Monday, December 6, 2010

Farm Sign

Once again Heidi Powers has come up with a wonderful design, this time for the farm.  Taking our main activities - horse rescue, mini-Jerseys, chickens and hay production, and combining them with Tom's home coat of arms, she has produced a glorious composition to represent the farm.  The latin inscription roughly translates as "however we are thrown, we stand".- very apt in todays uncertain climate! 

We will be producing a sign for the driveway and also put he design on the red barn.  Our grateful thanks to Heidi for her hard work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Farewell Jack d. 17th November 2010

When we picked Jack up at the Westmoreland Animal Shelter in 2003 he was out of time. However, the shelter staff was so keen to save this dog that they stayed open an extra couple of hours so that we could get across and pick him up. Jorg and I had been doing dog transport runs for some time, meeting other transporters at different rendezvous points on I-95 and I-81 and driving a leg or two on the rescued dogs' journey from kill shelters to the northern rescues that would take them. The plan for Jack was that we would hand him off to another transporter in northern Virginia, then he would be delivered to a rescuer friend of ours in Pennsyvlania and she would find him a home. The best laid plans.........

Jack was a brindle Amstaff (polite name for a pitbull mix). We reached the shelter, then duly signed and took possession of him. The shelter told us he was about 2 years old and that he was a really sweet dog. Well the latter part was true, but it wasn't many years before we realized that he was nearer 6 or 7 years old when we picked him up.

We had two hours to kill before we were to link up with his transporter, so we spent a little time by the Chesapeake Bay walking Jack along the sand. At first sight he was a mess. He was very thin. His toenails were worn to the quick, his elbows rubbed raw and the smell was indescribable (even though the shelter had bathed him twice). He had obviously come a long way and had a really bad time. When we reached Arlington, the time had come to pass him on, but the transporter arrived in a standard car with the back seat already taken up by some puppies. That put Jack in the front seat. I duly coaxed him in, only to receive a paw on the arm, and a look that reached right into my soul.

Now, we had been doing transport for over a year and had seen the sad and confused faces of dozens of puppies, old dogs and scared dogs. We had resisted taking them all home. Indeed it was a serious breach of the transport rules to do so, as these dogs were destined for new and better homes, one way or another. Back to Jack, who now looked so perplexed at being parted with that I just couldn't do anything except say "Jack, let's go home." Fortunately, our rescue friend in Pennsylvania was only too happy with this arrangement.

On the way home, we realized that a new dog meant a new bed, so we duly stopped to buy one. As we put it into the back of the SUV, Jack's eyes opened wide. He shot over to the back and spent the rest of the journey happily snuggling into his floofy bed! For the rest of his life, Jack's bed was his own, special place in the world.
Shandy, Jack and Sally
Jack took a long time to bond fully with us and he often he seemed far away. We always felt that he had had a good home, probably with children to play with, and that some bad event had befallen him that led to his finishing up in the shelter. A nice boy he certainly was, accepting Sally as "boss" and treating Shandy (another shelter dog formerly on death row) to regular ear cleaning, a service he provided later on for Bridgette as well. The shelter had named him Jack, and as he seemed to be happy with the name, it stuck. When we jokingly called him "Fuzzy Butt", it never failed to exact a wiggle of his minuscule stump of a tail, even when he was failing at the end. He seemed to know this tease from days long past. His only problem was a strong prey drive (but only for critturs!) that caused him to view an open outside door as an invitation to "bolt". He'd then arrive back at the door a while later covered in swamp mud and soaking wet, wagging his stump of a tail to let us know how much he had enjoyed himself. He did come unglued on one such episode, when running alongside a nearby fence, me following his tracks in the fresh snow, the llama who guarded our neighbor's goats suddenly appeared over the fence and did what llamas do. Jack bolted once more, but this time straight to me, pleased to be back on the leash and going home!

It became obvious a few years later, as his muzzle started to gray out, that Jack was a lot older than we had initially thought. His hearing also started to go, although it was remarkable that the chink of the cookie jar lid, or a spoon on an ice cream bowl, could bring him running from the furthest reaches of the house. Up to this year though, his health had been pretty good. A benign tumor on his butt was easily removed, but he had some bone spurs on his backbone, which started to affect his back legs, and the formation of cataracts was progressively reducing his sight. The neurological effect of the bone spurs was treatable with prednisone, but as we had experienced with Sally, it was difficult to get a dosage that helped keep him walking without the poisonous aftereffect.

Finally two days ago, his legs gave out completely. Along with a loss of appetite, it was obvious that there were a number of other things going wrong, too many for us to help him. That last night and day he did not move from the comfy bed that we had made up downstairs for him and we made the hard decision to let him go. Our thanks to our vet Dr Gates, who did a home visit so that we didn't have to take Jack out of his home environment.
Farewell Fuzzy Butt. Enjoy your reunion with Sally, Shandy and Bridgette. You really were a "good boy" and will be sorely missed. There is a big hole in the house that will never be filled.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Welcome Charlie

Rosebud did her usual excellent job of not showing all the visual signs of impending birth, and then quietly giving birth this morning just before I checked on her.  Triskellion's Charlemagne (Charlie for short) is a sturdy young man and should top out around midi size.  He is pretty adventurous already, hopping between the two stalls we have opened up for them, without seeming to care where his mother is!  He hasn't quite got the teat location yet, homing in on the leg or the upper part of the udder.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Adsense Ads on the Blog

Just to let our readers know that we allow Google to present ads on our blog as it is a possible revenue for the Rescue.  Generally, it has been limited to products and services that we have no particular problem with, and we can deselect certain types of ads.  Unfortunately, that is usually after the event and so you may have seen overtly political ads recently.  We disassociate the Farm and ourselves from these ads and will be discontinuing Adsense as a result.

Tom and Jorg Mayfield

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Elvis is Grown Up.........

.........and a fine figure of a bull he is.  Latest picture of Elvis, Priscilla's calf born May 17th 2009.  He is now fully grown and very happy with his three "girls".  Although not a foundation Jersey (he is 1/16 Dexter, which accounts for his color) he is a true miniature at well under 40 inches.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pace of Life

We seem to live life at such a frenzied pace these days, so it is nice to see family members taking breaks.

When was the last time YOU stopped to smell a flower, watch a bird, throw a stone into the water, look at the moon? Regardless of your beliefs, remember this is the only time you will walk down this particular road - make the most of it.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while you could miss it." ~ From the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Finally still a favorite quote:

"Work like you don't need money,
Love like you've never been hurt,
And dance like no one's watching."


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dolphins Blow Bubble Air Rings

On a lighter note, did you know Dolphins make bubble air rings in the water? I am indebted to Rosie Mayfield for spotting this and sharing it with her Facebook friends.

Dolphins blow bubble air rings!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fresh Eggs For Sale

Not ours but we get a similar range of colors

Funny story that I probably wouldn't have shared but for a development this week. A few weeks back Ken the beeman was at a local Farmer's Market, sharing a table with a lady selling eggs and produce. Now Ken's honey is exemplary, I can vouch for that having eaten it but apparently, according to a passing FDA Inspector, he can't sell it at the market because it doesn't have the weight in grams! As Ken said, he wasn't intending on exporting to Europe, or even Canada, but rules are rules. The Inspector then turned to the lady and said, "you have to take down your sign saying "Fresh Eggs", only eggs that have been inspected and passed by the FDA can be classified as "Fresh"". "But", said the lady, "these were taken out of the coops this morning, they are fresh". Well you can't buck the guvnment, so down came the sign (at least while the Inspector was around, I guess!).

OK, so big laugh all round, typical bureaucracy, and really no one buying at a Farmer's Market probably cares. End of story. So now cut to this week. CNN reports that half a billion eggs have been recalled due to salmonella, and that at least 1,000 people have been poisoned. Now it could be seen that the FDA Inspector was right and only "fresh", as in untainted, eggs get to the consumer and this proves that the system works. Well, no, the eggs did get to the consumer and it was only after they were sick that the eggs were recalled. My Merriam Webster defines "Fresh" as (and I only quote the first entry:
1 a : having its original qualities unimpaired: as (1) : full of or renewed in vigor : refreshed (2) : not stale, sour, or decayed (3) : not faded (4) : not worn or rumpled b : not altered by processing
There is nothing about waiting three days while an FDA Inspector ticks a box to say they are OK, even if they aren't! I shall continue to put out my "Fresh Eggs For Sale" sign, regardless.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summertime Blues and Highs

Well the highs first. The Triskelion Farm Sailing Club was officially inaugurated with the naming and launch of the PS (Pond Sailboat) Emma. She is a mini Sun Fish and perfect for our 2 acre pond. Not quite up to Aegean and Mediterranean standards, but adequate for an old sailor with a dodgy knee! It does mean we need a dock, as manoevring in and out in two feet of muddy water is inelegant to say the least. Maybe by next year......

It does allow me to repeat one of the few poetry verses I know (from the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner - very apt!):

"The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
the furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea."

On the blue's side the prolonged drought (we have had less than an inch of rain in the past month or so) and a poor first cut is making our target of at least 1500 bales for the winter look very unlikely. We have already put the cows on round bales, and are feeding hay to the horses as the grass has stopped growing in the paddocks. The heat has also taken its toll on the chickens. I always thought that farmers had a perpetually worried look on their faces, and now I know why! The constant balancing of animal husbandry, field condition and crop potential is enough to wake you up in the middle of the night screaming. Even at the small holding level that we farm at, eyeing the weather and measuring the level of the grass in the hay field are hourly concerns. It's easy to see why so many have given up the land for less stressful pursuits.

On the vegetable garden side it has been highs and lows. The squash did well until the bugs took over, but the egg plants have struggled to get established. A good crop of tomatoes has been spoiled by an aggravating amount of end rot - keeping a constant supply of water at the base being one of the culprits. The early lettuce and spinach were good, and we have some nice water melons, but the potatoes were totally ravaged by beetles. Sometimes it's just hard to be in three places at once!

We learn something new every year, and you can't beat hands-on experience, however good the advice from outside. I'm sure next year will be a bumper year in all respects, although I will still be looking quizzically at the weather!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Preparations for Next Year

It's never too early to anticipate a happy event! No, I'm not pregnant, and neither is Jorg. Our animal "children" keep us more than fully occupied! Next year (2011) is a milestone birthday for me, and we will be receiving an influx of family visitors on the farm. This will be especially exciting as none of our UK family has seen Triskelion Farm. As a prelude to the visit we have been scraping and painting the house woodwork, and the garden in front of the house has been cleared of the old bushes, leaving room for something more in keeping with the style.

The red barn sides and ends have finally been finished, with a new sliding door, rotting timbers cut out, and the broken glass replaced by plexiglass windows. Jorg is busy painting, and an old carriage wheel will take pride of place above the door. The barn was in bad shape when we bought the farm, with both sliding doors falling off, one side collapsing and sliding out, and the other with gaping holes. It was much too nice to let go, and the main support timbers were sound. Our thanks to Tod Davies who has made a great job of the renovation over the past three years. We now have three cow stalls, a sheep stall, and a run in/winter stall for the minis and Oreo. The hay loft is sound, with only some minor work needing to be done on the roof, and just the electrics needing completion.

One of our granddaughters who is particularly anxious to come and help with the farm and horses is 8-year old Milly, who has been learning to ride and is now a competent tacker-upper, stall mucker-outer and rider. She, and her cousin Aoife, will be welcome additions to our volunteer ranks as, of course, will their parents (just joking - possibly!) Milly has also taken a shine to Bear, one of our sanctuary horses and our oldest inhabitant. He will be her special responsibility while she is with us.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Visitors from the South

They are my favorite visitors, the Barn Swallows. Although whether they are visitors here, or in the south when they leave for the winter, I'm not really sure. However, if their leaving is a sign that Summer is over (as they line up on wires as if waiting for a train) then their return is a definite indication that Spring is well underway. One swallow may not a Summer make, but the four pairs that have returned again this year are surely a hint! It amazes me that they can fly as far afield as Argentina, and still find their way back to a small barn in rural Virginia. Supposed to be something to do with the Earth's magnetic field, which strikes me as OK for the North/South direction, but leaves a lot of latitude (pun intended!) for East/West deviation. Anyway, I'm just glad to see them back, and watch their antics in catching their body weight in bugs to feed their offspring and themselves. My bird book says they fly around 600 miles every day to collect enough! Makes my daily 4 miles around the farm small beer, and puts into perspective those thousand's of miles journeys.

Triskelion's Leonardo and Triskelion's Mona Lisa

We say farewell to Leo this Sunday, and to Mona shortly. Weaning has been relatively trouble free, and are thankful that our cows are so easy to handle, and seem to have passed that down to their calves. Mona is a sweetie and, as we bonded in those first 24 hours as I tried to encourage her to suck Bessie not my fingers, she will be hard to let go. Not least because she is a great example of a mini-Jersey calf, but also she gets quite excited when she sees me coming. Leo is more timid and standoffish, but perfect for a bull calf as you really don't want him in your pocket - even if it is cute when he is small! Both have been taught to halter, lead and tie, and should do us credit in their new homes. Mona will be joining Elvis, and Leo is off to WV with a clean bill of health, both with up to date vaccinations.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring is Sprung

As the White Rabbit said "I'm late. I'm late..........." So much to do and so little time to do it.

One minute it's winter and everything is cold, grey and lifeless; the next we are in the 80's, and green, pink and white are bursting out all over. No half measures in Virginia! "Spring is sprung and the grass is grizz" as we used to say. Add your own variation to "I wonder where" Lawn mower, veggies, gardener, chainsaw?

The bees, or at least the first hive, have arrived, just in time for the apple and pear blossom. Ken, the Keeper of the Bees, set up our first hive, a small colony to start us off - about 10,000 bees! They were a little tetchy at first, having been kept inside when they expected to be out and about, then vibrated for an hour's drive, and finally dumped in a totally new environment.

However, sanity prevailed and the Lewis's and Clarke's of the hive flew off to scout the farm, and I had the privilege of actually seeing the "waggle" dance on their return. A communication involving body movements and wings, that imparts distance from the hive and declension of the sun, and probably includes acreage, number of trees and likelihood of bee-eating varmints!

On a serious note, maintaining a good honey bee population has become a serious problem. Without them the pollination of fruit in particular becomes seriously impaired. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a phenomena where a hive's bees (which can contain anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 bees) up and leave, with very few dead bees apparent. Other problems include mites and fungal infections that have also reduced honey bee populations throughout the world. Beekeeping is being encouraged to combat this decline, and if you don't feel up to doing the job yourself many beekeepers (like our own Ken Woodard) are looking for suitable places to put hives, and will maintain them, providing honey in exchange. Still not convinced, then try some of his honey. What's not to like!

The orchard is now complete, with apples, crab apples, pears and peaches, and while the younger trees will not fruit until next year the amount of blossom on the older ones promises some fruit this year (deer permitting).

Meanwhile, Jorg is furiously planting veggies while maintaining good crop rotation and we hope for some great produce to pack out the larder.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

O Frabjous Day!

"O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy."

Yesterday a strange thing happened. A large yellow disc was seen in a cloudless sky, and the temperature reached a level no longer requiring the wearing of 6 layers of clothes! Cleaning the water troughs suddenly became a pleasurable experience, and hoses miraculously became conduits of water again. Was this the end of winter as we know it? Has March remembered the "going out like a lamb" part of the rhyme? It may be too early to tell, but the sun and 60F are fine by me.

Of course with the warmer weather comes the work! Veggie plots to be pooped and turned over; clover to be seeded for the bees (meaning a fence to be erected to keep out the deer (clover AND young apple tree shoots - mmmm!); muzzles to be inspected and mended ready for the spring grass; grassy areas and paddocks to be chain harrowed to get rid of the ruts and hoof marks; and so on and so forth! However, better that than the eternal gloom and cold we have had this winter. My worst since coming to Virginia in 1999. But then Jorg kept telling me I hadn't seen a real VA winter. Well now I have, and survived it, and intend to thoroughly enjoy the sun.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Around the Corner!?

We are waiting with bated breath for what we hope is Winter's last flourish tonight. Although remembering the kick in the butt that March gave us last year, maybe she has one further trick up her sleeve! However, it has been nice to see the sun, and also see the days extend minute by minute daily. The maple buds are visible and we look forward to that wonderful haze that comes over what look like lifeless trees and bushes, indicating that leaves and blossom are on their way. If we could do away with the chilly winds I would be a happy man.

With Spring, of course, comes the hectic cleaning up and planting season, and Jorg has already got her starter plants seeded and sitting in our sun trap guest bedroom. We learn a little more each year on what to plant, what works and what doesn't. Our bee man Ken Woodard has been to the farm to work out the siting for his beehives, and Jorg is geared up for this new venture. We have a mini-orchard with heritage apples, pears, crab apple and peach trees, and with the clover that Ken wants to try out, we should have some happy bees and lovely fruit.

Mona Lisa and Trisket
Some time back, a rather bedraggled black and white cat turned up on our doorstep one wild and rainy night. Sporting half a tail, and a rather "in your face" affection Trisket, as he became named was litter trained and had obviously been a house cat. Once neutered (sorry old boy, it's the rule!) he was relegated to the barn with the other two cats, as our dog population were a little too much for him to handle! We have been trying to rehome him, as he is totally out of his element in the barn area. Utterly fearless, he wanders into horse stalls (when occupied) and hides under the tractor, and was an accident waiting to happen. Unusually, Mona Lisa thought he was cute and he liked her, as the photo shows. Well, Ken the bee man is a cat person with just one cat at home, and Trisket played the "love me" card, with the result he now is back to being a house cat. We wish all three happy times.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Our Honorary Appaloosa

In this difficult economy, many animals are without homes and finding new ones has become more difficult than in previous years. This problem is not unique to horses and can be a special challenge for farm animals that have become family pets. “Smooches” the cow is a ten-year old Holstein who lost her home and simply needed a place to live out her life.

We met Smooches over two years ago. She completely won us over with her endearing personality and fondness for treats. When her family lost their farm, Smooches' prognosis was not all that good and her owner, concerned about her safety, asked for our help in locating a suitable new home. Her concern was well-founded. Smooches has had a long history of mastitis. This fact and her advancing age, make her no longer suitable as a breeding or milking cow. She was at risk of being made into freezer beef, a risk her owner was unwilling to take.

While many people keep horses they can no longer ride, most do not realize that cattle can make equally good pets. This is largely due to the way that most are handled, or rather, not handled. Most cattle in this country are raised for commercial purposes and generally receive little or no socialization with people. They are unsurprisingly wary of humans. But most family cows are handled extensively. Any large animal that you are going to get that personal with needs to be gentle enough for you to work with without injury to either of  you. These cows often bond with their owners and can become very affectionate. Tom and I have a special soft spot for these sweet old girls, who have spent their lives being valuable members of someone's family.

While Smooches is not an Appaloosa, we have awarded her the first “Honorary Appaloosa” status ever given to a bovine. After talking to a number of  candidates, we are happy to report that she has found a wonderful new home. Our sincere congratulations to new mom, Taby, on the newest member of her family! Big thanks also, to Smooches' former owner for her compassion and willingness to do the right thing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Warmer Climes and Snow Deer

Wonderful webcam at a waterhole in Africa. Spent a happy few hours out of the freezing cold wind watching an elephant and hippo be-sporting themselves in the afternoon sun.

And while we are doing "Animal Planet" check out these white deer in Wisconsin:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

As Others See Us

Link to a gallery of photos in the London Guardian newspaper, showing DC in the snow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

This isn't funny anymore!

Or in USA-speak "it's gotten old". That is the weather. We are standing by for more snow (already falling as I write) and Jorg is once again on snow removal duty. We have been promised wind this time, which may well make it the worse one yet. My sympathies to all you farms further north and west, who must feeling like it will never end.

So, if I have to retreat to the house and batten down the hatches, what better way to spend the time than watching Rugby. Good old BBC America has decided to show five of the Six Nation's matches live, including three of England's. A real delight (unless, of course, the unthinkable happens and we lose!) and provided the power lines stay up, and nobody colic's I shall be there tomorrow (Saturday) at 12 noon, beer in hand ready for the off. (If anyone else in the US, is interested it is Channel 264 on Direct TV). Obviously the next day's little affair (football match of some sort) pales into insignificance compared to England v Wales at Twickenham.

There is a silver lining after all, but it won't really be right until Jorg is safely back and the farm is complete again.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Those of you who have worked for large organizations (or in the UK) may know the expression summed up by BOHECA (I apologize if I offend anyone's susceptibilities) and which heralded changes in management practices, ruling political parties and the like - "Bend Over Here it Comes Again"! Well this winter's weather is giving me the same feeling. The view from our house has gone white again, and a cold wind is whistling around the eaves. The forecasters got it right over night with about 2 inches, and now we have a steady fall, which looks like getting up to at least the 6 to 9 inch level. C'est la guerre, but my feelings about this season are bad enough with short days and cold weather, struggling through snow and chipping ice off buckets just adds to the misery.

However, for once I listened to the weather forecasts and spent yesterday, with the help of our tireless rescue volunteer Julia Fussell (for whom grateful thanks) actually getting prepared for the snow storm. By nightfall everyone (horses, cows, sheep and chickens) was nicely tucked up in their various stalls and coops, with full bellies, hay to munch on and full water buckets. Luckily there is little wind so drifts are unlikely, and I had the good sense to put a store of hay bales in each barn ready for the weekend. Even with the tractor, struggling around the farm in a snow storm to deliver bales is tiring work! I even made sure that the hoses were empty and the bucket filling chore should be a little easier. Roll on Spring!

Rosebud went into standing heat on Thursday and so our friend Rhonda from 3 Rs brought the straws over and performed the miracle of conception, or at least the insemination part of it. Our aim this year is to have all three girls freshening around the same time, and well before the end of year cold sets in. Leo and Mona, haven't appeared to been too affected by the very cold nights we have had, but it isn't the best time of the year to be newborn. We also wanted to avoid the high hots of Summer, which leaves two fairly narrow windows of Spring and Fall.

Well, if the power goes out we have our new emergency generator switch ready, to give us water; the logs are cut for the house fires; the fuel oil tank has just been filled; we have food and feed enough to ride out a few days; and I added to the beer and wine collection (just in case). Should be good to go! Unfortunately, Jorg is on snow removal, which is the only blight on what could otherwise be a cosy weekend, once the menagerie have been taken care of. Hope wherever you are out there, you too are safe and warm and don't have to brave the elements.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Terrible Twine

One thing I always stress (among many others I hasten to add) to volunteers helping out with the rescue, is to bin twine. Those pieces of green or brown string around the bales of hay have a habit of escaping, and the perils of ingested and entangled twine are well documented. Well I now have another peril to add to the list that, unfortunately, I was responsible for. On letting the chickens out of the large coop the other week I found one of the Buff Orpington mixes hanging upside down, suspended by her feet from one of the perches. She had managed to pick up, and wrap around her feet, the cotton strand from the top of a feed bag, which I had inadvertently let drop on the floor of the coop. In her scratching in the sawdust of the coop she must have got it totally entwined around both feet, and then hopped up onto the perch, slipped and caught the cotton on a splinter of the perch. Luckily she couldn't have been hanging long, although at first sight I thought I had lost her, as once I had her upright and in my lap she rapidly recovered. Getting the cotton off was not easy, but we were lucky in that it hadn't cut into her legs.

So, I add another peril to our list of things to be careful with, and learn a lesson which, fortunately, didn't end in tragedy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

White Bird Video

 Thanks to Lennie Tierney, a prize winning video producer, the White Bird Appaloosa Horse Rescue now has a beautifully compiled video, with accompaniment courtesy of Madeline MacNeil, and narration by Lynne Daley. We think it is a great addition to the Rescue's published material and hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Saving the Apples

In 1872, there were over 1100 varieties of apples that were considered to be uniquely American. These trees were adapted to local conditions and were grown by farmers for reasons that included sweetness, cider suitability, ripening season, disease resistance, the ability to store and many other characteristics. They provided a genetic diversity that has largely disappeared in today's commercial apple market. There are several reasons for this disappearance. Many heritage varieties had short growing seasons, did not store well, or were easily bruised. In today's more industrialized market, commercial varieties are those that store well, have tough skins and have high visual appeal to supermarket customers. Taste has not been a high priority. The commercial varieties have been so heavily promoted that it is becoming increasingly rare to find heritage varieties being marketed. And the upshot is that many of the old varieties are being lost, despite often having superior taste and other qualities. In many cases, surviving varieties are represented by only a few remaining trees, located and identified by apple preservationists.

When Tom and I decided to plant apple trees, we opted for heritage varieties, with an emphasis on those that originated in this part of the country. We did a lot of homework to determine which were resistant to blight, likely to thrive in our heavy soils, would make good cider and would be good pollinators. The names of antique varieties are colorful and evocative, including names such as: Bedforshire Foundling, Five Crown Pippin and Homeburger Pancake, and they offer glimpses into a time long past. We found two growers in VA and NC who offered heritage apples and from their impressive array of choices, selected: Yellow June, Bevan's favorite, Grimes Golden,Limbertwig, Kinnaird's Choice, Joseph's, Red Limbertwig, Horse, Golden Russet, Pomme Gris, Albemarle Pippin, Hewes (Virginia) Crab and Wickson Crab. Braving the damp and cold, we managed to get our little trees into the ground before the weather got truly unpleasant.

We will be growing these trees using organic methods, not only to make sure we know what we are eating, but because we will want to ensure that our little pollinators remain healthy. In April, with the help of Ken W., we will be bringing in two hives of bees. To help both bees and apples, we will be seeding the new orchard with a combination of clover seed and a wildflower mix selected for bee forage characteristics. Achieving a healthy balance between the soil, trees and beneficial insects will be our project for 2010. At least, the one we choose. We have a way of ending up with projects we never anticipated.

We wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year!

Smokehouse Apple, discovered in 1837, growing near a Pennsylvania smoke house. Photo from: All About Apples at: