At the Orchard

Summer in the Orchard

Farming at Pietree is special for so many reasons. The beauty here is definetly one of them. These shots were taken this week by Patrick McDonald, our Orchardist's Assistant. Take a peak at what he gets to do and see everyday! 

 Here Patrick takes a break to enjoy the mountains in the background while harvesting NOP Vista Belle Apples. 

Here Patrick takes a break to enjoy the mountains in the background while harvesting NOP Vista Belle Apples. 

 Here is our biggest crop of Vista Belle Apples from the NOP side. We grow according to National Organic Protocol on one side of the orchard. This the first year we have had a crop of NOP Vista Belles worth bragging over! YAY! Samples available in the farmstand this week! 

Here is our biggest crop of Vista Belle Apples from the NOP side. We grow according to National Organic Protocol on one side of the orchard. This the first year we have had a crop of NOP Vista Belles worth bragging over! YAY! Samples available in the farmstand this week! 

 A dove nest was found in a Cortland Tree. We chose to work around it- avoiding the area and not putting applications on the tree that could harm the birds. The birds successfully hatched and moved along yesterday. 

A dove nest was found in a Cortland Tree. We chose to work around it- avoiding the area and not putting applications on the tree that could harm the birds. The birds successfully hatched and moved along yesterday. 

 The mother dove taking care of the babies. 

The mother dove taking care of the babies. 

 A beautiful end to the day. 

A beautiful end to the day. 

Grafting? What is that?

Grafting is a technique used to change the variety of an apple tree by inserting a section of an apple (budding limb) limb into the stock of another tree.  The insert, or scion, then begins producing and the lower portion, or host, serves as it’s root system. This way we are able to use the root systems of undesirable varieties (sorry Red Delicious fans). This allows us to try some new, old or exciting apple varieties at the Orchard and determine those that are worth planting on a larger scale.

This process starts in February or March while the trees are still dormant. Our Orchardist braves the weather and heads out into the orchard to scout the trees for the perfect scion specimens. The scions are gathered and stored until late spring.

Once the bark on the apple trees starts slipping, typically mid-late spring, it is time to start grafting. We typically use two grafting techniques- the whip and tongue method and the bark graft method. 

We use the whip & tongue method when the wood is a year old and about the diameter of a pencil. We match the diameter of the host tree to the diameter of the scion. A tongue cut is made allowing the scion and the host to lock together.

 Here we are finishing the whip cut on the host. 

Here we are finishing the whip cut on the host. 

 Here we are adding the tongue cut to the whip. 

Here we are adding the tongue cut to the whip. 

 Here we are matching the scion with the host

Here we are matching the scion with the host

 Here the scion and the host are joined. 

Here the scion and the host are joined. 

 Here the scion and the host are wrapped in an elastic strip to protect it and ensure bonding. 

Here the scion and the host are wrapped in an elastic strip to protect it and ensure bonding. 

 Here are two finished whip and tongue grafts. 

Here are two finished whip and tongue grafts. 

 Here is a successful whip and tongue graft from last year. Notice the distant line and color difference- that is where the scion and the host bonded. 

Here is a successful whip and tongue graft from last year. Notice the distant line and color difference- that is where the scion and the host bonded. 

We use the bark graft when the wood is older than a year or the diameter is larger than 3/8-1/2 of an inch. A portion or branch of the host is cut back and the scions are then placed snuggly inside the cut. Within 2-3 years the scions will begin producing apples with the host tree serving as it’s root system.

 Here is a successful, year old bark graft. The scions are successfully bonded to the host and will be producing apples with in the next few years! 

Here is a successful, year old bark graft. The scions are successfully bonded to the host and will be producing apples with in the next few years! 

Grafting has allowed us to add 20 different varieties of apples onto trees that were once Red Delicious. Some of these are Heirloom varieties such as the Cox Orange Pippen, Esopus Spitzenburg and Reinette Simirenko. Others are newer, even experimental, such as the ME-8256. The ME 8256 was developed by Russell Bailey at the University of Maine in the ‘50s and offered to growers to try in their orchards. Our scions came from the orchards set out originally by Charley Fillibrown in Waterford. The ME 8256 doesn't have a name yet. We are looking forward to naming the ME 8256 here this Maine Apple Sunday, September 13, 2015! 




Pietree Went to Maple School!

Q&A with Matt Carter, Associate Farm Manager

Recently three Pietree staffers, Matt Carter, Rebecca Sylvester, and Dan Cousins went to a hands-on Maple School at the Randolph Campus of the Vermont Technical College. 

Matt Carter.jpg

 

Matt Carter, Pietree’s Associate Farm Manager, sat down for a Q&A  and detailed some of the highlights of this program.

Q:  What was the basic premise of the program?

A:  Typically the maple courses we have found deal with maple processing and production and not installation, the actual hanging of wire and tubing.  While that is extremely helpful information, we always felt we needed to start at the beginning – figuring out how to make the best possible use of time and materials with the resources we have available.  Each parcel of land is different in regards to typography and how far apart the trees are. 

This particular maple school focused on the process of making the best use of time and resources and therefore optimizing the available parcel of land you are working with.

Q: Who led the program?

A:  Glenn Goodrich, of Goodrich’s Maple Farm in Cabot, Vermont, was the instructor.  Glenn’s family farm has been in business since the early 1800’s.  Matt said, “This is a person who has clearly already vetted best practices as well as what not to do.  Advice from him would be tried and true over the generations his family has been tapping trees, so there would be no reinventing the wheel, but solidly successful techniques.”  Glenn began his career in 1979 with 25 maple taps on buckets and now produces syrup from 45,000 taps.  Read more about his family’s farm on their website: http://www.goodrichmaplefarm.com

Q: What was the farm like where the school was held?

A: The Randolph campus of the Vermont Technical College had an existing sugarbush that had been tapped, but had always been done by buckets.  The college wanted to switch over to have a tube system installed.  It was the perfect set-up for a teaching course, because although the layout of the sugarbush was established, there was still the element of starting over with tubing for real hands on learning.  Topographically, the landscape was quite similar to ours at Pietree as far as rolling hills and elevation changes.  The biggest difference is that the school plot had been cleared out of most all of the trees that were not maple.  And the Pietree sugarbush has many other trees to work around.

Q: What are some of the great ideas or goals you brought back to implement at Pietree?

A:  We brought back a ton of great time saving tips.  Implementing these changes will allow us to work with much more of the sugarbush landscape than we were able to last year.  We learned how to use a different type of wiring, which in the past we had tried, but hadn’t had the skills to successfully use it.  Using this stronger wire will allow us to cover more ground with less supports.  When setting in the tubing, we can make up to 500 foot runs, with occasional side tie supports, compared to the 50 foot runs we were doing with frequent supports needed.  We have already started making these changes and are excited to see the differences!

Rebecca adds that there were about 10 participants in the school and it was a great mix of start-up maple producers and established producers looking to hone their skills

We will keep you posted on the status of our sugarbush throughout the season.  Save the date for Maine Maple Sunday, March 22, 2015!



The Art of Pressing Cider

Q&A with Scott Miller, Pietree Orchardist Extraordinaire

                         Scott Miller, Pietree Orchardist, at the Farmstand's cider display

                       Scott Miller, Pietree Orchardist, at the Farmstand's cider display

 

Q:  What is the basic process of pressing cider?

A: We use primarily tree picked fruit, which is kept in optimal conditions. The apples are washed, ground-up, and pressed.  Once pressed, the cider is run through Ultra Violet light, which prevents bacteria from growing.  This treatment does not affect the flavor of the cider and keeps it safe.  It is then stored in a cold tank until bottled. After UV treatment, the cider needs to be refrigerated; otherwise it will eventually become fizzy. When refrigerated, it will last for at least two weeks.  We do not use preservatives.

It is important to note, we use the ripest fruit available.  Green fruit is not used.  At it’s ripest, the fruit has the best sugar content and is at the peak of flavor.  This time of year (late fall), all of the fruit stored in our cooler is ripe enough for delicious cider.  Earlier in the season, more of a selection process is required to ensure the best possible flavor.  Early apples are used at the very beginning of the season, and in recent years, first pressings have been incredibly good.

 

Q: How do you determine the blend of apples to press each week?

A:  There is definitely an art to it.  Mac apples make a great base.  Plain macintosh cider is pretty good.  1-2 weekends a year, we will have just a mac cider.  From there, we tweak it, adding different varieties.  The flavor is slightly different with each pressing.  We go through the available apples each week to choose.  Keeping great cider apples aside is part of the thought process all season in the orchard. 

 

Q:  Do you have any personal favorite apple varieties to add flavor to the cider?

A:  I enjoy Baldwins, Cox’s Orange Pippins, Pinovas….  Adding just a small percentage of any of these will improve the cider’s base flavor.  Macouns also make a great cider at certain points in the season.

 

Q:  How many apples are required for a cider pressing?

A:  A bushel of apples yields 2.5 gallons of cider.  Depending on the cider demand of the week (we typically press on Fridays) we dedicate 3/4 of a day up to a full day for the cider pressing process.  A lot of cleaning is involved in this time frame; it is vital for everything to be sanitized.

American Stonecraft Transforms Ancient Farming Material from Burden to Cash Money

LOWELL, MA (October 8, 2014) Anyone who has tried to plant a flowerbed in New England knows about the region’s infamously rocky soil. It is also true that most anyone who drives down a New England road will see quintessential stonewalls winding landscape. Not many are aware however, that the two New England characteristics are closely related.

Farmers built (by hand) more miles of stonewall in New England than there are miles to the moon. But they didn’t craft these structures out of masonic pursuitthey built them out of desperation! The region’s earth is scattered with stones dropped by glaciers thousands of years ago. Every year, the freeze-thaw cycle pushes new stones to the surface. You can imagine a farmer’s dismay when, after clearing his fields of hundreds of boulders, he finds dozens more in the very same field the following year! Farmers soon began to adapt to their annual struggle against a land that grows rocks. They started building stonewalls for need of somewhere to put all the burdensome fieldstones!

American Stonecraft


After hundreds of years of farming, these rugged holdouts are still here growing provisions in New England. Now however, Sweden farmers have finally been relieved of their stony encumbrance by none-other than a small art Studio in Lowell, MA: American Stonecraft.

About American Stonecraft:

American Stonecraft is a nine-person Lowell, MA studio telling the story of a land that grows rocks, and the farmers that battle them.  We do this by making a line of serving wares: coasters, slabs, and bowls, from fieldstones gathered at rocky New England farms.  On the underside of each good we create, we permanently label the stone's farm name, location, and a link to a website slideshow of the farm and gathering process.  Our work is sold by the Gift, Home, and Specialty Food retailers in 47 US States, Canada, and Mexico.

Farmer Dan Cousins of PieTree Orchard in Sweden, ME may not know what to do with his fieldstones, but these artists sure do! American Stonecraft has begun hand-gathering the unwanted stones from PieTree Orchard and transforming them into one-of-a-kind serving ware. The group currently makes food slabs, coasters and bowls in an effort to transform a once burdensome material into a highly profitable product. Once the transformation is complete (the fieldstones are sawn, polished, sealed and labeled with their farm province) the American Stonecraft team will return the stones to PieTree Orchard. Dan can offer these works of functional art for sale at the farm” Says Gerald Croteau, Founder of the Studio. “The popularity of these pieces has been amazing. They make wonderful Holiday gifts and the profit generated from them will help support PieTree Orchard to continue growing beautiful provisions for the Sweden community!” 

Food Slab Pieces