It’s the craziest thing to open a box, untangle bubble wrap from sections of tree sized to fit together, then begin building a Christmas tree in “just 3 simple steps”. The snow–and lights–are already attached.
No water needed.
Decorations are optional.
What is needed is a little patience to artfully reshape the wiry limbs and needles so the out-of-a-box tree looks “natural.” Halfway through rearranging the bendable conifer, I wondered if it’s easier to walk outside, find a nice little evergreen, and…But, we borrowed a tree this year instead.
Who Borrows Trees?
That’s another thing. This tree is on loan. Who borrows Christmas trees? (I guess we do.) It just so happened my neighbor bought two such trees last year, at an after-Christmas sale, of course, for 75% off. She offered one to us to use this season. I blew her off at first, thinking…gufw–we’re not going to decorate our living room with a synthetic Christmas tree…
Were not? We talked about it as a family and decided, why not?
With ever-changing family schedules and no clear plan, why not install a tall ornament that illuminates and brightens? Besides, we know Christmas is real whether the tree is or not.
This tree is growing on me, no pun intended. At first, I thought: this is the weirdest thing I’ve done in a really long time. But, is it? I don’t wonder if it’s drying out or if the Labradors have lapped up the water from the tree’s trough. It doesn’t shed. It’s not leaning. And it won’t be a part of the burn pile come January.
There’s an upside to having a fake Christmas tree.
Is Christmas About Trees?
At its core, Christmas is not about trees. We know that. Trees just play a role, if you want, in a tradition of celebrating Christmas. Wikipedia and History.com go into great detail about how and why evergreen trees are a part of celebrating the Season. But, a lighted evergreen is fun and festive and we love having one–living or not–to brighten our living room.
Christmas is in our hearts, at our core, and that’s where it belongs.
What about you? Have you ever use a “fake” tree or nontraditional tree as part of your Christmas celebration? What do you think about using living, freshly cut, or synthetic trees? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
What’s the deal with sitting in gratitude one second then wreaking of ungratefulness the next? Why–or how, does the switch flip so quickly?
What I Learned In November
Gratitude Comes Slowly
Gratitude. Gratefulness is a minute by minute choice.
Be grateful. Be thankful. Nothing to it.
I got this.
Until I don’t.
What’s the deal with sitting in gratitude one second, then wreaking of ungratefulness the next? Why–or how, does the switch flip so quickly? If you have the answer, please let me know.
I See Gratitude In These Moms
Over the past 4 years, a few of us gather inside a local drug and alcohol recovery home for dependent women/moms. We come to teach and encourage others. Being November, the season of Thanksgiving, we focused on gratitude, gratefulness, and giving thanks no matter what. It’s easier said then done.. Trust me on this. But, it’s so very important to grab hold of gratitude and not let go. Not for one second. (Think Gorilla Glue.)
We remind each other of this each time we meet.
The power of positive thinking is not it.
It’s gratitude: the deep knowing that all things work together for good, in a perfect way, in a perfect time; one we can’t control. Being thankful in the most thankless moments, the ones that make no sense and stink to high heaven.
The moms in drug and alcohol recovery have a keener sense of gratitude than I do. They’re grateful to be inside, and not on the streets. They’re grateful to have food, clothing, shelter. They’re grateful they know where their children are. They’re grateful that a few simple people want to use Wednesday nights to come in, say hi, and offer encouragement and learn the art of gratitude together.
[Tweet “Gratitude comes slowly” @SallyOWriter]
It’s not always easy. But, it’s my Best Yes right now.
Didn’t you learn how to break-free of duct tape handcuffs on your Thanksgiving Day? Call me lucky.
Out from nowhere a shout came from across the room. (We were visiting that day). “Do you know how to get out of duct tape handcuffs?”
Give me a minute. What was the question again? Do I know how to do what…?
I searched my memory banks because I’ve taken a series of hand-to-hand self-defense classes. I’ve learned a few great techniques for breaking free from a variety of holds. But did I learn to escape duct tape? I don’t think so.
5 Things to Know Before Buying Your Bare Root Trees
Let’s remove the guess work from choosing a tree that will thrive in your garden.
Grab a pen.
You’ll have all the answers you need to choose your fruit tree by the time you reach the bottom of this post, if you click through to find the information you need. (There are no affiliate links in this post, just helpful info.)
What is a bare root tree?
Learn which agriculture zone you live in
Find out the average chill hours for your area
How to pick the perfect spot to plant your tree(s)
The best time to buy and plant bare root fruit trees
1) What Is A Bare Root Tree
The answer’s in the name.
The tree’s roots are bare.
You’re used buying plants and trees with their roots tucked away under the soil, hidden inside a container of some sort. But, bare root trees let their roots hang out, with no fear, after they’re dug from their ground beginnings. Bare root trees and shrubs are stored in cold environments without any soil around their roots. But, they do need the roots to stay moist while they wait to be planted within 5 days. (We’ll get to that.)
2) How to Choose A Bare Root Apple (or Fruit) Tree
You know how the great big wall maps you find in large shopping or convention centers use a Big Red “You Are Here” dot to show you where you are? Agriculture grow zone numbers are like You Are Here markers for gardeners. They provide bearings for what will and will not thrive in your area. Use the map to find your zone. (Tip: You might live in two zones or a range of zones do to your micro-climates. I do.)
Choosing the perfect place to plant your tree(s) before you’ve done a little research, is like hanging a picture on your wall without first finding a stud: You know right where you want to display your artwork, but you can’t put it there because there’s nothing behind the wall to attach the nail to.
Likewise when it comes to planting trees. They need a certain sumpthin-sumpthin–like the right amount of space, to thrive in their new home.
Here is a quick list of points to consider while searching for that perfect spot to plant your bare root apple tree. You already know your ag zone number and your chill hours. It’s time to look at your physical space.
How much growing space do you have?
This matters because those little bare root trees will to grow to a width of 8-25+ feet. So when you choose “that perfect spot,” make sure it’s largest enough to accommodate the tree’s adult size, not just its sapling size.
Apple trees come in a variety of sizes. Primarily, you want to know the maximum width your tree will reach at maturity:
Dwarf: 8-10 feet wide
Semi-dwarf: 12-15 feet wide
Standard: 18-25+ feet wide
Tips for Small Spaces
Plant a multi-grafted tree (three or more apple varieties grafted to the same root stock) to grow three or more apple varieties in one hole.
Train your trees use the espalier technique to grow in narrow spaces. (This is a more advanced pruning method.)
What Do You Want to Do Most With the Apples You Grow?
Eat, Can or Cook?
Like each of us, apples have their purpose in life. Some are best eaten fresh, some are best for cooking, some are best for preserving.
What is your primary reason for growing apples?
Do you want to eat or juice fresh apples regularly?
Are you mostly interested in cooking with apples?
Or is preserving apples your main interest?
Do you want one big annual harvest or several smaller harvests throughout the year?
Tips for Choosing Tree Varieties
Most apple trees need cross-pollination to set fruit. You need at least two apple trees that bloom (flowers, not fruit) at the same time, planted within 50 feet of each other.
Grow a heritage fruit tree to grow fruit you most likely can’t buy locally. Heritage fruits are in danger of becoming extinct because they are not planted often enough.
Now is the time to plan for and purchase your bare root trees. They’re harvested for storage during the fall/late fall and are shipped in their dormant stage during winter, usually December or January. Winter is the season to plant bare root trees and shrubs. We’ll cover the details of planting in the next post.
Coming next–Part 3 –when and how to plant your bare root trees.
It might feel a little strange thinking about buying fruit trees in the late fall. But, that’s exactly the time to choose bare root fruit trees that you plant during the dormant season of winter. This tutorial walks you through the process step-by-step.
What Everyone Needs to Know About Planting and Growing Bare Root Fruit Trees
We won’t play Twenty Questions. Let’s play One Question.
What is this?
If you said bare root plant you’re right! (If you guessed, twig, I’ll give you credit too.) This photo happens to be a picture of a blueberry bush in its bare-root form. But, bare root fruit trees look very similar…kind of like nothing at all.
If you’re wondering how a barely-there stick of sorts manages to become a beautiful thriving fruit tree, then stick around.
I created a mini bare-root tree planting tutorial just for you.
I haven’t always planted bare root trees.
In fact, I brushed aside bare root trees in favor of what I already understood: young trees growing already in large square wooden planter boxes, like these (root bound) plum trees in the photo.
There was a time when:
I was willing to pay the extra money for the plant that I could was a tree.
I was willing do the extra work to haul the trees home from the nursery, dig great big holes that were threes times the width and depth of the root ball.
I was willing to do the extra watering to ensure the roots took hold.
I was willing to take the extra risk that all my money and hard work would pay off when the trees matured to bare loads of fresh fruit.
Even with all the extra effort, one year the trees didn’t thrive.
Maybe There’s A Better Way?
After losing a tree or two, I’m not as “willing” as I once was to risk so much time, effort, and money. So, I reconsidered bare root trees,–you know, the ones I snubbed for larger, heavier, more expensive trees with leaves and blossoms already showing. What I discovered was bare root trees are:
1. Far less expensive to buy than potted trees. 2. Growers mail them directly to you. (Yes!) 3. Bare root trees are very easy to plant. (Can I get an Amen!) 4. And much more likely to thrive.
I’m A (repeat) Graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.
But, you don’t have to be. I share with you in this 4-part mini tutorial, what I’ve learned about bare root trees. The tutorial covers the basics you need to confidently choose, buy, plant, and grow a healthy fruit tree.
How to Choose A Bare Root Tree (What Is A Bare Root Tree, When & Where to Buy Bare Root Trees)
How to Plant A Bare Root Tree
How to Care For A Bare Root Tree
Now Is The Perfect Time to Shop for Trees
Right now is the exact time you want to think about planting bare root trees or shrubs. Nurseries receive customer orders now until inventory is sold out. All trees are shipped out in time to plant during the winter dormant season.
Remember to sign up below to make sure each tutorial is sent directly to your inbox.
Emily P. Freeman, inspired this new monthly series, What I Learned. She hosts a linkup at the end of each month. You will find it here.
What I Learned is fun to write. I hope it's fun to read. Let me know.
1. My whole life is a lie
I’ve been making cinnamon toast all wrong.
I’ve been lied to.
I feel wronged. Very, very wronged.
The Pioneer Womanspoke piercing truth into my toast-making life. It stung at first. But, now I understand the error of my ways. I’m on a new–and better, path. I promise to make cinnamon toast the right way.
Does it seem like it’s getting harder and harder to buy real food, food that hasn’t been treated in one way or another? Take apples, for example, (which are the perfect Halloween treat, by the way.) Even that “organic” apple you paid a high price for is probably treated with a growth inhibitor. (Read about 1-MCP). We’ve experienced first-hand how very, very important it is to eat real, unadulterated food–and how hard it can be to find what you need. For foods I can’t find locally, or I can’t find them at a reasonable price, I purchase from one of these markets (affiliates). Here’s a list of things I buy from each market:
Bulk Herb Store: Herb and teas. BHS is also a wonderful resource for all sorts of natural health recipes and how-tos. The have a great video library.
These stores offer a range of sales, promotions, and discounts. Keep you’re eye out for free shipping offers, too. (I’m like you. I don’t want to pay for shipping.)
If you shop any of these stores, leave a comment to let me know how you like their products and service.
5. In my heaven are robust coffees, comfy sofas, and great books.
I’m munching through books like popcorn these days. Maybe I’m in a season of catching up on all the reading I didn’t do while raising boys. Just recently I filled up on Simply Tuesday, Connected, The Natural Homestead, The Best Yes, Unglued, Loves Does, One Thousand Gifts, True Faced, Bird by Bird, The Art of Work, The War of Art, Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, are a few of the titles I’ve read recently. (I might keep a complete list of books on the blog. Leave a comment if that interests you? Oh. You can find all of these books on Amazon and Booksamillion.com. And yes, reading is what I do for Halloween. Thank you.)
What would a world without books be like? I don’t want to know. Books bring story, adventure, thought, travel, language, culture, art and rhythm. Hell, I think, has none of the above. Even after a long day of reading, writing, teaching my high school student, and reading my college student’s writings, I move to find something to read to unwind. Some writers, I know, don’t want to look at one more word after they sign off in the evening. But, me, after writing all day, I feel like I’ve been talking all day and I don’t want to “hear” or “say” one more word.
What are you reading? Leave a comment so we can join you.
4. To live a life worth remembering
We celebrated the life of a member of our local church body who went home to the Lord after battling cancer. He was bedridden for the last 5 or 6 months of his life because the cancer destroyed the discs in his back. But still, he encouraged the rest of us to live a life worthy of remembering.
We sat with him and chatted on the days we brought meals to him and his family. He loved the company. He had so much on his mind, so much we wanted share. He shared about the study he was leading, (Yes! He lead a weekly study from his home until the day he died.) his wife whom he missed desperately, books he read, places he’d been. He was not afraid of death. He had total faith in where he was headed. What troubled him most were those whom he thought he might not ever see again. And he told them so: “I want to see you again,” he’d say. Tears came to his eyes as he talked about it with us.
I think about all he shared when I make choices of what to do with the time I’m gifted each day. Do you think about how you will be remembered? Do you want to share that here in the comments area?
If you enjoy reading “What I Learned this Month”, share this post with your friends and family.
Welcome to November. Now go off to live a life worth remembering.
I’d like to thank Charlie Brown for introducing Yours Truly to the whole idea of jumping into a pile of leaves.
There I was one rainy winter Sunday, lying on my bedroom floor, studying my tidy collection of Peanuts books. Apparently Charlie Brown was bored, too. He asked his mom what he could do and she answered in her perfect Peanuts mom thought-bubble way: “Why don’t you jump in a pile of leaves.”
We have long brown pointed things called needles and Christmas tree-like things also called needles.
Where do you get leaves?
Six-year-old me was baffled. So I took a hint from Charlie Brown and asked my mom. And being a good and knowledgeable mom, she explained that here we have needles not leaves. But, Mom grew in up a place with leaves, so she understood the whole jump-in-a-pile of leaves thing.
Truck Loads of Leaves
I no longer wonder if I’ll find enough leaves to push together to call them “a pile”. Our trees shed about 6 truck bed-loads of leaves each fall. But, when I see leaf piles, I think about Charlie Brown and a fun day. And so should you if you’re fortunate to have truck loads of leaves. (). If you don’t, check with your neighbor. He’ll love you for it.
Let the Fallen Leaf Festivities Begin
Work is work.
Fun is fun.
Work can be fun.
But, fun shouldn’t be work.
And that’s what you need to know about cleaning up the orchard. If you do it the right way, it’s fun.
There’s no reason at all for your fall orchard, garden, or yard clean up to be work. It can–and should be-Fun!
Making memories fun. Create a family day that richly rewards you with heartwarming memories.
So let’s do this!
Fun Ways to Create Memories and
Clean Your Garden or Orchard
There’s some planning involved, so follow me as we walk through the steps.
1. Clear your calendar.
You’re busy all day with your apple orchard cleaning shin-dig so forget about doing anything else. On Monday you’ll be back in your cubicle (God forbid) or carpool lane, so don’t hurry the fun. Invite your friends. Tell them to invite their friends, even if they only want to come for the bonfire and not the raking. We won’t hold that against them.
Friends are coming. Check.
2. Wait for ALL the leaves to drop.
This is a special occasion. You’re going all out. So let’s do this once and do it right. That means wait until all the leaves have left the trees before you start raking it in, so to speak.
While you’re waiting for that special day, double check your tool supplies. Read on, dear friend, to see which tools are recommended. If friends and family are joining you, ask them to bring some tools, too.
Leaves have fallen. Check. Tools are accounted for. Check.
3. Wait for a dry day to rake or blow your carpet of leaves.
Wet leaves don’t rake up.
They don’t move.
That’s not fun and this day is all about fun.
So wait for a dry day.
While you’re waiting for your special dry day, assign one person to pick all the remaining fruit from the trees and another to hold the ladder and another to pick all fruit and small twigs and branches off the ground. (Kids are great at this, by the way. Aren’t you glad you invited friends?)
What you do with your just-harvest older fruit is none of my business.
If the apple is of eating quality, keep it for heaven’s sake, or start spring training early with batting practice. Just be sure you get all the fruit up off the ground so pests don’t take up residence in your orchard (fancy term: over winter) and come back to haunt you in the spring.
Cleaned up old fruit. Check. Started spring training early. Check.
4. Make hot mulled apple cider, or cold apple cider
Stock up on ingredients for hot mulled apple cider, or whatever drink you like most. You need drinks, lots and lots of drinks; hot and cold drinks; the nonalcoholic kind, preferably. But, I’m not your mother so make the right choice.
A warm, spicy mulled hot apple cider is our beverage of choice. We use apples already harvested from our trees. This is one of the recipes I use most often. (Tip: Mix sweet and tart apples for a fuller flavor, like Gravenstein, Gala, Pippins, and Granny Smith.)
Keep plenty of cold drinking water with you to. You will crack a sweat on your day of leaf raking merriment.
I recommended making your beverage(s) the night before then use a crockpot to keep it warm throughout the day. You might even want to fill a thermos or two to keep with you while you’re outside. (A great option if you plan to build a campfire or burn your leaves.)
You and your crew, (I hope you have a crew. You shouldn’t have to go it alone!) will be busy outside all day, at least that’s how it works here. Prepare picnic-style foods the night before; anything that’s easy to carry outside and eat outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Tuna salad sandwiches with diced Pippin or Granny Smith apple mixed in. (This is just as delicious without bread to hold it together.)
Apple fritters come to mind for a great snack. You can bake-rather-than-fry with this recipe for apple fritter bread.
Freshly sliced apples paired with sharp cheddar or Bleu cheese are an energy booster, too.
Cookies are ready. Check. Calories accounted for. Check. Eat lots of fritters. Check.
5. What to do with all those leaves?
Ah. Good question. I’m glad you’re thinking ahead. You have several choices depending upon where you live and what you call “a good time”. Here’s a superfast run-down of your choices.
A. Mulch your leaves topping your garden beds, letting your chickens loose, mowing them (the leaves, not the chickens) with mulching mower. B. Add your leaves to compost pile. You’ll find a great selection composting tips here. C. Remove your leaves by bagging them for curbside pickup and or haul them off yourself. D. Burn your leaves. Nothing says “fall fun” more than a warm outdoors fire. (This is our favorite method. But, I warn you, this is not the easiest way to get rid of your orchard waste.) E. All of the above. Yes, you can do a little of each. This is another favorite choice for us.
A Special Note About Burning.
This choice requires more planning than the other choices. You might need a burn permit and you may only be able burn on what’s known as “permissable burn day”. The Air Quality Control Board manages all of that in my state. fines and penalties can be steep if you’re out of compliance with burning requirements. So if this the method you choose, be sure to find out what the requirements are for your area. Then, of course, safety is of the utmost importance. Know exactly what you need and have everything ready–like a good long hose and a powerful nozzle, before you begin. And never, ever, ever leave your burn.
What do you do after the leaves are mulched, composted, bagged, or burned?
On our homestead, we sit around the burn pile, snack on apples, and sip cider and laugh. We take turns tending burn. It’s usually dark by time to fun (not work!) is done.
Tough life, I know. But, someone’s gotta do it.
Sitting works best when you have chairs. So plan ahead. Beg, borrow or steal (no! don’t do that) chairs for your special leaf leaf clean up day.
If You’re Burning Leaves, Let’s Talk Safety & Regulations
I know. Regulations are not fun. But, this is important.
I would be remiss if I didn’t express how important it is to do this safely. Follow this link to sound advice, as it relates to my area. Contact your local fire agency to find out what’s permitted in your area.
Always know what the standards and guidelines are for your area. The Air Quality Control Board dictates when and how we can burn in our area. They post “open burn days” and issue burn permits. Be a good citizen. Follow the regulations. If something goes wrong (God forbid), you’re liable.
What Not to Do On Orchard Clean Up Day
Fall is NOT a good time to fertilize or prune your fruit trees. Your trees are getting ready for a long winter’s nap. Pruning them now will stimulate growth, which will make them vulnerable to frost damage, among other thing. Your trees are moving toward a dormant state when they “harden off” to endure the winter cold.
“Happiness Is A Pile of Leaves”
Charlie Brown understood leaves. But, I think it was Snoopy who understood that work can be fun. We can all learn a little something from these two today when we grab you coats and hats and gloves, in search of leaves to pile.
And, don’t forget your camera.
Do you have memories of raking leaves? What about your kids? Do they see work as fun or fun as work? Share in the comments.