Thursday, November 16, 2006

One Green World orchard tours

Continuing the theme of "type up scattered notes before they get lost forever", here's what I jotted down on the two tours we've taken of One Green World's orchard. The tour spiels and plants visited were pretty much the same fall and this fall, so I'll basically combine the two tours into one set of notes, plus include the pictures we took.

Figs crop twice, once in the summer and again in the fall. Some varieties have their main, heaviest crop in the summer, and others in the fall. In this region, Desert King is a good variety for a heavy 1st crop. Latarulla is a good variety for a heavy 2nd crop. Figs are somewhat deer resistant, due to their latex. The fig on the left is Latarulla, on the right is Peter's Honey, 3-4 years after planting as a 1-2 year old cutting propagation. Of the figs OGW sells, Peter's Honey is the sweetest, but has the longest ripening time so needs a good warm spot outside of Portland in this region. (In Portland we're a warmer microclimate in general already.)





Akebias sold by OGW come in two species, the 3-leafed and the 5-leafed. Both produce seedpods which contain a white pulp around hard, inedible seeds. We were able to eat some pulp; the texture and taste are reminiscent of tapioca pudding. The pods are also edible; in Japan they're cooked as a vegetable. They can be stuffed and eaten like a pepper. It doesn't seem like a huge food crop, but if you want an ornamental vine it definitely has bonus food value. The 3-leaf pod is thicker and harder than the 5-leaf pod. Akebias are semi-evergreen, meaning they'll stay evergreen in a mild climate, but start losing some or all of their leaves if it gets too cold (I believe the temperature given was consistently in the low 20s? Or high teens?) They're low maintenance; at OGW they just whack the vines back as needed and the vines bloom just fine. The akebia picture on the left is the 3-leafed "Deep Purple", and the picture on the right is a 5-leafed variety.






Flowering quince has citrus-like fruit on shrubs. I keep wondering whether the fruit has the same acidic properties and whether it can be used straight-up in recipes.




Aronia is good for adding to apple juice. On their own the juice is only "ok".

Beautyberry has unique purple berries which hang on the branches after the leaves drop. They berries are very bitter, but edible.

Empress tree is a fast grower! Considered a weed tree by many people.



Persimmons - astringent types can be fast-ripened overnight in hot water at the right temperature. Astringent varieties are always sweeter than non-astringent. The persimmon on the left is an American persimmon, which are all large trees with relatively small, astringent fruit. On the right are two different Asian persimmons, one so loaded with fruit its branches are badly in need of extra support! The Saijo persimmon is ideal for drying (and from other conversations I've had with OGW, seems to be the only proven astringent variety for this area.) Fuyu is a dry crisp [did I get that right?] non-astringent variety.




Jujubes are late to leaf out, as late as June. The variety "Coco", when dead ripe, has a coconut flavor. (I tried this variety inside at their sample table and thought it tasted, like all jujubes I've tried, like a cardboard apple--and not even a coconuty cardboard apple. :/ ) They are attractive shrubs, as seen in the picture on the left.




Asian pears are super productive. Thinning out the numerous fruits allows those that remain to become larger.

Autumn Olives are large shrubs of the Elaeagnus genus, meaning they fix nitrogen and produce tasty red berries. We munched on a lot of them from different plants. All were good, but the "Ruby" variety was slightly sweeter and tastier. "Garnet" appears to be a seedling selected by OGW to ensure pollination for "Ruby" when they sell it, since they're unsure of whether Autumn Olives are self fertile.



Seaberries are highly prized in Russia, and used for commercial juice in Europe (especially or only Germany?). They must be sweetened to become palatable, though last year there was someone on the tour who said he ate them raw from his bush. For easy harvesting in Germany(?), they cut off entire branches and freeze them, which then makes it easy to mechanically knock off the berries. With this setup plants have to be on a two year rotation, since the cut branches can't crop the following year.



The Medlar in the background is about 12' tall. Medlars are tip-bearers. The "Nottingham" variety is annoying because the fruit tends to fall off before its ripe. Some varieties, especially those with larger fruit, are prone to the fruit splitting, but apparently this doesn't cause any problems besides aesthetic. There was a vague report of dipping medlars in salt water and hanging upside down to do something...preserve them? Medlars have to "blet", aka "rot", to soften up before eating. This can happen on the tree, or you can pick them and blet them indoors.




Pineapple guavas are slow growers, but grow faster with supplementary water in the summer. This hedge of 4 was planted in the 01990s, froze and died to the ground, and then grew back. One guy mentioned that wind in the winter knocked off lots of his leaves. In a hard freeze, new leaves fall off. I guess that would make pineapple guavas semi-evergreen, and not suitable for winter windbreaks.

Fruit Tastings

Last year and this year, Theressa and I attended fruit tastings at One Green World and at the Home Orchard Society's "All About Fruit Show". From those, I have scribbled notes on various scraps of easily mislaid papers with our reactions to the different varieties and fruits. It seems useful to compile those notes here, both for our benefit and for anyone else who comes along. I suspect other notes will turn up after I post this, which I'll just integrate into this post...so don't be surprised if new varieties magically appear later.

Note that these reactions are by no means definitive--fruit quality can vary widely depending on whether it was harvested at the optimum time, the quality of the soil in which the plant is growing, whatever whims our non-professional taste-testing palates impose, and so on. That said, here's what we've got:

Kiwis

Home Orchard Society All About Fruit Show, fall 02005

  • Dumbarton Oaks - yum! slight bitterness
  • Arguta purpurea (Hardy kiwi?, Red) - very good
  • 74-49 - As good as Dumbarton Oaks without bitterness
  • Kuenta 72.001 - very good
  • Michigan State - so so
  • Cordifolia - very good
  • Anna - very good
  • Hardy Red - different taste, very good. Theressa wonders whether the fact that it's red gives it extra nutritional value?

One Green World, fall 02006

  • Hardy Red - bitter says Norris, Theressa likes
  • Rossana, Dumbarton Oaks, 4-96, L-167, Michigan State, Anna - all good
  • #54 especially good
  • Fully ripe Annas straight off the vine in the OGW orchard are especially enjoyable

Apples

Theressa likes crisp, tart apples. Norris likes a fair amount of sweetness, though sweet-tart is fine.

Home Orchard Society All About Fruit Show, fall 02005

  • Ashmead's Kernel - Theressa and Norris like. Maybe a hint tarter than Norris prefers
  • Black Gilliflower - neat color, good taste
  • Braeburn - crips, some tart, Theressa likes
  • Calville Blanc - meets both taste bud needs [not sure in retrospect what this means--maybe Theressa's requirement for tart and crisp. Or maybe it appealed to both N & T]. Kinda like the apple tree at Theressa's house at Rhine.
  • Earligold - mushy, nothing special
  • Fiesta - good, crisp
  • Gala - soft, low on flavor
  • Honeycrisp - watery
  • Idared - eah [not impressed]
  • Liberty - pretty good
  • Pink Lady - Excellent [we've also enjoyed Pink Lady's from the supermarket]
  • Red Boskoop - T likes the tart, N would like a tad less
  • Spartan - crisp, tasty
  • Sonata - crisp, very sweet, but enough tart for T which N doesn't notice
  • Spitzenburg - good
  • Swiss Gourmet - soft
  • Zeek's Longkeper - T likes, N thinks "OK", bland

One Green World, fall 02006

  • Callaway crabapple - N likes OK, T finds sour
  • Golden Sentinel - N likes OK, T not so impressed
  • Northpole - not impressed
  • Scarlet Sentinel - N likes OK, T likes OK
  • Spartan - OK

Asian Pear

Home Orchard Society All About Fruit Show, fall 02005

  • Chojuro - good!
  • Czui - not much flavor, softer, more tartness
  • Daisui Li - T likes OK, N finds watery and bland
  • Imamuraaki - a littel tart, almost apple. T likes.
  • Lao Suan Li - very good!
  • Large Korean - grows well, good for drying. So-so on the taste test.
  • Komenashi - dryish, mealy, weird crunchy bits
  • Kosui - pretty good. T likes.
  • Niitaka - butterscotchish, crisp, some strange tastes
  • Raja - OK, funny taste that comes out [I think this means an aftertaste]
  • Seuri - interesting pineapple? taste, crisp, enough flavor but not lots
  • Seuri li - a little more flavor than Seuri, quite good. T likes
  • Shinko - watery, crisp, no flavor
  • Shin Li - More flavorful, not blown away
  • Ya Li - even waterier

One Green World, fall 02006

  • Daisui Li - N likes well
  • Raja - yum!
  • Ya Li - N likes OK

European Pears

Theressa isn't a big fan of pears in general, though she hasn't had a lot of exposure to different varieties.

Home Orchard Society All About Fruit Show, fall 02005

  • Belle de Beugny - little taste
  • Cascade - T says like Wasser/Warren, general standard pear taste. N likes, but like Wasser better.
  • Conference - Norris yum (had this at HOS '06)
  • Elliot - good
  • Leona - kinda an apple. Crisper, less sweet.
  • Lezinova - eah
  • Mellina - OK
  • Princess - yum
  • Turnbull - bleh
  • Wasser (Warren?) - yum!

One Green World, fall 02006

  • Shipova - yum! says N, unique taste. T likes OK, too much pear taste for her to be excited.

Figs

One Green World, fall 02006

  • Lattarulla - very sweet, N and T like
  • Peter's Honey - sweet, N and T like
  • Vern's Brown Turkey - not very sweet, neither N nor T impressed

Grapes

One Green World, fall 02006

  • Blue Muscat - similar to Glenora, stronger flavor.
  • Canadice - a little tart-sweet, good.
  • Glenora - good
  • Heavenly Blue - yech
  • Marquis - good (instinguishable from Reliance)
  • Reliance - good (indistinguishable from Marquis)

Home Orchard Society All About Fruit Show, fall 02006

  • Challenge - OK, not exciting
  • Marquis - yum!
  • Mars - OK
  • Vanessa - OK

Pawpaws

Home Orchard Society All About Fruit Show, fall 02005

  • Wells - interesting flavor with aftertaste, not so sweet [not convinced that this was fully ripe]

One Green World, fall 02006

  • Unnamed Pawpaw in official tasting - N likes, T doesn't like--got a bitter taste from it.
  • Found fully ripe Pawpaws on the trees in the OGW orchard, which were all delicious to N and T.

Miscellaneous

Aronia

Raw - meh. Sweetened juice tastes good.

Chinese Haw

Both N and T yuck, cardboard apple but bitter! (OGW '06)

Chinese Dogwood (Cornus kousa)

  • Big Apple - tasty goop inside, 2 seeds. Skins yucky. (HOS '05)
  • E14 - sweeter goop than Big Apple, but more seeds. Skin not good. (HOS '05)
  • fresh from OGW orchard trees and local Portland trees - N and T enjoy a lot.

Cornelian Cherry

  • unnamed variety - OK, big seed, not much flesh (HOS '05)
  • unknown yellow variety - OK, nothing special (local Portland tree)
  • unknown red varieties, probably somewhat overripe - range from OK to somewhat too tart for N's taste though T likes OK (OGW orchard '06)

Jujube

N and T have found all the Jujubes they've tried, whether at fruit tastings or from OGW orchard trees, to taste like cardboard apples. Not impressed

Persimmons

  • Garretson - yum! small clusters (HOS '05)
  • We've scavenged some fallen persimmons from local Portland trees, and from a OGW orchard tree in '05 and '06, all generally in the fully ripe, mushy stage--all have been really tasty
  • We had some supermarket nonastringent types last year, and some supermarket astringent types. We both liked both types. Astringent seem to be sweeter, but the ability to eat nonastringent like crispy apples is nice.
  • Norris has eaten fallen American persimmon fruit at the Home Orchard Society demo orchard--fully ripe mushy, yum! Lots of waste though, since trees are way high and you have to scavenge relatively undamaged fruit from what's fallen to the ground

Seaberry

Seaberry juice, sweetened, tastes good. Raw seaberry - yuck.

Wolfberry

Dried wolfberries not terribly exciting but knowing how healthy they are, tasty enough to eat happily. Wolfberry fresh off the plant - good! (OGW '06, new named variety they're carrying)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Book review: West Coast Food Forestry by Rain Tenaqiya

West Coast Food Forestry

I received and read West Coast Food Forestry: A Permaculture Guide by Rain Tenaqiya a few weeks ago. I think it's a very useful addition for this region to the other resources available. Much of the bioregional analysis I've figured out in the last couple of years, but some of it was new, and it would have been a great headstart for me when I was just getting started. Surprisingly, the CD introduced me to several new trees, shrubs, and vines I hadn't heard of before, despite obsessive perusal of catalogs and other permaculture resources! The section on perennial vegetables was especially useful, summarizing a lot of the species already on my to-try-out list and introducing me to many many more. There were also a few surprises in terms of uses and edibility of some of the plants I already new about.

There are also some handy lists of plants that meet different conditions--"Fertilizer Unnecessary: Tall Trees", "Makes Lots of Organic Matter: Herbs", "Casts Light Shade: Short Trees", etc. And there's a sweet little chart of harvest times for Fruits, Nuts, and Berries to help plan your food forest for staggered harvests.

The book gives virtual tours of many west coast permaculture sites. The descriptions are inspiring, giving some ideas on combinations of plants being tried out elsewhere. Unfortunately, the pictures of the sites have been compressed enough for the ebook that it's difficult to make out what's what...I received permission from Rain to post higher quality images as a Picasa album.

All in all, I found this to be a good read and I've referred back to its various lists and plant bios as I designed our current food forest.

There's another review of the CD at:
HopeDance.

I bulk ordered multiple copies of the book and have it available at a discount. This is a fine intro to my next post...

discountpermaculture.com

Last year, I organized a wholesale order of edible plants from One Green World, a local nursery. I'm doing it again this year, and since I also have a habit of ordering multiple copies of interesting permaculture-related books to share at a discount with others, I put together a website to handle the plant order and list the books I have available:

http://discountpermaculture.com

The plant order is open to anyone who can pick up their order from our house in NE Portland in January or February, and the books are available either for pickup or for mail orders. Feel free to share the URL with anyone who may be interested in plants or books at discount prices!

Fall plantings

I've been doing one of my favorite things this past week--planting forest garden plants! It takes a lot of mapping, researching, designing, planning, redesigning, reresearching, and replanning (part of that whole prolonged & thoughtful observation rather than prolonged & thoughtless action thing) before I finally get to the point of actually putting a shovel into the ground. So it's always rewarding to pat down the soil around a newly homed plant.

There are two sites I've been planting--our own yard of course, plus the already partially planted food forest at Theressa's dad's place (Jay's). At Jay's, we planted 18 trees last spring, but very little of the other layers (10 shrubs, and no ground or vine layers.) We simply didn't have time last spring to finishing designing the tree understories, obtain plants, and get them into the ground before the end of the rainy season...and since we only make it over to Jay's about once a week, we figured it was better to grow his plants in pots at our house for the summer instead of putting them into the ground late and not being able to baby them to ensure they thrive. Now that the rainy season has begun (and oh boy but has it begun!), I planted another 13 shrubs and 3 echinaceas as understories, which makes the whole area look much more like an actual multi-storied food forest instead of trees stuck in a sea of wood chips. It's very exciting, and I'm looking forward to small (but tasty and real!) harvests next year of gooseberries, currants, barberries, chilean guavas, and maybe even blueberries, plus perhaps some pears, cherries, plums, apples, and peaches (though I need to decide whether to allow the trees to set fruit next year, or remove their flowers and fruit to let them invest all their energy in growing for another year.)

I did most of the planning for Jay's last winter while still living at the Portland Permaculture Institute, designing understory patches for trees both at his place and at the Institute. I made some last-minute changes, primarily adding a few extra gooseberries and currants, but mostly implemented the designs as-is. It was really nice to be able to just pull out the old designs, find the appropriate plants in pots, do some minor measuring on the ground, and put in the plants.

Here at home, a lot more planning has been necessary over the last couple of months. The mapping was pretty easy--the lot is a simple 50' x 183' rectangle, with the house in the middle dividing the lot into two distinct design areas. There are a few tall trees (30-40') at the south end of the back yard: an evergreen on the neighbor's lot to the east, essentially at our southeast corner, a seedling cherry on our south boundary about 8' in from the east edge, and a black walnut on the neighbor's lot to the southwest. There are also many black locusts and one more seedling cherry along the east boundary of the lot in both the front and back yards. Other than those, the lot is a blank slate.

Since we have tremendously destructive miniature dinosaurs roaming the back yard, pecking at anything which moves or doesn't move, scratching anywhere there may be roots to destroy, and ignoring the paths we carefully lay out to instead trample across any vegetation they can find, we decided the back yard would be primarily trees and shrubs and large perennial herbs. I designed a layout with:

  • 4 main trees (2 plums, 1 cherry, one fig), with 15 understory shrubs (gooseberries, currants, serviceberry, chilean guava, blueberry, salal, honeyberry)
  • a 10-shrub thicket of medium sized shrubs approximately 6' x 6' (blueberries, honeyberry, serviceberries, wolfberry, pea shrub, chilean guava, goumi)
  • a continuous evergreen hedge along the entire east boundary to act as a windbreak for the cold winter winds. Evergreen huckleberries on 6' spacing under the black locusts (which are nitrogen fixers), and nitrogen fixing Silverberries (Elaeagnus sp.) on 6' spacing in non-locust areas, plus salal halfway between all the 6' spaced larger shrubs
  • one lone mulberry which is going to hate the spot we're giving it 4' out from the north wall of the neighbor's garage (but which, if it grows up tall, will one day hopefully get enough sun to fruit nicely). No understory for the mulberry, as this area is where we plan to keep the hen house, duck and rabbit housing if we ever raise them, wood for burning, etc
  • an experiment with semi-espaliered Autumn Olives all along the west fence with various vines trained up them--pruning them flat against the fenceline to be living trellises and more effective chicken barriers than our current 3.5' fence, and giving them 1' of space towards the yard with a 2' path beyond that. This attempt to corral the autumn olives in such a small space may prove to be a maintenance headache and/or a mess, but if it works it'll provide nitrogen-fixing, tasty berries for humans and birds, firewood coppicing, and trellis space.
  • a row of larger shrubs/small trees (including 2 yellowhorns, 2 Cornelian Cherries, and a medlar) a few feet out from the west boundary, plus another goumi and pea shrub
  • A row of buried bathtubs about 6' out from the future house boundary, to allow us to experiment with aquatic plants and to provide extra winter sunlight into the house

The front yard, not cursed with hunt-and-peck feathered killing machines, will feature a large open area of about 1200 square feet, used for annual vegetables, herbs, nursery plants, and some smaller shrubs. In addition, we'll have:

  • 3 Pawpaws and 2 Chinese Dogwoods (Cornus kousa) in the morning-shaded area just off our east boundary of tall locusts and cherry.
  • 2 asian persimmons and 2 olives in full sun
  • east boundary evergreen hedge with the same pattern as the backyard, except for one full sun area where we'll plant two Darwinian barberries (Berberis darwinii). The front yard currently has a laurel hedge all along the east boundary, so we hope to rip out sections of the laurel hedge to plant the replacement plants, with ongoing pruning and knocking-out of the rest of the laurel hedge as the new plants grow
  • 2 large nut trees on the north boundary of the lot, taking advantage of the fact that shading out the street doesn't matter. Probably 1 english walnut and 1 chestnut, if we can convince a neighbor to plant a chestnut for pollination; otherwise 2 chestnuts.
  • 2 hazels as nut tree understories, plus a few sun-loving shrubs on the south edges of the nut tree canopies.
  • A material zone 10' wide x 14' deep to act as an unloading zone, receive future wood chip drop-offs, and possibly serve as a parking spot for soil-crushing cars
  • bike rack, probably set in concrete and with a roof covering, for visitors to secure their bikes

There is essentially no area on the east side of the house for planting. There is an area approximately 11' wide on the west side. A black walnut (or english walnut if we wind up planting two chestnuts in the front yard) will be planted approximately even with the south edge of the house, 8' from the house, for future summer shade (and, of course, nuts). North of that, a line of Russian Olives 8' out from the house will be trained to form an archway to the house, serving as a sun-screen for blasting summer sun, support for trellising vines, possible coppiced firewood, nitrogen fixation, and possibly future sheltered nursery space once there's sufficient shade.

We plan to run some hardy kiwi vines up some of the existing black locusts and maybe the seedling cherry trees. Eventually we'll use kiwis and grapes as summer sun-screens for the south side of the house, though first we'll have to tear off and rebuild the south addition. We may also experiment with either non-living trellises over the main 4' path in strategic spots, or living trellis (autumn olive?) trained to form archways over paths, with grapes or kiwis growing on those as well.

I'm following one of Dave Jacke's forest garden patterns for trees in which a 2' path circles the expected mature canopy dripline, with 5 1.5' paths evenly spaced from the perimeter of the tree to its center, like wheel spokes. This creates full access to the tree and understory for maintenance and harvest, while leaving as much of the rootzone area as possible untrampled and uncompacted. The 2' path around the outside of the tree allows extra sunlight to penetrate into the understory, making it more productive, and also allows a margin of error in case trees get larger than expected.


Once we had the design on paper and Theressa gave her first-pass thumbs-up, I measured things out on the ground and "planted" bamboo poles of the approximate mature height of the given tree or shrub. I used metal sign-stakes to mark off the perimeters of the trees and delineate the paths (one main 4' path through each yard, plus 2' paths to access almost every tree and shrub from all sides.) The backyard picture on the top is from the roof looking south, with the shrub thicket at the bottom of the photo, taller trees in the middle of the yard, and the mulberry sticking up over the orange garage at the back. You can sort of make out in the pictures the stakes for the tree perimeters, and the main 4' path on the right side of the picture. The front yard photo on the bottom, looking north from the roof, is less dramatic. The bottom part of the photo with the existing garden beds and extending further into the middle of the yard will be open space, with a few bamboo stakes towards the street indicating the trees and shrubs to be planted there. For the trees to be planted in the driveway once it's ripped out, I used pots as the plant markers, which aren't nearly as much fun as 15' tall bamboo stakes.

I've started planting the back yard with the plants we already have in our nursery. All in all, I'll be able to plant about two dozen trees and shrubs and several vines now, with more to follow once we receive plant orders later this winter. A few plants will have to wait until house renovations are completed, as they're too close to the expected construction zone.

I hope to get the yard designs for both our house and Jay's place scanned and posted, but the last time I tried the scanner it wasn't working. :/ I'll get them up eventually, but don't hold your breath! I welcome questions about the designs, plants, implementation, etc...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Oregon Indigenous Population Densities

I just sent an email to some friends and thought this part was worth posting here too...I'm reading L. S. Cressman's The Sandal and the Cave: The Indians of Oregon, published back in 01962, summarizing what's known (or what was known back then) about the indigenous populations of Oregon. I'm not too far into the book, but I got a partial mind-blow regarding indigenous population densities which seems worth posting here.

Obviously any number for pre-European native population involves a lot of speculation--guesstimates for the population of the Americas as a whole range from 10 million to 200 million. (See Charles Mann's 1491) But even with a huge margin of error, the Oregon numbers are astounding. The numbers in the book are based on 1939 figures from A. L. Kroeber, who seems to have been a respected anthropologist. Listed for each group is the number of people per square mile, then the number of square miles per person (the numbers are inverses of each other.)









Grouppeople/mi²mi²/person
Pacific Coast.651.54
Chinook on Columbia River from The Dalles to the sea3.86.26
Coos around Coos Bay & south to the Coquille2.6.38
Columbia River east of the Dalles.128.33
Klamath (the author says densities were likely higher than these numbers, since much of the claimed land was used only lightly).137.69
Northern Great Basin.0616.67


So the densest population of Oregonians pre fossil-fuels were the Chinook, living in a fully functioning ecological community that wasn't half-asphalt, with abundant salmon runs and game to hunt. And they had one person per quarter of a square mile, or 160 acres. That means I'd have 9 city blocks by 9 city blocks of land supporting me. Damn but are we in overshoot.

Not that this is news...but there's a difference between knowing that we have 600+ million extra people on the continent vs the close-to-home comparison of 9 city blocks square just for me or 9 city blocks square for 600 households.

Similarly, if you assume a population density of 1 person per 3 square miles, the 1 million acres of Mt. Hood National Forest could support a whopping 555 people. Boy, looking at the facts sure puts a damper on hopes for a soft landing.

Granted, we still have to fossil fuels we can burn to support our overshoot for a while yet, and there's been a tremendous mingling of plants and techniques from all over the world which could allow for the most productive horticultural (or permacultural) communities humans have ever managed. But weighed against those bonuses in the carrying capacity equation are the impacts of climate chaos, toxification of the environment, degradation and paving over of soil, loss of even the most rudimentary naturalist skills, and the ongoing mass extinction. All in all, we know that population needs to decrease, and numbers like these give us a good indication of the general order of magnitude we're looking at, at least in the long-run.