Fun stuff and catalogue review

Today has been one of those days of getting things done that were also enjoyable. Like a morning spent converting feed bags into grow bags while watching/listening to videos about crossbow safety. More listening than watching, since I was, after all, hand stitching the bag bottoms into shape. 😀

I also got to enjoy watching deer through my window, making their way to the feeding station.

I saw a couple, earlier, but that early in the day, our East facing living room window is so full of reflections, I can’t get any good shots, but I could get some shots with my phone through the North window. At one point, I was seeing 4 deer, and I think there was a fifth hidden away in the maple grove.

I made a quick trip into town to refill a couple of our 18.9L water bottles, then pick up prescription refills. I timed it so that I could hit the post office on the way home. My husband had been expecting a parcel all week, and today we found out why it hadn’t come in earlier. The padded envelope it came in was sealed in a plastic bag with “apologies from Canada Post” on it. I had no idea what my husband had ordered, so seeing oil stains on the package was a bit alarming.

It turned out he’d ordered honing oil, and the bottle leaked! No harm done, thankfully. 🙂

I was excited to see a catalogue I’d ordered had arrived. This is from a company I had included in my list of cold climate seeds sources, which also included nurseries. Whiffletree Farm and Nursery. They specialize in “Cold hardy, disease resistant, fruit trees, shrubs, vines and canes.”. I love how the back page includes phone numbers, a physical address (in Ontario), a map, plus their latitude and longitude!

How very… rural Canadian. 😀

I actually went through the Irrigation Instructions insert, first. They’ve got add on kits designed for new plantings, mature plantings and tree plantings. I found it a lot more informative, both textually and visually, that most of the kit sources I’ve been looking at. Though we don’t plan to plant our fruit and nut trees for a while, yet, where we are extending the garden to this year is well away from the house, and an irrigation system would be well worth the investment, even if we have to McGyver something cheap for the first couple of years.

As for the catalogue itself, I was very impressed.

First off, it’s just plain beautiful. It is printed on the heaviest paper of any catalogue I’ve seen. More than sturdy enough to withstand cats clambering all over it, demanding my undivided attention! Even how the photographs are lined up with the write ups is the best I’ve seen. There is a also LOT of extra information included.

The range of products they have available is amazing. After just a few pages, I started over again with a highlight marker, marking off everything that was Zone 2, Zone 3 or Zones 2/3. I didn’t bother marking Zones 3/4 or higher, because there were SO MANY Zone 2 and 3 choices, it wasn’t necessary. The only exception I made was for a mulberry tree that was Zone 3/4.

Did I mention how informative it is?

I learned something new that really caught my attention. There is a section on Buffaloberries, Peashrubs and Autumn Olives.

I was curious about what Peashrubs were, but it turns out that we already have some! They are caraganas! In our clean up, I’ve had to cut away and cut back a lot of caraganas that were either dying or overtaking other trees and shrubs. It’s been a balancing act between clearing them away and keeping them.

Though I am familiar with the shrub, I discovered that the seed pods are actually edible! At least the Siberian Peashrub (caragana arborescens) are. They have two other varieties. The Siberian variety is “A multi-stemmed upright growing shrub covered with delicate yellow flowers in spring, followed by small edible seedpods which can be eaten as a vegetable. By late summer the dried seedpods snap open, dropping the seeds which are 36% protein and make good chicken feed. So it is sometimes planted in poultry yards.”

Who knew?

I also learned that they are good nitrogen fixers, and wind breaks. We should see if we can figure out what variety we have here!

The catalogue also displays an excellent sense of humour. As an example, in the section on edible lilies and high bush cranberries, there is this write up for the Common Snowball.

“Okay, we admit it – this plant is neither edible nor medicinal to the best of our knowledge. In fact, it produces no fruit at all, not even for the birds. Our only excuse for offering it is for the nostalgic memories is evokes for many folks. Every year in early summer, these old-fashioned, carefree bushes become covered with fleecy, white pompoms. The ‘snowball’ name is visually very fitting, but that’s not all. Perhaps we should market it as a weather prognostic – according to a local, time-honoured adage, there is always a brief, unseasonably cool spell when the snowball bush begins to bloom. Like many weather maxims, you can count on it, it always holds true – except when it doesn’t!”

Ya gotta love it! 😀

While we are not in a position to start ordering food trees for this year, we are shooting to do so as soon as possible, given how long it can take for trees to mature enough to start producing fruit. And let’s face it; at my age, pretty much any fruit or nut tree we plant is for our daughters and future generations, because my husband and I will probably be long gone by the time some of them reach maturity!

There is so much information in this catalogue, we can use it for planning purposes. Especially when it comes to their orchard growing equipment and supplies.

With that in mind, these are some of the things that interest us, that also grow in Zones 2 or 3.

Apples: there are many varieties suitable for our zone, including larger eating apples, edible crab apples and cider apples. They have columnar varieties, dwarf varieties and varieties that are good for espalier training. When it comes to apples, they are not something we tend to eat a lot of, on their own, but we would be using them for things like apple cider vinegar, hard apple cider, or freezing them to use for baking later on. We will have to take into consideration that we need to cut down a lot of our crab apple trees due to fungal disease. It may be worthwhile to get rid of the diseased trees, then wait several years before planting new varieties, or planting new varieties in locations well away from where the diseased trees are.

Plums: This is one of those things that we almost never eat, but if we had them, we would eat them. We do have plum trees, but they are not an edible variety – more stone than fruit – that my late father used to make wine, but having larger, fleshier plums that can be eaten fresh would be really nice.

Pears: I remember we had a pear tree when I was a child. It was a variety that produced small, hard fruit that needed to be exposed to frost before they could be eaten. They are another type of fruit we rarely buy, mostly for budgetary reasons, but would eat more of if we had our own trees, so having cold hardy varieties that can be eaten fresh would be enjoyed, and this catalogue has several such varieties that can grow in our zone.

Cherries: the variety of cherry are from a tree from Poland, which has a warmer climate than we do. They bloom wonderfully, but in the time we’ve been here, produce almost no fruit. Their bloom time doesn’t match when the pollinators come out. So getting a variety or two that is good for our zone is something I would like. They do tend to spread through their roots, though, and can become invasive, so we would have to carefully plan where they would go. Some varieties make good hedge trees, wind breaks and privacy screens, so that’s an option, too.

Nuts: there are only two types of nuts suitable for our zone; several varieties of hazelnuts, and butternuts. We are still looking into planting other varieties. They may not have a long enough season to produce edible nuts, but the trees themselves are an investment.

Rugosa Roses: we already have wild roses growing in the spruce grove that we will be encouraging, as other types of underbrush will be cleared away, but these varieties are specially noted for their large hips, and high nutrient contents. These are for the “apothacary” plants we will also be adding, over time.

Kiwis, grapes, gooseberries and currants, saskatoons, haskaps, raspberries and blueberries: we already have some of these, but will be adding more over time. Some are poorly situation and need to either be taken out, starting over with new, or transplanted.

Companion plants and wildlife packages: they’ve got a number of different plants that are beneficial to plant near trees, for various reasons. Some because they attract pollinators, or attract predator insects that will eat nuisance insects. Others because they are good to plant in paths instead of grass, can handle foot traffic, but don’t need to be mowed. There are even seed mixes to provide grazing for deer and other wildlife, and even have wildlife tree packages, made up of a mix of excess trees, or trees that didn’t make the grade for orchard/yard use, which may not even be labelled. They would be useful for a food forest or permaculture set up to feed both humans and wildlife. These are all things that fit in with our long term goals.

All in all, I am very excited by this catalogue, and look forward to being able to order from this truly unique company as soon as possible!

The Re-Farmer

2 thoughts on “Fun stuff and catalogue review

  1. I just popped over to look at their website…and promptly ordered a catalog!
    Holy moly, what an interesting company!
    It’s so exciting to see someone carrying things that would work on my land.
    This year I’m adding Siberian Crabapples (supposed to be excellent for cider. I’ll make hard cider. 😉 ) and saskatoons.
    The Prairie Shelterbelt program has them in bundles of 10 for $29. I went in on an order with a few folks int he area, so we cut down on admin and shipping costs.
    Ooooh, but that Whiffletree catalog….so many things I want!
    And their prices are good for the size of the trees!
    But I feel like I need more land, because I would *love* to have a stone fruit orchard, but horses…oh goodness, the horses…my silly mares love fruits and I can just see massive vet bills after *someone* decided a trip into the stone fruit orchard was a good idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are irresistible, aren’t they? They have trees and plants I have seen nowhere else from a Canadian company! My daughters really want to grow paw paws. Hardy strains are in the works, but no one has managed zone 3 yet. 😁

      Thanks for the shelter belt link. I look forward to checking it out!

      We don’t have horses, but the renter does rotate his cattle onto this quarter section (he rents both). That leaves the inner and outer yards for us to work on. It will be years before we start planting beyond that outer fence, so we have time to figure out how to work around the cows.


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