Thursday, August 30, 2012

Leaves are falling and so are the trees

It is a typical late August in the Interior.  A third of the trees have begun showing fall colors.  My V. Amurensis grapevine is preparing to sleep (above), and Baltica is not far behind.  Raspberry production has also decreased.
  However, while the farm is getting ready for bed, I am frantically trying to clear a few acres for fall and spring plantings.  I tried to arrange for a professional company to clear my lot, but they said "it is not feasible" for them.  Back to the tried and true Alaskan moto - if you want something done, plan on doing it yourself.  So far I have doubled the size of the cleared area on my property, but that is still a small "hole in the forest".  And even then, "cleared" means the trees are cut down.  I still have to move them and remove the stumps.  It will happen, I am certain.
  Cutting down trees has dramatically improved my view of the Alaska Range!  I can now see as far east as Mt. Hayes from my window (shown below).  I just purchased a digital camera and am quite impressed with the image quality!  One of these days, this will be the backdrop of my vineyard.  Can't wait!
  It has been relatively dry recently, but we are now in the midst of catching up.  The last four days brought over 1.5 inches and storm clouds are rolling in as I type for another round.  Rain last night and wind tonight kept me from working to clear more trees.  But, this weekend . . . watch out.
  I managed to overwinter blackberry bushes (in pots) last winter and one has produced four canes, each 3 to 4 feet long.  This is quite impressive, considering that it was mowed almost to the ground by voles and suffered root damage from dehydration.  I will fence all of my blackberries with hardware cloth this winter and should get some very tasty, "grown in Alaska" blackberries next summer.  I doubt there will be enough to sell, since I am quite fond of them.  I am hoping to trial about 35 to 40 blackberry varieties over the next two years to see if I can find some that are reliably productive given the microclimate we enjoy here on the farm.
  The raspberries produced on the farm were quite good this summer.  I have about 15 varieties including reds, yellows, and blacks.  Most produced at least a few berries this year and I quickly decided which varieties I would be putting in a larger bramblery for commercial production.
  And yet another surprise has come from domesticated blueberries.  The story I have always heard about growing non-native blueberries in the Interior has been "don't even try".  Well, I just tasted one Polaris blueberry (below, just right of center) and two Earliblue blueberries (all were damaged by either winds or excessive rain) that overwintered in pots.  While they were not quite ripe, they were tasty (if a little tart) nonetheless.
  My currants are not quite ripe yet, but I have some very nice looking (about 1/2" diameter) red currants that I'll be enjoying soon.
  I'll address some of the beautiful flowers that bloomed here this summer in a later post.  For now, I'll leave you with a couple of nice pics (Avis Varner peony, apricot-colored Asian lily, unkonwn peony).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dozer is operational!

I got the clutch adjusted tonight and it looks like tomorrow I will be able to bring the dozer up to my property.  Turns out that I just needed to make a minor adjustment to stop the clutch from slipping.  I also contacted someone today about helping me clear trees, so I can prep the ground for planting.  I have so many (I've lost track of the number) plants to get in the ground before freeze-up.

I have some great news regarding blackberry and blueberry trials, but it is too late now to post.  Look for another post soon - with pics - on this subject.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

'Fall is in the air!' and berry ramblings

The fireweed is almost done flowering.  Some birch trees are already turning yellow.  Birds have started migrating south.  And we are down to 18 hours of sunlight.  What else is there to signal fall?

Not so fast you say?  Okay, but termination dust (the first snowfall) is only 7 weeks away.

Walking around the farm this evening I saw some red, yellow, and black raspberries that were very near ripe.  Monday evening I picked a couple of cups of serviceberries to make into a pie.  Can't wait for that!

I am pondering what to do about my raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry patches.  I started out with the intention of having a "test" plot for each one, but around here where things start is where they usually end up.  So, I am not sure if I should continue with test plots or just make room for the entire patch.  My other problem with test plots is that most varieties end up making it through the winter.  Now I have every variety of raspberry that I planted last year and more.  Many are fruiting, as well.  I now have 3 of this, 6 of that, 9 of another.  Not enough to sell.  That takes 100's of feet of bushes - preferably of just a few varieties.  But which ones to choose?  Do I go with marginally hardy ones, like Cascade Delight (that taste very good) and Cumberland (a nice black raspberry), or go with the tried and true for the area (and not necessarily favorites of mine) Boyne, Latham, and Honey Queen?  I tend to go for ones that are less available, and that goes for vegetables, too.  Heck, I still think I'll get grapes to ripen up here even though every climate indicator says I won't.  I'll just talk to them everyday and play soft music - that'll work, won't it?

As far as strawberries go, I even ignored my Quinaults all last summer and this summer, but they are still there.  Now I have Tristars and Heckers (which are very good, no matter what everyone else says), as well, and Fort Laramies are already on order for next spring.

Blackberries?  Yes, I had two varieties (Arapaho and Ebony King) overwinter in pots - albeit with significant root damage from dehydration and cane damage from moose and voles.  This summer the blackberry selection has grown to include another eleven varieties.  Some of these definitely won't survive the winter, but I like to experiment.

All this contemplation has made me tired.  Besides, nothing more can go in the ground before I get the stumps out of the way.  Better go get some sleep.  It's going to be a long fall, I can feel it!