Friday, June 18, 2010

Reaping the Benefits from Education

Back in January I took a fruit tree pruning class at UC Davis - kind of the holy grail of fruit trees in the U.S. It was a great one day class with lots of hands on time - aka hacking the heck out of poor, innocent adolescent fruit trees.

The two instructors are both PhDs in Pruning, I am not kidding, though I am sure they have proven competencies in other aspects of fruit trees and horticulture.

If I left this class with one message it was - "If in doubt, cut it out". I was quite shocked at the hacking and slashing that went on. They just cut, cut, cut, obviously choosing their cuts but in some cases cut half of the growth off the trees.
 Being new to this whole gardening and green thumb stuff, I was fairly shocked, it seemed to go against my whole "don't touch it, leave it as nature put it and hope this one doesn't die" approach. Hmmm, guess I have been wrong!

We have so many pear, apple, walnut and plum trees that have been so long neglected that it was time to heed the advice I garnered in that cold, bleak field in the central Valley of CA and begin the massacre. I only attacked about a third of our trees and did it on a day that Kyle was at work so I wouldn't have to hear the cries of horror as I mutilated his babies.

Fast forward to now mid-June and WOW! I will tell you the difference in the trees that I pruned is unbelievable. They are thick and lush and green, they look healthy and are producing much healthier and robust fruit. I will let you know if they taste better, but word on the street is that pruning makes a big difference to taste too.

So go out there this winter and hack away at those fruit trees, eliminate all that vigor and you will reap the rewards next summer in some tasty fruit.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wind, wind and more wind

What a long hiatus but amazing. We just got back from a fabulous vacation and are now hitting the "to do " list that seems to have grown while we were away both with fixes that cropped up to be done but also all those new ideas we generated during those long brainstorming hours in the truck.

The biggest thing that came out of the vacation was WIND! It was everywhere and it was so exciting to go to a part of the country where localized wind production was
so prevalent and relied upon. I am not talking those fabulous wind farms that run through Texas and the midwest but through Arizona and Southern Utah where you see small
Sky Stream and
Bergy wind turbines pumping away from the constant warm winds that flow. Whether it was a gas station at the side of the highway, a small farm or a remote rancher pumping water for
cattle, you couldn't drive more than a few miles without seeing a windmill working away generating much needed power.
We spent half of our vacation on the property that my mom bought in Eastern AZ just north of the White Mountains. The property sits on the old King's Ranch that is thousands of acres. It is split up into privately owned lots and BLM land. My mom's piece is 80 acres and is bordered on 2 sides by BLM. Its very remote being 20 miles from the nearest paved road and 30 miles from any kind of town. You sit on her property and cannot see a sole, house, building, road or anything. Its absolutely amazing. It also has no water or power. So its exciting to start to settle onto the land and figure out ways to generate power and store water, its amazing the options that are available.

The biggest thing that stuck out was the constant breeze/winds that crossed the land. At 6,500 feet elevation and up on a knoll with views for over 100 miles, the winds just roll in and for the first time we all got excited about the viability of a windmill. There are few people that live out in this area and fewer that live all year round so most of our ideas are a test at what will work best. We took stock of all the variables of the property and are going back to research the best infrastructure to implement over the next year or so.
With all this wind racing around you, you start to look for other areas where turbines could be working away with minimal work - top of street lights, power lines, on every house, the possibilities are endless. So I was excited to see Burger King embrace this idea, post courtesy of Inhabitat. We see great solar applications on many businesses but its exciting to see wind integrated in big energy consumers to offset energy use using localized power.

The area of AZ where our land is, is also home to quite a few coal fire power plants which is sad to see. There was a large scale wind farm on the books in 2002 and for some reason it was canned. I have called and tried to find out why but never got an answer. Its sad to see so much valuable natural resources just blow smoke stacks instead of wind turbines. Maybe one day if T. Boone Pickens gets his way or, God forbid, there are anymore mining tragedies.