"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Of Bark Splitting, Free Eggs, and Lessons Learned...

Last summer's heat was a bit challenging for a few of our smaller fruit trees, most being only 4-7 years old. Towards the end of the gardening season I noticed that two of our apricots and a pear tree had developed some pretty ghastly wounds in the form of bark that had split wide open in numerous places along both the trunk and limbs of the trees. This, having never happened before, was definitely a cause of concern for us and prompted me to dig up some information online that suggested perhaps the trees had suffered from sunscald...dang.

Our Chinese (Mormon) apricot tree is in pretty bad shape due to sunscald

Apparently sunscald is fairly common among younger thin-skinned fruit trees. Fortunately, it is often not fatal to the tree and I was very happy to see lots of new buds had developed on ours this winter signaling that the trees were still full of life. So from what I have been reading I will need to perform a bit of surgery on the trees and remove some of the curled bark thus helping the tree to recover and hopefully form calluses over the wounds. That and make sure that all of the trees get an adequate and steady supply of water to help prevent this issue in the future...lesson learned.

This young D'Anjou pear tree looks bad but is in better condition than the apricot

As for the free eggs, a few weeks back the grandson commented in a long forgotten conversation that the eggs he was eating were free. The free comment was not lost on me and this past weekend I shared with him a few of the secrets of life. I told the boy that now that he had grown into a strapping young five year old it was time he started earning his keep and proceeded to explain to him that the eggs he had partaken in were not really "free" at all. I shared with him the fact that caring for the chickens that laid those eggs required a bit of effort on our part and that they did not just magically appear in our refrigerator.

So, early the next morning we went out to the chicken house where I taught him how to perform his new duty, the monthly chore of cleaning the old straw out of the nesting boxes and replacing it with fresh, clean material. I explained to him one of my many theories, if the nesting boxes became too dirty the birds would begin to look for a better place in which to lay their eggs. I told him that as long as we kept the boxes cleaned at least once every month the birds did not seem to have this tendency and that the last thing we wanted was to wander around in the forest looking for stray eggs...he agreed that that would be quite a hassle. Under the hens strict supervision he did a pretty darn good job and will probably never refer to eggs as free again but might enjoy them all that much more as he now has a stake in the whole affair. Again, lesson learned.

Squawk! "Get to work boy, I'll be supervising this operation today."

"Good job, that's right, just dump the old straw on the ground. Hustle up now I've got eggs to lay."


Jennifer Jo said...

That's right. Make them work for their food!

Heiko said...

Never had that problem with my young peaches before although I'm sure it must get hotter with us. More problems with fungal diseases both on the pear bark and leaf curl on the peaches and apricots.

Good lesson for the young lad! He hopefully won't grow up expecting his fast food from McD or BK!

It's me ...Mavis said...

Here Here JJ... "make them work for their food" I love it. If the handsome grandson keeps this up by summer he will be swinging with the chickens in a hammock... you DO HAVE A HAMMOCK for the boy don't you Mr.H? Every child should have a hammock in the back yard. Perhaps you could use your Mc Guyver like man skills and make one out of an old sheet or tarp. He would love it...and so would the chicken :) Good Post! ... sorry to hear about your trees... sunburns stink!

Anonymous said...

Last winter we have had lots of bark splitting on different fruit trees. I never thought of it to be something that needs my attention. Although, it was not as big injury as on your apricot, it was more like on a pear tree. I think that it repaired by it self...

Great story about "free" eggs!

Roasted Garlicious said...

Poor trees!!! will have to keep a watchful eye on my baby trees! Momma Hen seems to have all under control!! and grandbaby is doing an awesome job!!! the easter bunny will remember i'm sure.. ;) an extra few eggs in his basket :D

Michelle said...

I do hope your trees come through ok. One way to prevent damage from sunscald is to paint the trunks with diluted water based white latex paint, but do you think I've ever bothered, uh, no... I've been lucky so far.

Love your "free" egg story. The hens are going to have a new best friend. Now, how do I get the message out to friends and neighbors about the "free" veggies that they get from me at times.

Stefaneener said...

poor baby trees. Hopefully they'll pull through just fine.

Good work with the grandson. You can talk about the freedom of labor versus the freedom of money exchange, I guess.

melissa said...

Brilliant! You are teaching him such a valuable lesson by involving him in all of this--he will grow up with the increasingly rare gift of understanding where his food comes from and what it takes to produce it. :)

What do you do with the used straw?

Sunny said...

Sorry about your trees Mr. H...hopefully they pull through fine. On the free eggs:I wish more people would get back to the basics in life with the younger generation. I'm very grateful that my parents impressed work ethic and family values upon me from the time I was very young and now I have those skills to raise my own family. Nice job!

Ruralrose said...

The pictures are so precious, and so was the lesson. There is no straw around for hundred of miles, we use wood chips. Your dog food post was inspired. Starting seeds today. Your trees look pretty scary if anyone can save them it is you. I see your comments on other blog, you sure are generous with your time helpin' folks like me out. Bet you are chompin' at the bit to get back into the swing of things. Peace

Anonymous said...

What a great story!!! Gotta love that kid!

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Don't know what happen but that's me Anonymous! Anyway, like I was saying before I was rudely cut off, I can't wait for such joy with grandkids! And I will remember that lesson!

Mrs. Mac said...

A good chore for a strapping lad. I bet if he said he was eating 'free range' eggs he might not have been given this chore upon his free egg comment;) We always tell our kids 'a man that will not work .. shall not eat' (Bible authority via mom:)

randi said...

yikes, sun scald, a problem I've yet to encounter (keeping fingers crossed)..I know how you feel about your fruit trees and, as you know, I share your feelings about having a productive 'future orchard'.

What a cutie pie you guys have for a helper! Funny, just tonight I think we've FINALLY made the decision to make what is now the tool shed back to it's original purpose, a chicken coop. The time is past overdue. Now where to put all the garden tools and stuff?

Mr. H. said...

Jennifer Jo - Oh yeah, were running a regular labor camp around here.:) The other day he refused to eat his breakfast, breakfast that he requested and we made special for him, so back in the fridge it went for his lunch...poor kid was none to happy about that but he did finally get hungry and ate it all up...mean, mean grandparents.

Heiko - The funny thing is that all of the bad spots are on the opposite side of where the sun hits the tree? I can't quite figure it out. Perhaps the sun caused the bark to shrink and it pulled it apart...not really sure.

Trust me, when the boy is not with us his diet consists of nothing but McD type food/garbage. So we do what we can while we can and hope that it will rub off later in life, it does make us a bit unpopular with him at times though. Perhaps you need a little olive orchard apprentice?:)

Mavis - Unlike The Girl Who Thinks She Is A Bird our grandson does not posses the gentleness needed to handle small animals unless we are supervising him so there will not be any alone time with chickens or puppy's for awhile, thus no hammock in the immediate future. Although, perhaps I should set one up in the garden for myself.:)

Vrtlarica - I'm glad to hear that your trees managed to heal over. We have many fruit trees and only five of them were affected and none as bad as the apricot. Hopefully we will not have this issue again. I cut the folded over bark away from the apricot tree today and hope that it heals itself.

Roasted Garlicious - The boy did a surprisingly good job and I have no doubt that the Easter bunny (grandma) will have something for him.:) The hen wanted to get into that particular box so bad she would not budge from her spot and jumped in as soon as he was finished.

Mr. H. said...

Michelle - If I continue to have this problem I will keep the paint idea in mind. Hopefully it was a one time thing that only affected the younger trees.

It sounds like you are in need of a weeding party. Of course if you are like me the mere thought of people pulling up "weeds" in your garden would be to much to handle...what if they pulled the wrong thing.:)

Stefaneener - Our lesson of the month is to try and teach him to think of other people a little bit and stifle the me, me, me attitude a bit. A hard lesson for a 5 year old to learn but we are making some progress. So part of the cleaning project revolved around getting him to think about the needs of the animals.

Mellissa - Thanks, if we don't succeed at anything else I can guarantee that he will and already does know where "real" food comes from.

As to the straw, it ended up under the chickens roost and in another few weeks will be cleaned out and added to the compost pile and then on to the garden.

Sunny - We are trying very hard to instill some of those same values that you referred to in the boy and will continue to do so for as long as is possible. Unfortunately those values are not likely to be taught to him in school. Wouldn't it be grand if home economics was expanded to include gardening and other life skills and, most importantly, given the same value as that of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Ruralrose - Thank you.:) Honestly, we really do have fun with these lessons and once the lad realizes that he has no choice but to participate he actually has a pretty good time of it.

The trees do look scary and I did operate on one of them today. I have my fingers crossed as the apricot that was so badly damaged was my wife's favorite tree and had just started to bare fruit 2 years ago.

I have to say that I find it much more rewarding to visit everyone else's blogs rather than writing in my own. Almost every day I pick up some bit of interesting and often helpful information from people like yourself.

And yes, I am chomping at the bit to get going, we have had lots of sunny weather but the ground will remain frozen for a while longer I'm sure.

Di - Anonymous or not I always look forward to your comments.:) You will have such a great time with your grandchildren someday and have so very much knowledge to impart on them.

I have no doubt that future generations will be forced to deal with a more basic lifestyle. Whether that will be our grandsons generation or the next I do not know but something has to eventually give. Any knowledge that we share will quite possibly be of some value...maybe.

Mrs. Mac - He really is a pretty tough little fellow, it must be all of those vegetables we try to stuff him with.:)

I suppose that if he would have mentioned "free range" I would have showed him exactly what that meant and we would have walked and talked rather than doing chores.:)

By the way, we have been using some of your deceptive tactics on the boy of late. Disguising onions and kefir, two foods that he thought he did not like and has now realized that he really doesn't mind all that much.:)

Mr. H. said...


Like you, I can't wait until all of our trees start to bare fruit, we are very excited. The good news is that our little peach tree did not suffer any damage and appears to have made it through the winter without issue...I think.

Chickens, good for you. The tool thing is one of my issues as well, I need to remove them from the greenhouse but am not sure where to keep them all so they are still close to the garden. I might have to put them in the chicken coop, how funny is that.:)

Vickie said...

I'm not familiar with those tree problems, but I will definitely keep an eye on my fruit trees! We seem to get bagworms and such...

Cute post about your little tyke - he's a cutie and I'm sure that "work" lesson will stick with him. Start 'em off right so they'll have a good work ethic when grown!

Ayak said...

Lovely pics of your grandson Mr H. How lucky he is to have you to teach him these valuable lessons!

johnny said...

That likely occurred toward the end of the winter and not in the summer. It's usually referred to as "Southwest Injury" or "Winter Injury". Its usually more prevalent on the south side of the tree although it can show up on any side. It occurs when temperatures dip very low at night and warm up quickly in the morning, as often happens in late winter. We see it frequently in commercial orchards. It usually occurs on the south side because that's where the sun hits the trunk directly. Its the reason you often see the trunks painted white with latex paint.

Enjoy reading your blog. Like you I grow as much of my own food as I can and have spent the winter feasting on celeriac, salsify, and carrots among other things.

johnny said...

I neglected to mention above that this type of injury can also occur late in fall going into the winter if the trees haven't had a chance to harden off before precipitous drops in temperature. In the mid-Atlantic we see this in early December after warm rainy falls.

kitsapFG said...

Ouch for the trees! I hope your surgery works wonders and they keep going relatively uninterrupted.

The chicken supervising and aching to get into that box is a riot! I am rather fond of chickens and their quirky behaviors... my folks had a rather large chicken flock when I was quite young and I really enjoyed spending time around them. Quite the characters.

Mr. H. said...


Thanks, I have a feeling he will remember it as well...each and every month.:) No bagworms around here, so far anyway...that sounds even worse than sunscald. Thanks for stopping by.

Mr. H. said...


I think perhaps he does not feel so lucky while learning but it is a blessing to be able to play some small role in his development.

Mr. H. said...


Thanks for all of the great information. I think it is possible that it happened in the early spring and I was just not aware of it. Our temperatures do fluctuate very dramatically around here, especially this past spring, so what you suggested helps to confirm what the problem was.

It sounds like you have been eating well this winter.:) Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us.

Silke said...

Mr. H., I LOVED seeing the pictures of the grandson in the chicken coop. Did you show him the special chicken real estate on my blog yesterday? I posted those photos mainly for you and Mrs. H. and you picked the one that's my favorite as well. If it were a little bigger, I could move right in... :) Silke

Mr. H. said...


Only time will tell on the trees, it's always something though. I guess that is what keeps the whole gardening adventure interesting.:)

Our chickens are hilarious, recently one of has decided that our puppy must be a big brown rooster and follows him around vying for his attention. The others are not so smitten with him.:)

Mr. H. said...


He was not with us yesterday but I will show him the pictures when he returns. That really was a fine little chicken house, thanks so much for sharing the pictures with us. Just a tad bigger and it would indeed make for a very cozy cottage.

It's snowing out this morning...what's up with that? We may be experiencing genuine Idaho weather for a change.:)

johnny said...

"I think it is possible that it happened in the early spring and I was just not aware of it."

That's the way it works. when it first appears you see fine small cracks in the bark. (Think hot glass in an ice bath) It's not until later once the bark has died and the wound begun to heal that it peels and becomes really noticeable. They may heal themselves but probably never regain thier former vigor. Keep an eye out for borers!

Mr. H. said...

Thanks Johnny,

I will keep a close eye on them and watch for borers. Fortunately the majority of our trees remain unscathed, I'd really hate to paint them but might have to give that some serious consideration.

LynnS said...

I hope you're able to mend your tree. It's especially frustrating when your plant has been growing well for several years.

Seeing apricot trees in our local orchards is a rare sighting. Between the difficulty growing them and the late frosts, no one will grow them. A few farmers selling to the farmer markets grow theirs, though, and that's when we get to enjoy a few each year. I tried growing an apricot tree about 18 years ago. No success for us either.

So you've got the child working in the hen house, eh? I am betting he rethinks that whole "free" concept!

Sylvie said...

It's wonderful that you are here now to help him grown into a better human being. Wish everybody had good mentors like that.

Your free egg lesson reminds of how Almanzo's father teaches him the value of a 1/2 dollar in Laura Ingalls Wilder "Farmer Boy": very practical, matter of fact, down to earth and totally age-appropriate.

Lynda said...

I saw this on one of our new cherry trees (planted in 07) last week and was pretty upset. Guess I'll just wait and hope it survives. Thanks for the post and look forward on hearing the progress on your trees.

Mr. H. said...


You know, some things are just worth growing even if they do fail...I love apricots and peaches so much. They don't really belong in our garden but I will continue to defy mother nature nonetheless and attempt to grow them...if they die I will probably replant them. My thoughts are that eventually I will have a 5-10 year stretch in which this forbidden fruit does produce making it all worth while.:) When I am old and gray I can look back and tell the great grandchildren "Yep, I remember the year we had a bumper crop of apricots in northern Idaho."

Silke said...

Mr. H, thanks for your comment on my blog. I'm glad you are going to try the recipe for the rolls - they are so delicious! And fun to know that you are going to watch North and South - we watched before we moved here. It was so good! There was another movie we liked, parts of which were filmed right here at Fort Jackson, called Glory. Have you seen it?

Mr. H. said...


Funny, we were just talking about introducing the boy to some of those books and the television series. Both of which are full of good "lessons."

Mr. H. said...


I hope that your cherry is not damaged to badly. From what I have read the trees usually do recover depending upon the amount of damage of course. Lets hope that the sun has pity on both of our trees this next summer.:)

Mr. H. said...


Don't you wish they still made mini series like that...I have been a fan of Patrick Swayze since I was a youngster and watched him in "The Outsiders." I have not seen "Glory" and will look it up...thanks for the tip.

I see that Glory has one of my favorite actors in it...Denzel Washington. Now I have to see it.:)

GetSoiled said...

Okay, two things.

1.) Somebody gotta tell your tree its fly is open.

2.) Note to self: if ever in the physical presence of Mr. H. never ever say "Thanks so much for this free -----"

3.) That boy is edibly cute!

Seriously now, that is a complete bummer about the sunscald, but on the bright side it does not look like the trees are goners...pfewwwwwww!

GetSoiled said...

Mr. H!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Hi, got your msg in my blog about the dandelion seeds swap...came here looking for your email address but I could not find it, so here is my email address:


Would you email me when you get a chance so that I can send you my address, SASE & so we can chat about what I can send you in return?

thank you tons! :)

GetSoiled said...

Mr. H!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Hi, got your msg in my blog about the dandelion seeds swap...came here looking for your email address but I could not find it, so here is my email address:


Would you email me when you get a chance so that I can send you my address, SASE & so we can chat about what I can send you in return?

thank you tons! :)

GetSoiled said...

HA...just realized by chance that my initial attempt to post the previous comment were not successful...hum...I wonder if you got my comment that I left a couple of days ago about someone needing to tell your tree it has his zip down and such?

I am now thinking I might not have posted it correctly...let me know when you can...thanks again!

Mr. H. said...

Get soiled,

I sent you an email and yes it does look like Mr. Apricot had better zip it up.:)

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