September 28th, 2017



I attended an ag extension event on growing chestnut trees last night with 60+ other folks. Christine rode up with me to take Carrie for a walk at a nearby park on the Haw River. The google estimate for time to drive did not take into account school buses or tractors, but running late didn't really cause any issues.

The 15 year old chestnut trees were inspirational, bearing fruit and not crazy large. The extension guy was not. He was all about yield and scientific monoculture, high velocity lead poisoning for deer, herbicide strips, etc. I grew to appreciate some of the advice: food safety requirements imply certain behaviors to protect against contamination. On the other hand, the guy whose farm we were visiting basically blew off much of the advice as too much work for the potential yield increase.

I've been reading about "permiculture" practices and the arguments that having different systems producing (eg, cropping something else under trees) more than make up for the reduced yields of the tree due to competition with the alternative. For example, if you are growing an apple tree with onions underneath, the apples and onions might not be as productive as grown on their own, but the combination productivity is greater than one or the other alone.

I learned something i could never learn online which is how to pick chestnuts up without having to pick up the prickly husk. In the demonstration and practice, i ended up with a pocket full of chestnuts, and those are now sitting in moist paper towels in my fridge, "stratifying." I also connected with a heritage seed grower who has chinquapins, the native "dwarf chestnut" species. These will grow as understory plants, which means they can replace the cursed Autumn Olive. Some of the folks i chatted with also grown native hazelnuts, which are also on my wishlist. I was warned off the Arbor Day foundation offerings.

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After Christine picked me up we went to a pizza place, not far from the farm, thus still in the middle of the country. The menu looked good, the pizza looked good -- but there was no salt! Pizza crust with no salt is weirdly unsatisfactory.

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This morning i found out that a citrus tree i wanted to grow is considered a moderate risk of being invasive, and thus would block me from ever having a certified native garden. I've since discovered that there are citrus hardy enough for my zone, though, so the end result is that i will likely get a plant that will produce more useful fruit and won't be invasive. Satsuma mandarins are one of the recommended species, which sounds quite delightful.

(I thought this posted yesterday. Sigh.)