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 abandoned plum orchard 
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Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:01 pm
Posts: 6
Post abandoned plum orchard
Hello,

My name is Jerry Kaidor, and I just bought this house.....

Which includes an abandoned plum orchard. It's maybe a third of an acre with 10 to 20 trees ( hard to judge what a plum "tree" is - is this a tree or just a shoot of the one next to it? ). It's been neglected for many many years. When we were looking at the house in August, we snarfed a few plums - WOW they were good. Not large, but very sweet.

There is also an abandoned well - the kind that people dug with shovels and pickaxes, and lined with brick. I plan to restore it, and convert it into a useful modern well.

There are also four large oak trees, which have been doing their best to kill off the plum trees by denying them sun. I had my handyman trim the oaks some, but more might be needed.

I have been spending two or three hours every day clearing brush and tidying up the site. Got one of those big telescoping loppers, broke it and rewelded it about 5 times :).

Seems like I need a ladder for this activity. My household stepladder
is not working well. Right now, I'm leaning toward a tripod ladder. The
Stokes looks good - I like the telescoping leg ( we're in hill country ). What height should I get?

- Jerry Kaidor


Last edited by Viron on Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Renamed thread for search purposes



Wed Feb 08, 2012 12:38 pm
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Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 12:01 am
Posts: 36
Location: S.E. Portland, Oregon
Post Re: Intro
Pretty much depends on your trees. I have a 6', and a 12', and I use whichever one fits the particular task and tree. I believe they come in 2' increments. Good luck with all your efforts!


Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:54 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1147
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Intro
Hey Jerry, I'm intrigued by your project and would like to add some experience.

hard to judge what a plum "tree" is - is this a tree or just a shoot of the one next to it?” -- So true. I was working among three large ‘seedling’ European (prune) plum trees today that the young owner has been taming for three years. They’ve turned into valuable and productive trees. Most folks are inclined to remove them, due to their wild nature and unconventional form but with diligence, they’re a jewel in the rough.

WOW they were good. Not large, but very sweet.” -- European prune (plums) are ‘different’ in that they grow quite ‘true to their seed.’ I’ve heard peaches do the same. Whereas many fruit trees grown from seed will not resemble anything close to their parents, ‘prune plums’ will. The only difference is size; they always seem a bit smaller, but not by half, or anything like a seedling cherry for example. And, their flavor is most often equal to the parent.

There is also an abandoned well - the kind that people dug with shovels and pickaxes, and lined with brick. I plan to restore it, and convert it into a useful modern well.” -- Sounds like ‘my well,’ providing water to the residence for nearly a century! Much depends on the surrounding activities as to what’s gotten into the water. But I’d love to have one strictly for irrigation. Just be real careful around them, I’ve seen some scary deep ones!

There are also four large oak trees, which have been doing their best to kill off the plum trees by denying them sun.” -- Those can be a real problem. So often folks will describe the poor growth of their trees and I’ll come to find they’re being shaded out. No amount of fertilizer, water or pruning can make up for the loss of sun. But, Oaks are too majestic to sacrifice for seedling plumbs …in my book. Perhaps you can ‘trim the Oaks’ some, and work to develop the seedling prunes furthest away and receiving the most light. It’s a tuff call - and one of the most common problems with fruit trees in the city - shade from neighboring trees.

Got one of those big telescoping loppers, broke it and rewelded it about 5 times” -- Use a saw! You’ll soon learn the limitations of loppers, and, they get expensive. A nice narly (knurly) toothed pruning saw is great – only diameter stops them – then it’s chainsaw time!

My household stepladder is not working well.” -- Yup, you’d think four legs would be better than three, but not in the orchard, especially on hills. Mines no doubt saved my life several times, as I was using it most of today – on hills. Mine is an 8 footer and I find it perfect. A six and a 10 or 12 foot would likely be ideal, but for all-around work, and affordability, I find eight feet perfect. Just keep the real legs parallel with the hill - and the extending leg always pointed ‘up hill.’ In fact, here: http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/article/36/ That was my piece on orchard ladders… going back a ways.

Another thought that jumped at me was the idea of using those ‘seedling’ (I’m assuming they’re seedlings – growing on their own roots and ungrafted) as grafting, or ‘root stock’ for grafting to. You usually don’t need or want a ton of the same fruit, so you could graft on all kinds(!) of plums to those trees, even increase their productivity from extra pollination. As ‘European’ stock, they'll support all trees related to the same – plus – all the Asian plums! The Asian’s come on much earlier and have so much variation, you could be eating plums from July through September! And, you’ve little to lose. And, they’re a great opportunity to experiment with all kinds of grafting, too.

I had a friend (we met through the HOS) who’d done just that, then sold his place, and the new owners are apparently loving his plum menagerie! ‘Bill’ would show up at our yearly Scion Exchange (Fruit Propagation Fair) and collect anything and everything plum related, then happily head home to place them on his seedling plum thicket. If the grafts failed, no biggy, just remove that tree. If not – wow… a free tree!

OK, I’ll let you head back to work … but I am curious where you’re located (city/county?) – and, please keep us posted on your adventures with those fruit trees :mrgreen:

PS, I renamed this thread for search purposes; ‘intro’ would not lead others to this topic, one I’ve obviously found quite intriguing.

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Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:52 pm
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Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:01 pm
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Post Re: abandoned plum orchard
Well thank you for the kind words.

We did have the oak trees trimmed somewhat. They really did seem to be trying to kill the plums. Who said the world of plants was peaceful? Luckily, the plums are on the SOUTH side of the oak trees. So I think we can save them with moderate trimming of the oaks. We'll have to do it every year though.

We're in the hills east of Hayward, CA. The orchard is in a natural valley between two hills. The bottom of the valley has been designated as a "retention basin" for stormwater. The entire orchard is covered by a
storm drain easement, so we can't build anything there. But nobody says we can't garden it! Even before the area was developed, this valley was obviously a "wetter" place than the surrounding hills.

I did obtain an 8-foot orchard ladder. Very nice!

We had a couple of guys out from the CA central valley. One of them was a professional fruit tree pruner. He asked me - "do you want lots of plums?" Well, duhhhh. So he pruned about half the trees. Severely. You could tell however that he was thinking about every cut. He specifically asked me to get a new pruner that would make nice clean cuts. My wife came home and all hell broke loose - "You murdered all my trees!"

Well, we''ll see which trees bear more fruit - the wild overgrown ones, or the severely pruned ones....

We have almost an acre, mostly usable, and my wife has been spending time at the nurseries. Every week she brings home three or four fruit trees. Apples, pluots, persimmons, gooseberries - you name it.

We got tired of clearing brush, and took a look at the well. We used an extension pole, some artfully formed coat hanger wire, and some rope, and got most of the scrap wood out of it. Then we pulled out the well pump. Ouch it was heavy! It had 50 feet of galvanized pipe and an actuator rod in the middle.

When I discovered the well, the County made a big stink about it. They considered it a hazard. They quieted down when I took responsibility, demolished the (rotten) well shack, and fabricated a decent temporary cover. They didn't even charge me for the permit to restore it.

At this time, I need to do a flow test - basically, pump some water out of the well and see how fast it refills. If it passes the flow test, I need to test it for bacteria. If it fails the flow test, it can possibly be restored by throwing a bunch of dry ice in it. The dry ice fizzes up and can clean out the silt. If it tests bad on bacteria, I get to buy a LARGE quantity of bleach. After sanitizing the well with the bleach, I'll pump out all the water and debris with a trash pump, vacuum out the silt from the bottom, pour a cement footing around the well with embedded bolts, fabricate a top cover out of mild steel, install a submersible well pump, and use it for irrigation. I'm told that in the summer the fruit trees would like some water.

WRT chain saws - I had no idea just how much TLC all that outdoor equipment requires! I have a Husqvarna 350 and a McCullough 3200, one bought at a garage sale, the other at a flea market. I've probably spent more time working on them than using them. Had to replace the piston and cylinder on the Husq - the Mac came to me with the wrong oil cap, which fell off and the saw sprayed oil all over my leg. Ebay has been my friend in this endeavour.

And then there's the two chipper shredders.... Why two? Well, there was this piece of 3/4" rebar hiding in a pile of oak leaves. Pretty much demolished the first one. I fixed it more or less ( chips but doesn't shred ) and got a second one on Craigslist.

I do wonder what we're going to do with industrial quantities of plums. Plum preserves? Dry them into prunes? Plum pudding? Pie? Plum wine? Sell plums at the farmers market?

- Jerry Kaidor


Attachments:
File comment: That's one scary hole!
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DSCN3524-small.jpg [ 220.55 KiB | Viewed 1988 times ]
File comment: The well. And its temporary cover.
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DSCN3520-small.jpg [ 381.3 KiB | Viewed 1988 times ]
File comment: This tree flowered before everything else. We think it's another plum, but not sure. There were lots of bees - which relieves my worry ( about possibly not having bees )
DSCN3513-small.jpg
DSCN3513-small.jpg [ 445.75 KiB | Viewed 1989 times ]
Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:11 am
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Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:01 pm
Posts: 6
Post Re: abandoned plum orchard
More pix.


Attachments:
File comment: further down the orchard, the big oak trees, and the chipper shredder ( that tried to eat the rebar )
DSCN3535-small.jpg
DSCN3535-small.jpg [ 482.5 KiB | Viewed 1988 times ]
File comment: Row of plums, which my central valley guys pruned. Wife came home, hit the roof. "You murdered my trees!" I don't think so.
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DSCN3533-small.jpg [ 382.54 KiB | Viewed 1988 times ]
Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:18 am
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1336
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: abandoned plum orchard
Cool project you're working on.

European plums are good for drying, canning, and preserving in general.

Japanese plums are good for fresh eating, smoothies, fruit salads, etc.

They ripen at different times, which is great for farmer's markets. You could sell them from July through September.
John S
PDX OR


Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:53 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1147
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: abandoned plum orchard
Jerry,

Thanks for the great post and pictures. Love that well shot! Reminds me of several I’ve seen around here. You sound quite capable of doing what's needed to utilize it, at least for irrigation, where low levels of bacteria shouldn’t be a problem. I irrigate from a gravity flow pond system and consider the ‘bacteria’ from my 400 catfish as free fertilizer.

The plum trees look hacked alright, and of course they’ll recover. But I’d have liked to seen some fruiting wood left on them... Usually there are several well placed branches in need of just thinning. As is, they’ll all come back into production at the same time, in about 2 or 3 years.

Another thing the plums will do is send up lots of water-suckers. The ones you leave, and hopefully bend over (or ‘train’) will become the fruiting limbs. And – as mentioned, they’ll be perfect candidates for grafting! Aren’t you in the hart of Asian (American) plum territory..? I’d be on the lookout this coming summer for the best Asian and European plum trees (and fruit) you can find. Then secure some wood from them next winter to graft onto the multiple shoots that will grow on your plum seedlings this year… I craned my head last weekend as I passed that one-time plum thicket I’d described of a friend …the new owners have them pruned into beautiful stand-alone plum trees. Very impressive!

It’s nice to have a wife on your side regarding planting fruit trees, you’ll need the help! I suspect deer aren’t a problem..? …and don’t forget figs, they don’t need a pollinator and deer can’t stand the leaves.

Congrats on the eight-footer ~ it should last forever!

Oh man… a Husqvarna and a McCullough… what a nightmare. I’ve had one Swedish saw, my Jonsered 70E, and a smaller Stihl for many years now. I’ve watched friends and neighbors battle with what you’ve got all my life. We cut a lot of firewood as kids, and still do. Get yourself a Stihl and you won’t be sorry.

Glad to read you’re chipping and shredding …I’m either burning or pitching it into the surrounding woods. I’d considered a chipper attachment for my 8 horse Troybuilt tiller, but it would have cost as much as the tiller - and would have likely been underpowered for the stuff I’d come up with. Glad I didn’t.

Yes, looks like an excellent project, and thanks again for the photos – keep us posted!

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Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:06 pm
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Joined: Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:01 pm
Posts: 6
Post Re: abandoned plum orchard
Viron wrote:
Jerry,

Thanks for the great post and pictures. Love that well shot! Reminds me of several I’ve seen around here. You sound quite capable of doing what's needed to utilize it, at least for irrigation, where low levels of bacteria shouldn’t be a problem.

*** I'm going to dose it with 18 gallons of bleach. Give or take. Then I can pump it out to clean it without worrying about spreading bacteria everywhere. I'm going to fabricate a
cover for out out of the heaviest steel that I can actually carry out to the site. I'm thinking 1/8" thick or maybe even 3/16" thick, with stiffeners welded on the underside. Expecting it to be a fun project. I do MIG,TIG, and gas welding ( on a hobby level ) and also have a small plasma cutter.

Viron wrote:

The plum trees look hacked alright, and of course they’ll recover. But I’d have liked to seen some fruiting wood left on them...

*** There is some. Really, they were so overgrown that drastic action had to be taken.
These guys came from an environment where fruit production = money & survival. That's my story and I'm sticking to it :).

Unfortunately, I learned about "scion exchanges" only this month - and they were all last month, including one in Oakland. I'll be there next year...
Viron wrote:

Another thing the plums will do is send up lots of water-suckers. The ones you leave, and hopefully bend over (or ‘train’)

[/quote]
*** I need to make up some pieces of wood for training. Am thinking - take a strip of 1/4" plywood maybe 2 inches wide - drill 3/4 inch holes at intervals - then cut it at each hole.

Viron wrote:
It’s nice to have a wife on your side regarding planting fruit trees, you’ll need the help!

*** My wife has dreamed of having fruit trees all her life. 
Viron wrote:
I suspect deer aren’t a problem..?

*** Don't get me started on deer. There's a herd about about 12 of them
that lives here. They'll eat anything that's not nailed down. Rats with hooves. We're going to be fencing the entire property next week.
Viron wrote:
…and don’t forget figs, they don’t need a pollinator and deer can’t stand the leaves.

Thanks for the hint!

Viron wrote:
Congrats on the eight-footer ~ it should last forever!

*** It's a "Stokes". Made right here in California. I liked the Stokes because there are accessories available. There's a telescoping pole and a hard surface kit. With the hard surface kit, you can use it as a regular ladder, and with the telescoping pole, you can
use it on staircases! ( and hills )
Viron wrote:
Oh man… a Husqvarna and a McCullough… what a nightmare.

*** Yeah, they're a pain in the whatsit. The Husq mostly seems like a good design, well thought out and practical, easy to maintain - with one glaring exception. There is a small hole under the big hole into the cylinder ( where air/gas goes in ). The small hole connects to the crankcase. Pressure pulses are piped from the crankcase to the carburetor, where they run the fuel pump. The seal to this small hole must be absolutely perfect, or the pump won't pump and the saw won't start. And the design of this seal is - how can I say it - "casual".
Viron wrote:
Glad to read you’re chipping and shredding

*** There didn't seem to be any other way to get rid of it. Can't burn it - the fire department would be out in three shakes. Can't throw it in the woods - they're my woods, and I'm trying to clean them out. So compost it is.
Viron wrote:
I’d considered a chipper attachment for my 8 horse Troybuilt tiller,


*** That's the next thing I need. A tiller. Want to plant vegetables. I actually have one, but it's in Fresno. ( At my apartment complex ). It was a garage sale buy of unknown brand. I doubt it's more than 5 horse. 

- Jerry


Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:31 am
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