The Summer That Wasn’t—2019
Bee & Thistle Winery and Orchards and Ravensfield Farm have continued working on the winery building (see our blog entitled “Construction of Our Winery Building), as well as doing maintenance in both orchards. In spite of the unseasonably cool weather, with daytime averages in the mid-teens and night-time temperatures sinking to single digits, there is still a lot of work to be done every day. This year, 2019, we also had frequent and excessive rainfall hindering our efforts at field work.
Throughout the summer, Margaret mowed the North Haskap orchard and Home Acre Haskap orchard an average of every 10 days. This task was performed with the 8N Boomer tractor and finish mower, with each mowing taking between 4 and 6 hours. Twice in the late summer, Peter cultivated with a dedicated plow that has most of the blades removed, thereby allowing him to lift the grass edges and prevent their creeping into the rows themselves. It’s an arduous and dusty task, and requires some concentration to perform cleanly without damaging the shallow-rooted Haskap. In addition, Margaret and Peter hoed and cultivated by hand around each plant. The goal this year was to prevent any and all weeds from seeding. Each year, the weed battle gets a little easier, but the work is difficult. To hand-hoe and hand-weed the whole orchard takes about 30 person-hours. This task was done bi-weekly over several days. While Peter was at work in the North, Margaret “walked the rows” nightly and pulled all visible weeds. That part was fun for Deke, as he hunted out voles and ground squirrels, and played hide and seek in the rows and headlands; Deke also loves Haskap and will snack on remaining berries as he plays.
Nearing the end of August, you can see the Haskap plants going into dormancy. This is the expected timeframe for our region in Saskatchewan.
Along with weed and ground cover control, the Haskap orchards need frequent maintenance, renovation, and some basic pruning. In addition, the tree-lines are attended to each year. Every season the deer tend to destroy several branches in the poplar tree-line which must be removed. Also, we replant any trees that did not survive both the winter and the onslaught of wild animal damage. This was particularly notable in the East tree-line this year where we put in 30 new Walker poplars and cleaned up the debris from a couple that were broken and damaged from heavy winds, snow and deer.
Collin’s Ravensfield maintenance activities included cultivating between the rows and pulling weeds from around the plants. The Walker poplar tree-line is coming along beautifully, and will provide an aesthetically pleasing entrance past the gate. The Black Currants have a full year’s growth and are very healthy; some cuttings were taken and there are positive efforts underway to grow some additional plants with cutting propagation techniques. Leaf samples were assessed for fertility requirements, and appropriate amendments will be applied in the early part of the fall and early next spring. The Saskatoon berry plants are also very healthy and have some significant season’s growth. The sheep’s fescue will be planted inter-row as a ground cover; a good cover prevents erosion, controls ground temperature and maintains a firm surface for both foot and equipment traffic, as well as being attractive. After last winter’s frost and subsequent cherry losses, more efforts will be made at covering the roots of the cherries and younger plants with mulch. The farm has access to plenty of straw which will be very good material for this purpose.
And finally, we have some ambitious plans to divide each and every German Wine Rhubarb. Dividing rhubarb is hard work but the results are usually notable and successful. Generally, it is recommended this work be performed as the plants enter dormancy in early fall; the intent is to wait for one frost and do the work then. We have nearly 200 German Wine Rhubarb and our count will easily double after that division. We’ll also send some leaf samples to the lab to assess fertility status and requirements in both the Haskap and Rhubarb orchards.
We use Walker Poplars to make tree-lines and shelterbelts for all the orchards. They are fast-growing and hardy.
The Black Currants have adapted nicely and grew very well this year. Some judicious pruning will be done later in the fall.