Monday, March 30, 2015

The Holistic Orchard, A Review

The Man: Michael Phillips

A few weeks back I was looking for information on plant propagation from cuttings, as well as grafting.  I checked out a lot of books and some videos, including this one.  At over 5 hrs long, it's not what I would call a fun flick to watch with your significant other, unless they happen to share your interest.  This is 5 hours packed full of "push play, push rewind" until you can write it all down.  This is packed full of great information and easily on the level of the college classes I took when I was getting my engineering degree.  Oh, one last thing before I get into it... grab a pen and paper before you push play... you'll need it!

Here's the trailer for the dvd...

I had a hard time finding the DVD set on the internet, but eventually ended up finding the book/dvd bundle on Amazon here and the book alone available here.  I can't comment on the book, but continue reading to learn more about the DVD.

While I'm working from memory, the education begins with comprehensive explanation about the process and a demonstration of bench grafting (grafting branches onto root stock to form new trees).  It then moves on to planting the tree, pruning, training, spraying, dealing with insects, thinning, picking and a discussion on various varieties of apples scattered throughout.  So how do you get 5 hours plus from all that?  Yea, I'm not sure... but I never really felt the need to skip over anything.

One of the things I thought was great about this was it covered everything I wondered about how to do with my home garden, and so much more!  Before I watched this people would tell me about how horrible the bugs were and how all I would grow is nasty bug infested fruit... and some say I can be pessimistic!  Well now I have answers those people, and they don't include the use of some really nasty chemicals! 

Some of you might know that I worked landscaping through college,  With that I spent a lot of time spraying various chemicals to treat what most people would call weeds, which I now love to have around to provide a healthier habitat for the pollinators and other critters that make the world work.  Getting back to the chemicals... have you ever read the caution labels on the chemicals you get at the store?  I don't think those things are good for me and if you read the label, you should come to the same conclusion.  If you think they are fine, that's okay... I would, however, challenge you to drink some.  Here's a quick demonstration for kick's and giggles...

Okay, back on topic...

There are a lot of different ways you can help your trees be successful, and a lot of things that are required to make them successful too.  Adding the right soil amendments, ensuring adequate pollination, insect traps, pruning (think about the future!) and training, thinning out the fruit so the tree can grow bigger healthier fruit, support plants (dandelions and comfrey), disease prevention... growing an orchard is a lot of work if you're going to make money at it! 

Well I apologize for the ranting and rabbit trails.  Hopefully what you got from this is the recognition that you might be missing a few things in your attempts to grow healthy apple trees and the motivation to do something about it.  If you check out the reviews om Amazon, you'll find out they have a lot of good things to say about this dvd too!  I can't say enough...

This one might have to make itself a new home in my library at home!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Expanding and Condensing

It has recently (eh, it's a relative term) come to my attention that our house is going to become a little bit smaller... in only a few months.  What does this mean?  I'll give you another hint.  It seems two boys in a three bedroom house will no longer have their own room to themselves.  The Testosterone-Estrogen balance will swing a little closer to the middle this spring.  It's exciting, but a few things need to happen before that time comes!

As our family is expanding, we have some options, as follows:
  1. Move into a bigger house... not going to happen.
  2. Make the house bigger... yea, that's not going to happen either!
  3. Condense!  (You should see me pack the car going on vacation!)
Of the three options above, condensing is the plan.  So at the end of the day, or at least before May, we need to get bunk beds.  I did a little research at the local furniture store and they want nearly $700 for some flimsy junk bed... THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!

So let's skip to it... I'm building bunk beds.  First stop, free plans on the internet!

Let's start here... I think this is the plans I have settled on and plan to build.  These are based on plans for a single mattress bed made from 2x4's modified into a bunk bed (see below), although there are plenty of other designs on this guys site as well.  If you like to build things with wood, you need to check out this guys site!  Woodgears.CA 

Complements of

Another option I really liked, for simplicity sake, is the Plywood Bunk Bed plans... free from the Canadian plywood guys.  This looked like a super simple design and I was hoping to spruce it up with some rock gym holds off amazon or something, but the wife didn't like it.  Oh well... here's a picture from the .pdf.

A Plywood Bunk Bed

There were a few other options out there, but these two hit the top of my list.  Have any of you ever built a bunk bed?  Have any plans you want to share?  Feel free to chime in.  If you are going to go out there and build your own, just be aware that a lot of the websites out there are just going after your money... you can probably find something better and free if you look hard enough!

A few other sources I found: 
Handyman USA
A Tractor Bunk Bed (A modified version of above)