While I was at work last week, Chareva was busy expanding the orchard, digging and planting for hours.  They don’t look like much yet, but those four saplings in the picture below will someday be supplying us with fresh fruit.  The sapling closest to the front in the picture is (or will be) a Honeycrisp apple tree.  There’s also an Enterprise apple tree and two cherry trees in the picture.

She also dug holes in the front pasture (no easy task in the rocky soil of Tennessee) and planted eight blueberry bushes.  Again, they’re not much to look at yet, but here’s a picture of one anyway.

From what Chareva tells me, we shouldn’t expect to get decent apples, cherries or blueberries for a couple of years, so this is a long-term investment of her time and labor.

She bought six different varieties of blueberries, mostly because they ripen at different times of the year.  As we discovered with the pears, there’s no point in being overwhelmed with a ton of ripe fruit all in one week.  (The plan for next year is to convert the oversupply of pears into pear cider or wine.)

On the chicken front … well, we tried to save the rooster who got hung up in the net, but he clearly wasn’t getting any better.  So he became part of Friday night’s dinner.  We had a neighbor over for dinner, so Chareva also bought a chicken at the store.  We all did a taste test.  The unanimous decision:  the store-bought chicken was bigger, but our little rooster tasted a whole lot better.

Even with another rooster down, we still have 21 chickens in the chicken yard, and some of the new hens are already laying eggs.  Pretty soon, we should be able to skip the store-bought eggs entirely.

The big rooster is still a pain in the ass, and he may yet find himself drizzled in butter and baking in the oven.  In the shot below, you may notice he looks slightly airborne (he’s closest to the center.)  That’s because as I snapped the picture, he was just about to touch down after being airlifted by Chareva’s boot.

Trust me, rooster:  don’t let her nice demeanor fool you.  If you know what’s good for you, you won’t beat that lady’s legs with your wings again.

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27 Responses to “The (brief) Farm Report: A Fruity Future”
  1. Marc says:

    Tip for your cherry trees when you start getting some.

    Get some nets to put over them. The birds will wait till that day you say, “one more day for the cherries” and then pick the trees clean. We lost our first really good crop that way. Next year, we used the net. The birds may get a few that poke through the net, but we eat the majority.

    Wait till after the cherries start (so you don’t knock off flowers), but while they’re still green (so you don’t knock off cherries). We just draped the light net (from your pictures, they’re similar to what you put over your chickens, but with smaller openings) over the trees and stake down.

    Marc

    Good idea. We saved the old chicken-yard nets (smaller holes) and could use them for that purpose.

    • Jana says:

      Our neighbor took old CDs and strung them up like ornaments. They flash in the sun and startle the birds. He uses nets too.

      If you do any cold sensitive trees like citrus, use net Christmas lights and sheets to keep the trees warm overnight.

      Good ideas.

  2. Jana says:

    I don’t know about other varieties of fruit but with cherry trees you need two to bear fruit. I’m not sure if there is such a thing as male and female cherry trees or if it’s different varieties that you need. Our apple trees have never produced an edible crop in all their 25 years of life, they seem finicky. Crab apples are supposed to be a long forgotten fruit everyone had in their yard. Try planting heirloom versions of fruit. I hear they’re better for you and not so sweet.

    Chareva tells me that’s why she got two cherry trees. I thought she just wanted a lot of cherries.

    • Nancy says:

      There are self-pollenating cherry trees now. I have a Blackgold tree that is producing nicely. Stella is also self-pollenating. Sour cherries or sometimes called pie cherries don’t need a cross pollenator.

      • Jake says:

        We had a cherry tree in our front yard. We didn’t plant it, it was 20′ tall, so it probably wasn’t anything special. No other cherry trees anywhere in our neighborhood that I remember, but it seemed to do fine. They wer regualr cherries, usually orange in color and tasted sweet. Perhaps they would have gotten darker if the birds didn’t get to them.

  3. greensleeves says:

    Carrying him may be better than kicking. http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-help/My-favorite-pet-rooster-has-suddenly-started-H68.aspx

    Interesting. I’ll see how Chareva feels about picking him up. She’s in the chicken yard way more than I am.

    • Toni says:

      That’s what this “rooster whisperer” did. I thought it was just that I was the only member of my family not to approach the chicken yard with a 2×4, lol, but it may have been that the first thing I did anytime I went to gather eggs was pick him up and ‘say hi’. So, he not only wasn’t threatened by me, but learned that I wasn’t fearful of him. And he was a Rhode Island Red. He never did take so kindly to the rest of my family, but I could never convince them to approach unarmed, much less pick him up and carry him around a bit. I didn’t realize I was showing him who was boss by doing so, but it makes sense.

  4. Walter Bushell says:

    A clear case of “Eating well is the best revenge.”.

    However, the beta rooster may acquire those disagreeable characteristics when he becomes alpha. It’s said that men’s testosterone goes up with victories even vicarious victories, like their sports team winning. Behavior is more a matter of setting than I would like to think and I think most people would like to think.

    I read a book titled “Top Dog” that explained that very concept.

  5. June says:

    There is nothing like picking an apple right off the tree on a cool autumn day and taking a big, juicy bite.

    Are these dwarf fruit trees? We had a small orchard of dwarf trees when I was growing up. Didn’t need a ladder to harvest (or not a big ladder). My dad did spray with pesticides, but I’m guessing you will be skipping that step.

    And I second the idea of the nets for the cherry trees. I think we got 3 cherries off of our Queen Ann cherry tree. And I mean 3 cherries ever.

    Semi-dwarf apples and standard cherry trees, according to the orchard lady.

  6. The blueberries are the same as cherries, you need two different ones close together so they can pollinate each-other. It’s true of most fruiting plants.

    Eight of them ought to do the trick, then.

  7. Rae Ford says:

    Man, this post has brought back memories of when I lived on Signal Mountain in TN. (Well, it was 5 months ago) But when I was a kid and living there we had blueberry bushes, cherry and apple trees, muscadine vines, and 2 hazelnut trees. Traded all that for Florida and 5 mango trees, 2 starfruit trees, and 2 lychee trees on a lot less property, sadly. I miss East Tennessee.

    I haven’t ventured to East Tennessee yet, but I hear it’s beautiful.

  8. Dave, RN says:

    We had two apple trees and two cherry trees in our backyard when I was growing up in Washington State. I have good memories of sitting in the cherry tree and eating the cherries and seeing how far I cold spit the seeds.

    Something tells me Sara will do that — and turn it into a contest.

  9. bill says:

    Rocky Top you’ll always be
    Home sweet home to me
    Good old Rocky Top
    Rocky Top Tennessee

    Truer words were never written.

  10. Galina L. says:

    Does Chareva plan to plant some nuts like hazelnuts or walnuts? I remember eating wild hazelnuts at the autumn . I am pretty sure pomegranate will do well in your climate.

    I live in Florida now, I have citrus tries,pomegranates, blueberries bushes, fig tree, peach and nectarine. Peach and nectarine get completely cleaned up by squirrels, blueberries and fig tree produce well and don’t require any care, and we have enough even after birds take their share. Pomegranates are not pests magnets and low maintenance as well. All animals in my backyard avoid citruses like a poison. I wish I could grow sour cherries and black currant , but they wouldn’t be able to endure our climate. Apples are also out of question, even though we have some presumably suitable for Florida, but it didn’t work for anyone who tryed to plant it.

    We have some nut trees on the land, but they weren’t doing well when we moved in (strangled by weeds and vines, like the other trees around here) and we’re not sure yet what they are.

  11. Barbara says:

    Thanks for sharing, as usual, great moments. When we first moved into our present home the apple and pear trees were almost ready to eat – how wonderful, we thought!

    We went away for the weekend. Came back to find completely barren trees. We actually went to a neighbour and asked him if he had picked the fruit. Nope. Squirrels. We cut the trees down a few years later, never got one apple or pear and they were shading a part of the yard we need sun for.

    Lesson learned. Thanks again for the chuckles, Tom.
    Barbara

    Those squirrels must’ve had quite a feast. We had all those pears on the ground before we left for vacation (leading to that wasp infestation), but they had vanished when we got back. My guess is that with us and the dogs gone, the deer came down and ate them.

  12. Allen W. says:

    Something to keep in mind for older trees, it never hurts to get a soil assay to see if they are lacking a particular nutrient from the soil. Some fruit and nut trees do an excellent job of converting soil minerals into fruits and nuts which then get eaten in places where the waste doesn’t get recycled back into the soil over their root structures. We had some trees lacking iron, a little supplementation and boom they were back to baring like they did 20 years earlier instead of just a few puny fruits.

    Good advice, thanks.

  13. Pat says:

    Blueberries need acid soil – do you know the pH there? Lowbush blueberries grow wild all over the Laurentian shield, which is granite, and acidic.
    If the birds don’t eat the cherries, the raccoons will, so netting will help but the dogs will help more, or strong fencing all the way around and over. We had broken branches in our sour cherry tree, thanks to raccoons.

    Chareva had the pH tested.

    • Jim Butler says:

      Also, regarding blueberries, they are HEAVY feeders, but unlike most plants, they want a good shot of Hollytone in the early spring before they blossom and again in the fall, after you’ve harvested.
      We have 6 highbush blueberries, 3 different varieties, and they’re nice, BUT…I’m from Maine, and nothing beats Maine blueberries for flavor. They’re almost a different fruit.

      Apples need to be sprayed with alar, if you can find it. There was a huge kerfuffle regarding alar about 20yrs ago, which turned out to be nothing but crap, but the end result was that you could no longer purchase unhomogenized cider from the orchards.

      Buy Chevera a nice wooden fruit press for the coming fall, and you won’t regret it. You can buy “drops” from most orchards, which is what you want for cider anyway, and you just can’t beat the taste of fresh pressed cider.

      Jim

  14. Tami says:

    Better watch out, Chereva will be in for another bout of hate for her animal abuse…

    Has she any tips for dealing with stroppy pet turkeys? We got given one recently and I suspect it is soon for the freezer…

    We haven’t tried turkeys yet.

    • Jim Butler says:

      I raised heritage turkeys for a few years, about 20-24 each year. Never had a single issue with them. Feed him lots of red things…tomatoes, apples…they’re excellent treats. I always used to go to the “dented produce rack” at the supermarket and buy their aging apples and tomatoes…they loved them.

      Your turk might also be lonely…they’re very social birds ;)

      Jim

      Turkeys may be in the plan someday.

  15. James H. says:

    Your rooster problem:

    Many years ago a friend was raising chickens and the rooster was a serious annoyance. My friend’s dad usually practiced his golf swing on warm evenings and was doing so when the rooster attacked him. A nine iron is an efficient tool for lopping heads off roosters.

    In that case, it probably wouldn’t matter that I tend to hit low hooks.

  16. Larry AJ says:

    Tom,

    I wish I could link to a web page I recently read about how one guy asserted his place at the top of his flock’s “pecking order”. What he did is what Chereva should do rather than kicking the rooster – which is a temporary solution.

    He had a rooster that went after him every time he went into the chicken yard. Finally after having had enough he realized that unless he established himself at the TOP of the flock’s pecking order the rooster would never stop. So, the next time the rooster came at him and jumped up to spur him with his leg spurs, he reached out and slapped the roster’s head as hard as he could. (note; since the rooster was air born at this point in the attack, he could not easily duck the slap having nothing to shove against to shift his position) This momentarily stunned the rooster and before the rooster could recover the man “attacked” the rooster slapping him repeatedly with both hands – a right, then a left, then the right again, etc. The rooster realizing he was getting the stuffing knocked out of him tried to get away. The man chased after him and got him in a corner of the pen and administered some more slaps the the roosters head. Finally the rooster, having got the point that he was down on the pecking order, made bee line for the coop to get away. From that day on when the man went into the pen the rooster ran for the coop door.

    Having watched my Grandmother’s chickens in the barn yard as a young boy, if you watch, the dominant hens will peck the subordinate hens about the head, if they get close enough, for no apparent reason. The lowest in the pecking order will have many missing feathers on their head. In confined quarters where they cannot escape, these hens with “bare” heads can get literally pecked to death as the rest of the flock will constantly peck them to insure that they are “kept in their place” – in the pecking order, that is. So the chickens head is where to show your dominance over them not the body which is where a kick will land.

    Hope this helps,
    Larry

    It does help. Chareva kicked the rooster to get him the hell away from her legs (same reason I did it), but a head-slap for dominance makes sense. Glad I whacked him in the head with my hat after that kick.

  17. Linda says:

    Hi Tom,

    What I’m about to relate is not necessarily what I recommend, but it always gives me a chuckle thinking about my mother telling the story. Not long after she and my father married and were living on a farm, my single Uncle Dave came to live with them. Mom and Dad had chickens and one mean rooster, who particularly hated the sight of Uncle Dave. One night when Uncle Dave went “out on the town” and came back a little soused (or a lot,) the rooster attacked him viciously just as Uncle Dave came in the yard. Uncle Dave, being drunk, took great offense, caught that rooster and pulled all his tail feathers out! From that day forward, the rooster was meek and mild and never gave anyone any trouble, even after his tail feathers grew back. Evidently, roosters set great store in their beautiful plumage! Kind of like Samson and his hair, isn’t it?

    Remind me not to get drunk and go anywhere near that rooster.

  18. Babs says:

    So the deer around there fattened up on all those pears? I remember u writing about that. My neighbor’s fourth grader shot one off their back porch a couple.weekends ago. The wife told me she got 21 pounds of meat off it (I believe that was the number). They had some of it made into sausage and it was tasty. But i guess u have to be wary of deer meat. I dont know how to tell though.

    Well, I haven’t noticed any fat deer, but then again, they bolt when they see.

    • Jim Butler says:

      21lbs is VERY little meat from a deer.
      We usually mix venison with bacon/pork fat. It’s very lean meat, and needs the extra fat for texture and flavor.

      Tom,
      You may also need a second ring of fencing around the trees…deer will definitely chew off all the new buds in the springtime.

      Jim

      Yeah, I’ve heard deer are pretty relentless.

  19. Rick says:

    It took our blueberry bushes one year to produce fruit. We have a nice cherry tree, but it’s a constant fight with the birds. The tree has grown too big and it we can’t net it. As far as apples, if you plant dwarf apple trees they will produce faster and are easier to care for than regular apple trees. Pear cider, as in hard pear cider or just pear juice? I make my own hard apple cider and it couldn’t be easier.

    I’m thinking hard cider. Something that will keep. It’s also now legal to make moonshine in Tennessee, so that’s a possibility.

    • Allen W. says:

      Have you ever made “winter wine”? You take something mildly alcoholic like hard cider and put it outside in this arctic blast weather in a shallow pan. In the morning you break the ice off the top and pour the liquid into a container having separated out some or even much of the water without using heat distillation. You can’t leave it out if its too warm or the alcohol will evaporate off before it freezes, but when we are in the single digits you might want to experiment. It is supposed to be brandy like taste if the temperatures go low enough.

      This would be the ideal week for that method. It’s a balmy 8 degrees outside at the moment.

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