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The Happy Berry

Newsletter

2017 Newsletters

January 15

Published January 15, 2017

Willow Season!
We have cuts ready for you to make arrangements, cuttings so you can grow-your-own and plants already potted.

We will be open the following Saturdays with a small display:
January 14, and 21;
February 4 and 18;
March 4, 11, 18 and 25:
and April 1,8, 15 until they run out.
OR
You can call us anytime and we will arrange to meet you at the farm porch. We may be in the field working...we can coordinate by phone or texting... 864 350 9345.

We will also be at the following Home and Garden Shows:
January 27-29 ...Savannah, Georgia at the Savannah Low Country Home and Garden Show at The Civic Center, just a short ride across the river in a tug boat from downtown Savannah
February 10-12 Anderson Home and Garden Show at the Civic Center in Anderson, South Carolina
February 11 the Master Gardener Symposium at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, South Carolina
February 25 -26 Asheville Build and Remodel Home and Garden show at the Ag Center near the Asheville Airport Just off of I 26.
March 25 (tentative) at the Anderson Library "How-To fair from 10 till 3:30 we will be demonstrating how to root and plant pussy willows also with willow cuts for dried arrangements. This is a walk by program, so bring your questions.

If you need a program on willows and it does not conflict with theses dates call us(864 350 9345) we would love to help you!

Thanks for your support in fixing/sequestering carbon and protecting from erosion our streams with willow trees!

January 2

Published January 2, 2017

How did we do in 2016?
When we are out-and-about this is the most common question we get. This is always a difficult question to answer because it is multi-faceted. The success of any business involves three bottom lines...They are social, environmental and economic.

Social
It was a great year! We got to feel good growing food for our community, having fun participating in local farmers markets, and providing an opportunity for the community to harvest- their-own at a price that generally beats the big box stores while visiting with family and friends. We made lots of new friends and got to share hugs and well wishes with returning customers. We felt like we made a contribution to our community. We appreciate your support, look forward to serving you in the future and would love your suggestions on how we can do it better.

Environmental
For us global warming has become a real threat. The number of days over 95 degrees has increased from 10 or so to over 20. Hot days (days over 85 degrees) have increased in April and May. Our droughts have increased in length and frequency. Our number of chill hours is declining each year. Bud break in the spring is occurring earlier and as a consequence there is a longer period of exposure to killing frosts. The frequency of violent thunder storms and extended wet events is increasing. On a happier note, we are excited that we have taken proactive steps to adapt and mitigate environmental exposure.

Adaptation: We are diversifying our fruit crops to those that are less subject to vagaries of chilling and spring frost injury by blooming later. The pine trees you see in the field will provide passive frost protection and evaporative cooling for pick-your-own folks as well as the plants. Blackberry flowers, for example, are damaged by temperatures over 85 degrees. (Who has not walked under the shade of a tree and not felt 10 degrees cooler? ) The pines also slow the wind and reduce damage from violent storms. Walker is working on a biochar project proposal to improve the health of our soils. Biochar increases resilience by improving cation exchange (ability of the soil to retain and circulate plant nutrients), water holding capacity and microbial diversity that improves soil aggregation therefore less compaction. Healthy soils enable plants to be more resilient to weather extremes.

Mitigation:
The pine trees are increasing our depth of carbon sequestration (our ability to store the carbon for 100 years or more in the tree) and the pine needles are providing more recalcitrant carbon (it doesn’t breakdown as easily) for soil incorporation by soil fauna. We have eliminated pre-emergent herbicides thus have more organic trash under the bush which in turn means more diverse fauna under the plants that reduces pest pressures. The trash under the plants means even more carbon, better water percolation, thus drought resilience and less runoff thus less pollution. Similarly, the biochar will provide recalcitrant carbon that would be removed from the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. He has run into some engineering problems with the biochar project that maybe one of you could help him. Please contact him 864-350-9345

All-in-all we are proud of our environmental bottom line and think we are making very progressive strides toward a healthier planet

Economically
This year we had a good crop year... but plant damage 1- from two previous seasons of winter extreme temperatures causing damage to plants, especially blackberries, muscadines and figs; and 2- leaf disease and resultant defoliation in 2014/5 due to extended wet events meant reduced blueberry flower bud set... did reduce the overall 2016 harvest volume. The 2016 droughts meant large water bills. We watered post harvest so that we would get good flower bud set for 2017. Even with the irrigation, the end of season, 14 week drought, killed many plants in the south valley where we had not installed irrigation. Replacement plants are mostly ordered. There have been several equipment failures at critical times which put stress on other equipment which then also failed under the added stress. We can’t get parts or repairs done quickly enough which resulted in additional capital expenses and/or higher labor, and/or things just not getting done (which will cost down the road).

Bottom line...
We haven’t done the final accounting, but "back of the envelope figures" tell us we will have to reduce expenses as well as borrow money to make it to next season. So in 2017 we will be playing catch-up as well as paying interest on borrowed money.

The good news is that, right now, volume is looking very good for next year. Everything planted with irrigation is looking good. We have learned from our mistakes and have plans/strategies in place to address our major threats. Those temperature extremes (both warm and cold) were associated with windless nights and in the future, we will run the wind machine as yet another adaptation strategy to combat mid-winter cold extremes. To combat the leaf disease, we are gradually changing blueberry varieties to those that are resistant to leaf defoliating diseases. We are investing in installing irrigation in the south valley as I write this.

Decorative Branches & Stems begin this month!
Recently a friend shared with me a blog that I thought was very interesting http://deborahsilver.com/blog/cut-branches-for-winter-pots/. It is worth the visit for winter decorative ideas. Our Red and yellow stick dogwood will be in short supply this year, not sold out but close. We will endeavor to plant more. We will have plenty of red curly and of course the "darling" of them all the woolly & silver willows will be in good supply too. We have a few Red Curly now and will cut more later. We still have a small amount of Red Stick Dogwood to cut. We will start harvesting and selling our woody florals after the first of the year. We are also rooting two varieties of weeping willow...we have had many requests... but give us time to get them going. In addition to selling cuttings, we also have willows ready for planting out.

Eggs, Jams & -NEW THIS YEAR- Frozen Blue- & Blackberries
We still have eggs and jams for sale on the porch. We have added this year frozen blueberries and blackberries in a small freezer on the porch. If you like this we could expand the volume for the winter of 2017. The prices are on the bags in the freezer. You can leave money in the honor-system/money box if we are not there.

In the Fields
Blueberry Pruning: We will start pruning the blueberries with the oldest bushes January 2 or 3. (The picture adjacent was taken 11-28-16). The pine trees have really grown and we will be removing limbs at the same time to allow more sunshine, yet keep some shade. If you have bushes at home now is the time to prune them. If not sure how to prune, visit with us and we will teach you. Your blackberries should have been pruned by now, and if not done yet, get them first. You can grind the stems up with your lawn mower. That goes for blueberry prunings too, except for the larger/thicker part of the stems

Pruning grapes, muscadines and figs will come later: We will start them in March. We are taking out 16 of our Venus plants and replacing them with "Joy" another dark blue seedless grape. We are taking out one row of the Saturn grapes and replacing them 47 "Hope" a green seedless grape. Both of these new varieties are out of University of Arkansas’s grape breeding program. In addition to high quality, sweeter and more flavorful, we hope they are more tolerant of leaf and fruit diseases.

Blackberries: The plantings of Von and Chester blackberry have done well and we should have a decent crop in 2017. The ten rows of Chester on the back hill in back of the old house are gone. We have reduced the number of rows to five and are planting Matsomoto Fuyu Persimmon which is an October bearing seedless Persimmon. The new Fig orchard is looking very good and should have some figs in it this year.

Solar/Gravity Fed Irrigation: We are developing plans for a small solar/gravity fed irrigation system for the very expensive wells we dug several years ago. Do not know when we will be able to do it... but the plans will be "shovel ready" when the opportunity avails itself.

Thank you for your support!
We would not be here without YOU!
Wishing all a wonderful New Year!

Walker for The Happy Berry Bunch