Thursday, April 17, 2014

Back to Chestnuts - 2014

Much has happened in the last few years, hence the break from the blog.  2013 turned out to be a disaster for chestnut farming.  It was the year of the cicada, and by July, my husband realized that they had done so much damage, that we would loose our crop.  He was 100% correct.

Moving forward, speaking with experienced farmers, the loss may turn out to be good for our crop this year.  When a tree does not have to produce fruit, the energy and nutrients it takes in build up the root structure. So we are hoping for a an extra special crop this year to make up for last year.  I'll be posting photos soon as trees begin to bud and we look for signs of the new crop.

We have continued to add trees to our crop each year, and now have about 1,500 trees on our farm. We have also started a growers group and have a total of 5 chestnut orchards in Nelson County.  2014 is looking good already.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Chestnuts are on the Way!

We didn't fall off the earth (or the internet), just too busy to post. The chestnuts are really doing well this year. Trees are out of the tubes and many trees have several chestnuts on them. Today the chestnut outer shell is green, and over the next few weeks it will begin to turn brown and we'll have our first, very small, crop. I post a few photos when they begin.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy 2011

We're back and ready for all that this new year has to offer. The chestnut trees are looking good and we are starting to work on the fields. This year we will try to get on top of the weeds before they choke out everything in their path. There seems to be a shortage of 10-10-10, so we're checking some other fertilizer options.

There has not been much loss of trees over the winter. The main problem has been the wind storms that cause the bamboo in the tree tubes to break and knock over the trees. That has an easy fix, just replacing the bamboo with rebar. The other problem is how the tube ties are breaking due to weather exposure. When the wind comes through, the ties are broken, leaving the rebar standing and the tree on the ground. Other than that, the majority of trees have exceeded the tree tube in growth (5 ft) and we are now hoping for a good number of those trees to produce chestnuts this year.

The other focus this year will be irrigation. In order to have a quality chestnut, it is necessary to insure that the trees have the correct amount of water. So we are working on the irrigation system in preparation for a dry summer.

That's all for now. If you have any suggestions on weed control, fertilizer or irrigation, let us know your thoughts. And as the leaves appear on the trees, we'll have more photos.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Last Chestnut

We carefully searched the orchard over the weekend for any remaining chestnuts. This one is still attached to the tree. I thought that I would pick it, but the shell is firmly attached. So we'll check it each day to see when it finally falls. The pod is not open, it may be a day or two.

Chestnut Trees

It's amazing to me that the chestnut trees have been so drought resistant this year. As of today, they still have their leaves. Some appear to have stress, and those were primarily the ones that produced nuts this year. We have not yet measured the loss for the season, however, will post that information within the week.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chestnut Management 2010

This has been a year of maintenance for the orchard. We planted another 100 trees, some that were to replace the trees that we lost from last year's crop. We had a loss rate of about 5% or 50 trees. Our cost per tree for planting has been on average $12.00 per tree. That includes the cost of the tree, fertilizer, tree tube, tree ties and bamboo. The cost of the tree was actually increased this year with the purchase of rebar. Bamboo did not make a good stabilizer for the trees as it began to rot off about 6 months after the first trees were planted. After each heavy rain/wind storm, we have to replace the bamboo with rebar for 30-40 trees. Some trees are laying on the ground and we try to get to them within 24 hours so that the trunk does not snap and so that the leaves are not damaged. We have some loss due to the trees falling.

The main cause of loss this year has been due to drought and pests. Crickets, beatles and grass hoppers have been eating the foliage. A light application of Seven helped, but was probably a little too late. We used a 1 oz to 1 gallon of water mixture, trying not to damage the plant in the process. Next year we will move to a 2 oz to 1 gallon of water mixture, and will begin a regular spray season earlier in the year.

Other heavy maintenance has been weed control and mowing. Our orchard is rough and we are working the land to improve water management. Weeding has been done with the weed badger which has been great for the tree rows. Next season we are looking for a good herbicide that can be used closer to the trees, since this is the worst concentration of weeds. Mowing has helped stimulate grass growth. We also fertilized the grass rows with turkey litter this year and it has made a great difference. Where we were unable to grow anything, some grass is now growing. We will continue to use this method to build up the soil quality.

For the rest of the season, we just need some rain. The rest of the year will be spent on planning, budgeting and learning about chestnuts and chestnut processing. We are open to suggestions if you would like to share one with us.

How Chestnuts Fall











A few weeks ago we saw the chestnut shells beginning to form on the trees. This week, we noticed that the shells were turning from green to brown.

Yesterday the shells opened, revealing the chestnut. And today, the shell and the chestnut fell to the ground. Success, at least for today.

The Chestnuts are Here...

Ok, only one chestnut has actually fallen. But still.

I've been very negligent on this blog, but now will be back with our updates. This summer has been extremely dry, even as I write this I am praying for some rain this week to finish up the season. The trees still have leaves and we're very grateful that they made it through the hot temps this summer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Peace on Earth

There are many reasons why we choose to farm. But at the end of the day, this is it. Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas from Black Oak Farm.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chestnut Tree Season

It looks like the new seedlings that were planted had a pretty good season. Last week we took a detailed look at the trees in order to mark the ones that did not make it. We had a 4% loss rate which was about expected. And we were very pleased to have such a mild summer with enough rain that irrigation was not necessary. I'll take some photos this week to show how far some of the seedlings have grown out of the tubes. We've been working on the fields this week with mowing and next we will be back to weeding carefully around each tree. In March 2010 we will replace the trees that did not make it and decide what needs to be done next.

One question we do have is about spraying. We did not worry about this too much because we did not anticipate much foliage on the trees. However, even the trees that did not exceed the height of the tubes have leaves on them. If anyone can give us some direction on a spray schedule and products it would be greatly appreciated. We have some general information on nut trees in general, but nothing specific to chestnuts. Thanks for your help.