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.