The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

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With apples producing on an every other year cycle this year will have a lot of apple processing!

With apples producing on an every other year cycle this year will have a lot of apple processing!

While I write this article, I’m sitting outside in the sun between our house and the garden looking at the incredible beauty surrounding me.  Mid-October and we still haven’t had a killing frost in the garden, though there was a light one in the pasture two nights ago.  The tomatoes are dead, as we were hit by late blight.  The cucumbers and squashes, both summer and winter are spent and ready for the compost pile, but everything else is still green and vibrant.   Especially the cover crops planted in August.

I’ve been busy preserving the harvest: canning, freezing, fermenting, dehydrating and storing in our root cellar.  Actually the root cellar is an old refrigerator we use until we redesign and build a new cold storage space.  Our previous one became nonfunctional after an addition to the house raised the basement temperature.  I’m looking into coolbot technology  (A gizmo that allows an air conditioner to cool a space down into the 30’s).  Maybe that will be my winter project. 

1) Young cover crop planted on 18” space at end of onion bed

It’s been a great growing year, so far, and we’ve had an abundant harvest of delicious vegetables. The apple and pear trees are loaded with fruit soon to be enjoyed. Every year our soil becomes richer and healthier, yielding more nutritious and delicious food while removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering carbon in our soil. This is a continuous cycle of life creating and sustaining life.

I’ve been preparing a presentation about this biological growing technique (No-till and Cover Crops for us gardeners) for both a NOFA/Mass webinar and a workshop at the Summer Conference. If you are interested and missed these talks, you can view the YouTube video of the whole talk.

(C) Matt Kaminsky 2016

On April 8 in Amherst, Matt Kaminsky, the author of The Wild Apple Forager’s Guide, will be teaching the workshop Fruit Tree Propagation Practicum: Grafting and Top Working along with Bob Fitz, lead orchardist of Small Ones Farm.

Malus domestica, the Latin nomenclature for the common apple, truly is an aptly-named species. From its early colonial days as the primary ingredient in hard cider, the drink of choice for most early New Englanders, to its current place as a centerpiece in autumn’s culinary delights, Malus domestica tells the story of our endless quest for sugar, intoxication, and control. No other fruit has been as shaped by the needs of the people it cohabited with.

New orchard fence with electric rope; note cylinder on tree trunk

Pru and I were thrilled to host a very well-attended NOFA/Mass workshop on fruit here at our homestead, Wild Browse, last weekend. We were floored by the unexpected number of folks, traveling from far and wide, across the state and beyond (Haverhill, Plymouth, Arlington to West Stockbridge, Conn. and points in between) who found their way here to Wendell. Thank you all for attending. We hope that you enjoyed the day as much as we did and that your effort was rewarded.

Little friend enjoying black raspberries

A few months back, Pru and I were asked if we’d lead a NOFA workshop on the topic of homestead fruit. We’re looking forward to hosting a group of curious learners at our homestead in Wendell for an Orchard Planning and Maintenance workshop on June 12. We’ll demonstrate overall orchard planning, building diversity into plantings, breed selection, practical fruit growing techniques, and soil and plant health.

Growing excellent tomatoes requires understanding your plants’ unique needs throughout each stage of its life, according to veteran farmer Amy LeBlanc, owner and operator of Whitehill Farm in East Wilton, Maine. During the summer, she and her husband grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and culinary herbs. They also participate in farmers’ markets and sell products online.

This workshop will take participants through one year in the life of a small organic orchard. Starts with winter pruning, followed by planting including a discussion of rootstocks, varieties, and grafting. Continues with pollination, thinning, pests and solutions, foliar sprays and soil amendments. Concludes with harvesting, and selling the fruit.

In this workshop on cider making, author and apple enthusiast David Buchanan presented a broad overview of the cider making process including tips and basic recipes, as well as an introduction to growing apples. He shared his experience planting whips and nursery trees, grafting (using large tree versus dwarf root stock), “tipping” (to encourage fruiting by winding the young tree around a stake), and pruning. David is particularly interested in reviving rare varieties of old-style American apples, once highly prized for the quality cider they produced.

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