Saturday, February 24, 2024

A post about posts, wind, fruit trees, sprouts, wood-ashes-lime-and-grain

Mrs ERJ and I cut some Black Locust down for use as posts in our small orchard. We got eight posts out of one tree (splitting the first log into quarters and the second log into halves). We got four posts out of the other tree (first log into halves and then two more, 8' posts).

Why so many posts?

Our orchard is in a windy spot.

Elevation profile along a section in the direction of prevailing winds (left-to-right). Circled area is where our orchard is perched. The wind picks up speed across almost a half-mile of crop-land and our little postage-stamp of paradise sticks up like a flagpole in the wind.

Elevation is good for staying out of puddles of cold air which helps for frosts and winter damage. It is good for sun-exposure. It is bad for wind-whip and trees snapping off at the graft during windstorms.

Wind-whip triggers growth regulators that make the trunk get more girthy. That is why an oak in a dense forest is arrow straight and very slender while the same species in the middle of a field has a very broad trunk. The tree in the middle of the field is subjected to more flexing and the tree diverts more energy into wood growing the diameter of the trunk than extending upward.

A tree in an orchard is subjected to the same mechanism. A tree that is not supported will build girth. That is, it will invest calories into growing trunk. Sinking calories into the trunk delays fruiting and robs carbs (sugar) that could be increasing the quality of the fruit.

So, I am resigned to planting a stout post beside every orchard tree I plant  to limit wind-whip. Sometimes I get sloppy and the post is inadequate or it rots. Then I get a wind-storm and I get to replant trees. The kick in the head also has me inspecting the posts of the trees that did not blow down and replacing the ones that are puny.

This spring my plan is to plant six G-210 rootstock where I lost trees and graft them to Liberty (five trees) and Enterprise (one tree). I also have a P. cally pear rootstock planted where I lost a tree and it is penciled in to be grafted to Blake's Pride, a European pear cultivar that has modest vigor. I also have two persimmon seedlings that I intend to graft to Lehman's Pride. 

Additionally, I have a couple of apple trees of Nova Spy that I am flipping to Liberty. Nova Spy is absolutely delicious but it is not very productive for me and the fruit has been subject to bird and Japanese Beetle damage.


Radish spouts were the winner for speed with kale a close second. Two Tablespoons of seeds became over 10 ounces, by volume, of sprouts.

According to Mrs ERJ who is my gold-standard for taste testing, both radish and kale sprouts are very acceptable on cottage cheese/crackers. We decided on using cottage cheese as our test-bed.

Radish sprouts taste like radishes (duh!) and kale sprouts taste cabbage.

Lentils are completely out-pacing the garbanzo beans for speed. I do not have a taste-test report.

Pantry moths and grain storage

I ran across an idea that impressed me with the elegance of its simplicity: Grain stored in buckets can be protected from pantry moths and other insect pests with wood ashes or slaked lime. Note that it is key to thoroughly mix the grain and the ashes/lime.

It is important that the bucket have very tightly fitting covers to exclude moths that might attempt to enter the buckets and lay eggs because the caustic nature of the ashes/lime diminishes over time as it binds with carbon-dioxide. It kills the moths/eggs on the surface of the grain when stored but cannot be counted on to provide years of residual protection.


  1. The the what?
    irontomflint ; )

    1. I stuttered. My bad. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

    2. Hey, Mr. ERJ. This is OT, but would appreciate your views on an internet gadfly, Peter Zeihan. He has a multitude of videos, v. articulate, quotes a lot of facts to back his analysis. Some of the things I agree on, globalization and supply chains. Some things, out there - China government collapsing w/i ten years. Some other things, I disagree.
      Alan E.

  2. Black Locust makes good posts. Around here we use Hedge (Osage Orange). Cut both in my youth, Hedge for local farmers and Black Locust when we shipped them up north as that was what they wanted.

  3. I prefer using food grade diatomaceous earth for protecting grain in buckets. The tiny sharp edges slice open eggs and bugs, but isn't harmful for human or animal consumption. The protection also stays constant.

  4. My pails of fall rye, wheat, and walnuts in the shell are bug free for years when adding cinnamon sticks. I put them in my pail of old fashioned style thick rolled oats as well. I’ve heard that bay leaves will work as well.

  5. At the farmers market the big seller in the world of sprouts was sunflower.

  6. Does the lime or ashes rinse off the grain before it’s used? I’ve never heard of this.
    I store dry foods in plastics containers and never had any bugs or moths. Some things, like rice, or salt, go into vacuum bags first.
    Southern NH

    1. According to Anthony Boutard, author of Beautiful Corn, the practice of "nixtamalizing" corn was probably developed in Central American when maize that had been stored with wood-ashes to prevent insect infestations was cooked.
      Nixtamalization increases the level of Niacin (vitamin B 3) by splitting it from molecules that trap the niacin within the corn. It also changes the nature of the starch granules. A shortage of B3 can cause the nutritional deficiency known as pellagra.
      Nixtamalization is now usually accomplished with slaked lime which increases the calcium content of the grain.

  7. The answer to tight fitting lids on five gallon buckets is Gamma. More expensive to be sure, with Menards having the best price I have found. The center section unscrews and has a very good seal at the threads.

  8. Confirm the Menards pricing. They must have a heck of a contract.


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