Update: Blackberries April 2021 Part 2

By Melinda Hatfield

They have begun to flower. I know it is a process but I do enjoy waiting for these beasties to produce. I am excited to see them come into bloom and see what kind of taste they have.

I have no idea what kind of thornless blackberries these are. They were unlabeled excess that I purchased last year in bulk. It was a decent deal for the amount that I purchased.

By Melinda Hatfield

This is the first year they have been able to properly fruit and I am excited to see the outcome. I did not trellis my blackberries. Most of them stand upright on their own other hover over the ground.

I wanted to see what they would do naturally. So far the results aren’t awful and it seems they are producing flowers with little to no maintenance.

By Melinda Hatfield

I didn’t realize how many shoots come off the floracane. Not that it matters but in the picture below you’ll see the prima canes starting at the base of the plant. Last year I clipped half back mid summer and it seemed to have caused more side shoots.

I did notice that I have less growth when I don’t cut the tips but they are better at standing upright without the additional pressure and weight of the new shoots.

By Melinda Hatfield

So I bought these black berries in bulk because they were out of growing season and they didn’t have tags. Nameless babies but I am sure they will be delicious.

Some of the bushes have white flowers and some have pink ones. I must say that this makes me curious if they taste different. All I know is that they make it fun and diverse.

By Melinda Hatfield

I cannot wait to see what our first true harvest will look like.

I hope that our blackberries spread (like people have said they will) so that I can uproot and plant more berry patches. I really enjoy blackberries as a fruit. It’s too bad they do not have the shelf life to be sold in most box stores.

By Melinda Hatfield

Above is our only thorny blackberry bush that made it. We have some white blackberries but their roots were not established enough and they were very young plants and were taken out by the winter storm.

Lesson learned. Until next time…

Stout Creek Farms: An exciting new adventure

I am super excited. I went to Stout Creek Farms and it was amazing. First, let me explain: it was for a job interview. I know, but remember although I do dye shirts as a side business- I have a to have a day job and this is a hobby blog. So now that that is settled… I am excited to do what I love and learn more about the world. Not the world that we know with cell phones and gadgets but the world we live in with life, plants and animals.

When I started this journey I never imagined that I would be able to see so many cool things and learn so much. The people at Stout Farms are serious about regenerative agriculture. They want to put carbon back into the soil, ethically raise livestock, and just leave the world a better place. They are amazing people and this is amazing work they are doing. Being here this week, even though it wasn’t for very long (so far), has been inspirational.

Me, I’m slightly different in my approach and end game goals: I want to live in a jungle. Doing right by the planet is a perk, but I want to live in a jungle and teach people how to create their own jungles. You know so we can hide away in our own forests and listen to the world.

I want people to learn that they can create a jungle they can eat and how easy it is to be in control of the food you eat and how to be food secure in their own back yard. Imagine if people invested in putting money into growing trees and shrubs that are edible- a surplus of food can only be beneficial to the world and to people, to the community and would leave things better than they were.

They are amazing people who do amazing work, and it was very cool and I am excited about this new adventure.

A lot of information was thrown at me. I’m not going to lie, I knew a lot but I also didn’t know a lot. They are self informed individuals who love what they do and have obtained crazy amounts of research. The only animal I am personally considering on my own homestead/food forest is ducks and possibly chickens, but now that I see it I am leaning more towards ducks. Hanging out here might change my mind, but who knows what the universe has in store for me. All I know is working here for the little time I have has caused me to really think about my own habits and lifestyle.

They have a super professional website that does not do them justice- they have so much going on at their farm. They are putting it back into the soil- carbon that is- and ethically raising livestock. I helped them move cows and sheep and feed the chickens- I know I can learn so much here and I cannot wait.

I enjoy the work, it is full of adventures and there is something new every single day.

They move the sheep and cows and chickens from plot to plot in order to fertilize the ground and create fresh grazing areas for their animals. Their animals seem so happy (and vocal- they know when it is time to move and are excitedly waiting) and they have donkeys to guard their livestock and they have working dogs. I am not sure I got a picture of those but it was cool to see them in action.

I am excited that I will be going back to this farm daily. It is amazingly beautiful and I am excited.

Things that I want think would be amazing:

  • Starting a large berry patch, but first I have to figure out which ones would do best in this soil. I have to get together and start planning with the team to figure out where and how- which berries and which spots of land.
  • Starting an apple orchard, like a real one not like this patch work backyard orchard I am starting. One that has been planned to perfectly work with nature but also produce delicious organic fruit.
    • Along with this I want to experiment with multiple grafts on apple trees to see if we can get the trees to produce all season long.
    • For example: we would put one early fruiting one, one middle fruiting on another, a early summer fruit producer and a late summer fruit producer.
    • Also, I think that apples are one of the most diverse fruits. They can make flour, sauce, they go good in meals, as a snack, in pies… if you can’t tell- I’m a fan.
  • Peach trees are always a fan favorite and I think it would be really cool to do a similar grafting scheme but with 3 cultivars on each instead, at least until the trees are older.
    • Peaches do really well in East Texas and it would be amazing to really show off how amazing peaches can be.
  • Plums are a popular tree to grow in Texas as well, although I am not a fan many people love them. I know they do well but like peaches they do not self pollinated (but with all fruit trees having different kinds helps with pollination)
    • My kids love plums and there are many varieties that do well in our area and they are a primary fruit export in Texas- like peaches- which I thought was amazing.
  • Grape vines. I want to make their drive green with grapes. There are thousands of types of grapes- what if we just grew them all.
    • Let’s say we plant six of the same kind year one. Year two we are going to plant a new kind or maybe two new kind. As the years progress we can always go back to our favorites, but wouldn’t that be neat?
    • Then not only would we be producing grapes but we could also be a learning center for:
      • The 4H, viticulture enthusiasts, horticulture majors, agriculture majors… and on and on.
      • Schools could have field trips where the kids take a tour of the vineyard and find out how grapes are produced and how easy it is to plant something cool. This can apply to anything we are growing.
      • Grapes are amazingly hardy for our zone and there are hundreds of grape varieties. Not all grapes are the same and they bush out to be absolutely beautiful in the summer.
  • Vegetable garden- I want to be a master gardener now. I have got to get in contact with the local ag extension office and see who to contact. Growing a vegetable garden is going to be one of the most rewarding things. We have multiple growing seasons in Texas and we can rotate crops of pasture.
    • Working here (mind you it has only been a day and all I did was clean up half of their beds that already exist) has made me see the potential and they are doing amazing things regeneratively from the soil to compost.
      • I am going to make lots of compost and see how we can find better ways to grow vegetables in our zone and potentially encourage others to do the same thing.
      • I already started propagating plants. I am just too excited.
    • They are very interested in farm to fork and that would be amazing. Imagine making your own meals from Apple flour bread as an appetizer with a garlic goat butter glaze over top. Followed by meat that is 100% organic on the farm, grape juice made on the farm, apple cider during the winter, bond fire nights where you tell scary stories and eat berries by the fire.
    • I’m just one big run on, rambling but it would be so exciting to see people enjoy the fruits and vegetables that are growing by you.
  • The Stout Farm could use some wild flower diversity and I would love to find out the right mix that would not only benefit the soil but add additional nutrition to the animals. I am sure the information is out there. I just have to find it.
    • They have done their research but I absolutely adore Indian paintbrushes and other diverse native wildflowers. Possibly throwing out some seeds in order to encourage growth.
  • Making the ultimate plant fertilizer. They have so much poop, I know that with the right mixture I can create the perfect fertilizer for these plants.
    • I finally figured out what I am going to do with their machine. I am going to create compost with their poop and with what they already have I am going to create mounds.
    • I have to remember Drip irrigation similar to what I have because it is easy to check and replace lines if necessary and I have had none of those shenanigans in a year- but also because it is ran on a timer. And my timer has been neglected because I just leave it out in the elements. Since this is professional I’ll definitely suggest some sort of cover. We can’t all live like heathens.
  • So many projects run through my head but we have to start with some trees and we need to drive around together and find out what they want to do and where.
  • Oh and don’t let me forget: morel mushrooms. We have got to start growing those naturally in the wooded areas that aren’t being utilized. We want to encourage mushrooms to grow in order to help breakdown organic matter but also because they are delicious fried in butter and crackers and served as an appetizer.

Not going to lie… my imagination went wild when I found I had the job. I immediately thought- drip irrigation, but I should ask. So now I am looking forward to taking my current knowledge of blackberries to start a patch- that will be fun and I can’t wait.

One step at a time: current beds, garden up front, orchard and berry patch planning… I am just going crazy staying up all night looking into fun things. I cannot wait until finals are over so that I can focus more. Two more weeks and I can fully devote my time to really establishing the foundation for their own magical regenerative forest. (Also I want to take a class on Native American agricultural techniques. How do I make that happen?) So many things I want to do now and you know what? I can’t wait.

I just want to contribute to making the world a better place and yes, I do things that aren’t planet friendly sometimes- why shouldn’t we make the world a better place? This is where I think I should be. The universe is calling me to a place where I can experience all of my allergies while doing what I love.

Stay tuned because they have an amazing set up where I have access to all of the compost I could desire and there is no stopping me now. I cannot wait. This place is really something and I cannot wait to learn as much as I can from this amazing regenerative farm.

Also they have ducks. I should have mentioned them. Regardless, I am excited to embark on this journey. Please remember that every big dream has someone who is in control and this is their regenerative kingdom and I am at their mercy truly, but I think my ideas are okay and could always use improvement.

Until next time…

Plant Names and Classifications

Are you like me and didn’t know that common plant names are not the best way of identifying plants because a lot of the common names get confused or could overlap with others? I mean there are trees that are called oak trees that are not in the same group. It’s just a bunch of craziness and I just want to make it clear: up until this point I was entirely ignorant. I’m cool with it.

Now there is a science to plant classification and in that science there are two categories that we should be aware of and that is the plant taxonomy and plant systematic systems. We used to go by common names but it often became confusing  for a lot of people. Today we classify all plants based on their genetic and evolutionary characteristics, this means that the plants are grouped based on who their common ancestors are.

In horticulture they are primarily concerned with the last three levels of classification: Species, Genus and Family.

The species is the most basic level of classification and below this there can be many subspecies. These plants are usually the most closely related to one another and they can interbreed freely.

The Genus is a group of related species.

The Family is the general group of Genus who are all related by a common ancestor.

There are two important flowering plant families that my professor made sure that we covered. Frankly, I’ve already learned more than what I knew before and I am pleased, but we’re only part of the way through so I’ll continue to let you know what I know or I am learning.

First is the dicot family, which is a flowering family with two cotelydons (embrodic leaves). Just to let you know those cotelydons are inside and this is the largest of the two families. There are over 200,000 types and they are everywhere. They are roses, myrtle trees and so many more.

The second flowering family is the Monocot. They are grass like flowering plants that only have one cotelydon per seed. In agriculture the majority of biomass is created through monocots. You might find a monocot as wheat, rice, bamboo, sugar cane, forage grasses and many others. This family includes many bulb flowers like daffodils, lilies, and iris. They are not simply flowers and grasses but also tumeric, garlic, and asparagus.

Both are angiosperms and very popular. I really enjoy these classes and can’t wait to learn more. How many more things am I going to learn? Who knows but I can’t wait.

Although this information may not be useful right away I am certain being able to identify plant families will be useful in the future. These pictures are by a wonderful lady named Vivian Morris.

Plant names are identified not my their family but by the genus and species. Common names change by region and can be confusing because a rose is a rose and can be any different species of rose if you are looking for a specific type. Although common names can be misleading botanical names are not. The Botanic name is a Latin name accepted world wide.

For example: Magnolia alba or Ligustrum album.

Until next time…

Horticulture: What I didn’t know

My salad barnett

Why didn’t I learn this stuff when I was in school? I’m amazed. Regardless, horticulture is a field of agriculture that deals with every aspect of plants from business to science and even the art of growing ornamental plants. Horticulture covers everything from ornamental plants and office plants to fruits and vegetables. Horticulture is different than other fields of agriculture for a lot of reasons, but mainly (from what I’ve learned) because we deal in landscape and artistic design.

The fields of the landscape industry according to my professor are installation, maintenance, irrigation, and design. This is not every part of horticulture and is only one of three different primary industries within horticulture. Inside each field of the landscaping industry there are many different jobs and needs that we most likely work with regularly on our homesteads or farms. The landscape industry as a whole deals in the design, installation and maintenance of home and commercial landscapes.

My tree

In the cities landscape is the most recognizable industry and is one of the largest industries in the entire State of Texas, allegedly with over nine billion in total added revenue to the state’s economy. This may not take in to account the kids who are looking for summer work, but it is clear that it is one of the easiest fields to get into.

When we talk about installation we are discussing the full destruction of a previous landscape and creating a completely new design or modifying an existing plants. Sure, it seems like fun but demolition of existing systems can take a lot of work and effort. It includes: bed preparation, adding organic matter to beds and tilling the soil before new transplants are added. This also includes adding things like rock walls, paths and structures that benefit the landscape or area of attention. It’s not hard to see why this area is one of the highest in profitability but is seasonal work because grass doesn’t grow in the winter.

My tree

Maintenance is also just more than maintaining existing landscapes. This can also be turf maintenance, which if you didn’t know is what we use on golf courses and sports fields. This could be anything from mowing the yard to making sure that edging and trimming is properly done around the fencing and other fixed structures. This work is usually low pay but can be continuous throughout the entire year with only a small decline during the winter months.

Irrigation is something that I have just started learning about outside of class- I set up my own crappy five hundred dollar system. Now irrigation system managers may assist in the initial installation of a landscape system or they may work in maintaining existing sprinkler and irrigation systems. They usually work on larger commercial projects or they have many smaller projects in a larger city and people who go into this field can specialize in irrigation design which I didn’t not know was a real life thing. This does require a license in Texas with TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, there is design, which seems to be incorporated in each and every single industry so far. They are usually in charge of designing new or existing landscapes. They usually design large commercial projects or for residential customers. If you are working in a large city you may be required to get plans from a landscape architect (who knew this existed) and those people are specifically certified by the ASLA (American Society for Landscape Architecture). Sometimes these people also specialize in irrigation in design, which I thought was kind of neat.

A big thing to look at with landscaping is that they do a lot of work with turf grass, which if I’m reading properly it should be an industry of it’s own. Especially because turf grass is widely used by sports fields and golf courses. This falls under the care and maintenance and is covered under the landscaping industry, rightly so, but is a huge part.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

All in all I had no idea there were so many different types of landscaping and we haven’t even gotten through the rest of horticulture. Allegedly this is the most important because it is the most money making. Landscaping, it’s the most commercialized and has the highest profit margins. So if you’re looking for money to be made it’s from people looking for these services and for some reason I was a dummy and thought it might have something to do with food, but I was wrong.

Now onward to the other fields that are equally important regardless of how valuable it is to commercial America. After landscaping we have interiorscape. Just to let you know I don’t think that’s a real word, I know that it’s all over the internet and they say that it is a word and so we’re running with it. Spell check says no too though, so they should get together and work on that.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

This specific industry deals specifically on the inside. That works with the installation and maintenance of landscapes inside buildings or structures. This doesn’t seem like a very common or wide range field. Yes, there are plants in the majority of buildings but the majority of buildings do not require someone to set them up. This is specifically to help businesses to establish a natural environment inside their building. For example a fancy fountain with fish at the bottom and the whole ecosystem that goes along with that. You might find these in fancy malls, hospitals, banks, offices or other environments where there are people who want an enjoyable and relaxing environment. Sometimes they might design an enclosure in a zoo. This is where they must design an environment that is suitable and specifically designed for the animal; that’s temperature, plants they are comfortable with and everything else that goes into recreating a temperature controlled environment. Although, this is usually done for primates.

After Interiorscape and Landscaping we have Floriculture. This one doesn’t pass the spell check either. I didn’t know they had a name specifically for flower people, but here we are. These people specifically deal in the production, sell and use of flowers. It’s got a lot of layers to it but floriculture serves a purpose in landscaping, but is a lot more than growing flowers in yards and it also is used in specialized greenhouse production. Floriculturists provide insight on color (especially seasonal color) and pretty much all plants that are used in interiorscapes. They are known for their ornamental plants and their pretty flowers and deal in anything from pothos ivy to flowers that we see in flower shops.

Sign at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

They are the growers of flowers you cut to make bouquets with as well as flowers that go into pots or in garden beds. This industry is the primary job in greenhouse production. That’s because floriculture deals in bedding plants, which is where plants are grown in tiny little pots to get ready for transplanting in a garden or a landscape. They also work with foliage, which are plants that are grown specifically for their pretty leaves instead of their flowers. They are the primary flower producers and in order to protect those flowers from being eaten by bugs before they hit the floral shops they grow them in greenhouses. Finally they work with potted plants and flowers, but this is mainly used in interiorscaping and not to be confused with plants that are grown for transplant.

The nursery is what you hear most about, or at least I do. I hear more about this because the people I am around go to nurseries a lot and so do I. They work in the production and sale of perennials, trees, shrubs and ground covers. Nurseries can be owned locally or by large box stores like Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart. Really, I advise everyone to shop locally, but I cannot deny sometimes they have things that I want and need.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Finally, my two favorite fields in the whole world and that is because they are the ones that I am most particularly interested in. Fruit and nut production is the first one, because as we all know I’ve been working hard towards growing my fruit trees and berry bushes. From fruit and nut production we have the two largest fields for fruit and nut production in Texas: pomology and viticulture. Pomology is concerned with fruit trees; in Texas it’s primarily peaches, pecans and plums but it can also include apples and citrus. Viticulture deals with grapes and grape production, this is particularly useful in wineries and vineyards. Although, you would think that this would be a big deal in Texas most of our production is done by people like me: hobbyists.

The last one would be Olericulture and if you hadn’t guessed by now this would be the field of horticulture that deals with the production and sale of vegetables. I am not going to lie when I tell you that I expected that this would actually be more in the higher profit margins because I see vegetables everywhere when I got to the supermarket. I am wrong, this is not the most profitable. Actually, if you want the honest truth it’s not even driven by vegetable sales it’s driven by hobby farmers like me and possibly you.

Plant at TAMUC agricultural plant science center

Learning about horticulture has really helped me see that there is more than just one field to go into and I am excited about it. I am still learning and have a lot to learn but as I learn so will you or not. I mean, tell me if I’m wrong and I’ll look into it. Regardless, have a great day.

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