We awoke today to the first measurable snow of the season, about 1/2 inch of wet accumulation. The white won’t last long. The next few days will have temperatures in the 40sF with rain. It’s pretty to see, dusting the trees, carpeting the lawns. A warning of what is to come.
Winter dusts the harvest decorations
Snow never stops Otto from enjoying his favorite ball
The first snow of the winter is later than last year by about three weeks. We have enjoyed a very warm autumn. The ground has not frozen yet. I am still harvesting the late apples and they are in good, hard condition. I also collected my hazelnut crop, a total of eighteen nuts!
Next year should bring a better harvest. Only the largest hazelnut bush produced nuts. Hazelnuts require good cross pollination. There are two other hazelnuts struggling to produce flower catkins. They should provide enough to fertilize my largest plant next spring, as long as the deer don’t chew on them again this winter. I trimmed my husband’s hair last night and collected the clippings. Legend holds that hanging little cloth bags of human hair in the branches of trees will stop the deer from eating the twigs. I’m giving it a try.
The pullets hatched in May and June have just started laying. There are a total of thirteen hens. Every morning the lights in their pen come on around four. This gives them enough supplemental light to stimulate laying during the dark, dreary days of late fall and early winter. We are getting an average of eight eggs per day.
The shell color on the eggs being produced by these young Ameraucana hens is lovely. My latest flock is all silver or black plumage color. I believe the blacks produce the deepest blue shade on their eggshells. I breed specifically for the bluest shell color and things seem to be heading in the right direction!
Hazelnuts or filberts are my favorite nut. Several years ago I decided to try growing my own hazelnuts. The woods are full of wild hazelnut so I figured the cultivated varieties should survive here. I bought two tiny American hazelnut trees and heeled them in a nursery bed for three years. When they reached a height of two feet, I transplanted them to a permanent spot in the orchard.
This is the third year in the orchard. One tree has taken off and the other is lagging. I probed the hole and didn’t hit any ledge so I’m not sure what the problem is with this little guy. For fertilization, two trees are required. The second tree is struggling along and does produce catkins (flowers.) I may try transplanting this tree to a different spot to make sure there isn’t a problem with the hole.
This summer I discovered nuts forming on the bigger tree. If they are not fertilized, they will be blanks, just empty shells. In a couple months or so, they will be ready to harvest and we’ll see if there are any nuts.
Hazelnuts require a soil pH above 5.6 and need boron to set nuts. They also must be pruned, a job I will tackle this winter with the big tree. These photos were taken prior to orchard mowing, so the grass is a little tall.
Pests and disease are significant problems for hazelnuts. Commercial orchards use all sorts of pesticides and herbicides to produce marketable nuts. Here at Phoenix Farm, we grow things organically. So far, knock on wood, the hazelnuts appear to not be suffering from any major problems like Eastern Filbert Blight. I’m not positive, but these may be bred to resist the blight. Guess I’ll find out. Growing hazelnuts is just an experiment. If I get some edible nuts each year, that will be reward enough for me.