Oblique Cordon

IMG_0013Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Well, that might apply to our espalier efforts, because we have not yet had any fruit to speak of from our espaliers planted in 2010. Yet here we are, planting another row of espalier.

While some people might think of us as mad gardeners, we take a different view. This year we actually had nice blooms on 3 out of 5 of our 2010 trees, so there is hope. And the 5 tiered horizontal cordons simply look great, lending a certain air of formal dignity that nicely offsets the more chaotic natural parts of our garden.

And it’s not the same thing: this time we planted the trees to form oblique cordons, though it will take a few years until you can appreciate them. Confused about oblique versus horizontal? Here is a site with excellent illustrations of some of the more popular forms of espalier.

I am very excited about this addition to our garden. It more than doubled the number and varieties of apple and pear trees on our little lot (some of them are 2-way grafts). And being in a prime location with lots of warmth and sun, I expect them to start fruiting before 2020.

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Most Productive Garden Space

If you measure productivity simply in terms of value produced minus cost of inputs, then the most productive area in our garden is our 20 sqft nursery. The only expense was 20$ worth of plum rootstock; but within a couple of years we’ll have hundreds of dollars worth of fruit trees, berry bushes, and grape vines. Beyond a bit of weeding and watering, they don’t even require any attention.

Many plants root readily from cuttings – just stick them in the soil at the right time, then sit back and watch them grow. With a modest amount of extra effort, you can also root more finicky plants indoors, before putting them out in the nursery. What’s more, a shady spot in your garden is the perfect location, leaving your sunny areas free for growing more demanding plants.

Time – and patience – are the only big requirements. So get started sooner rather than later.






Plum rootstock and grafted cultivars









Grape vines











Black and red fruiting currants; apple rootstock, grape vines

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Sourdough Kamut with Hazelnuts and Rosemary

IMG_9994We had a beautiful sunny weekend here in Seattle – not something to take for granted in April. It was the perfect opportunity to fire up the oven, bake some crusty bread, and enjoy it with a glass of crisp white wine out in the backyard.

This time I hit the temperature just perfectly – I really like the color and texture of the crust. The bread is a simple kamut sourdough, with a generous addition of toasted hazelnuts and fresh, chopped rosemary.


  • 250 g active starter
  • 750 g kamut flour
  • 20 g sea salt
  • 100 g toasted hazelnuts
  • 2 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • water as needed



YeastSpotting submission #11

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Before and After

It’s always interesting to look back and see how things have changed in a year. In April 2013 we had just cleared our neighbors’ backyard of blackberries and were getting ready to plant. 12 months and an excellent crop of potatoes later, it’s difficult to imagine that not too long ago this place was entirely covered in a jungle of blackberries. This year we’ve planted garlic, more potatoes, and created a little nursery area to hold our propagated cuttings. Too bad there aren’t any more neighboring yards for us to take over.

Before: just finished clearing brambles and putting in the first beds















After: ferrocement retaining wall, hog panel fence, debris removed, raised beds re-established


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IMG_9985I recently came across Steven Edholm’s great homesteading blog. He writes excellent information-packed posts about many of the subjects I also dabble in: gardening, seed-saving, pruning, grafting.

In particular, I was amazed at his efforts – you might also say obsession – to collect, grow, and evaluate hundreds of old apple varieties. And he doesn’t have a big orchard to work with – instead he grafts many varieties onto a single tree. The most extreme example of this he calls his “Frankentree” – it sports well over 100 different grafted varieties.

Each of these grafts yields only a few apples. Enough to assess its qualities and determine whether it’s worth growing more of a particular variety. Reading the tasting notes, I was keen to try some. I emailed Steven and in short order I received a package with a cornucopia of scions:

In another stroke of luck, I have access to graftable trees through my involvement with City Fruit. So this weekend I started creating a couple of Frankentrees of my own, grafting 20 varieties. Now it’s fingers crossed that all the grafts take and result in fruiting branches in a few years.

Pomology is fascinating and can be quite addictive. I don’t plan to take it to the extreme like some folks do – but I’m excited at the prospect of experiencing apple varieties that are hundreds of years old and not available for purchase in any store.

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