We're still here!

Yea, we haven't written in an embarrassingly long time. Gosh, it's been a busy summer. We've been running around like crazy trying to get our land ready for planting next year through the use of cover crops, remodeling the farmhouse, and moving (yep, we moved to the farm!). Oh, and putting up a fence for the goats and chickens, moving outbuildings and fixing up the existing agricultural well. Other than that, things have been quiet...

We still have figs for sale for pickup only (they're HUGE this year), but Contact Us for availability information as we're in the middle of potting up everything. Our Store will have an updated inventory soon with a list of plants available for pickup.

We've been getting questions regarding availability of plants in the fall for shipping and unfortunately we won't have all that many. Next year we'll make an attempt to propagate more plants to be ready for the fall season. As the few we have become ready I'll place them in our Store.

Thanks for your support this year and your patience through a busy summer! God has been so gracious to us. Look for an updated picture post soon.

Fruit Trees for Sale 2015

Our fruit trees are now for sale! We've spent the winter propagating and now the trees (figs and pomegranates) are ready for new homes. Head on over to our Store to place an order. Due to our store vendor, pickup orders can currently only be placed during our normal business hours (Mon-Sat, 8am-5pm), but you can also Contact Us and we'll be happy to put in an order for ya. See below for more info.

There are two options for receiving your order: shipping or pickup. You will need to order a minimum of $100 for a shipped order. Shipping charges are a $15 + $2 for each tree ordered. Unfortunately no shipping to AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WA or internationally due to current restrictions. We will continue shipping until the weather gets hot (probably mid to late June). Any orders placed this week will likely ship on 5/18 or 5/25 (depending on the volume of orders received).

No minimum applies for orders picked up at the farm in Mechanicsburg. Pickup instructions will be shown after you make your purchase (you'll basically just need to call ahead and arrange it). PA sales tax applies for PA residents.

Some trees will be available in very limited quantities, so if there's a tree you want, get your order in early!

Baby fig trees in need of a good home

Baby fig trees in need of a good home

Week in Pictures 4/19/2015

What a nice week here at the farm. The warmth seemed to wake up all the plants, all at once. We love the beauty of the flowering trees, especially the stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries, apricots) and pome fruits (pears and apples). Even if these trees are tricky to get good fruit without sprays, they're worth planting just for the spring blossoms. Some of our trees are flowering for the first time this year and some will flower in late April to early May (apple, persimmon, pawpaw) and on into June (jujube). We hope you enjoy these fruit blossoms and hope it even spurs you to start your own little orchard!

Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance' Serviceberry

Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance' Serviceberry

'Harbinger' peach in almost full bloom

'Harbinger' peach in almost full bloom

'Ruby Sweet' plum. Let's hope for at least a few this year!

'Ruby Sweet' plum. Let's hope for at least a few this year!

Everything has taken on that spring green color. 

Everything has taken on that spring green color. 

An espaliered Asian pear 'Yoinashi' is among the first to bloom. 

An espaliered Asian pear 'Yoinashi' is among the first to bloom. 

Some of the blueberries are rather close to opening. Can't wait for fresh berries in just a couple months. 

Some of the blueberries are rather close to opening. Can't wait for fresh berries in just a couple months. 

Honeyberries put on some nice blossoms and are one of the first fruits to ripen. If only I could get to the fruit before the birds do. 

Honeyberries put on some nice blossoms and are one of the first fruits to ripen. If only I could get to the fruit before the birds do. 

And on into spring

It’s hard to believe that Spring is just one week away. The sun is slowly winning the battle over the cold and snow and our thoughts have turned to warm afternoons spent out in the orchard, ideally eating handfuls of berries.

The goats enjoying a tasty treat of pear tree trimmings.

The goats enjoying a tasty treat of pear tree trimmings.

A winter of learning

This has been an eventful winter. One of our favorite times this winter was our time spent at the annual PASA Conference held in State College. This was a jam-packed two day event full of seminars on every imaginable topic on sustainable agriculture. The attendees are as varied as the topics, from Amish folk to hippies. Kat contemplated dreds for at least two weeks afterwards but I talked her out of it. At the conference I mostly attending soil health topics while Kat focused on animal husbandry. We were exhausted (in a good way!) at the end of two days.

I also had the opportunity to attend the Real Health Conference held at Lancaster Ag. I spent the day listening to Michael Phillips, an author and proponent of holistic orchard management. It again was a wealth of information but was exciting to hear from a person managing an organic apple orchard.

The remainder of the winter has been spent reading as well as attending our Beginning Commercial Tree Fruit Course put on by PSU. I appreciate the course and the information, but the majority of the content is focused on conventional production rather than organic. It’s really hard to find good sources of information on organic production where folks are doing it on a larger scale. Still, we’re up for the challenge.

2014-2015 Winter Recap

Winter was a rough one this year. Okay, maybe rough is an understatement. Things started out okay in December but goodness, once the snow really hit it didn’t leave until, well, this week. Mid-to-late February ran a good 15-20 degrees below normal for the average highs and I believe we might have even set a record low or two. Still, on the whole, the winter didn’t seem as severe as last year’s and we only hit -3F (yea, only -3F, but at least it wasn’t last year’s -5F!). Snow cover remained intact for pretty much the entire cold period so I’m hopeful that it will help some of the borderline plants to survive the cold.

This reddish-gold fig wood is pretty but it means the majority of the limbs have died. Still, healthier gray wood survives below the snow line so I'm holding out hope!

This reddish-gold fig wood is pretty but it means the majority of the limbs have died. Still, healthier gray wood survives below the snow line so I'm holding out hope!

There were a number of our plants put to the test this year. Spring will tell the full story of how they fared, but I expect the story with our figs to be close to the same as last year: almost completely top-killed. Still, I expect most to survive and push up again from close to ground level. My curiosity is centered on our Asian persimmons, rabbiteye blueberries, and the Salavatski pomegranate. I've done a few scratch tests on the bark of each of these and everything looks good so far, much to my surprise.

Last year we lost the flower buds on all but one Asian persimmon, Great Wall, which happened to bear a great crop for the year. Okay, Saijo also produced one fruit, but that really doesn’t count. I’ll be curious to see how the plants fared this year, especially some of the newer cultivars that had just one year in the ground.

I also picked up a number of rabbiteye blueberries this past year and planted them. Supposedly they begin to start experiencing damage at 0F with major damage and death around -5F. They’re in a somewhat sheltered location so this should be a good test for them.

Our Salavatski pomegranates are another curiosity this year. Supposedly they can stand around -8F in a protected area (like against a house), but ours are out in the open in our orchard (a bit wind-sheltered, but still). With -5F last year they all died to the ground (or close to it) but resprouted like crazy last summer and grew quite a lot. With a less severe winter this year and another year in the ground, perhaps they’ll fare better.

This honeyberry is already beginning to bud out. It's one of our hardiest, earliest fruiting plant and its blooms can purportedly withstand 22F. Verdict is still out on the fruit, though.

This honeyberry is already beginning to bud out. It's one of our hardiest, earliest fruiting plant and its blooms can purportedly withstand 22F. Verdict is still out on the fruit, though.

So what IS reliably hardy even in these two harsh winters? Pretty much everything else we have planted. Pears, apples, northern highbush and half-high blueberries, currants, lingonberries, honeyberries, and most raspberries seem to shrug off this kind of cold like it’s nothing. Pawpaws, jujubes, and stone fruits are much the same and would likely be okay down to at least the negative teens (though peach and apricot flower buds don’t necessarily survive this cold). Blackberries seem to vary on location. At the orchard where I worked, some the blackberries froze out last year while others did much better. At our own orchard I didn’t see any damage, even on some late-planted varieties that I had considered perhaps borderline (Kiowa and Osage).

The bare red-purple canes of the black raspberry contrast beautifully against our fence.

The bare red-purple canes of the black raspberry contrast beautifully against our fence.

Plans for the growing season

So what’s on tap for the growing season? Lots! This year our efforts are focused on soil health and infrastructure.

The PASA conference this year really underscored for us the importance of establishing a healthy soil: one high in organic matter and biologically active. Since the field we’re planting in has been farmed conventionally for quite a while we’re not sure of its condition. We’ll start in the spring with a soil test to assess where we’re at, then proceed with a cover crop rotation through the spring and summer to both build up soil organic matter and jump-start the soil biology. We also plan to have the goats graze the cover crop via moveable pastures.

Infrastructure is another big part of what we’ll be focused on this year. We’ll be tearing down much of the existing electric fence that runs the course of the field and either replacing it or changing it over to an orchard fence to keep the deer out. We’ll also be fixing up the existing wooden fencing to move our goats or chickens over to the farm. We should pretty much be experts in fencing, and completely tired of it, by the end of the growing season.

Irrigation is another big project this year. We were blessed to have a functioning irrigation well already on the property from its days as a tree farm. We’ll fix up that system and run main supply lines to various spots in the orchard to set the stage for planting next year.

Finally, we’re readying our nursery area to begin growing out our production fig trees as well as those we’ll have for sale. We’ve also ordered native trees to help landscape the wood line around the orchard and enhance the beauty of the landscape.

New Plants for a New Year

What would a new year be without some new plants to try? It seems like each year we experiment with a few more new plants or at least a few new cultivars of plants we already grow.

So I know by all reasonable measures we’re growing enough figs. Though another way to look at it is if we’re currently growing around 80 varieties, what’s 3 or 4 more, right? This year we’re trying out Sodus Sicilian, Bisirri #3, Petite Aubique, and LSU Champagne to see how they fare here (likely in pots).

We’ve grown just two varieties of pomegranates so far, Salavatski and Kazake, and are branching out to try a few more. Salavatski and Kazake are purportedly some of the most hardy varieties, withstanding some dips into the negatives and making them mostly hardy for our 6b/7a climate zone. We’ll try out some earlier fruiting varieties this year to evaluate them for early production: Ambrosia, Azadi, Eversweet, Kaim-anor, Kaj-acik-anor, and Suhr-anor.

For Asian persimmons, we’re branching out this year to try a few varieties in pots. Yea, that might be a little crazy but if we can determine a few that produce early and are non-astringent (meaning you can eat them while they’re still hard), then they might be candidates for growing in high tunnels. For Asian persimmons we’re adding Wase Fuyu, Hira Tanenashi, Gwang Yang, Chocolate, CoffeeCake, Izu, and Maru. For Asian/American hybrids, we’re trying Nikita’s Gift (Nikitskaya Bordovaya), Rosseyanka, and Kasandra. For American persimmons we’re trying Prok, Celebrity, Wonderful, and 100-46. Now about finding a place to plant most of them…

What else? We received some seeds from a supposed Iranian lemon, which are growing nicely. I confess, I have a love/hate relationship with citrus. I love the evergreen leaves and the smell of the blossoms, but I can never seem to overwinter them all that well. I’m also curious about a recent introduction, the Sherbet Berry (sounds good, right?), Grewia asiatica. It’s supposedly deciduous and fruits on new wood like figs. However it may not stand up well to freezes so I’m not sure how we might overwinter it, even in pots.

Daffodils display signs of life in our garden. Spring is not far off!

Daffodils display signs of life in our garden. Spring is not far off!

Wrap it up already

It’s finally warming up after a steadily cold winter. All this cold may end up being a blessing in terms of later bloom times and suppressed insect populations. Look for an update from us in the next month as plants slowly begin to wake up.

Enjoy the remainder of winter everyone, the busy season is just around the bend! We look forward to serving you this coming season.


So what do you guys do all winter?

As the growing season is now at an end, naturally, this is the question we most frequently receive. Catch up on our reality TV and soaps, of course! JUST KIDDING. :-)

While what we do for a living is dependent on sunshine and temperatures that are 60+, we also need this time of cold. Every fruit and vegetable has a season in which they will bear. In order for our fruits to bear again next year, they need a certain number of chill hours. Just as God puts our plants into a season of rest through the cold weather, we too take this time to slow down and rest. The busiest months of the year for us are March-June - the months we ready ourselves for a summer of growing and harvest. In reverse, the months of November-February are our slowest months because there is not urgency with attending to plants and harvest. This does not mean we sit around watching TV all day though.

Here are the top ways that we use our winter months:

Kale is still alive and kicking even after several single digit nights.

Kale is still alive and kicking even after several single digit nights.

Preparing for winter

In early November, Tim moved all of his potted figs up to our driveway where they entered dormancy. Once dormant, he took over 400 (yes 400!) cuttings, which will each grow into a fig tree. He then moved the potted trees to the cold cellar to protect them through the colder winter temperatures, and then he will move them back out into the garden in the late spring.

With the cuttings he took, Tim has been diligently filling pots, hanging lights, wrapping cuttings, and placing them in soil. Because the figs entered dormancy before the cuttings were taken, now that the cuttings are in soil, under lights, and warmer, they think that it is spring and they are starting to wake up. We have our first fig leaves pushing through in January!

We have been clearing out our summer garden beds of all spent vegetables. This will save us a step in the spring when we go to plant again. We are also spreading composted chicken and goat manure in our beds to provide an even richer soil for our vegetables this year.  

Fig cuttings under lights. Lots of them.

Fig cuttings under lights. Lots of them.

First signs of life from a fig cutting (Maltese Falcon I believe)

First signs of life from a fig cutting (Maltese Falcon I believe)

Livestock Maintenance

I have been paying more attention to our livestock this winter because there is less of a margin for error when temperatures are below freezing. Our goats and chickens share a barn, which is not ideal because chickens are very messy and we’d like to keep our goats clean and healthy. I have been spending some time putting up chicken barriers so the goats have a clean place to rest. We have also closed one of our exterior goat doors as a wind block. Goats do not mind the cold, but they cannot handle too many drafts. So while we have a good solution in closing off one of the doors, it means we must also be more vigilant in keeping bedding cleaned. In the warmer months, the animals spend less time indoors, causing less mess (read: poop), and we are also able to leave all the barn doors open, which provides better ventilation and therefore requires less frequent cleaning.

I have also been experimenting with goat milk now that I have a little more time on my hands. I have made several flavors of goat milk ice cream and they have been wonderful! I think peppermint brownie has been my favorite. My goat milk days are running out soon though. We have bred our nanny goat and she is due to kid at the end of April! These will be our first farm born kids and we are so excited to meet them!

A pregnant Finny. Baby goats this spring!

A pregnant Finny. Baby goats this spring!

In chicken news, I have been incubating a dozen of our chickens eggs this month and if all is well, we should be welcoming our first farm-born chicks at the end of the month! It is nice to have these slower months to dabble in other areas of interest and discover new directions we could go in the future. Shhh! Just don’t tell Tim ;-). If you can’t tell, I’m the animal lover of the house.

Eggs in our incubator. Should be fun to see what we get!

Eggs in our incubator. Should be fun to see what we get!

Homestead Maintenance

In the short months we have had off, we have already run water and electric out to our gardens and outbuildings (with help) and Tim has corrected all of the rust on the farm truck so that it will last us through many winters to come (Lord willing). There are also many neglected home maintenance tasks we have been tackling. When we are in the thick of the growing and harvesting seasons, the things that are not wilting, rotting, or crying tend to get neglected.

Dormant blueberry with buds waiting to burst. All blueberries got a fresh dressing of pine straw or shredded leaves this fall.

Dormant blueberry with buds waiting to burst. All blueberries got a fresh dressing of pine straw or shredded leaves this fall.

Continuing to Learn

This winter has been a valuable time for furthering our farm education. Tim and I have both been attending a beginning tree fruit growers class through Penn State out in Bloomsburg. It has been valuable in learning about different types of fruit, orchard layout, pest management, and many other things. We have also met some young farmers following their passions too - very encouraging! Tim has also been on a few farm tours, a soil management conference, a cider tour, and most recently, we both attended the farm show with the kids! Tim will also be attending a class for new farmers this month and we will both be attending the PASA conference next month. Because farming is a new venture for us, it is important that we learn from the experts in the field.

A visit to the PA farm show is a must, even if you just go for the food. Can you guess who loved visiting this section?

A visit to the PA farm show is a must, even if you just go for the food. Can you guess who loved visiting this section?

Planning for 2015

Many of you know that we recently purchased a 13 acre farm six miles from our home. We have many plans for the acreage and the buildings. There is a large farm house that is in good shape, but will need some repairs and updating. We have been tackling some of that this month. There are also two barns that will need a little maintenance and modification for our future uses.

The acreage itself is a good size for us as we grow. This winter is time for drawing up site plans as well as projecting our short and long terms goals for the space. We will not be planting all 13 at once, but it is very important to plant things in the right order and location so that we do not make costly mistakes. For example, any tree fruits should be planted right away because some will require three years in the ground before achieving even a small crop. In the same token, we need to plant some things that will produce in the first year so we we have something to offer right away. All of these factors require thorough analysis. This kind of thinking is best done in this down time. If we had had to juggle strategic planning in the same season as planting or harvesting, we would have done the farm a disservice.

The future location of our u-pick orchard and nursery with the corn down. We found a local farmer to help with prepping and seeding the ground come spring.

The future location of our u-pick orchard and nursery with the corn down. We found a local farmer to help with prepping and seeding the ground come spring.

Being a better spouse, parent, friend, ______.

While Tim and I try to not overextend ourselves during the growing season, we do make choices of how we spend our time. This is the first summer we have not travelled to visit family or go on a vacation, even for a weekend. It has been a time to catch up with family and friends and invest time into others, which in turn blesses us. It is time for me to be the soccer mom (minus soccer) and drive my kids to and from preschool and appointments. It has been a blessing having the sun set early because it gives us time in front of the fire with our kids, dancing and playing games. I miss these times during the summer when it is still light outside when they go to sleep. We do spend lots of time with our kids in the summer because they are outside with us while we work, but the time we spend now is specifically focused on them and cultivating a deeper family relationship.

So as you can see, there is plenty to keep a farmer (at least an aspiring one) busy year round! If you have any questions for us, ask away! We will try to respond through our Facebook page or in a future post. Happy winter!

Our New Farm

It's official: we've just closed on a new piece of land on which to start our u-pick farm and fruit tree nursery! The new farm is located on a 13 acre piece of beautiful farmland along the rolling hills between Mechanicsburg and Carlisle. It has an old timber frame barn on the property as well as a horse barn. We'll be spending the winter and early spring preparing the land and getting things fixed up for the growing season to come. Stay tuned for details, but until then hopefully these pictures will hold you over.

All thanks and glory to God!

A view from the horse barn out into the future orchard.

A view from the horse barn out into the future orchard.

The big red barn. Timber frame barn built in 1910.

The big red barn. Timber frame barn built in 1910.

A view of the barns.

A view of the barns.

Imagine blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi berries, persimmons, pawpaws, jujube, figs and pomegranates all here. Hard to see with all the corn, I know!

Imagine blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi berries, persimmons, pawpaws, jujube, figs and pomegranates all here. Hard to see with all the corn, I know!