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The Farm Log for the Year 2012

The start of 2012 has many challenges already lined up to make it a year to remember. Last year's growing season left us hoping that was it for the next 50 years of bad weather during the growing season. There are a lot of guesses of what caused the Pacific Northwest to have such a cold wet growing season. For us the results of the poor growing season is the important thing to focus on. The results that hurt the most is the lost production. The revenue from the expected harvest was going to be used to fund 2012 expansion of our orchards. Since the revenue was never realized we will have to dig deeper into our savings to pay for the needed materials to add 7 more acres. When this fall's harvest comes around our acreage in chestnut orchards will be about 19 acres. This will place us at the second largest chestnut producer in Washington state when measured by planted acres. Another area we have grown is in commercially producing grafted chestnut trees. Last year we produced about 2000 trees. This year we should be able to produce 4000-5000 grafted chestnut trees. This level of production should place us near the top of all the chestnut tree producers in the entire USA.

Each year we set some simple goals for our little farm. This year we are looking to do some of the things we do better, adding some equipment to help make the process of harvesting, cleaning, packing and shipping the chestnut more efficient. Here are a few of the specific goals:

1. Design and build a chestnut washing system capable of cleaning 120,000 pounds of chestnuts during the harvest season (about 750 pounds per hour)

2. Prepare an order processing workstation for fulfilling the orders for fresh chestnuts

3. Increase our offerings of grafted named cultivar chestnut tress from the current of 18 to almost 30. Many of these new cultivars will be Chinese cultivars (c. Mollissima) or their hybrids

4. Deliver 2 or more yummy chestnut recipes to our customers for this falls harvest


The winter is when we do some of the tasks that can easily put off because whatever the task is, tomorrow will be just as cold and wet as today and the trees, grass, and weeds are not growing so let is slide and maybe a nice sunny day might open up and outside will be better than inside. But now in late winter some things have to get done, like fixing the mower, changing the oil in the engines, and picking up the trimmings for the pruning that was done in February.

At the end of winter is when the chestnuts stored last fall for starting new chestnut trees start showing signs of germinating. Not a sunny warm day yet and the growing season is already underway. With the increased production levels of the chestnut trees the greenhouse needs more benches for the new trees. In February 4 new benches were added to hold the additional trees and a work bench was built to provide a good working platform since the benches are not the right working height. The end of the winter also means the water systems need to be checked for broken pipes. This winter was much colder than normal and with most colder than normal winters, pipes for the watering systems froze and broke. The end of winter also means it time to start cutting grass. Daylight savings time helps with this task but in the Pacific Northwest we have to wait for a day the grass is dry to cut it back from all its growth it put on over the winter. A nice sunny day means feeling good about all the tasks that got done when the day is all gone.


The spring got a very slow start, in many ways just as slow or slower than last year. The wetter and colder than normal carried until the end of the second week of May. This put our new seedling trees about 3 weeks behind normal. The orchard grass is growing very fast and is hard to keep up with. The good news is the weather has turned back to normal or even a little better than normal because the day time high temps are above the 60's and the 70's. The temp on the farm over the weekend reached into the low 80's. The chestnut trees have responded with a big surge in growth. This might be the best growing seasons since 2009.

We still have lots of things to do in the orchard. We held off on fertilizing the chestnut trees until the trees have new leafs on the branches. The reason for this is to help prevent the fertilizer from leaching into the soil below the root zone. This important for two reasons; first it protects the ground water from the leaching to the fertilizer components; second and just as important is keeping the fertilizer where the trees can make the best use of it. This year our fertilizer mix is a 25 - 9 - 5 with a little boron to help the nut set and formation. In August we will send some leaf samples off to the lab to make sure the trees are getting the nutrients they need to be good producers of great tasting nuts.