Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Close Call

My youngest boy Lee purchased a house back during the summer. It was in a mature woodlot. Since then there has been 4 trees that have fallen. Two smaller trees were destroyed in the process. This latest downed tree, shown in these two pictures, was actually touching the house. The other 3 were not that surprising. They were decayed, leaning, and recently exposed to wind throw. The only problem with this pine was recent exposure and perhaps a restricted root zone. (I still haven't decided if there was an old road or just a terrace on the back side of this tree.) It was a severe wind that brought it down. In nearby towns, the power was knocked out to thousands of people. Hope this is the last one for awhile. There are only two or three real threats to the house and they look in fairly good shape. There is a white oak that could cause problems. It has a natural lean and would create a glancing blow to the house if it went that way.

Big Tree

I took this picture about 3 years ago. This post oak is the biggest tree I have ever cut. For comparison, the bar on the Stilh chain saw is 18 inches long. I don't remember the exact diameter but I think it was in the high 40's. I had only learned how to cut a tree larger than twice the bar lenght a few weeks earlier. This tree was 134 years old at least. The center decay prevented an exact age. In the course of cutting and splitting it, I found two bullets, two nails and two eyehooks. There were also two seperate colonies of carpenter ants.

High Tunnel from Local wood

My post have been rare this fall because of my work schedule. Here is the latest project I have been working on at the Elma C Lomax incubator farm. This is a high tunnel about 96 long by 30 wide. A high tunnel is similar to a greenhouse but without a heating system. You can't grow warm season crops all winter but it extends the season early and late. (I also have a high tunnel at my house. I picked greenbeans for my own use until December 1.) I did a lot of the construction on this tunnel but haven't done much with the crops. The farmers I am working with have it almost fully planted by mid December. We chose oak boards since they are locally available. I suspect they are a more environmentally sound choice. They are cheaper anyway. Construction started on this tunnel at Elma C Lomax farm incubator in September and the ends were enclosed in December. The sides have a salvaged automatic pulley system that was salvaged from a poultry house.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A little insect humor

Hope you enjoy this recent email conversation between me and some of our entomologists.

David Goforth
Client reports her son finding a white grasshopper. I don’t guess I have ever seen a white grasshopper but maybe I haven’t been looking. Maybe when they first molt they are white and I have never been there at the right time. Do you think a white grasshopper is rare and do you have any desire to own it? Thanks.

Specialist #1
I think you guessed right about the new molt. Next time you find a grasshopper nymph, keep your eyes on it and follow it around day and night for a week or two until it molts.

Specialist #2
That sounds about right. This is how references to white elephants got started -- you have to be there when it molts to see it, but who wants to follow an elephant around for weeks or months waiting for that to happen? All that time and expense. Been there, dung that.
David Goforth
Thanks. I have never even seen pictures of a cast elephant skin. They must not last long in nature.

Specialist #2
Didn't you ever wonder where suede came from?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Some friends I met on the yellow brick road

The good witch, Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Lion, tinman and me at the 2009 Cabarrus County fair. See related post below.

Wicked Witch

The 2009 Cabarrus County Master Gardener fair booth motif was the Wizard of Oz. The carniverous plants shouldn't have went with the wicked witch but the washtub fit the motif so perfect that we did it anyway.

County Fair Booth 2009

Cabarrus County Master Gardeners booth theme for 2009 was The Wizard of Oz. The good witch planted useful plants including vegetables while the curse of the bad witch was invasive plants, disease and insects.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Acorn Squash

Last year I grew acorn squash from some seed I picked up at Lowe's. They had an okay taste (not a great taste) and I sold them with no problem. Acorn squash isn't an easy crop for this area, but since they sold so readily I thought I would try it again. I went to the catalogs, bought one the writer claimed had the best taste. These are great tasting acorn squash. Best I have ever eat. Which is good because it looks like I am going to have to eat them all. I have drop the price to 2/3rd of last year's price and still haven't sold them. There is no way to know for sure but I suspect the problem is that they are not green. Last year the acorn squash were green. This year they are not. These are a lot prettier but they are not green. The seed catalog writer suggested that people would enjoy them on the table as decoration for a few weeks and then cook them. I didn't realize he was talking about the growers.

Links for Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden Talk.

Here are all my posted newsarticles. http://www4.ncsu.edu/~djgofort/. In specific fruit varieties are covered here http://www4.ncsu.edu/~djgofort/Fruit23.htm. Here is a link to Vegetable Gardening Guide http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/pdf/ag-06.pdf. More info on vegtables and fruit.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Irrigation system

I rigged an irrigation system using a sump pump that I had, along with a generator I had on hand. I drilled a bunch of small holes in a salvaged plastic barrel for a pre filter, then dropped the sump pump and the barrel in the creek. I used a nylon rope to keep the sump pump turned on. I hooked the pump to a garden hose to the drip irrigation filter then to the spagetti tube. The spagetti tube is normally inside the drip tube but I pulled it out for the picture. I had 5 rows of drip tape about 150 feet long on this system. In the early season there wasn't a need for the irrigation but when it got dry, the system should have run 4 or 6 hours each day. I didn't manage to run it enough but what I did was certainly worthwhile. I realize sump pumps are not designed for irrigation. There was less than 10 feet of head and the drip system is designed for 10 lbs of pressure but will work on slightly less. Any more head or any more drip lines and the system probably wouldn't have worked. I also realize there was a lot of wear and tear on the generator. (I intend to replace the generator anyway. It doesn't have a plug in to run my 220 volt well. ) However, I got a lot of value for the actual money I spent.

Harvest status

The rain isn't doing my peaches any good. Some parts of the county have had at least 9 inches of rain this week and I suspect many parts had more. Not sure what we had at the house but suspect it was closer to 6 inches over about 4 events. That was enough to keep the humidity high. I have China Pearl and Biscoe peaches ripe now. By next week the Sweet Sue should be ripe and that will be the end of the peaches. I have picked blueberries 4 good times. I am getting a lot of bird damage to the blueberries and suspect I have picked more than I have left. I picked Acorn Squash yesterday but haven't had a chance to cook any yet. Basically, the only commercial crops I have left besides peaches are eggplant, acorn squash, butternut squash, okra and ornamental gourds. None of those crops are going to amount to very much. I am looking forward to finishing up. I will plant some collards and turnips for myself and maybe some greenbeans.

tomato harvest

This is the second year in a row that my best tomatoes came the second week of July. These were big beef tomatoes planted in a high tunnel on March 15. These 12 tomatoes fill up a berry box designed to hold 8 quarts of berries. The quarter doesn't do a real good job of letting you know how big they are. I should have used something else to measure with. You can take my word that these are nice tomatoes. You will have to take my word that they have a taste to match.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Native Lily

This native lily was given to me by elderly lady from Concord named Clara (or perhaps Claris) who claimed here husband originally collected it from Montgomery County. In my last conversation with her, I had to inform her that the voles ate the bulb of the original and I had lost the lily, which really upset her. However, one of the little bubils came up near by. Then I accidently pulled that one up while weeding. But finally another bubil came up. Now I have it growing in 4 different spots. If Clara was around to see it, I think she would be pleased.

Picture of my cooler

After picking last Friday and ready to load on Saturday morning.

Butter From the Lingle Spring

Out of curiosity, I decided to make butter from milk stored in spring branch. So I placed some milk from the afternoon milking in the spring branch. The next day I pulled it out around 11. It was still good quality sweet milk so I decided it needed to clabber a little more. I left it at room temperature until that night. The milk still hadn’t soured but I shook the milk until the butter separated. I used the butter on my oatmeal the next day. The remaining milk was put in the refrigerator and I used it on some cereal later in the week. Growing up, I never liked the taste of buttermilk. In fact, I only remember trying it once or twice and that was enough. When I learned that before refrigeration butter milk was the only way people drank milk, I thought that was rather poor doings. But if my experience is typical, the people with a good spring branch made out okay.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Crop update

Blackberries are going to be scarce for me this year. The blackberry patches I have been picking are playing out. Peaches are about 2 weeks out. Some are getting good color now. I am picking squash, cucumbers and beans. I am at the first of my eggplants. Some of my beans drowned due to the excessive rain. Just guessing, the specialty melons are about 4 weeks out. There is one watermelon variety that may be ready in 3 weeks . This is a picture from one end of the melon patch. I am trying 3 new melons this year. On the far left of this picutre, there are butternut squash. I have played with butternut in the past with out a lot of success but they are suppose to be easier than the acorn squash I had success with last year. This year I have changed varieties on acorn squash to one that is more decorative.

Shed Antlers

I found this set of shed antlers while picking blackberries yesterday. They were within 100 feet of where I hunted once this past season. In fact I have hunted that set of woods off and on for several years. The sheds were within 400 feet of the place I killed the 8 pointer that I figured was making all the tracks this past year. The drop tine is slightly more than 4 inches. First time I have ever found two sheds together. First time I have found a drop tine shed. And previously I have only found one shed that was even close to this in size. All in all, it made up for the fact that I didn’t get many berries.

Monday, June 15, 2009

White Cucumbers

These heirloom cucumbers where from seed saved by Clyde Faggart over the years. I have been saving these for about 6 years. My grandmother grew some that were very similar genetics and I think the ones offered by Johnny's Select Seeds are the same. These are not the same as the White Wonder sold in local stores. The simplest way to tell the difference is that these have black spines and the white wonder doesn't. Compared to regular cucumbers, these have a thinner skin and seldom have bitterness. They will have a slightly larger seed cavity than the newer hybrids but that isn't a problem particularly when picking them small. I use them fresh as snacks and also in salads. I also make Bread and Butter pickles with them. My uncle will freeze cucumbers but I just try to get a bait of them during the season and eat pickles the rest of the year.

Spring Box at Lingle Spring

Finally got the spring cleaned out enough to see the spring box. The right hand board is made out of oak while the other two are made out of poplar. The aze marks are still visible on the bottom board. Suprizingly it is still white colored after all these years. When poplar is exposed to air, it will typically turn brown in less than 5 years. I measured the temperature and it read 64 degrees. Not refrigerator cold but refreshing on an 85 degree day. There is evidently a board missing on the end. It won't hold the water as deep as it needs to. I am going to add a couple of boards and see how it works.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A dry year will scare you but a wet year will starve you

My peach crop is looking great this year. It is a small crop because of the cold 14 degree weather right after the snow and 3 frost events. The up side of that is there was almost no thinning. I did spend about 3 hours at it but that is a small amount of time compare to what could have been. It has also been difficult keeping things sprayed. I have increased my spray frequency. Once I spray later this week, I will have two extra sprays above what I consider normal. Right now I am planning to have my peaches at the Harrisburg, Winecoff (Saturday), Hospital, Midland, Concord and Research Campus Market.
I picked a cherry tomato on May 31 this year. First time I have every ripened a garden tomato in May. It lacked a day or so from fully getting ripe but that would have put it in June so I went ahead and picked it and cooked it in an omelet. This weekend I will have a good supply of squash but will basically be out of the broccoli business for another year.
I have lost most of the plums due to the various frosts and lost most of the cherries due to the excessive rains.

Lingle Spring

As I continued to clean out the spring, I have found a trough set in the spring branch that is about 4 inches high and about 10 to 12 inches wide. The bricks in the picture are the top layer. I have felt down to 8 layers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Digging out the old spring

I finally got a chance to dig around the area I thought was the main spring on Laurence Lingle’s Property (See post titled German Dovetailing). Earlier I had dug out another place I thought might have been used as a water source for a sawmill that had operated on the property probably in the 1950’s. Sawmills back then used water for the horses and the boiler. When I finished digging that hole out, I still wasn’t sure whether it had been used as a water source or not. I was disappointed about not knowing for sure and I guess that is what kept me from digging out this other place any sooner. When I purchased the property, the only thing visible was one rock. I hoped it was the top of the spring. I wasn’t disappointed. When I got down 3 courses of rocks, the rest of the spring had bricks around it. So far I have gone down 8 layers of bricks and I am not sure I have got to the bottom yet. The bricks look newer than the ones used in the house. They look the same as the bricks around the surface of the well. My guess on the age of the well is early 1800's. If that is true, then the spring was redone after the well was already in use. That would make sense if the spring was more reliable than the well.
(I have attached a picture of the handmade brick with the dog print that was used when the house was remodeled after 1850. The other picture is the well which has newer bricks on top. )

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Adventitious bud foliage on a mature Virginia pine.

This is a rare example of a pine that has foliage from an adventitious bud that has persisted as the tree has continued to grow. I am not sure the cause of this phenomena. I was unable to propagate this. I thought at the time that is would stay in a bushy form if propagated but now I believe it could eventually revert back to normal growth. This plant lived behind Weddington School but the first time volunteers encountered this tree they whacked it down. Viruses can cause adventitious buds to sprout. I also see adventitious buds on pines that have been girdled by animals or equipment. I really don't know what happened here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Potential State Record Sumac

I first noticed this tree two years ago and even considered cutting it down to improve my shooting lane. (I have killed four bucks within 50 yards of this tree.) There were never any leaves on it and I just assumed it was a large alder like the other trees in the area. Then one day I was sitting in a nearby tree and a flock of bluebirds stopped to feed. There were 5 male bluebirds in this tree at one time with others nearby. That is when I finally realized this was one whopper of a sumac (Rhus copallina). Anyway, the county forest ranger in Rowan County came by one day and I got him to measure it. The current record is actually 6 feet taller, but this one has such a large circumference that I think it could become the record. (That is County Forest Ranger David Poole on the right.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Maple Syrup

This is the third year I have tapped the Southern Sugar Maple and by far my most productive. The main thing is tapping it earlier in the year. This year I tapped them on January 3 and sap was running even then. I may need to tap them around Christmas. There are several locations of Southern Sugar Maple in Cabarrus County. 20 years ago, I noticed a large population in Southern Mecklenburg County. Trees need to be about 10 inches in diameter. Last year I tapped a couple of smaller ones that were going to be cut anyway. They gave very little sap and it was at odd times compared to the larger trees. The injury is the same actual size which means it is a large relative size. The literature says to tap at least 3 inches over and 5 inches up or down. From the picture you can see that I didn’t spend a lot of money on the set up. The 2 liter drink bottles were salvaged. 3 liter bottles would be better. Last year I had 3 liter bottle and it only overflowed once. The irrigation hose was salvaged. I had the nails and string on hand. I suggest a square knot or two half hitch knot around the neck of the bottle and an overhand knot at the top of the string so the bottle can be removed to pour out the sap. One bad thing about this set up is that the nail will be held tight by the end of the sap flow. Future generations will probably curse me because of it. At least I can use the same nail for at least three years. If I had cut the irrigation pipe a little longer, the pipe could go anywhere on the tree while the bottle still hangs on the same nail. In colder climates, people have to worry about the sap freezing but here in the sunny south that isn’t as much of a problem. Sometimes I do get a little ice. I think the pure water freezes first, so little chunks of ice can be discarded without losing much other than water. I cook down the sap on a camp stove and finish it up inside. I am getting abut a 40 to 1 ratio of sap to syrup. The other two years, the amount of syrup I get per tap has been less than what growers in Maine and Canada report but this year I am at about 10 ounces per tap and still counting. You can look at the maple syrup in the store and get an idea of how far to cook it. You don’t cook it down to the consistency of corn syrup. Compared to the USDA grade A amber maple syrup in the store, I have cooked down one batch that is lighter this year. Most of the syrup is a little darker which is considered a lower quality although I can’t really tell the difference in taste. Even at grocery store prices, tapping and boiling syrup isn’t real profitable but it is fun.

German Dovetailing

Lorentz Lingle received a tract of land north of my property from the Earl of Granville. Part of that property was donated for the church now known as Lower Stone Church. His son Frances received land adjacent to his father, including the land where this cabin sits, from Rowan County. A good guess would be that he got this property for service during the Revolutionary War. Frances married Marie Eve and their first four sons Joseph, Paul, John, and Daniel probably left for Illinois. This is based on the fact that Frances left them a dollar each in his will while Jacob and Laurence both got land. Frances also had 3 girls, Elizabeth who married a Moose and Catherine and Marie Eve. On March 30, 1825, Laurence bought the site where this cabin sits from his father Frances. By the 1830 census it looks like Frances had moved in with Laurence probably due to age. My guess is that Laurence built the cabin around 1825. I felt lucky to be able to pinpoint the property but it was described as on Second Creek and near the county line. Both are within 200 feet of the cabin. The county line is close enough that in 1850 Laurence was listed in both the Rowan and Cabarrus County census. Laurence had at least 4 kids, John, Anna, Louisa and Elizabeth. The cabin was 16 by 20 feet. The house is shown on a 1903 map as belonging to a J. A. M. Miller. In searching the land transfer records, I found no record of Laurence selling the property. I did find a record of J.A.M. Miller selling a portion of the land across the road from my property. I haven’t had much time to look beyond that. The cabin was extensively remodeled. Based on the style it was probably remodeled between 1860 and 1900. Additions were built to the east, to the north and a second floor was added over the cabin. Bricks were hand made on site for the chimney on the eastern addition. I found a huge dog print in one of the bricks. (A friend remarked that "everybody" got involved in that brick making.) The resulting house was abandoned before electricity was run in the area and the second story had collapsed by the time I purchased the property. So far, I haven’t found definite records of any of Laurence’s children. There was a Louisa about the right age that married a Bloom in Illinois about that time but no way to definitely connect the two. I need to search the marriage records looking for Anna or Elizabeth and see if one of them married a Miller. There were Miller families living within walking distance at the time. If Laurence did build this cabin, it would be at least third generation construction. (I found a difference of opinion on whether Lorentz Lingle was born in Germany or Pennsylvania.) One interesting thing is that all the original cabin logs are oak. I think it was more typical to use 2 or 3 runs of oak and then switch to pine. The remodeling cut 7 holes in the cabin for windows and doors. As a result, there isn’t much to save. And I don’t have much money to spend on it. I have had at least 4 people take a look at it and the best advice I have gotten is that taking pictures, sweeping it out and cleaning up around it won’t hurt.