What a crazy summer!!! We have experienced a continued pattern of storms in our area as it seems we are stuck in some tropical system of hot and steamy mornings followed by afternoon storms. As one does, you acclimate so we work hard each morning trying to accomplish all we can before the rain arrives mid afternoon. With this in mind, the prediction for July 3rd was no exception.
Except that it was…as we were caught in some type of super-cell that landed a violent storm at our feet that was visible from every vantage point as it arrived from the east and tore its way west with wind and driving rain in incalculable volumes of precipitation since our rain gauge is geared towards a vertical precip rather than the horizontal type!
And then…CRACK…what a heart wrenching sound…and half of one of our Seven Oak trees was split down the middle and severed from it’s trunk. I think I let out a scream as we watched in horror and tried to understand what had just happened.
We actually were lucky as no one was hurt and no buildings were damaged. In fact, had the other half of the tree fallen to the right, it would have taken out several of our European Horn Beam trees that make up the now rather impressive allée of trees that parade down the center back spine of the farm.
Besides the tree damage, the accumulation of unwanted water run-off was impressive as well; the swale, snaking its way around the back property, was swollen beyond belief and looked as if we could have caught fish in it for our dinner!
The wind was such that some of our very large flower pots on the outside of the barn…
Were entirely blown over making me very grumpy indeed as the flowers were smashed up!!!
Our challenge now is to remove the downed half and evaluate the removal of the remaining half of the tree which might be subject to future storms. Of all things to be happy about, Dave is particularly relieved that the downed limb did not take out his cucumber patch!
We are awaiting the tree removal professionals but are anticipating a good deal of oak firewood in our future as Dave started to whittle away at it today during a particularly buggy period…oh the mosquitoes!…thus the face veil.
In addition to the tree trauma, we have also been challenged by critters who want to chew their way into our largish berry patch that is protected with a nylon netting enclosure that spans 45 x 75 feet. This enclosed system has worked beautifully for several years until we started to see a few spots where animals were chewing the lower edges of the netting to get access into the nirvana of waiting fruits. We repaired these spots as they became evident by re-weaving occasional holes with a flexible garden wire, thinking we were keeping the birds at bay.
We decided to reinforce the base of the netted enclosure with lengths of hardware cloth secured with zip ties along the perimeter that would prevent the small critters from chewing the net. Dave and I had the extra help from our third set of hands, Jane, to help this project along but we are less than half way done at this juncture.
Of course we are protecting the valuable goodies of the orchard as the blueberries are having a stellar season. We have harvested YTD over 191 pounds of blueberries and still have quite a lot to harvest as some varieties are still green at this point! Besides giving loads to friends and neighbors, we are selling them to our CSA customers like mad while freezing them in gallon sized bags for our winter consumption.
Interesting to note that statistically driven Farmer Dave has kept track of our total blueberry harvest since we planted them (in twig form from Stark Brothers) in the spring of 2011. We had our first handful of berries in 2012 and each year thereafter we have had escalating harvests to total over 942 pounds of blueberries. That, my friend, is a lot of time spent picking blueberries!
Even though this current variety of ripened blue berries are not considered “jam berries,” I decided to create a new jam recipe using cherries + blueberries for a special Seven Oaks Fourth of July Jam. It was fun to combine the two but with limited cherries left to utilize, I was only able to make 12 half pints to show for it! Yumbo! We sold some to customers and will be saving the rest for special tasters!
Blueberries are not the only goodies within the netting…as our 2018 plantings of two blackberry varieties are now starting to produce. ‘Sweetie Pie’ and ‘Chester’ are doing their thing! Both are thornless but with different qualities, as Chester has more of a bush-like structure with clusters and clusters of berries, while Sweetie Pie wants to vine and has stellar, large berries that are show stoppers.
Other summer crops are somewhat marginal as the storms continue to knock away delicate blossoms. But we are happy to have the garlic ‘lollipops’ all prepped for sale to our customers.
As things go around here, we are cheered by our nearby grandchildren who brighten the day as they did when we joined them for their neighborhood 4th of July parade.
Gramps always gets a smile from 16 month old Willie!
We are now in search of a new Oak tree variety to replace the damaged tree and will keep you posted on what we decide on as we would like to see some rapid growth so that we can enjoy it in the coming years. Always an adventure here at “Fill in the Blank” Oaks Farm & Orchard!