these dogs…

…are probably the only ones in all of Canada, or North America, or would at least be some of the few in the entire world who had haskap in their dinner bowl tonight…which they most definitely relish!

not a bird in sight

they are gone…just like that…not so in others’ orchards…friends have 400 plants and if they did not carefully net then their plants would be picked clean…not so with ours…not so…it seems that our friends believe that the waxwings nest in their spruce groves, which are extensive on their property…and may work to explain why our sparse spruce both stand out so much amongst our aspen as are a gift to us in that they both are visually stunning in our bush and don’t provide enough harbour for these birds to be any more than passing guests…and it seems to be a grace given to us and this place that even as the idyllic site of our orchard evolved in our consciousness as an ideal space for these plants over time so the threats to the orchard’s viability has turned out in the end to be minimal as well…

…it is always the greatest of ironies that even as we fought this week to attach and reattach the netting during four days of raging winds…so the birds had their way anyway…and are now gone…one of the gentle follies of our lives that really isn’t worth becoming upset over…

…next week i will start to tear out our electric fencing around the orchard…which was connived to keep out bears, but mostly my neighbour’s cattle which for 16 years regularly invade our property throughout grazing season…and whereas the cattle don’t steal much of our hay crop…i think we have better plans to keep them out…and the electricity doesn’t so anything to keep out wildlife, period…which wander through on a regular basis anyway and never cause any problems with the haskap…

spreading netting

waxwings arrived today in number…i bagan netting our haskap…netting is more of a deterrent than something that absolutely prohibits birds from eating berries…they are welcome to eat…they are migratory grazers…they leave our orchard in a week…with so many plants we leave some unnetted…that attracts them away from the netted plants…

…it’s cool out today…11C (46F)…but it is humid…any shirty or jacket is just too much for me…netting goes quickly…dragged out of their numbered storage bins that correspond with their row…opened as you go…laying them on the bushes…to be fastened down and together tomorrow…we will move on to the newer part of the orchard with less mature plants…

it was a ball field…

…an acre of ground for my children that we seeded to perennial rye grass and mowed…they played soccer and practised baseball there…but by 2008 they were grown and gone and i asked them if i could convert it to an orchard and they said yes…so i disced it with a discer and then worked on it with a field cultivator and finally used a 3-bottom moldboard plow to cut furrows from east to west for each row…we laid plastic over this and tucked in the edges and then i used a snowplow on the front of my pickup truck to thoroughly cover the edges of the plastic…it was a thoroughly wrong way to go about planting an orchard…but at the time it was the best we could do…

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…we picked up our plants from prairie plant systems…1,000 of them…and worked at hardening them off for a week…and then we loaded them onto a flatdeck along with a water barrel and went down the row using a sharpened spade that i modified, cutting L’s into the plastic, prying out wedges of clay, inserting plants, covering them over, and watering them…it was way more work than we now do…but that was the best we could come up with when it came to equipment…and we watered them almost every day using a 55 gallon drum and a short watering hose, one plant at a time as we drove down each row…

…the rows were set on 20 foot spacings, not optimal for pollination, but was a width that i could drive our hay equipment down in case the summer turned out wet and it became overgrown…all of our plants survived and looked like this by august…we were on our way…

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…by the end of the summer our original EBH non-varietals from the u of sk also looked great…

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…so this is what our field looked like in early july of 2008…and what it looks like as of today…

…it’s a beautiful transition!

we planted some apples

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,,,working with rick sawatsky at the u of sk hort field lab…getting training on caring for apples…

…with 70-some plants – non-varietal edible blue honeysuckles – purchased from the u of sk in the summer of 2005…we had become a part of their fruit cooperators program a few years before…starting with university numbered varieties we planted what would become the first half of our apple orchard in 2003…so we stuck these EBH into a few extra holes in the ground next to our apples and waited…but they never did anything……just sat there in 2005 and 2006 like sticks in the ground…looking back we now realize what we did wrong…they were strangled by grass and received precious little water during both springs…the good news is that we did not kill them!

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…rick with their most advanced ebh at the time in the hort field lab…early non-varietals…

…in the late winter/early spring of 2007 i was thoroughly frustrated with our EBH and the night before i left for a job in b.c. i went into the orchard and chopped them out of the frozen ground with a pickaxe…and put them into new ground – with a pickaxe – which was located downhill from our bush where the snow was still deep…and then i left for a couple of weeks…and when i returned?…the plants had come alive and jumped a whole foot…!!!…

… and so we purchased an – expensive for us – roll of plastic woven weed barrier and put it over them and dug it in as best as we could and we were on our way…

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…going from 2-yrs of being sticks in our apple orchard…transplanted in 2007 to this new location…naturally watered each spring from snow melt in our bush up the hill,,,this is how they looked in the summer of 2008…

…we were convinced of their viability…tried to order plants in 2007 which were all sold out…and so we put our order in and waited for the spring of 2008…we attended the formational meeting of haskap canada and signed on enthusiastically…we had no notion of what lay ahead…it was simply a bold adventure and a chance to be in on the groundwork of something very healthy and untried and that needed people who were willing to experiment with and promote…

…a clear winner!

…this is clayton wiebe…he was a malt barley researcher at the u of sk…we met and became friends at the first annual meeting of haskap canada way back when…he’s a wizard…perhaps even a grand-wizard when it comes to haskap…

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…he was already engrossed in all-things edible-blue-honeysuckle (EBH)…and he grew some open pollinated (OP) seeds off of his blue velvets that he had in his test plots…

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…and of course anyone can grow EBH from seed…i’ll show how some day…anyway…he had all of the blue velvet that he wanted to get rid of…about 70 and he told me that he was going to rip them out and throw them away…gasp…so i drove out and we meticulously placed them all in pots…and they came home in october of 2011 i think…and we put them in holes in the ground in a nondescript area and just let them be…these are they on the right…best bushes in the whole orchard…meaning full and thick and productive…

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…and of course they are each one different than the next because they are OP…but one of these bushes wins the prize for being the earliest to be furthest into version…

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…and even this undeveloped they taste pretty darn good…looks like the haskap season is on here in zone 1b/2a…