Sunday, July 14, 2013


I just got done praying over my plum trees.

I clearly remember the first time I tasted a "California" plum.  It was 1970.  Michael Downs had climbed the maple tree in his front yard and had a bag of them.  He was sitting up in that tree like a squirrel, eating those plums like apples and spitting down the pits.

He must have nicked more than he needed because he tossed one down to me.  I had never seen or tasted a fruit like that.  It was smooth and slightly rubbery.  Taking a big bite filled my mouth with meaty flesh that was was more aromatic and had more substance than seedless grapes; the fruit that had been my choice of most exotic and perfect fruit seconds before I bit into that plum.

It was probably a Burbank plum.

2013 is the year of the plum.

My passions explode like starburst fireworks.  In fact, I think the starburst pattern is an extremely efficient search pattern for finding optima.

Shamelessly borrowed from Facebook Custom Covers
In my case, it involves becoming passionate about a particular fruit or vegetable, researching them and then trialing a large number, sometimes a very large number.  The selections and methods that are successful become the centerpoints of the next series of trials.  Think of a blind man trying to find the top of a hill.  He will tap around his position with his cane to determine the steepest course uphill.  Then he will climb 20 or 50 or 100 paces in that direction.  Then he will engage in another round of tapping to determine the direction that is most "uphill".

2005 was the year of the pear.  Multiple iterations of the blindman's game led me to the belief that the best pears for Eaton County, Michigan are Shenandoah, Harrow Sweet, Potomac, and Korean Giant on Pyrus betulifolia rootstock. I don't want to elaborate on the length or the cost of the path that got me there.

2013 is the start of the year(s) of the plum.

I am currently in the hunt for scion or budwood of cultivars (cultivated varieties):
South Dakota   Prunus americana
Terry                Prunus americana
Wolf                 Prunus americana
Potawatomi      Prunus angustifolia
Byron Gold      Prunus Hybrid
Gaviota             Luther Burbank Hybrid
Fortune or Laroda            Prunus salicia (hybrid)

The picture in my head is a fruit with the size and texture of Fortune, the aromatics of Potawatomi, the freestone, cold hardiness and late blooming of South Dakota and the disease resistance and yield of Byron Gold.

Alderman Plum
 The current long term plan is to graft a row of native plums Prunus americana over to South Dakota and Byron Gold.  They should cross pollinate and I should have thousands of seeds.  I will plant them, fertilize and water them to within an inch of their death and then ruthlessly cull for winter kill.

I am trying to get a jump on the project by getting my hands on seeds of promising provenance.  I had feelers out to a grower in California to get Laroda pits but that fell through.

I have feelers out to John Bunker of Fedco Trees in Maine.  He suggested that I email back around August first.  He said that this looked like a very good year for plums in Maine.

I  received 15 P. angustifolia seeds from Lucky Pitman of Kentucky today.  They are open pollinated seeds from cv. Guthrie

I received approximately 40 seedlings of P. americana this spring and a promise of seeds from the very finest selections from Northern Nebraska from Troy Miller of P.O. Box 152, Orchard, Nebraska.  These 40 seedlings are the ones I intend to graft or bud over to South Dakota and Bryon Gold.  Troy gave me permission to share his address in case anybody else wanted to purchase some plum pits.

American Plum fruit.  Picture courtesy of Guernsey Soil Conservation District
We have been a week without rain.  So I watered the seedlings with the hose.  I pray at each plant.  Two Hail Marys and one Our Father.  Troy did not tell me the religious leanings of these plums.  I tend toward Catholic-Christian prayers, but will sometimes use the Protestant version of the Our Father if the tree looks particularly thirsty.  "...For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, now and forever. Amen"  That figures out to about 50 seconds per tree.  Even agnostic plums respond to prayers when the hose is running.

After being prayed over.


  1. There used to be a plum tree next door to my grandmother's house. We'd jump the fence and gorge on plums. I have no idea what variety it was, but I remember that tree.

  2. I would appreciate it if you kept your highly trained, professionally trained observation skills open to noticing any plum trees that are thriving and fruiting in low-care situations.

    One hoary piece of advice is to never buy a production farm animal from a farm with a white board fence. Rather, buy seed stock from the farm that is a working farm that looks a little tired around the edges. An animal that is sleek and thriving on a farm that does not treat its animals as pets is an animal that is likely to do well on your farm.

    Don't forget that your nose can be your best asset. Really good observers use all of their senses. Rookies may have all the book-learning. But technology has yet to find a way to put fragrance on a DVD.

    1. Are you still looking for the aforementioned characteristics in plum trees?

    2. Yes I am!

      Great fishing picture on your Google page. I am guessing 7000 feet elevation.

      What can you tell me about local plum trees?


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