Friday, June 13, 2014

Eat a Peach

Besides being one of my absolutely most favorite albums by one of my absolutely most favorite bands and which album contains one my absolutely most favorite songs, which I dedicate here to my lovely wife, because, well, she is my Blue Sky, besides all that, the peach is one of my absolutely most favorite fruits.

It would only stand to reason then that given ample room to grow a few fruit trees, a peach tree just might be one of them.  We currently only have four trees in our fledgling orchard, which is on hold for the moment until we get a little more sustained water from the sky, but one of them just so happens to be a peach, in more ways than one.

Three of the trees were purchased in late summer of 2012 and wintered over in 5 gallon pots.  They were finally put in the ground with a fourth tree after extensive clearing in February of 2013.

This spring, a year later, our Santa Rosa plum tree is bare and there is but one Honey Crisp on the apple tree.  That's sort of what I expected from fruit trees in their second year in the ground. 

On the other hand, the Perez white nectarine, which is actually a year older than the other 3 trees, has a bounty upon it.  We were blessed with 3 nectarines last year, this year looks like it'll be about 30.

And the peach tree, only in it's second year, well, the peach tree looked a lot like this:

And the first bucket off that tree looked a lot like this:
A second bucket with a good dozen was picked a few days ago.  And there's about 15 more on the tree.  Hot damn!  Fresh, home grown organic peaches.  Love them peaches.  Which reminds me of another song, since  peaches really are quite lovable.

As a dessert ingredient, peaches are famous and quite fabulous.  Peach Cobbler, Peach Melba, Peach Crisp, Peach Flambe, Peach Puddin, Peach Pie!  To name a few.

Mmmmm, peaches.

Here's a Peach Cobbler tip: Double the sugar in the dough.
Here's a Peach Melba tip: DON'T ever name a child this.  Maybe a parrot, or a llama, or maybe your toast.  But definitely NOT a child.
Here's a Peach Crisp tip: Double the topping.
Here's a Peach Flambe tip: Use decent brandy.
Here's a Peach Puddin tip: There is no such thing.  I dare you to try.
Here's a Peach Pie tip: Add 1 T sugar, 1 t Cinnamon, a pinch of Nutmeg and 1/2 T Apple Cider Vinegar to your crust.  (Add the vinegar when you're incorporating the ice water.)  Besides holding in the actual pie body, I think a pie crust should also be a flavor festival and compliment the main pie ingredients.

I am really quite surprised and amazed at our peach bounty this year.  I mean, the tree is only in its second year.  I definitely babied them last summer, maybe it all paid off.  They were watered extensively, and I also put wood chips to a depth of about 4 inches in a radius of about 5 feet all around the trees.  Besides breaking down and adding nourishment to the soil, wood chips also add a nice FAT layer between the soil and the sun.  That definitely helps the surrounding ground retain moisture, especially helpful in a drought year.

Since I have a little worm bin and manufacture worms and worm compost on a small time homestead type scale, I have also added some compost AND a few worms around the base of all four trees.  One of our neighbors, a very knowledgeable organic gardener, swears that earth worms go together with wood chips like potato chips do with Escargot.

Or something like that.

I have also added about a half cup of chicken manure (each year) around the base of each tree.  That naturally recurring phenomenon around here is packed with nitrogen, among many other beneficial nutrients.  It can be "hot" right out the gate, so I have a naturally recurring aging poop pile by the naturally recurring compost bin.  Yeah, a lot of things seem to naturally recur around here.

This year I will not be watering the fruit trees near as much as I did last because of the drought.  As babies, they easily averaged about 20-25 gallons a week.  

In doing some drought research, I found that trees should get at least 5 gallons per week per inch of trunk diameter.  Since my trees are yet youngsters with trunk diameters between 1 and 2 inches, they'll need between 5 to 10 gallons per week.  That's easy.

But how much water do established fruit trees need?  An old chum who owns a fruit tree nursery in Arizona sez,

" Your watering is real simple; get water to the "Root Zone"!  

Sounds simple right?

Well, it is once you know where that root zone is.  Most people know to water near the drip line of a tree or bush, but with fruit trees it's different.  You prune them each year (or should prune them), but you don't prune the roots.  The root system keeps growing but the foliage people see is smaller than where the roots are. 

If your area is  flat/level like it is here, I tell people to build a water retention ring about 8 feet around the tree and about 4 inches deep.  Then flood the ring every 5 to 8 days depending on how fast your soil drains.  

If you're on a slope and can't flood, use sprinklers, but run them on a low volume.  Run for a longer time to allow the water to soak in deep.  Keeping a low volume will reduce any problems of run off.

Depending on the rootstock your trees are grafted on, you need to visualize the root system as being a mirror image of what you see above  ground, or what it should be if it wasn't pruned.  Most times that system is about 10 feet deep and about 15 feet around where the tree is planted.  That's where you want the water to migrate to.

We could write books on keeping fruit trees, that's why I have the Forum on"

Thanks Turtleman!  

By the way, RSIGrowers has a fantastic array of fruit trees at great prices and will drop ship all the way to Borneo, or at least the continental United States. 

Animal Update

Our little Rhody, who was the surviving victim of the vicious Ringtail attack we suffered last month, is doing fine.  She's just as active and boisterous as the other two pullets, which is what adolescent chicks are called..  Her neck wound, while looking rather inhospitable for quite a while, has scabbed over quite nicely.  I'm not sure though if feathers will ever grow back.  She may be destined to look like Clint Eastwood in "Hang 'em High" for the rest of her days.

I may have to rename her "Clint".  Or maybe "Josie", for Josie Wales, another Clint movie.  It's a little more feminine.  Although shoot howdy, she's a pretty tough bird to have survived that attack.  Maybe I should rename her "Willis", for Patrick Willis of the SF 49ers.  Or "Beatrix" after Uma Thurman's character in Kill Bill

OR, how about Beatrix Josie Willis.  There, I think we have it, we have just renamed a hen!  

I have also noticed that Myrna, the Black Sex Link hen that experienced the vicious hawk attack last autumn, still retains a bald spot on the top of her head right behind her comb.  She got ground into the dirt pretty seriously by that rapacious predator, it's no wonder.  I may have to rename her Ralph.  I have no idea why.

Having the water spigot up at the Chicken Lollapalooza makes it easier to fill up Lake Capon on these hot summer days.  Yes, mid-afternoon when I go up to collect eggs I also fill up their lake.  It's a puddle to us, a lake to them.  It's an oval about the size of a big kitchen sink.  I can fill it about 5 inches deep, and because of the clay in the soil here, or the hard pan in the dirt pan, or a bed pan in a hard place, the lake slowly dwindles down over the course of 4 to 5 hours.

In that time frame the girls will head on in from time to time, stand around and gossip.  Probably about the bald spot on Myrna's head or the ugly bit of roughage on Beatrix's neck.  Just like we humans like to cool down and stick our toes in the water and maybe gossip a bit, so, too, do chickens it would seem.    

And the kitties?  The KITTIES?  Well, they're doing just fine.

Stay cool y'all.  It looks like Summer is upon us.