Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New spraying program 2015-will it work-nothing else has

The plan for 2015's apple growing season is a plan of less inputs. Bird of the Hand is a small orchard with 3.5 acres. It is in Massachusetts on the south side of a 960 ft hill. The orchard is certified organic           
Lightening bugs in weevil trap

The first applications of the year was during the dormant period. The orchard was dusted with Bordeaux mixture 3 times at a rate of 2lbs/acre during the dormant period. Fish emulsion was sprayed at ½ inch green tip. At Petal fall kaolin Surround ( 25 lbs/acre) and neem oil were sprayed. The kaolin Surround was sprayed one week later to build up the petal fall layer of surround at 25lbs/acre. This kaolin layer was for the prevention of plum curculio and coddling larvae damage.
For summer sprays in early June there was a spraying of Dipel at 1lb/acre with 25 lbs/acre of surround with 4 gallons of lime sulfur or 1 gallon/acre. A soil drench of fish emulsion was applied in mid June at a rate of 4 gallons/acre. Kaolin Surround (25 lbs/acre) and Dipel (1lb/acre) were applied in mid June. And the first week of July another spray with 50 lbs of surround and a diluted Bordeaux mixture, and 2 gallons fish emulsion was applied..
Tree leaves coated with kaolin Surround
For the season totals, this was an application total of three dormant dustings, 2 fertilizer applications, and 4 pest control applications. This was one of the best years in our area weather wise for good apple cropping. The weather conditions were just right for great apple development . Overall this does not seem like many applications to get good results. Of course we were starting to have an extended summer drought and this created conditions for low fungal disease pressure. The kaolin Surround product is very persistent and if it is applied later in the season, the apples will still be coated with it at harvest time.
My goals for this year were to put less inputs in the orchard and trap for pests.. The traps did help me identify the pests activity periods. It also trapped beneficial insects that were chasing the insect pests into the traps. The cost of kaolin Surround makes it an expensive input , but the application of it at petal fall in a thick coat did help reduce pest damage.

Copy right Cathy Harragian 12/6/2016

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Update on becoming sustainable on the farm

So far farming has not been sustainable.   Not having a tractor is a sustainable feature for the farm.   But now part of the plan is to lease a tractor when it is needed.  The farm is 3.5 acres of apples.  The understory of the apple tree area is gradually being planted with perennials.   Where an apple tree has died from disease, there is a sunny spot that can be planted with sun loving vegetable crops.  This can remediate the soil if another apple tree will be planted there after a few years.

Plans for the upcoming apple growing season.  The pruning was done in the high summer, 2014.   So for dormant pruning, there will just be pruning larger branches out of the trees.   Prepare chemical inputs.   The orchard will be set up with traps.   These traps are fedder traps with a weevil cage trap on top.   The traps are trapping curculio's and many tarnished plant bugs.  The government is doing testing, so maybe some of their research is good.   You can only hope that.      So 20 traps will be set up  around the perimeter of the orchard.   The area where the most curculios seem to aggregate, on the north side will have a more dense placement of traps.   The interior of the orchard will be sprayed with Surround at about 1/2 green tip to pink.   The interior of the orchard will also be sprayed again
 after petal fall.  

   Meanwhile, on the home front, I am burning about 120 gallons of oil a month.  This year it costs about $2.65/gallon.   Last year oil cost $3.79/gallon.   And tons of electricity.  It is not so sustainable.

  Countless money has been spent.  The more I spend the more it seems like the less apples there are.
So maybe the key is proper pruning while carefully applying any pest control.

The NEWA system, a weather computer forecasting website for fruit pests.  So that has been one helpful tool for this year.     Thanks.

Some bugs from the orchard

Some bugs under peeling bark on an apple tree


A bug with a good profile on a sticky trap

A coddling moth and an earwig face off

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bumblebee nest

Here is a film clip of a bumblebee nest.   These bees were living under cardboard,  in some wood chips.  They seem quite happy and productive.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Organic Apple Orchard in New England 2014 Overview

The overview for the apple orchard for this year, 2014,  for Bird of the Hand Farm-  No Yields, no apples.

This is the end of year five of growing apples.    After 5 years, growing apples organically in New England is sustainable because the labor is free (done by me) and this year there was no apple crop, so there was much less work than usual.    To create a sustainable farm has been my goal.  This is probably the year that reached closer to that goal.
   The long and cold winter of 2013 & 2014 took it's toll on the harvest.   As spring finally came, full bloom of the apples trees was a week late at about May 15th.   But then the petal fall (basically the time that bloom is over) came only four days later on May 19th.   Despite this short bloom period, the overall amount of blossoms seemed like a good amount.  The next test of the size of the fruit crop is the event called fruit set.  Around June very little fruit had set.    The Roxbury Russets, Braeburns, Wealthys and SpyGolds had no fruit at all.   At this point, a decision was made to not spray the apples with Surround, the clay material that keeps a lot of bugs off the fruit.   This was a savings of about $1300, not to mention all the labor involved in spraying this material on the trees 5 or 6 times.
   So this year, was a resting year of rebuilding and not spending money of the orchard.   It was very sustainable, but only for this year.   Over the five years, no profit has been made.    Farming is a tough
   Still looking to the sustainable future.........

A single hanger-on apple

Copyright 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Beware: Internet Scam directed at Small Farmers

Crops remain in field for another year
   It all started innocently enough- the sales experience that may have been a scam. I also may have been complicit in credit card scam. But that is a whole other story. In my enthusiasm to sell the whole crop of perennials for the year, all the red flags of a scam were ignored. The e mail that first came seemed legitimate. The e mail asked for 3 types of perennials. The e-mail came from Tokyo, from the oldest department store in Japan. Getting an international order was just the greatest. The request was for 780 perennials. The sale amounted to $2680.00. Well wasn't I happy, this will be my total sales for the year. Seeing that this was a year when the apple trees had gone biannual, there was no apple crop and I needed a sale. My business plan is to grow apples with medicinal plants underneath the apple trees. Well it is year six and there is no profit as of yet. And that made the enticement of this order all the more special and real for me. The order was an entrepreneurial adventure
One incredible part of the order was the shipping. It was to be shipped freight air. The cost of the shipping was $3800. The purchaser, lets call him Iao or Lao. required that only his selected shipper be used. And the total amount, shipping and plants had to be charged to his credit card. There are already some potential red flag issues flying. That is an astronomical amount for a 50 lb order. So being alarmed (not enough to set off a red flag yet), I called Fedex for their cost of the shipping. And guess what, shipping Fedex has about the same price as this shipper quoted to ship next day air to Japan. Yikes, shipping by air freight is not cheap.
So proceeding with the sale of these plants as if it were a legitimate order, I went about the business of accepting credit cards. As of yet my business has not needed to accept credit cards. This sale required credit card processing. The credit card sales office had a lot to say about the possibility of fraud on a transaction of this description. The scam would have actually worked in my favor. Iao and I might have been able to split the money charged to the credit card. The salesman explained that the 4% credit card charge to the farm, is to insure credit card transactions, covering this form of fraud.
The plan was to sent the shipping cost that I had from the credit card order to his designated shipper (another red herring). In this case the scammer will have gotten $3800, I will have made $2680 on the deal. Well maybe, the credit card company might have tried to call me guilty and get back the $3800 for the shipping and the plants lost in Japan. Or if I were innocent of fraud myself' the credit card company could not come after me for the money. The plan didn't sound in my favor. You know it's tough being a farmer.
In the meantime Iao was calling asking when I would quickly “quickly” , “hurry up” send him the estimate with the shipping costs included so he could send the money to me via credit card. Communication with Iao was impossible. I wanted to find out why customers in Japan were willing to pay such high amounts for medicinal plants. He didn't want to talk about the product, he only wanted to know when he can give me his credit card number so the order can be processed.
At this point I accepted the fact that this order was a fraud. Sometimes it seems like marketing on line in the global economy is not worth it. Wasting time on international shipping intrigues is not time well spent. But this story is to alert overworked small farmers not to be scammed. For this small local farm trying to keep up with the weeds and stop playing with the internet scammers seems a more profitable route.

Thank God

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

March 2011
Now the spraying begins, well maybe it's a bit early.

Lots of snow in 2011

The weather was not moderating. the snow was deep. The pruning continued. Mid month we entered silver tip which is the point at which the buds break. the movement of the weather is grueling. Lloyd is finishing up the pruning and removing overhanging oak branches that are shading the buds on the apple trees. the average temperature is in the low thirty’s right above freezing. Mid month we started an attempt at IPM monitoring. This monitoring for pests is a mysterious look at the changing life cycle stages of an insect. There are light traps (500$) But there is no electricity at the orchard. Sticky yellow cards, sticky red cards, white cards. which pest is attracted to which colored paper and what they look like when the bug sticks to the trap. Supposedly I am monitoring the over wintering pests in March. When I catch a bug on the sticky paper no one seems to know what they are. These are some of the challenges of monitoring for insects.
winter apple bud