetable refuse/grass/hay/etc compost piles. Trees and shrubs benefit from the kind of compost made from woody things, I think because of the fungal microorganisms that thrive in them and carry on symbiotic exchanges with the roots of the shrubs and trees. But most vegetables prefer the regular compost. A great book on this is Teaming With Microbes. For me, my regular compost rarely heats up enough to kill the weed seeds and disease organisms. I've had warm spots in my leaf bins, but that's because sometimes shredding the leaves with a lawnmower, some grass clippings get in. I'd say covering the bins would only be worth doing if you're getting way too much rain. I always have un-molded leaves on the outside of my bins when the rest is done, I think because it gets too much air--sometimes there are dry spots in the middle too. As I mentioned, I read once that carrots and cole crops especially benefit from leaf mold and peppers are the one thing that should compost instead--but i don't really know if this is true. I've just noticed that beds that got leaf mold have tended to produce better crops than the ones that didn't. As for adding manure, it might make your end result more like compost, but if you don't have somewhere else to put the manure, it surely can't hurt. I do pour urine on mine, but as I have 8 to 10 compost piles, the trun of each one only comes around about once a month. This is very high in nitrogen and phosphorus. I'd say about the only way you can go wrong with leaves is using unshredded ones as mulch, especially in a dry climate; or using leafmold from something with strong allellopathic elements as someone earlier mentioned. Incidentally, I've read that once composted, oak leaves and even pine needles are no longer acidic.
2 months ago
I've been using leafmold for several years. I also make regular compost, and create piles of half-rotted logs and such in the woods. I dump pee on all the piles, including the leaves, which I do shred--that way they turn into leafmold (mostly) in one year, where it takes two if left whole. I think they pack and shed rain more if whole, too. I see no reason to put anything under the bin--I also use wire cages about four feet in diameter and height, not covered. We get about 40 inches of rain well distributed through the year. I keep records of what I grow in my permanent raised beds and what I add to them; thus I've noticed that the beds that get leafmold seem to fairly consistently do better than the ones that get compost. But I never have enough to give it to all beds. I've read that carrots and cole crops especially benefit so I always put some in the beds intended for them in the spring (I do most of my soil prep the preceding fall) and that it shouldn't be used for peppers (no idea why). I still am not sure about sun versus shade--I tried an experiment at first with one bin in the woods behind the house and one in the sun. When I tried to collect the leafmold from the one in the woods, I found that the nearby trees had infiltrated it with such a lacework of roots that it was too much hassle to get much of the leafmold. When I dig out the finished leafmold, I put the not-finished stuff in a plastic garbage can for the winter, and I usually find some especially big fat grubs deep in the leafmold--special treats for my chickens. I also throw a couple of nbags of leaves next to my humanure bins, which get plenty of leaves as they're in woods--but by late summer it's hard to find leaves to cover the latest deposits, so the bags I left there last fall are handy.
2 months ago
I grow corn--but never get enough--and sunflowers, but need to better fence my field as something has been trashing my plants the last few years. The idea is that corn is not high enough in protein for chickens, which i don't worry about from March to November as they are free range and can find plenty of bugs. But my West Virginia climate is very different from those in Oregon--we get 40 inches of rain pretty evenly distributed all year, have harsher winter but warmer summers. Right now I'm feeding a lot of butternut squash to my chickens because I had a bumper crop. They prefer it cooked which is no problem--I chop up chunks and let them slowly steam on top of the woodstove all day. We also give them a little cat food for a major protein boost, sometimes, in winter. Then there are kitchen scraps, and they have access to the compost piles and the woods. Sometimes I allow them into my fallowed fields, which include plenty of amaranth, but I am concerned they'll trash the rye/vetch cover crop. looks okay, though. I would say, about autumn/Russian Olive--don't do it. Don't plant it if it hasn't already infested your land--it's worse than multiflora rose. But I have a relative, goumi berries, which is supposed to be noninvasive and I don't yet see reason to doubt that. The berries are similar to but much bigger than the pest varieties.
To Bryan--I'm with Mark Twain, who said "There are two kind of people in this world: those who divide people into two groups and those who don't."
2 months ago
I live in West Virginia, so will not recommend a nursery; and many other things might be different, too. I have a strong fence around my vegetable garden, and five-foot chickenwire around my cropfields, but my orchard only has hardware cloth rings a couple feet tall around each tree, and pea gravel in a ring a foot or so in diameter around the base so rodents and borers will ideally be exposed, and that has sufficed. I have free range chickens, and I didn't want to exclude them from the orchard; they help with ticks and grasshoppers and probably other bugs. If you lived here, I'd tell you not to plant this year at all because of the 17 year katydids--but I don't think Brood V extends to WI. I fertilize my trees with humanure, and sometimes something stronger (the humanure is low nutrient because little urine gets in the buckets). My three dwarf apples grew quite fast, swiftly outpacing the two semidwarf and one standard pear--this may be partly because I was so cautious as first about fertilizing or pruning pears because of fireblight. But we got hit with fireblight two years ago and it turned out it affected two of my apples, had no affect on the Priscilla apple or any of the pears (Blake's Pride, Potomac and Moonglow)...I had chosen all the varieties with disease resistance as my top consideration, and have never sprayed any of them with anything. The two affected apples were Enterprise and Goldrush--but they only lost some branch ends, nothing major. I actually want to urge you to get a Goldrush, as this is my pride and joy. It seems to bear heavily every year; it started younger than any other tree, bore despite losing half the crop the year of the fireblight, bore after a May frost that killed all the other fruit one year, and last year with none of those problems I had to thin it heavily three times and still had a couple broken branches from the load. TheGoldrush apples have less insect damage than the other two, and are very crisp, juicy, sweet, spicy, and are possibly the longest keeping of all apples--my last few are in the rootcellar now, in late March. Enterprise has been pretty good, another disease-resistant one with big red apples, a little earlier, but has fewer fruit and more insect damage. Priscilla is an early apple and is okay (I prefer late, hard apples). I thought standards might be better in some ways, better rooted (you need a permanent post for support for a full dwarf) but I have to admit certain chores are difficult even with these ten foot dwarfs...I recommend Phillips' first book, the Apple Grower. It's loaded with the spirit of one called to his vocation...but not so full of the woo-woo stuff as the second one.
2 years ago
I live in West Virginia, and that factors strongly into my choices; the best source for people in the Willamette Valley in Oregon will be very different from the best choices in the very different climate here. For vegetable seeds, therefor, my top choice is Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, because they're in VA, similar conditions and therefor an emphasis on similar challenges. They also focus on open-pollinated seed, offer seed-saving supplies and information, give accurate rather than glowing descriptions of their varieties, and the business supports a commune. Another frequent choice is Pinetree Garden Seeds out of Maine, for low prices and small quantities of seed. I've been ordering from High Mowing even though I don't like their emphasis on organic and hybrid seeds (I grow organically but don't think the organic origin of my seeds is important), and their Vermont location means an emphasis on early, cold-tolerant crops--because they currently have no shipping charge, so I can order a packet of this or that special variety without spending more on shipping than the cost of one or two or three packets of seed. I got my fruit trees from Cummins Nursery in upstate New York. The older proprietor worked for decades in the experiment station in Geneva, where he developed some of the rootstocks used in his nursery. He was willing to give me extensive email advice for a small order. All the trees have done well (especially Goldrush apple. Everyone needs to plant this tree).
I also order ornamentals, from Jung's and Bluestone (but the latter has gotten too expensive).
And here's the big thing: Dave's Garden website, which has the Garden Watchdog as one subsite, is for rating experiences with mailorder plants. So if you're considering a new source, check them out on this site and see what others have said, over years about their experiences.
2 years ago