Tag Archives: traditional skills

Under The Not-So-Old Apple Tree

As homesteaders-in-progress, our goal is to do more things for ourselves.  The primary goal is to feed ourselves with the fruits, vegetables, meats and wild edibles that we grow or gather ourselves.  Toward this end, we recently spent a weekend planting fruit trees of various sorts, blueberry bushes and several varieties of grapes.  Though these fruit starts are tiny in the field with their pink ribbon markers, we imagine them feeding our family someday.  We see a beautiful orchard blooming in the springtime and heavy with fruit during the summer.  We see a grape arbor weighted down with red, green and black clusters of fruit.  We see little children eating blueberries from a hedge by the cool of the woods.

Having grown up in the nursery capital of the world, we have seen a whole lot of ornamental trees and shrubs that are grown for sale into nursery centers and home improvement stores all over the country.  The proliferation of ornamentals occurs because most folks purchase these trees to beautify their yards.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that desire, but we propose that you can have both beauty and bounty when you plant fruit trees and shrubs.  It’s double return for the investment!

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Country Sayings Saturday

Why it’s Called Dogwood Winter

Spring can be an unpredictable time of year, with warm, summer-like conditions one day and snow the next. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security that the weather will remain hospitable when — BAM! — a freak cold snap hits and reminds you that winter only ended a few weeks ago.

Much like Indian summer — a period of unseasonable warmth in the middle of autumn — these periods of springtime cold have a name. Actually, they have several names. The little winters in the middle of spring are called variously Dogwood Winter, Blackberry Winter, Locust Winter, Whippoorwill Winter, Redbud Winter, and a few other regional variations.  Though predictable, the climb from cold of winter to the warmth of summer and back again is not completely smooth. Small “blips” in the overall pattern reveal noticeable fluctuations that can be observed from year to year. These blips are called singularities in weather lingo. For a singularity to be recognized, it has occur during at least 50% of years. Indian Summer is a long-established singularity. Dogwood Winter is another.
But why is it called Dogwood Winter, or any of those other names, for that matter? Weather forecasters SickDogwood-2015_originaldo know there will be a last frost, but it’s not predictable enough to say on what day, so we follow what the oldtimers taught us: a cold snap usually occurs around the time when the dogwoods are in bloom. With the possibility of frost happening during Dogwood Winter, they also knew to wait until after the dogwood bloomed to plant tender vegetables and annuals.  My mother said that you get a “winter” every time something white blooms.

Oldtimers also knew that blackberries need a cold snap to set buds on the blackberry canes, so as sure as night follows day, there will be a cold snap when the blackberries bloom, called “Blackberry Winter”. It comes with a somewhat less severe return of a continental polar air mass after the maritime tropical air masses have begun to dominate the weather.

One largely forgotten term for a patch of cold during the springtime is “Stump Winter”. This end-of-spring cold snap marks the last cold spell and derives its name from the use of the last of the fire wood – the stumps – for heat.  This is also known as “Whippoorwill Winter”. The whippoorwill migrates from wintering in Mexico to their summer range farther north in late May to early June. There is even another colloquialism for this spring cold snaps, which is: “Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter,” referring to a type of winter long underwear which could be put away after the last cold snap. Whatever you call it, the last winter is not as cold as the other “winters” but still a bit of cold snap.

Me?  I don’t take my coat out of the truck until I need to make room for carrying home 4th of July fireworks…’cause it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

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And the adventure begins…

Bratcher Family Farm

Our mutual dream started in 2014 with passionate conversations about homesteading and visits to Joe’s family farm.  This following childhoods reading the Foxfire Series and Little House on the Prairie which fired our young imaginations about the kind of life that was still available to us in modern times.  Planting fruit trees progressed to taking a beekeeping class and ordering two hives. The following months brought many losses…most unbearably, Joe’s father, Kenneth Bratcher. But also the loss of jobs, many fruit trees, both hives and our budding relationship.  However, we both clung to our lifelong mutual dream and the Lord brought us back together at the proper time.  So our journey really began on January 1, 2016, when we formally began our lives together as husband and wife.

This dream of ours is possible only because of the hard work and frugality of Kenneth and Martha Jo Bratcher, who sacrificed much to purchase and develop this beautiful farm with open pastures of rich soil and woodlands filled with an abundance of hard woods and wild animals.  To honor Joe’s parents and the farm, it is our top priority to steward this land and make it even better for the next generation.

The purpose of this blog is to capture our experiences in setting up our homestead, gaining new skills and making the needed preparations to establish our farm as an income-producing enterprise to support our family.  We have a tentative plan for the next 5 years.  The first couple of those years are focused on building a self-sustaining homestead for our family.  Then we will begin looking at farm-produced revenue streams.

The cast of characters: Joe & Staci Bratcher and our 5 sons:  Max, Jackson, Spencer and William Bryan, and Jack Bratcher.  Max is spending this initial year at the farm as farm manager to assist us in remodeling the farmhouse, working a test garden and experimenting with chickens for both eggs and meat.  William is learning about sustainable farming and construction at Farm Fifty-Eight.

We are very excited to hear about your experiences with traditional skills, homesteading and farming.