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!

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!

when plants talk

…the first week of november 2014 a friend phoned and said that a relative of his had just ripped out all his berry blue honeyberry plants using a tractor and chain, and that the plants were sitting in my friend’s farmyard and did i want them?  …i hooked up my trailer and drove over to have a look  …there they were…mostly bare root…luckily dormant…so i figured it was time to experiment…i dug 300 holes with my post auger in the almost-frozen soil…stuck them in…covered them up…and went away, anxious for spring to come…

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…this is what has happened over the past – now – three years…

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…this is one i did not trim last fall…

…it ain’t exactly the healthiest looking specimen, is it?! 😉

…so last fall i just mowed down the whole row…and here’s what’s coming back…

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…rick sawatzky told me years ago that if i’d just shear off each plant for the first couple of years rather than be so anxious to have them bear that the bush would come back incredibly thick…

…he’s right…

…that’s a lot better…and we will let the entire row go back into grass rather than plastic mulch…the roots are well established…competition will not hurt it much…or at least we’ll find out (another experiment!)…and we won’t be constantly tilling it…we will leave this row for the cedar waxwings uncovered as a way to appease them as they migrate their way through our orchard on their yearly dining course here for a week of feasting…

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…it’s looking like a plan…something that the plants themselves are dictating…it just taken me a bit to hear them…

haskap orchard tour tonight

…trimmed and mown this is > 1/4 mile of haskap running along the foot of the north face of Thunderhill, MB…almost 3,000 plants of both old-world and new-world stock…haskap, honeyberries, and Siberian/Ural/Polish/Asian-steppe proto-genetics…a brief tour from one end to the other takes three and a half minutes and runs across three soil types of this glacial deposit piled against this massive ice-thrust formation…various stages of development, planting, and testing are each visible along the way if you know what to look for, in addition to fully producing plants…the video is not the best quality, taken at the end of a long day of orchard trimming and work, and before a coming storm front, but is telling for now and something that we are glad to show and share…the majority of this fruit will be donated to soup kitchens, Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality, and a monastery for their self-support, in addition to local families and homeless who have less access to the needs of life…and this fruit is better than just the needs of life…what an irony that those most in need get the best for free.

The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.

– Dorothy Day

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haskap in the dog food…

…our dogs have always loved haskap…in fact they are literally crazy over it!

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with a degree in animal science i feed our dogs a balanced feed ration of fresh cooked food every day…the vets are alway impressed at their health and condition…purchased rations may be balanced as well, but they certainly do not use the fresh ingredients that they get in our kitchen…and in the winter when we process haskap for its juice, they are the ones that get the left over pulp…so in addition to grains, calcium, alfalfa, powdered milk, meat, sometimes their bowls have a distinctive purple colour to them as well…and they are so intent when they get this treat…

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hey, sweetie! (making haskap candy)

macerate haskap to obtain haskap juice.  Sieve and press through a fine wire strainer.

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ready two silicone muffin baking sheets.

in a pot mix:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/6 cup water

1/6 cup haskap juice *, **

*note – do not use whole, liquified berries.  unless you like scouring the burnt bottom of your pan, this mix will burn before even coming close to a hardened stage.

**note – you may use straight haskap juice, and the flavour will be stronger.  but the stage at which this must be pulled off is more critical than the 50:50 mixture of haskap juice:water.  half way between 250F and 270F you will notice a slight burning odour.  this is when you must pull the mixture to avoid any burnt flavour when using haskap juice.  the same odour test can be applied to the 50:50 mix.  do not go strictly by your thermometer; your nose is the best judge.

place pot on stove and turn heat to high, stirring mixture until you see it start to liquify.  stop stirring.  do not stir any more.  continued stirring may result in the mixture crystallizing.

heat to 255F – 270F until you smell an off flavour

immediately remove from heat and spoon into silicone muffin sheets until the bottom of each cup is covered.

remove once cooled.

place in container with powdered sugar and swirl.  this step stops the candy from sticking to itself.  the pure juice candy will ‘melt’ over time.  it is best used fresh.  if wafers are stacked one upon another they will eventually form an inseparable mass.

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 enjoy this melt in your mouth, intensely haskap-flavoured treat!

[heating this mixture to the hard crack stage will definitely impart a partial burnt flavour to the candy wafers.  timing is important when making candy with juice and not simply oils, which are commercially added to hard candy once the boiling is over.]