Gnarly Pippins Workshops // Waking Spring Update

Ahoy there apple folks! We’re in that time of winter –the late time, when the veil of cold is thinning and we are approaching a breakthrough to longer days and warmer air. During these last [many] weeks of turbulent weather, back and forth between frigid nights and mornings to steamy sultry spring days when we gradually realize that long johns were a bad choice (a shocking discovery after working outside in Jan & Feb).

Big updates for this month — two workshops are coming up:

  1. MARCh 24th 2017 – Apple Grafting Workshop – UMass Gardenshare has helped organize a workshop to serve the 5-college area and spread the skill of grafting to all interested! This will be a 2 hour afternoon workshop where we will talk about the principles of grafting, followed by a hands-on topworking lesson. More Information Here!
  1. APRIL 8th 2017 – Fruit Tree Propagation Practicum – NOFA Massachusetts has sponsored a workshop at Small Ones Farm in Amherst MA, that I will be teaching with the farm’s owner, Bob Fitz. We’ll be going through the basics of fruit tree propagation, as well as guiding all attendants through hands-on exercises on how to graft and propagate their own fruit trees. Each student will go home with their own tree that they grafted (wow!) and will have a detailed look at topwork grafting.  Sign Up Here!

This is my favorite time of year, when we can celebrate not only the return of vegetation to the planet, and the rising of sap, but also the inception of new fruit trees into our landscape, increasing the land’s edibility and driving people to connect with the land better.

With all the pruning done, here is a little snapshot of some of my favorite moments from this year’s trimming season:

Pretzeltraining.jpg
Pretzel training is a process of making a curly-Q out of water sprouts on a tree to make to de-vigorate them, and make their angle more downward, to prompt the production of flower buds. It’s a very meditative process. In the cold season the shoots are brittle. You have to assimilate the tree’s body with yours, and treat it gently to make it bend the way you want without breaking it unduly.

To be frank, this is by and large the single most stressful time of the year for us working in orchards in the Northeast. We have experienced amazing highs and amazing lows: strings of days reaching highs of 67F, followed in short succession by nights in the single digits. Some damage has been done and we haven’t weathered the storm yet. Since the buds are so far along, but we are still facing lows well below what is considered to be frost, we can’t effectively use smudge pots or orchard heaters to make a difference in the circulation of air. We’re dealing with a deep freeze, so all we can do is hope!!

On the other hand, we are going to see a big rebound in the bloom and bearing of wild apples this year, up from a pretty sparse year in 2016. Orchards face some tough days in the next 6 weeks, but apple foragers in this region will have some real good pickins, unscathed by late cold spells.

One thing is for certain, it ain’t easy growin out here in wild woolly New England, that’s why our pippins are gnarly!

As always, here is a purchase link for the Wild Apple Forager’s Guide, for any of you still in need who plan to get out there in 2017 for some wild apples:
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