Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Local Chestnut Retailers

You can get Badgersett chestnuts from Harmony Foods in Harmony, Oneota Co-Op & Quillin's in Decorah, Good Food Co-Op and Zzest in Rochester, and the Village Quillin's in La Crosse, and also from Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market in St. Paul. Buying from these folks is cheaper than direct from us, because you save on shipping and some of our packing/handling labor. Ask them where the Badgersett chestnuts are!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Still time for Holiday Nuts!

Hello folks,

It's late, I know! We did just get most of our outstanding nut orders shipped today, and although we expect to sell out by Christmas we do have a few left that you can snatch up, if you haven't already. We thought we should let you know:

If you make your e-mail order by 5 PM Monday, and you made it early enough that there are still nuts left, we should be able to get it shipped on Tuesday for Christmas delivery via our standard nut shipping (that is, at least, according to USPS). Barring, of course, further blizzards.

What we've got available:

FIRST TIME: BADGERSETT HYBRID HICKORIES! These look mostly like shagbark or shellbark hickories, but the shells are thin enough to crack with a hand cracker! Most nuts taste like premium pecan, some will have a good real hickory taste, and some will even taste like black walnut. Limited supply, and in 1-pound bags only. NOTE: though they'll crack with a hand cracker, you'll want a nut pick.

We still have Orchard Sampler, Large, and Old Fashion chestnuts here and ready to ship, though this year's Old Fashion is nearly gone.

We are shipping hazels (and now offer a smaller 1-lb sampler), but keep in mind that hazels on your order may still slow delivery. Employee sickness has slowed down our husking in the past week.

Order nuts here:

Check out some updated chestnut plier peeling method videos here:

As Dad observed in a recent press release, "It sounds so simple it can seem silly- but it’s actually the difference between an easy happy experience, and yet another path to Holiday Hell."

And see our nut recipes here, including gluten-free stuffing:

(and a quick note about plants: we have a good supply of chestnuts and hazels for 2011 delivery still, however we are SOLD OUT of Select material, and Guaranteed XL. More than usual of our material this year is classed Experimental, since for the first time we'll be selling seedlings of Cycle 4 material. More advanced genetics, and better nut quality, but "Experimental" because we don't have the long track record we require for our EFB-guaranteed material.)

Happy Holidays from Badgersett!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


One of those things that happens. We are snowed in, by the blizzard; and will not be able to even get our roads plowed out probably until Monday afternoon. At the moment, Meg is attempting to dig her way into the main greenhouse- both doors are blocked by long 3-4 foot deep drifts; the first time that's ever happened. Water access for the horses is only possible from inside the greenhouse, and one of the mares is just about to foal; any time now.

We won't be able to ship chestnuts until Tuesday; but there should be no problem by then.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Updated chestnut peeling video

We're pretty proud of the fact that we've actually invented a new way - or two new ways - to peel chestnuts.

Here's the YouTube video; this is the long version, for Method 1. We had to split the video into two pieces for You Tube, so Method 2 is separate. For those in a hurry; there's The Short Version, which has both methods and much less commentary. (Plus, I don't sing, in The Short Version, so you can escape that hazard if you wish...)

Another thing we're proud of, is that a few years ago our chestnuts were featured in a substantial article by Corby Kummer, Senior Food Editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

He liked them. Quite a lot. Corby cooked most of his in the microwave; cutting them in half (at our suggestion). If you use a microwave; be sure to use Method 1, not Method 2- the microwave heats them so fast that sometimes #2 is just not enough area to let steam out, and you may have an explosion even though they're pierced.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nuts to Eat!

Hello folks,

Just a quick notice- we do have nuts to eat available for shipment at the usual dates listed on our nut order page. We'll hopefully be updating that page, and potentially prices, in the next week or so. As always, ordering now will lock in today's price!

Note: our supply of Old Fashioned chestnuts is relatively low this year, and we may sell out early.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Badgersett: Processing & Distributing

Chestnut and hickory harvests are winding down, and we're moving into the next seasonal tasks: fertilizing, pre-winter pest control, firewood for the cabin, and not least of all post-harvest work for all three crops.

Hazel seed processing is nearly done, but nearly all of our hazels to eat have yet to be husked (though they have been curing in-husk since harvest). We've got a substantial amount of the chestnut harvest in the curing stage, and a few of the hickories as well. Hickory post-harvest is more experimental for us, and this year the hickory data is critical and a pain in the neck– both because the trees are getting crowded and we need to make coppice/cull decisions.

As of October 5, Badgersett Research Corp. has officially entered into the "processor and distributor" business; we've bought our first batch of nuts (unhusked and uncured) from one of our growers. We'll buy yours too, in any condition. We will currently buy fully husked and well-cured (not overheated, rancid, or over-dried) nuts, of sufficient size and fit for human consumption, for $3/lb; prices are adjusted from there based on basic quality and required processing.

Marketing your own crop is definitely doable, but it takes substantial time and energy. We've got the demand already lined up, from small-order direct sales to requests for container-loads per week (which we won't be filling for some time...). Now, you've got access to those markets through us!

We'll pay by check, or (for a 15% bonus) in credit with BRC for plant or consulting purchases. We can estimate the yield and pay you at delivery, or pay using known yield after processing. Due to our limited resources and the associated increased risk, payment at delivery will invoke a 5% lower payment.

THIS YEAR ONLY: we'll provide full yield analysis of your crop for no additional charge. We expect this to be offered for a fee in the future.

We've got enough folks around that we can take delivery at almost any time, but you can call ahead at (888) 557-4211 x7 to verify that somebody will be at the farm to take your delivery, particularly if you want payment at that time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

yes, we've got big nuts.

Chestnut (and hickory) harvest is in full swing; we're about 1/3 of the way into it. The 80°F, flooding rains and high winds of a few days ago (we got off easy, only 4.3" in 24 hrs) brought down a huge number of nuts. We're almost caught up with the pick up process, and the cool weather now has slowed the drop slightly to let us catch our breath a little today.

We're finding it has been an above average year for chestnuts; size of nuts and crops per tree are both up. For those who persist in thinking it's not possible to grow
"big" chestnuts in places like Minnesota, we offer the following:

Just a quickie photo there; too much contrast, and they need to be held in a human hand for actual scale to be effective. Basically; these are huge, by any standards.

Chestnut harvest is being helped out this year by our horses; we're not using them to pull carts of nuts; we put them to pasture in the mature chestnut groves. Using electric fence, they were confined inside particular rows for a short period of intensive grazing/traffic; usually about 6 days, with some variability for rain.

It was an experiment that turned out extremely well indeed. Of course they mowed the grass, saving us diesel fuel, tractor, and labor costs; but in addition they cleared brush and weeds under the trees where the tractor mower cannot go, saving huge amounts of human hand labor, and their hoof traffic proved highly effective in flattening the ground surface.

Over the years, the ground under the bigger trees has been getting rougher and rougher, from a variety of causes, right down to earthworm castings (which can build up in one place over the years, with no tillage). The rough surface has made it very labor intensive to get the nuts picked up. We use "Nut Wizards" now extensively, and great as they are, they are still not able to pick up a nut out of a hole or next to a big bump.

The horses really flattened the ground, though they needed a little watching to be sure they didn't over use one area, or pound a place into mud in rainy weather. Our Friesian stallion has extra large hooves, typical of the breed, which I think made him more effective, and with less actual soil compaction.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Illinois Harvest Pictures

As promised, here are a couple of pictures of the Illinois harvest:

Here is most of the crew, gathered around the full harvest at sunset on the second day.

The harvest pile from a different angle. I'll try to post some pictures of it drying in our upper greenhouse; it covers most of one of the 40'x6' tables. As Philip said, this was around 20% or so of the nuts that were originally on the bushes; it was a pretty late harvest for that field. Even so, there were a number of outstanding bushes and parental lines still holding on to a substantial crop, and still ready for a shaker-based harvester. We'll soon be starting to coordinate machine-based harvest there and at Badgersett Farm #1, as well as insuring that both places get some fertilizer this fall.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chestnut Harvest! Come help next weekend!

Hello folks,

The main chestnut harvest is starting in earnest. We're doing just a little more cleanup and mowing under some of the trees, but the horses are out (having done their part in a few rows), and now as you walk through the chestnuts you hear mostly two sounds: bluejays, and nuts dropping.

It's early enough this year that we're unlikely to get any problems with an early freeze, and if we don't get any serious wind in the next couple of weeks it should go pretty smoothly.

We'll do a farm-work harvest event next weekend, September 25-26. There will be PLENTY of chestnuts to pick up- it can be a sight to see.

I'm still over-busy, but I will get pictures of the Illinois hazel harvest up before too long. It was about a ton fresh unhusked (deer and squirrels had gotten quite a bit by the time we got there)- still enough to start the next level of machine and market development, though. (Also, don't forget- we'll buy your nuts this year).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Talk today in Oberlin! And harvest status.

I know this notice is super-late, but figured I'd try to get it in anyhow. Chestnut harvest time here on the farm; all super busy.

Philip will be giving a talk on Woody Agriculture at Oberlin College today, 12:20-1:15. The talk is open to the public, and will be held in the Craig lecture hall of the Science Center which is on "North" campus, at the corner of Lorain and Woodland St. It is a large lecture hall on the second floor. You can tell anyone to just ask someone to point them in the right direction.

I will do my best to get more harvest updates here soon. Hazel harvest is done; we have enough seed that in 2011 we should be able to produce 2-4 times as many as we did this year. I'm pretty sure we're already sold out of select material, however. Hickory harvest has started, and chestnut harvest is beginning. If anybody wants to show up on the farm this weekend for harvest help, there should be chestnuts to pick up!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dr. Susan Wiegrefe Joins Badgersett Research

Badgersett Research Corporation is immensely pleased and proud to announce that Dr. Susan Wiegrefe is joining the company.

Dr. Wiegrefe's doctorate is in plant breeding, and she comes to us from the Morton Arboretum, where she had responsibility for breeding maples, Viburnums, and several other groups, and from a professorship at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls.

Dr. Wiegrefe will be involved in all aspects of crop development at BRC, for hazels, chestnuts, and hickories. Besides her unusually broad comprehension of the many aspects of botany, she has also been a specialist in plant propagation, and will be working both in the field and the greenhouse to advance our projects using those skills.

A large reason for our enthusiasm about hiring Dr. Sue is that she is not limited in her interests to just the plant genetics; but is deeply interested in working on all the integrative factors needed for woody agriculture to move into the mainstream. Besides taking chief responsibility for the apple crop this fall, next spring she will be taking primary responsibility for our long postponed efforts to add sheep to the cropping systems here.


Illinois Harvest info-

Here's the very quick skinny on how the hazelnut harvest went at the Illinois planting: really good; considering.

Sorry to say Dr. Brandon has all the photos at the moment, and he's up to his neck in the regular alligators; and I'm in Virginia.

Details: alas, only about 20% of the nuts we saw in mid-August were still on the bushes when we arrived Sept. 4. Three factors; we'd had several days of very high winds just before (the kind that blows semis off roads); deer had been eating a couple specific breeding-lines of the hazels far more intensively than we'd ever seen before, and there were more tree squirrels in the plantings than we'd expected (gray squirrels, is what we saw).

We did pick up a fair number of good nuts from the ground, but only a tiny fraction of what had been blown off, of course. Sept. 4 is extremely late to start harvest, of course, so this was not entirely unanticipated. We kept hoping a machine would materialize, which made us put it off longer than we would have otherwise.

With 8 pickers, it took us 1.5 days to pick what was there; not bad. We DID get in a substantial quantity of nuts; Dr. B has a photo of us all and the pile of bags; we'll get it up here soon.

So; no tonnage; but, lots of good news:

The bud mite is well established throughout the planting.

EFB (Anisogramma) is present, though we'd failed to find it earlier, and is well established on several plants; some of its companion microorganisms are also already present.

The overall quality of the nuts from this planting are very greatly improved from earlier plantings, demonstrating that BRC breeding techniques work well.

The genetic diversity in the planting includes several variations that will make machine harvest easier. A primary chore ahead of us is choosing which of several harvest strategies to pursue.

The genetic diversity in the planting was also important in a little extra incentive to Dr. Wiegrefe; as you'll see in the next post...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A bit of info on the Big Picking event..

Hello, Meg here:

Both Philip and Brandon are swamped getting the picking weekend organized as well as getting the work here running well enough to leave for a few days.


I'm going to be the on-farm center to coordinate volunteers, meetings, ride-shares and so on.

Here's the scoop...

Philip and Brandon will be on the site as early as they possibly can Friday, which MIGHT mean they will leave Thursday night as it is quite a distance away. They are willing to guide anyone in from the (sign up/call in to pick to get this info...) We are doing this for two reasons, first this is a private site (both for Badgersett and the owner) and also because the roads are highly confusing to navigate and literally dangerous in some places. Call me and LEAVE A MESSAGE at (888)557-4211 ext. 6; that will alert me through my email. I will be checking constantly throughout the weekend.

(For those wondering; the site is in NE IL; right in the corner.)

Driving arrangements can be made. Car-pools are welcome to meet at Badgersett and leave one or more of their vehicles here. Please let me know if you want to car-pool and when you will be arriving at Badgersett so I can set you up with like minded people.

Brandon and Philip will welcome a few riders going with them, but those people must stay at the site the whole weekend (returning Monday morning) or arrange to ride with someone leaving earlier in the weekend.

Sleeping arrangements are a little loose at the moment. We have two triple rooms reserved at a local motel in which we can probably stuff about 12 people. If you need a place to sleep, remember that they are available, but you may be sharing your sleeping arrangement with some new friends! Also if you are bringing a RV, tent, or even a van that you are planning to sleep in please let us know so we can find you a place.

Please remember that we would love to have you for the entire weekend, but if it is not possible feel free to come for the amount of time you can spare. I would just like to know when you will be arriving and leaving so I may arrange to have enough picking supplies for you as well as letting the guys know when you will be there.

Please feel free to call or email me starting from the instant you receive this so I can make this weekend a great experience for us all.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Your urgent help needed.

First; look at this video. It'll take a few minutes. The first 30 seconds or so of film show UNfertilized row; after that (when the bushes get big and green) the rows were fertilized.

That is our Badgersett Research Corporation expansion farm in Illinois.

You are looking at some 3-4 miles of harvestable hazel bushes; with a substantial crop ripe; right now today.

So far, both BEI and Korvan have failed to respond to our repeated requests for a picking machine, to start working on real machine development (in spite of our offer to pay up to $3k in costs).

We will be picking these rows by hand; on Sept. 2/3/and 4. All day; fast; all the people we can get. Almost everyone there will be volunteers.

We're expecting to harvest up to 2 tons of dry nuts; perhaps more. These will finally give us the nuts needed to work seriously on cracking/sorting etc. machines. We're hoping Lee Pothast will be working on this harvest to develop his husker further.

If you want to see what a real hazel harvest is supposed to look like; of nuts at commercial potential today (no 20 years from now) - you should come; volunteer; camp overnight, and help get this incredibly historic harvest in. This is it. The first real full scale harvest of neohybrid hazels.

Be aware; the nuts in this field are 10X better than yours. Or the ones you've seen at Badgersett. They represent the cutting edge of our breeding work (as of 2003). So they are 15-20 years beyond anything at Arbor Day Farm, for example; which contained no cutting edge material, even at the time it was planted.

Bring anyone you want who wants to help; but note; this is a restricted private research site; belonging to Badgersett; persons representing competitors or researchers from other entities are BARRED from attending this event. The owner does not want the site public; if you are coming, we'll arrange to meet groups in a town in NW Illinois, and then guide you to the farm.

More info will follow here; if you can come; comment here with your email for more info; or call our new corporate toll free number, 888-557-4211, and leave your info.

Now- look at that video again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Field Day: More Details

A few quick updates and details about the field day as we do our final day of preparation:
  1. Remember, use the map on our website to find us- navigation systems usually don't work.
  2. Registration starts at 9:30 this year. First tours at 10.
  3. Morning tours: Woody Ag, and Mature Hazel Management. Hazel coppice demonstration!
  4. If things go well, we'll have a lunchtime raptor roost raising.
  5. Afternoon tours: Hybrid Hazels (possibly including harvest demo), and Animals in Woody Agriculture. Farm-hatched guinea keets!
  6. 3 PM other demonstrations and discussions start, possibly including fertilizer demo; brush puller demo, and husking. Q&A session.
The weather is looking pretty good; we hope you'll be able to make it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Working in the Chestnut Shade

--- This post is from Meg, who due to my swamped-ness isn't yet an "official" author on this blog. -BLR -----

It is HOT today. The weather sites on the internet claim that the temperature in Canton MN is 90 F and the thermometer on the north wall of the cabin is reading 89F in the shade. So I would conclude that it is HOT.

We were doing harvest and other related field work this morning, but we abandoned that in the heat and are now working in the shade of the chestnuts. The plan is to do some pruning and clearing out to make chestnut harvest a tiny bit, or a whole lot, easier.

Hazel harvest is trickling in. I hope it will wait to crush us in an avalanche of nuts until I am in the cast so I can actually go out and help the field crews.

Brandon is continuing to scare the crows with the shotgun. If luck holds he'll hit one or two that we can hang up as a warning to other crows to enter our fields at their peril. Not that he's a bad shot, but crows are really smart. He's also wrangling the field workers and volunteers. Sometimes I wonder if it's a bit like herding cats, but they are getting a lot of work done and we are grateful for the help.

Philip is working on press releases and the tour content for the field day. He's sequestered upstairs with earplugs in so he can actually work and not be driven insane by Elly the Dervish. He, and all of us at Badgersett, are hoping to make it a really great event this year. Hopefully we'll see some of our readers and friends there.

Consequently, I am writing this quick update. I hope you liked it.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Pest Control

Never a dull moment!

Pest control– the harvest has started, and so have the squirrels and crows (jays and woodpeckers come later; mice and ground squirrels are a bit harder to see sometimes). Critical to know- squirrels and chipmunks will steal nuts before they are ripe; so you must really be on your guard. I was harassing them today, starting before dawn, with some good effect. Permanently de-commissioned four red squirrels; those little guys certainly pack away the nuts. We also put up a new hawk roost today; I think our first one made from a chestnut tree. Combine that with keeping the crows back, and maybe we'll get the hawks back for a bit. The owls, of course, use the roosts at night without worrying about crows at all.

Now (or maybe last week) is a good time to check out the vintage post on checking ripeness, and on determining ripeness, as well. New growers should check them diligently; you'll lose them! Before my work today, we'd already lost the entire crop on one of our earlier bushes.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

19th Annual Badgersett Field Day, August 21 (and HARVEST)

Every year we have our annual field day on the third Saturday in August; this year that is about as late as it can get– the 21st. Hazel harvest will be in full swing at that point; there may be fewer nuts left on the bushes but there will be more in processing.

We've been a little slow in getting the reminders out for the field day this year, partly because we're trying to nail down a machine harvest demonstration for the field day, and would like to include that in our notices, and it will have a substantial effect on the schedule of the day. Other than that, the form will be quite similar to last year, so you can start your planning based on that in the meantime.

As always there is a lot more for me to say here, but I need to get our greenhouse worker trained in watering today so that I can be out in the field more for harvest. We'll be posting notices about farm work scheduling (for harvest, hawk roost raising, etc) in the near future– let us know if you want to be on the weekend worker list!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Harvesting- Chestnut Poles

That's what we're doing today- cutting some of our older chestnut trees; to use as poles for our "raptor" roosts. We hope to let them dry just a bit (with the help of the leaves) before we have to wrassle them into place. They are really important if you don't want the mice, bluejays, 13-liners, etc., to get all the hazelnuts.

This is a Great Horned Owl using one of our "hawk roosts". They'll start using them immediately - but you DO have to put them up. This pole is black locust, but our stand is getting thin. Chestnut is pretty much just as rot resistant.

We need quite a few new ones; these will be as dry as we can get them in a week or two. If you want to learn how to get a 30' tall tree up; think about coming and giving us a hand; we can use the help.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hazel Tubelings: Shipping, and Sold Out

The good news: we start shipping this week, at the beginning of the order/shipping/pick-up queue. We've got some hazels ready to go, and chestnuts not far behind. Keep in mind that this does not mean that we are ready to ship all of our outstanding orders; many of the plants for our currently outstanding orders will not be ready until July.

The less good news: we're sold out of hazel plants for the year. If your order has already been received and processed, there is a good chance that we will be able to fulfill even the most recent orders; however new orders and email orders not yet processed will most likely not be able to ship until next year.
We are particularly low on Large-select and Xtra Large-select material; I'm afraid that there's a good chance that some of the orders we've already taken for these classes of plants may not be filled this year. For those of you in this boat, you will have the option to convert your order to another class with higher availability, postpone it until next year, or take a refund.

We are essentially sold out of Chestnuts as well, but there may be a little wiggle-room for All-Purpose and Nut-type trees. Due to less stringent germination requirements, outstanding chestnut orders will likely all be ready to ship by late June/ early July.

Why are we sold out? Mostly, it boils down to: insufficient hazel harvest labor, extraordinarily bad weather for chestnut harvest, and the compounding effect those had on the timely processing of the hazel seed harvest.

This picture is of Philip harvesting chestnuts at 9 PM on October 10; we scrambled that day to get all we could in before the freeze that night. I was able to keep harvesting until about 2:30 AM, when the crop remaining had frozen; the greenhouse thermometer said it got down to 17.8° F that night. Harvest had already been slowed substantially by a poorly timed windstorm and wet weather; this very early freeze claimed more than 95% of the overall chestnut harvest. We did, nevertheless, manage to get enough in to cover the orders we've currently got in the database.

We don't like being sold out this early in the season, and we apologize– but that's the way it is. Orders can still be placed for next season, and this will effectively mark the beginning of the delivery queue for the 2011 planting season. This means: if you want plants for next May-June delivery, it might be a good idea to place those orders now. We do expect availability to be very substantially improved, as it has already been this year compared to last.

Regarding the timing of shipping, this year the hazel pipeline is a little slow, but the plants we'll be delivering are very strong and healthy. Badgersett is a sustainability-first business; heat and power in the greenhouses comes from the sun, and that's it. This means that nearly all stages of plant production, including post-harvest processing, stratification, germination and actual plant growth, depend on the weather. We do what we can to get plants ready as quickly as possible, but the bottom line is that the plants are ready when they are ready, and not before. We will only ship plants worthy of our guarantees, and often this means that they will ship later than your requested ship date.

It should also be kept in mind that we have a long queue of orders; currently we have some orders made in 2008 that are ready for completion of shipping this year. Orders made in January are likely to ship before mid-July, and possibly even in June. Most orders made in April of this year won't come to the head of the queue until our second flush of plants is ready in July.

This information has been available in a shorter, less specific form in our FAQ, which does state that you can contact us for your order status and get a fairly short turn-around. That is unfortunately not the case right now. We are more focussed on the quality of the tubelings than on responding to order inquiries right now. We're sorry that we have been slow in responding, but we are convinced that plants of the highest quality will make everybody much happier in the long run. We sincerely appreciate your patience!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Plant Shipping Status and Work this Weekend

We have not yet shipped any standard tubelings this season, and do not expect to do so for another week or so. We've had a lot of delays with this year's planting season, some of which can be traced to two deaths in the family last December, and Meg's January foot injury, which is still slowing her down. Most recently, we've had a couple of weeks of colder weather which slows down the finishing stage substantially.We do, however, have a lot of strong tubelings in the pipeline– the closest fully-leafed-out hazels in the finishing house shown above have been decapitated and are nearly ready to ship; we will get them to you as soon as we can. Remember, tubelings can be planted throughout the growing season! Most of our planting at Badgersett happens in June, July and August.

For those of you still placing orders for planting this year, I apologize that our order handling has been slowed down for the past couple of weeks. At this point it's possible that we are sold out of some classes of tubelings, and we will have a better idea of where we stand when we process some greenhouse inventory numbers within the next couple of days.

Farm work this weekend: final hazel coppice of the year, and chestnut field maintenance (mostly consisting of pruning & tree removal). Saturday only this weekend, starting at 10 AM. Bring gloves!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NEW! Greenhouse Office, and some status.

I'm writing this from the main greenhouse here at Badgersett– we had the DSL hooked up today. Now, we should be able to do more office-related work out here, rather than having to do all of it either at home or at the local elementary school. This should really help a lot, since this way I can be at "the office" and managing the new part-time greenhouse help more or less at the same time.

As I've said before, and will most likely say again– things are picking up, but we still have a long way to go. Today we should be getting to some of the order handling that has been postponed for the past couple of weeks.

The hazel and chestnut tubelings in the greenhouses look great; we've started decapitation and are hoping to get the first hazel tubeling orders of the season shipped within two weeks. Chestnuts are a little behind, but healthy and in the pipeline. Due largely to the October 10 freeze last fall (we were out gathering nuts until about 2:30 AM), we are short on Tree and All-Purpose type chestnuts, but have plenty of Nut type left. If you've got an order for Tree or AP, we may be contacting you about substitutions.

I'd better stop now, otherwise I'll start writing a book. But later on I'll try to tell you about the butternut and hazel transplanting we did last week, our increased work on hickory tubeling production (we might actually ship some this year...), the very wet weather we're having, and all the birds singing outside now (saw a yellow warbler this morning, and the bobolinks are back).

But instead, it's time for me to take care of a few orders and information requests. There are still hundreds in my inbox, and I'm sorry that we still won't get to most of them this month. But we're working on it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This is just something to keep in mind-

Lots of buzz on this factor recently, and it's increasing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

pocket gophers

As a result of short help and lousy luck with health over the past 3 years, our pocket gopher population on the farm has metastasized. Look below for an old blog post from 2004 for abundant details and photos about how serious pocket gophers are for hazels.

In the past we've relied on the specific gopher poison we sell, "Answer" (not set up on the web yet) - which is labeled for use on food crops, and works better than anything else we'd found, in terms of dollars/time/per gopher.

However- we now have animals of various kinds, and while secondary poisoning is supposed to be uncommon, we really really don't want to take the chance with a working dog we've spent hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours on. And we have 3 dogs now.

There's also a chance of secondary poisoning for our cats (5 - 3 barn cats for horse shelter and greenhouses), and our guinea fowl/chickens, which we are hoping to actually make some tangible money with this year, besides their non-monetary contributions of tick and general bug control. If a carcass gets pulled up on the surface, and attracts flies- there will be maggots- and the poultry will eat them.

All of this is low probability; but too high for me to like it.

So- we found another path, and it's been working quite well.

Amish boys. The township here pays a $2 bounty for gophers- which is quite sensible given our terrain and soil; the erosion they can start is very serious.

As additional incentive- we pay our 2 experienced gopher trappers an extra $1/gopher; a 50% bump in their pay, basically. The township takes the 2 front feet as proof; and we take the tail.

Our boys are brothers, 10 and 14, and we usually drive them to and from their home (about 3 miles away) 3-4 days a week.

We just finished the first two weeks- total gophers = 44

This time of year this are big old gophers from last year; many lactating females, so effectively we're getting the broods too.

And these 44 came out of our most sensitive places- where they were or were about to really hurt hazels.

If you've ever trapped gophers- that's a whale of a lot. The boys and their family were seriously pleased with the $44 bucks. We've got lots more gophers. And some happy helpers.


Old Blog Post by Phil Rutter, 9/27/04 at 9:01:26 AM.

Gophers Again-

Pocket gophers- Geomys bursarius in the East, Thomomys sp. in the west; turn out to be extremely serious pests. This time of year; early Fall, is when the young of the year leave their home burrows, and invade new territory. You MUST get them out; one way or another.side gopher:

This kind of gopher; pocket gophers, not the cute little stripy kind (which can eat tons of hazel NUTS if you leave your grass too long all summer and the population builds up...)

gopher pockets:

Here you see the teeth, that they cut roots with (their main food) and also use to dig with; their tremendous claws, and the deep cheek pockets that give them their name.

In 2001, the extent of the damage to young hazels by pocket gophers finally became crystal clear to us.

Hazels from 1-2 years old are too small to be very interesting to gophers; they may eat one or two, but damage will be minimal.

From 3-5 year old hazels however ARE big enough (the root systems), so that a pocket gopher may settle down and EAT. All the roots. All. Then go on to the next hazel in the line, and eat (ie. kill) that one. Then the next. This is a disaster.


Each of these sticks was a 3 year old hazel.... this is all the gopher left.

Once the hazels are a little older, their root systems are SO big that in most cases the gophers will get either full, or bored, and move on before doing lethal damage to the plant; most will survive. (There are some indications that genetics plays a role here, with native North American genes making the hazels less tasty to gophers, and European hazels getting worse damage levels. Maybe, we think.)

So - it's become critical to exclude pocket gophers from our young plantings - and yours, too.

Fall is an important time to GET them, for two big reasons:

1) They do NOT hibernate like some other rodents, and will cheerfully eat roots all winter; under frozen soil and snow where you can't get to them. 2) The juvenile gophers of the year spread out, in mid fall, and invade new areas. This is the only time you'll ever see a pocket gopher above ground; once a year, the young will get up on the surface and run like mad- maybe a mile; maybe two; then burrow in. Possibly this is a mechanism to prevent inbreeding in a mammal that otherwise moves very little from its home territory.

So, in fall, you'll see new gopher invasions, where you haven't had them before- and, these new sites are almost entirely young, DUMB gophers, which are very easily trapped.

6 gophers:

The good news is; gophers CAN actually be controlled; unlike mice, which you could trap and remove by the hundreds, without making a dent in their population, gophers breed slowly, and trapping can actually keep them effectively out. But it's work getting there. Best way to do it is not allow them to get established in the first place.

A whole treatise on gopher control will take more than this web log to cover- main point here is; if you have gophers, GET them OUT of your hazels, right now. One gopher can easily kill 20-40 hazel plants per year; and not newly planted ones, mind you, but 3-5 year old plants, just ready to start bearing those nuts- a 5 year old hazel is vastly more valuable than a 1 year old; all that work; all that time. Hard to put a dollar value on, but we'll guess it's somewhere around $40/plant, IF you could find a similar replacement, which you can't. So; one gopher, at 40 X $40 = $1,600.

Holy Cats! Really?? Yeah, if you're counting.

Get the gophers out. Most farm neighborhoods with gophers have bounties on them; and kids and sometimes adults who make money trapping them out. Find your local gopher control folks (call the county agent if nothing else occurs to you), and get them out of your hazels, right now; before the ground freezes.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Work this weekend, April 24-25

It's looking a bit like rain, but we've got plenty to do in the greenhouses as well (including cleanup and finishing hazel husking). We'll be available for work both Saturday starting at 10:30 AM and Sunday starting at 10. Chance of rain is slightly lower on Sunday, so that might be the best idea if you want to be out in the field.

Meet at the white van or greenhouse- if it's raining please don't drive any further than the white van (where the gravel on the driveway ends).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Propagation day, Sunday the 18th 9:30 AM

We'll be holding a farm work-in-training day this Sunday, April 17. Field cloning. We're attempting a serious push this year, towards the goal of transforming some acres of Badgersett Farm from research-oriented to production-oriented management. It's time.
Show up on the farm around 9:30 AM. After your first full day of farm work, you'll be earning credit towards plant purchases or up to 50% of short course or consulting fees. Plus, this is the most effective way to learn Woody Agriculture and NeoHybrid™ Hazel management from those who know it best. If you're seriously interested in learning, it just might be a good idea to follow the advice of Mario Batali. Do you want to learn how to grow hazels?

Short Course!

We held the Woody Ag Short Course last weekend, with 18 attendees. Philip ended up with some serious stomach trouble for the weekend, so I ended up doing all the lectures. A little more than I bargained for(!), but it seems to have worked out alright.We had two days of intense presentations, including a new introduction to the Badgersett NeoHybrid breeding program, and the hands-on nut quality workshop. Half of the attendees managed to stay to stretch their legs on the farm tour Monday, which included Philip's hands-on introduction to our proprietary in-field propagation method.
The audio and presentation timing for the course was recorded this time around, and we expect to have a "first cut" set of DVDs ready to send out at least within the next few months. We will send this to all previous attendees as well, since we've been promising to send the presentations ever since the first short course in 2006. Technology and personnel will make this a lot more straightforward this time around.
This was a really great group of people, with serious interest from a number of different angles. Thanks to everybody for showing up!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Badgersett hazel genetics- and the U of Nebraska-

It has come to our attention that at the recent hazel convention in La Crosse, a paper was presented stating that the "Arbor Day Lodge" hybrid hazel planting (100% of which is from Badgersett, though papers from the U of N routinely do not state that) - has only around 0.5% of the bushes that might have commercial potential.

Our response would be- "well, duh."

That's exactly what we would expect from those hazels.

But then- we know what that planting contains, genetically - in detail.

And neither the Arbor Day Foundation, nor the University of Nebraska does. They actually have no idea whatsoever, what those hazels ARE, genetically.


They never asked. How many of their researchers have ever visited Badgersett to investigate the source?


Yes, we do see that as a problem.

In fact, we DID tell the Arbor Day Foundation what kind of hazels we were planting there. Not in detail, because they didn't have anyone on board who was assigned to keep track of such information, at the time. We always assumed that anyone interested in those hazels - would ASK - and we'd be happy to tell them.

But- Arbor Day forgot- and the U of N- has never- ever- bothered to ask.

Basically- if I were going to spend a lot of time studying anything- I'd darn sure want to learn as much about the origins of what I was studying. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

we've been quiet-

Whenever we have a rather long quiet period here- where we don't make new blog posts, don't get phone calls answered, and don't get emails answered- it's 10 to 1 that the reason is someone's health.

In this case, it's Meg's. She's on crutches, and confined to the house; has been for over a week now. 3 trips to the doctor so far; more to come, mostly in Rochester (50 miles).

She's had a number of foot injuries in the past; it seems they're all ganging up on her now. About 10 days ago, the pain in her heel became really unbearable. She'd been ignoring it for a month or so. Called the nurse help line- the nurse said "90%- you've got a broken foot. Get in to urgent care, now."

X rays and scans later- she has torn fascia and ligaments- and a bone spur growing into it all. Surgery, most likely, but the doctors have to try everything else, first (insurance).

Thank goodness I've got Brandon here to help pick up the load; but it still means we're a lot more tired at the end of the day.

And- we may be entering a drought. Too much beautiful sunny weather; no real rain in sight. Which means "rainy-day" chores, like writing, get put off.

More before long.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

spare 2 minutes...

I've got about 2 minutes "spare" here, and ran into these photos; which I thought I'd stick up here. (Click for bigger versions- recommended)

This is what our "to eat" hazels look like these days; this is actually what we ship. The upper photo is of a loaded sorting tray, just as it is when we're doing the final sort, removing any weeviled or spoiled nuts we can find.

There's been a substantial change in the overall size and quality; as we include more of the 3rd cycle plants- which are now producing, but not tested enough to use for seed. A lot of them have outstanding nuts.

As you know, if you're harvesting your own, the smaller ones frequently have extremely thin shells; paper thin- or thinner. We do discard heavy shelled bushes in the breeding process.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Short Course Details Posted

Initial details for the April 10-11 Short Course have been posted on at the 2010 Woody Ag short course event page. We recommend arriving in the evening of Friday the 9th, since the classes start at 9 AM on Saturday. We aim to have it all wrapped up by 4 PM on Sunday. For those who are interested there will also be a Monday tour of the farm.

Please do check out the event page for details, but I'll put the current rough course outline here as well:

Day 1: Classes will start with Woody Agriculture theory and progress to details of establishment and planning, primarily focussing on hazels:

  • Woody Agriculture Introduction: Theory and Energetics: Why; and How
  • Basic Hazel Biology—plant morphology, physiology, genetics, species ecology
  • Chestnuts, Hickories, and Others
  • NEW! The Badgersett Hazel Breeding Program - Specifics on Cycles 1 through 4, with the math.
  • Establishment— site selection, planting, and weed control
  • NEW! Life Cycle Hazel Spacing— with effects on yield and long-term management

Day 2: The detail continues, with fertilization, pest management, marketing and sales:

  • Fertilizing— how to assess and optimize hazel fertility
  • Harvest and Post Harvest— ripeness assessment, state of the art hand harvest techniques and machine capability
  • Pest Management in Detail—mammals, birds, insects, plants and fungi
  • TENTATIVE Propagation, high and low tech—involving examination of actual plants in class, and including our proprietary on-farm cloning method.
  • TENTATIVE Coppice— important details of this field renovation practice
  • NEW! Nut Quality– faults, sorting, grading for sales
  • NEW! Marketing– Including specifics on creating markets for new products.
Note that the marketing talk is now tagged as "new" since I didn't find it as a separate talk on any of the previous short course syllabi.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March! and Short Course details soon.

Here at Badgersett we get started on spring a little early; hazels are already leafing out in the greenhouse, and if we're not careful it can get up over 90° in there quite often this time of year. Even so, the spring songs of cardinals (about three weeks ago) and chickadees (last week) are still a bit surprising to me every time. Here at the beginning of March, though, the signs of snow melt and harbingers of mud season are everywhere. The new puppies will be a little more difficult for a while, I'll bet.

The dogs, incidentally, are part of an overall plan to integrate animals on our farm, and more generally in Woody Agriculture systems– but that discussion will have to wait until later.

Today I'm working on some of the details for this year's Short Course. I'll put a note here and post it all on when it's done, but for now I can tell you:
  • Same pricing as 2008
  • Four definite presentations:
  1. Life Cycle hazel spacing (new/improved)
  2. Nut Quality– faults, sorting, grading for sales (NEW, with hands-on materials)
  3. Badgersett Hazel Breeding Program. Specifics on Cycles 1 through 4, with the math. (NEW, given by yours truly)
  4. Marketing (skipped in 2008, so now it's back)
  • Remaining presentations will be taken from those given previously; always updated with the newest information. If you as an attendee want a specific talk to be presented, let us know!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reply to Tom in Dubuque #2

6° below 0 F here last night, so I'm putting off going out to cut firewood until it warms up a bit; say to +10°, a nice work temperature if there's no wind.

You'll recall we were working on answering the query from Tom in Dubuque, and the first part,

"I've planted Badgersett and others' hazels for years. I've found that the Badgersett hazels produce nice nuts, but generally don't thrive as well. "

had resulted in Big Fat Post #1.

Now, I'm going to tackle the rest, before the blog wanders too far in other directions; hopefully it won't take as long as the first bit.

"I've also found that despite my best efforts the deer keep the hazels severely pruned. "

Though that's not posed as a question, it's definitely something we need to talk about.

Whitetail deer damage to Badersett hazels is usually minimal and inconsequential. Though not always, as Tom observes. I'm aware of a couple other situations where deer have been an actual problem and delayed the growth of the bushes and production of nuts.

Truly, however- those situations are far and away the exception, not the rule.

Deer can cause serious damage to a hazel planting immediately after planting and during establishment; but there are a number of specific things to do which can nearly eliminate all attention from deer.

1) When the plants are small, do NOT keep them perfectly weeded. We prefer to cultivate between rows- but not between plants in a row. The resulting strip of "weeds" dramatically distracts the deer. As remembered by one of our Short Course attendees, if the only thing available to eat in your field is young hazelnuts; the deer will eat them. But they'd really rather eat almost anything else.

2) If your hazels are very widely spaced, that will increase deer damage per plant, according to our tests. Deer have short memories; and hazels don't taste great. If they've just taken a mouthful of hazel, they're likely to pass up the next hazels they wander past, if they're very close. If the next hazel is 15 feet away (5m)- they will have "forgotten" the bad taste- and they'll take another mouthful. When the bushes are only 2-3 feet tall, that can add up to a lot of damage.

3) If your deer are a little short on minerals; they will eat more hazels. It's a very good idea to actually provide a mineral block (salt with minors; blocks designed for deer exist) for your deer; again, according to our research, deer with good mineral access will eat almost anything rather than hazels.

4) Heavy adjacent cover will increase deer damage. If your hazels are planted right next to a bit of forest- the deer are very likely to stop there on the edge, and browse a few hazels, while they check to make sure it's safe to come all the way out into the open.

A question for Tom- have you done analysis of the nutritional status of your leaves? I'd be very interested in seeing the data on exact minors content.

"My question: About eight years ago I purchased chestnuts from you. They all struggled for a year or two and then died. I've heard since that at least three feet of matting is needed around chestnuts if they are going be become established. Is this true? Thanks."

Well, that's very lousy luck; and, no, it's not true. My guess would be that if you're seeing serious deer damage on your hazels, it would be repeated deer browse, and possible rabbit browse (they go together) that killed your chestnuts. They can stand being hit once or twice, but not constantly. Unlike hazel- chestnut is considered favored deer browse material. Spacing is important, too. A single, clean cultivated chestnut out in a field by itself is about the same thing as putting down a dish of ice cream in a playground full of 1st graders. It won't last long.

These chestnut rows were all established with no matting whatsoever; planted directly after corn. They were machine cultivated to the sides twice in year one, and hand hoed once in year 2. Then mowed to the side for several years. That's it. And again- our experience is that the closer the spacing on the plants- the LESS damage you will see; even for chestnuts. Deer like variety- if a food is very common, they may start to look for something different.

The very short chestnuts in the row to the left were coppiced a year ago- we let the shoots grow back for multiple reasons; one of them being- to feed the deer. These were inferior plants that were crowding a chestnut tree or two which we wanted to follow more closely; but rather than killing them, we let them grow back from coppice, for several reasons. One is firewood, or "biomass" fuel research; another is to find chestnuts that naturally grow good straight poles from coppice. Do you know what a good chestnut pole is worth to an organic grape grower?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Badgersett will buy your nuts. This year.

It just dawned on me that this is really major news; and should go here as a full post; so more people see it.

"Eric the Red", in KC, commented on the last post; and I answered: 

"My thoughts on cooperative were on the lines of furthering breeding lines in a different locale for the very reason you mention - lack of a solid hazelnut market in the Midwest. I know that other organizations do this and have germplasm agreements and such. Is this something that Badgersett does or would consider?

Philip Rutter: Is cooperating etc. something BRC would consider? Absolutely- it's even something in our Business Plan. We've done a little- and now have a much better idea how to go about it.

So- yes. In fact, we're going farther than that; starting this year, Badgersett will buy your harvested nuts.

So- you now have a guaranteed market.

It's going to be wild pain figuring out how to price everything- obviously we'll have to vary prices with crop quality (weevils, blanks, etc..) - and distance-

But still. We'll buy what you have (ANYBODY out there with our hazels) - which will really help give us a pool of nuts to work with; on processing, and marketing.

A good part of the reason we can do this this year - we've had another substantial infusion of investment cash; gives us more latitude to work.

But don't count on getting rich at it! :-)