Mar 292012

Al Marshall has organized a fruit tree pruning workshop for the Grange Country Living Series this Saturday, March 31, from 1:30pm to 4:30pm. This will be held at Al and Sheila’s orchard on Westshore Drive just a short distance up the hill from Migley Point. If you have questions about how to get there give me a call at 2130.

There’s both art and science involved in pruning and a lot of people, including myself, who think they know what they are doing, but probably don’t. So we are bringing in an expert to help us understand the basic principles.

You can prune for production or you can prune for shape or you can learn to do both at the same time. We are used to seeing old apple trees shaved into an umbrella shape with all the waterspouts cut off. This is wrong. There’s something called apical dominance which we will learn more about Saturday. I used to think I needed to cut all those suckers. Because of apical dominance, more sucker growth is encouraged when you nip them all the suckers off.

But there’s even more to pruning. We need to learn how to handle first year wood and second year wood and create ladders, etc. etc. Kathy Veterane of Tapestry Garden Design will lead the workshop. Here’s an email she sent Al describing what will happen:

“I’m looking forward to meeting you and teaching fruit tree pruning techniques.

Please ask participants to bring appropriate tools:
Bypass hand pruners
Bypass loppers
Japanese style or pull stroke hand saws
Orchard ladders if they have them.

*No anvil type hand pruners or loppers* These crush branches and don’t make clean cuts.

I will bring a variety of tools that I find useful for pruning and will demonstrate their uses.

I will discuss proper pruning techniques, demonstrate how to locate the branch collars, and how to make a proper cut at the branch collar, describe why it is important to not leave stubs, teach the concept of apical dominance, and how to reduce water sprouts/sucker growth, how to increase fruit spur production, how to strengthen branches that have fruiting spurs, and how to recognize the common disease anthracnose.

I envision a short 30 minute or so introduction of the above info and then will demonstrate how I decide to make what cuts based on the principles I’ve taught. I think letting people practice these concepts with support will help strengthen their learning.

I began pruning fruit trees professionally in 1998. I have taken classes with Tom Thornton of Cloud Mountain Nursery and Cass Turnbull of Plant Amnesty. I have studied the books of tree scientist Dr Alex Shigo. Dr Shigo discovered how trees protect themselves by a process of compartmentalism, and how proper pruning allows the trees to protect themselves from disease. I will bring my copies of these books for folks to see.”

This should be a very helpful and worthwhile workshop. Here’s a photo showing the difference between a by-pass and anvil pruner (anvil on the right).

Mar 282012

An informational meeting will be held on Thursday April 12 at 6:00 p.m. about Acme Farms + Kitchen, a CSK or Community Supported Kitchen that supports local agriculture and is working to build a truly sustainable food system.  The business provides locally produced food, has online shopping and with 5 island subscriptions will deliver to the ferry landing.  Minimum weekly order is a small box for $45 a large box for $65 may also be ordered.

From Nancy Ging’s Whatcom Locavore blog:

On Friday, AF+K emails all their members with information about what proteins will be available the next week. Beef, poultry, pork, and wild salmon are all possibilities. Based on that information, members log into the AF+K website store and order the Turf or Surf options, as well as any other products they want included in their delivery. The basic food packages are large and small “locavore” boxes, similar to what you’d get in most other CSA programs, but with a twist. AF+K boxes include dinner menus and recipes utilizing the week’s ingredients. The small box includes at least three meals and the large box includes five meals (based on a family of four).

Besides seasonal local organic produce, the boxes currently include a loaf of bread from Breadfarm Bread, a wedge of cheese from Samish Bay Cheese or Gothberg Farms, a pound of pasta from Bellingham Pasta Company, one dozen pasture raised eggs, a dairy selection (cream, yogurt, ice cream), a rotating pantry item (dried beans, honey, flour, pancake mix, etc.), and a selection of 2 meats/proteins (either grass fed beef, pastured pork or chicken, wild fish). There’s even vegetarian and gluten-free options on the small locavore boxes.


Learn more about the business at their website

Space at the meeting is limited, contact Janice Holmes 758-2559 or Nancy Ging 758 2529 for more information and to reserve your spot.

Mar 262012

Twenty people attended Nancy Ging’s Locavore workshop at the Grange on Saturday and came away with a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of eating local. The benefits are many: improved local economy, development of successful local food producers, reduction in the use of fuel, better health, the satisfaction of knowing who raised and produced the food you eat, tastier food and more.

Nancy recommended that those of us wanting to become locavores—one who eats local food, defined as food produced within 100 miles—ease into it gradually. One of the best ways to do this is to participate in a CSA—Community Supported Agriculture. Since no one on the island is operating a CSA picking up your weekly food box will mean a run to town. However, there may be a solution.

Acme Farm and Kitchen has a very interesting business model that I will detail in the next blog post. If Acme can get five families to sign up for their service they will deliver to Gooseberry Pt making it quite easy for the participants to pick up their CSA boxes. There will be an informational meeting about Acme Farm and Kitchen on Thursday, April 12. Space at the meeting is limited, contact Janice Holmes 758-2559 or Nancy Ging 758 2529 for more information and to reserve your spot.

The next Grange Country Living Workshop will be Saturday, March 31 at Al and Sheila Marshall’s orchard which is located adjacent to Westshore Bed and Breakfast on Westshore Drive. We will learn a lot more about pruning fruit trees than we know now. Bring by-pass hand pruners, by-pass loppers, pruning saws and ladders if you have them.

Mar 222012

We have become accustomed to having the world at our fingertips. A couple of keystrokes on the computer and Amazon will deliver virtually any product from anywhere to our doorstep. Another couple of keystrokes and we are off to Europe or cruising the Caribbean. At Trader Joe’s and even the Community Food Store there is produce from around the world flown in at great cost. The question, of course, is how long can this continue? If you think that oil shale, natural gas and wind/solar will keep the game going you can stop reading now. If one is a believer in Peak Oil the answer would be: not too much longer.

(If you are behind on your reading about Peak Oil, The Oil Drum has a summary of articles on the subject from all of their contributors for the period 2004-2011 here)

In the short term, our penchant for bombing countries that produce oil will likely cause price increases. Cheap fuel costs are an important political issue. Americans seem to consider cheap gas as an entitlement and taxing it to pay for long term problems or to build public transportation networks as in Europe has never been considered. To make matters worse, Americans typically own more than one vehicle. Three, four and even five vehicles in one family is not unusual.

Consider the impact on our lives if gas goes to $5, $6, $7 per gallon or higher. We have been a one car family for twenty years now. (One car, one riding lawn mower, two chain saws, one brush cutter). Last week I filled the car and a five gallon can and added $74 to my credit card balance. I cringe at the thought of multiplying this by two or three vehicles or computing the gallons times $5, $6 or $7.

Increase fuel costs will dramatically impact us. It will force us to be more local. Living on an island gives us somewhat of a head start. Even though we have a virtual bridge to the mainland, Hale’s Passage makes us plan just a bit more than someone not living on an island. A trip to town normally has a plan with multiple stops made in some sort of logical sequence to minimize the number of miles driven.

It seems imperative that at fuel costs rise we must try and live even more locally which will increase our self-sufficiency as a community. There are many things we can do to localize. It starts with sourcing our food. Buying food from local producers benefits and strengthens the local economy and keeps money at home to help create jobs. Being a locavore has a learning curve attached to it.

We are lucky on Lummi Island to have have Nancy Ging who has developed expertise in eating local as evidenced in her blog  Whatcom Locavore and weekly columns in the Bellingham Herald.

This Saturday, March 24, at 10am, Nancy will teach us how to be locavores as part of the Grange Country Living Series. Hope you can find the time to join us.

Mar 192012

Correction: I flip flopped the April 28/29 workshops. Susan Chidester will have the Saturday workshop. Mary Stack will teach cheese making on Sunday April 29. Check calendar and Nextdoor “event” for details.

Reskilling is a key aspect of the Transition Movement. It’s important that we all re-familiarize ourselves with skills that were second nature to our parents and grandparents: gardening, canning, baking, etc.

We kicked off the Country Living Series with a workshop on gardening ( homemade potting soil, bokashi, fertilizer and compost teas). Twenty-three people attended.

Next up is Nancy Ging’s workshop on Eating Local which will be at the Grange this coming Saturday (March 24 at 10am). Rebuilding local economies, depending more on local food sources, learning how to live closer to home are important skills especially when you consider that the average meal travels 1500 miles to get to us. RSVP for Nancy’s workshop via comment to this site or on Nextdoor.

Al Marshall has been working diligently to find a master fruit tree pruning to teach those of us interested on how to rehabilitate an old orchard. We are hoping to have something lined up for the weekend of March 31. Stay tuned. There are a lot of us who need work on the art of pruning.

Two workshops are scheduled for April (so far). April 28 Mary Stack will teach you how to make three different kinds of cheese. This will happen at the Grange. Watch for more details. The next day, April 29, Susan Chidester will conduct a baking class for a small group of five (two spots are already spoken for). She will also teach you how to make mozerella while the bread is rising.

Also in April we hope to schedule a workshop on backyard chicken raising.

In June (9th and 23rd), Master Gardeners from Bellingham will conduct a two part workshop on Seed Saving.

Watch this site and Nextdoor and the Grange calendar ( for details.

As always, the Country Living Series Committee of the Grange would appreciate suggestions for workshops, tips on people who can give them and subjects of interest.

Mar 102012

Monday, March 12, 6:30pm at the Grange.

All gardeners, wannabee gardeners, friends of gardeners and people who want to see what gardeners look like are welcome to attend. If you don’t have any seeds to swap, come and get some seed to try out. These don’t have to seeds you saved yourself. They can be excess from your seed packets. A packet of seeds contains way more seed than most gardeners can plant in one season so come and trade and pick up some new items and save some money.

Flower seeds are welcome too. Most veggie gardens are full of flowers for good reason. They help attract pollinators and beneficial insects.

Seed saving and seed swapping are a really good indicator of a resilient community interested in growing its own food.

The Gardener’s Network, now sponsored by the Lummi Island Grange, has monthly meetings to provide gardeners a chance to meet and share ideas.  Each meeting has a program. March will be the Seed Swap. In April Krista Rome will join us to discuss beans and grains. In May we will have a program on soil testing.

Check it out. A good group of islanders trying to grow healthy, nutritious food.

Mar 062012

The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way*

For me growing fruits trees and berries is a more daunting task than growing vegetables. A mistake in the garden is much easier to correct than a misstep with a tree. I’m always looking for help when it comes to trees.

The workshops on tree fruit at Cloud Mountain Farm are especially helpful. Even though we have this great resource an hour away, it’s often difficult to take advantage of everything that Cloud Mountain has to offer. They do have a paid subscription newsletter that details orchard tasks and techniques season by season that I have found helpful and instructive.

I’m always looking for a good book to help me along and a new one by New Hampshire orchardist Michael Phillips is turning out to be educational plus easy to read. Through his books and his website Mr. Phillips is promoting and helping the community orchard movement. He also has a newsletter one can sign up for to which covers items of interest to orchardists and backyard fruit growers.

I owe a lot to the apple and the pear. Because of my involvement with these fruits I was able to retire at quite an early age.

Continue reading »

Mar 042012

There’s been a really positive reaction to the announcement of the Lummi Island Grange’s Country Living Series Workshops.

Lot’s of good suggestions and people stepping up to lead classes and teach their neighbor’s what they know about self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

One of the keys to the whole Transition Movement is the idea that everything has to be more locally oriented. That starts with what we eat.

We are pleased to announce that Nancy Ging, who writes the Whatcom Locavore Blog and a weekly column in the Bellingham Herald on eating local will offer a workshop on the subject of Eating Local at the Grange, March 24 at 10am:

What is a locavore? Are there good reasons you might want to become one?
Explore why eating local, seasonal food is important.
You’ll learn how to find and use local farm stores, CSA programs (Community Supported Agriculture), u-pick crops, and farmers markets.
Find out why local foods are often a healthier eating choice, and how food preservation skills can help you span the winter “hunger gap” with ease and panache. Discover how using local ingredients can make cooking faster and easier, and get suggestions for adapting recipes when some ingredients are not locally produced.
Most important of all, find out how eating local foods can be fun, and can enrich your eating experience.

Look for the posting of this event on Nextdoor and RSVP or just show up.