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Easy Way To Start A Grove Of Trees (with Black Walnut Jam Cake Recipe)

 

Public Domain

 
From Our Archives – December 2007
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

I spent an hour in late November planting two acres of bottom land to trees. If that sounds like a prodigious task to accomplish in such a short time, not to worry. All I had to do was walk back and forth across the plot, dropping black walnuts on the ground in rows about 25 feet apart. I dropped one about every two feet— too thick really but to take into account the possibility that some won’t germinate and that squirrels might eat a few. I had gathered the nuts, still in their husks, from under a mature tree along our creek. When finished, I drove my tractor’s tires over the walnuts to squish them into the soft ground a little so that they would have good contact with the soil. That was all the planting necessary. Next spring, the walnuts will swell and crack open and a root sprout will burrow into the soil so quickly you can almost see it in motion. I admire people who are busting their guts and their backs transplanting thousands of little seedling trees to renew woodland, backyard plantings or urban forests, but it is so much easier to just plant the seeds, and invariably they will surpass the transplants in growth.

In nature, all seeds, including weed seeds, grass seed, etc. fall on the surface of the earth in winter and sprout when weather conditions are right. In the grove of trees our house sits, thousands of maple seedlings that have fallen on the forest floor come up every spring without any help from anybody. Along our creek, black walnut and ash seedlings sprout and grow like weeds from a few old mother trees, also without any help. All oaks, hickories and just about any tree will do the same in their proper climate. Squirrels do bury acorns and nuts, but trees don’t need squirrels to increase and multiply.

In a natural situation, where seed-producing trees are present, seedlings grow thick enough that they will self-prune and prune each other into a stand of nice, clear trunks. Without human labor, they shade out smaller seedlings, their own and each other’s lower limbs and eventually competing weeds and bushes. All that pruning advice that forestry handbooks wax so earnestly about will only gain you about three years, hardly worth the labor for trees that need 50 years to grow to marketable maturity.

The Great Organic Potato Race (With Johnny Carson Potato Chip Video)

 

potatogiant

GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
From Our Archives Sept 2007

[What happened when a band of merry seminarians full of modern science, took on a traditional old farmer in a contest to decide whether potatoes grown organically would yield better than those grown chemically. An excerpt from the novel, The Lords of Folly, by Gene Logsdon.]

In a rural area where even a car passing on a country road was a Social Event, the Great Potato Race had taken on the trappings of festival: a cross between a county fair and a prayer meeting. Various interested parties began to descend upon Oblate Gabe’s and farmer Hasse’s two potato patches. Horticulturists and agronomists led discussions in the use of sulfur in potato culture and on the increasing immunity of potato bugs to insecticides. Young farmers argued about whether the oblates’ close plantings producing a greater number of smaller potatoes would out-yield Hasse’s wider plantings producing fewer but larger potatoes. Old farmers wondered if it made any difference whether big or small potatoes were used for seed. Harriet Snod’s Garden Club discussed whether Pisces, Scorpio or Capricorn was the better sign to plant under… Oblate Blaze arranged a special ceremony that involved the Prior walking up and down the rows of the Josephian’s potatoes sprinkling holy water, being careful not to do so in his usual ample manner, lest some of the precious liquid fall accidentally on Hasse’s potatoes too…

In case holy water was not enough, Gabe turned to irrigation during a summer dry spell. He showed farmers and agronomists how he could easily irrigate his potatoes by damming up the laterals of his drainage system so that the ever-flowing spring water from the swamps filled the ditches to the desired level, allowing the water to run out into the potato patch.

The Adventures of Uno the Chick

 

unoFrom Our Archives
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

The odds were against Uno ever coming into existence. With the cost of chicks from hatcheries getting higher, we decided to try to get one of our hens to hatch the few chicks we needed every year to replenish our little flock. But the commercial breeds of chickens we were raising have had the hatching instinct all but bred out of them. Egg factories do not want hens that quit laying every year to hatch out a clutch of eggs as nature intended hens to do. So we started experimenting with old fashioned breeds that still carry the mothering instinct. We tried Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and finally Buff Orphingtons but not with much luck. A hen might start to set on eggs, but grow disinterested before the 21-day hatching period was up. Or if I separated a setting hen and eggs away from the other hens to keep them from bothering her, she would get antsy for company and not stay on the nest.

But this Spring, Buffy, one of our Buff Orphingtons, finally got serious about hatching some eggs. She took over one of the three nests in the coop and would not budge off the eggs in it. Other hens squeezed in beside her and laid more eggs and Buffy appropriated them too. I thought about marking the first dozen eggs and taking out the rest, but I didn’t want to bother her and since we had more eggs than we needed anyway, I just let nature take her course, hit or miss. Eventually Buffy got so cross that the other hens went to the other nests to lay their eggs. By then there were 18 eggs under Buffy, laid over a period of a week or so. Obviously, not all of them were going to hatch at the same time if they hatched at all. How would Buffy handle that?

In the prescribed time, one of the eggs hatched. I knew when I discovered Buffy down on the floor of the coop guarding that one tiny chick from the other hens. How the chick got to the floor, three feet from the nest, I don’t know. The other eggs were in various stages of development, but Buffy was totally taken up with her one chick and no longer interested in them. Out of 18 eggs, one chick. So I named it Uno. Turned out it was a she.