Spring work progress

Well, it got to 28F last night and we ran the wind machines. I don’t know if they do any good but the theory sounds plausible. In the spring when we have clear nights the earth acts as a radiator and objects  (blossoms, grass, windshields) radiate their heat energy away to space. So the blossoms become colder than the surrounding air and then the air temp drops too. We hope that if we run wind machines we can mix the cold ground level air with warmer air from up above. This will cause the air around the wind machine to rise and the colder more dense air will flow in to be mixed and warmed too. Any air flow will be warmer than the blossoms themselves so we can keep the blossoms from getting too cold. The wind machines won’t have any effect if there is any wind at all, so a very cold windy night is bad but rare. If there is cloud cover the heat won’t radiate away and temps won’t fall too low.

The wind machines were made from used school buses. We copied the idea from a more imaginative neighbor and originally we used chevy pickup motors and frames but they run too hot and vibrate too much for this application where they are running almost full throttle and can only hold 3000 rpm.  When you walk up to one in the dark the exhaust pipes are glowing red. (Fuel prices cause a great deal of nervousness about when to start them). Now the diesel bus motors run at lower rpm and don’t work as hard to spin the fan. I will try to build 4-6 more this winter if I can find some school buses cheap.

Patty put up a picture of a bee swarm. We have used the same bee man (DeKorne family) for 29 years. When the bees kept declining faster than they could reproduce in Michigan’ winters, Dan Dekorne  moved his wife and 5 young kids to Florida where the bees reproduce much faster and stay ahead of the mites that attack them. In the spring, Dan keeps in touch with Jim and usually the bees arrive from Florida the night before apricots and sweets start to open.

honeybees in apricot orchard

The hives from Florida are so full of bees that they occasionally swarm.  When there are too many in the hive (by their own estimation) a new queen is hatched and she leaves with many of the bees. I asked Dan if he could get the swarm to go to an empty hive box. He said that they usually have scouted their new home in advance and only sometimes is it successful to get them into a box. Bees are so fascinating. When they are here, they are all business and the only stings occur when we inadvertently step on one in the yard or pinch one somehow.

grafting northern spy trees

The big thing here this spring is the tree planting. We are planting 2500 Honeycrisp trees, 1800 McIntosh, and 400 Cortland.  We couldn’t get Northern Spies because I would have to order them 18 months ahead, so I ordered 200 dwarfing roots and grafted cuttings from our own Spy trees to the dwarfing roots. I am hoping for a 75% survival but it was the first time we tried this. Trees from the nursery are grafted in the summer and then grown the following year, so they are larger and they are graded.  I only buy larger ones. Also, new varieties are covered by patents so you can’t propagate your own. I am not concerned about marketing the Spys because they are not grown too much anymore, but Honeycrisp are being planted like crazy.

honeycrisp orchard

We are in the exact right climate to do the best job with Honeycrisp, so we are going ahead, hoping to distinguish our Honeycrisp apples as superior to those grown in other areas. Our cooler nights and cooler overall high temps suit some apples better. Preliminary research by MSU researchers in lower Michigan show a much higher incidence of the dreaded bitter pit in Honeycrisp grown in Southern Michigan when compared to Northern Michigan. I expect that apple prices will decline somewhat after several good years bring increased plantings. We can bring an orchard into bearing in the 2nd and 3rd year on high density trellised plantings.  This year we are planting the apples 3 1/2 ft apart in rows 14 ft wide(about 890 trees per acre).  McIntosh also like the cooler temps and we get firmer apples with better red color. The newer strains of Macs have more color earlier which takes away a little of our advantage.

We are going to increase our vegetable plantings this year (right into the do it yourself movement). We took out 15 acres of old trees down at the Creswell road site so we will use it for vegetables for a few years to get it going again for fruit.

That’s all for now. John

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