All posts by Kathy Dice

YOU-PICK AT RED FERN FARM 2021

Happy pawpaw pickers
Masks are not required in our groves, but your group can do as they please.

You-pick at Red Fern Farm is underway for 2021. Masks are not needed while harvesting in our sun-sanitized, outdoor groves, but are appreciated during your weigh-out in our Red Shed. Our you-pick is still by reservation only. This helps to guarantee lots of social distancing while you harvest. You can call a day ahead to see if there is an opening or schedule your harvest-day weeks in advance. We have lots of openings on weekdays, but weekends fill up quickly. Picking hours are 1:00 PM until sunset.

Weigh- out or check-out shed at Red Fern Farm.

We are continuing the $15 minimum. This $15 covers the time it takes us to show you around the groves, train you on what and how to harvest and taste samples of fruit and nuts. After paying the $15, you don’t have to buy anything at our farm. If you do make a purchase, the first $15 is already paid for. How cool is that? The $15 is per car load.

You-pick at Red Fern Farm is a fun family outing.

What to Expect: You can usually drive up and park close to the spot you will be harvesting. We have clean latrines, hand washing stations and picnic tables at the main parking areas. This is a safe area for children, but no dogs or cats are allowed (food security issues).

The grass will be mowed, but not as fine as a lawn. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. Our orchards are in a rural setting, close to “wild” timber. Bring bug repellent. Your children are welcome to observe and catch  the frogs, insects, spiders and snakes they encounter.  Please ask your children to be gentle and release all creatures before you leave the groves.

We have maps and directions are available to email or call if you need help finding us. Call 319-729-5905 to make a reservation. We are outside a lot September – October so be ready to leave a message.

Ripe Cornelian cherries from a grafted bush.

Cornelian Cherries: Cornelian cherries are usually ready around mid-August and continue to mid-September. We sell them at $2.00/pound for you-pick. We recommend bringing a gathering cloth to spread under the bushes. The ripe berries are soft and sweet. Under ripe they are firmer and very tart. They will continue to ripen after picking. We have none available already picked (the family eats them up too fast).

Aronia Berries:  Our Aronia bushes continue to be more and more shaded out by the surrounding canopy trees. The Aronia season is usually short and in early September; about in he middle of Hazel season. There is no charge for Aronia berries (see note on $15 visitation minimum above). Call for more information.

Handful of hazels, mostly without clusters, collected at Red Fern Farm on August 24, 2019.

Hazels: Hazel season usually goes from early September to late September. It is pretty much over for 2021. Hazels are/were $1.00/pound for un-husked  clusters or $2.00/pound husked nuts for you-pick. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. It can take 30 minutes for one adult to pick clean one 10 foot tall bush and gather about 1-3 gallons of hazel clusters. One gallon of un-husked nuts (an ice cream bucket full) will yield about one pound of husked nuts. If you are interested in saving hazels for seed nuts, check out our  Hazel Seed Nut Planting Instructions sheet.

Pawpaw cluster
Cluster of ripening pawpaws.

Pawpaws:  We are looking at a huge crop this year and we have more trees bearing fruit. The cooler weather of early August may delay the ripening. Usually the season runs mid-September to the first hard freeze in October.

Brandon Family members enjoying the pawpaw patch fall of 2018.

Pawpaws are $3.00/pound when you pick them, $5.00/pound when we pick them. Bring buckets, boxes or crates. Ripe pawpaws are very soft and should be stacked only 2 deep or less. Weekends are very popular, so call early to reserve a time slot. Tuesday – Thursday is an excellent time to have the pawpaw patch to yourself. It only takes about 15 minutes to get 5 – 10 pounds of pawpaws. Late afternoon is the best time to pick, but ripe pawpaws will be available all day (after 1:00 pm). Recipes are available. There is no minimum or maximum for the amount of pawpaws you pick. We do ask you only pick what you plan to take home.
We have many grafted trees. If you want to see what grafted variety you like the flavor of best, bring a black sharpie with you. You can write on the outside of the pawpaw what the variety it is. When you eat it later, you can compare it with other varieties.

American persimmon

American Persimmon: Season usually runs mid-September to the end of October. The season started late this year due to late flowering. Price is $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The Persimmons are very soft when ripe. They should not be piled deeply in your gathering container. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into.
They can be gathered from the ground or picked from the tree. Orange but slightly under ripe persimmons are very astringent, but will ripen off the tree. We will offer advice on judging ripeness of persimmons.

Heartnut

Heartnuts:  Surprise, Surprise. There are some heartnuts available this year. These delicious, high-fat nuts are available at two different rates. If you husk the nut so that you have mostly just the heartnut, they are $4/pound. If you leave the green, moist husk on, they are $2/pound (we know you don’t want to eat the husk).

Asian Pears: Season runs mid-September to late October. The Asian pear crop looks good this year. Apprentices from the Savanna Institute helped to thin the fruit on the lower branches so the flavor should be improved this year. Feel free to taste sample any fallen fruit to find a tree whose flavor you enjoy. Wholesome Asian pears are available at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick.

First chestnuts of 2021 Season

Chestnut: The season has been very slow to start. From September 13 to 23 we had 10 to 60 pounds of nuts dropping each day. Suddenly on 9/26/21 we had 270 pounds drop. We feel our chestnut season has finally started in earnest.

Hot, windy days make more chestnuts fall to the ground. Chestnuts start dropping each day around 1:00 pm and hit their peak around 3:00 pm. We take reservations for people to start picking at 1:00 pm. We will set you up in a grove of trees depending on how many pounds of chestnuts you hope to harvest and how many people are in your group. We provide buckets and a neat tool called a nut wizard. Watch a Nut Wizard in action.

For 2021 we will be charging $3.00/pound for nuts harvested on Saturdays or Sundays. Chestnuts harvested Monday – Friday only cost $2.75/pound. We have a waiting list of 150 families and groups who can only come on weekends. We have lots of openings for week days

If you don’t want all the nuts, we will pay you 50¢ for each pound of chestnuts you gather and don’t take home.
Be sure to bring water and snacks. It takes about one hour for one adult to gather 25 pounds of nuts.

2021 Newsletter and catalog

Front page of Red Fern Farm 2021 Newsletter/Catalog

Our 2021 newsletter/catalog is hitting people’s email boxes today.  In the following week, paper copies will be in some folks mailboxes. Tom spent a fair amount of time on an article about how to select a good site for chestnut trees. You can read that article here rather than wait for your digital or paper copy of the newsletter. In the article he mentions the Web Soil Survey and the Woodland Suitability Recommendations (see below).

In the catalog part you will see what trees we hope to grow for 2021 and listings of scionwood that is available now. The Scion wood will close down for orders in February and March, depending on varieties.  We have already taken orders for half of all the chestnut trees we plan to grow in 2021. Please don’t wait too long to place an order for these potted trees. And remember, we don’t ship potted trees. You do have to come to our farm to pick them up.

We do have a few bare-rooted pawpaw and persimmon trees available this spring.  Oops. Now all the bare-rooted persimmon trees are gone. But we may have a few more as we cancel orders where we have not received a 25% deposit. Feel free to call or email if you think our website is out of date. (But our website is often more knowledgeable than we are). – Kathy Dice

Scionwood available, BrIEfly

Freshly harvested and labeled persimmon scionwood.

We have opened up our website for orders of scionwood. Right now you can order genetic material to graft chestnuts, heartnuts, black walnuts, pawpaws, American persimmons, Asian and European pears, apples, plums, mulberry and new this year…Cornelian cherries. check it out at on our scionwood for sale page.

We offer high quality scion wood at $5/linear foot. Quantities of some varieties are limited and may be sold out already. Shipping is $16 to cover handling cost as well as postage. The only exception is heartnut. Some heartnut is so thick we need to use very large shipping boxes. We will alert you if there are extra shipping charges.

Deadline for ordering Apple and Pear scionwood is February 15. All other scionwood orders will be due March 1st. Scionwood will be shipped in February or March, depending on what you order. We do cut the scionwood into 6 inch leangths to facilitate shipping.

We now have videos available to help you with your grafting.

Grafting on Cornelian cherry using the barn door graft.

Tom’s favorite grafting method, Barn Door (Mega-Chip), is highlighted in the paper Barn Door Graft .  A more complete write up of grafting techniques is available in the paper Practical Grafting  .

Videos: You can watch Tom Wahl  gathering scion wood; demonstrating the barn door graft; and caring for grafts in the videos below.  The Savanna Institute hosted a one-hour Facebook/Zoom meeting with Tom using these videos. The recording of that presentation with the Q & A is below.

Gathering Scionwood

Barn door graft

Graft care

Facebook presentation 

Remember, place your order soon. We have to stop taking orders in March. – Kathy

Tree Seedlings Available for 2021

Peach chestnut seedlings, May 2020

We now have a great line up of trees available to reserve or order.

The May freezes the Spring of 2020 has affected what we have available to grow 2021. We will not be able to offer many of our own selections this year (Red Fern Super, QingSu, Shotgun). For the same reason we will not have heartnuts to sell later this year.   We do have seedlings of  some of the very best cultivars available. Although “open pollinated”, their most likely pollinizers are other good Chinese cultivars. This greatly increases the likelihood that the seedlings will be as good or even better than their parents. We fully expect that many new, superior cultivars will result form these seedlings.

Chestnut Peach seedlings mid-July, 2019.

We also have pawpaw and persimmon seedlings available to reserve. Availability of each varieties changes through the summer as people place orders and we pot up more or less trees than we predicted. If we are sold out of a variety you want, contact us to be put on a waiting list for that tree. Let us know how we can help you out. – Kathy

You-Pick at Red Fern Farm 2020

You-pick at Red Fern Farm is open this year and is one of the safest ways to bring fresh, healthy food to your household. All our nuts and fruits are continuously sanitized by sunlight. You will most likely be the only human who touches the produce you take home. Masks are not needed while harvesting in our groves, but are appreciated during your weigh-out in our Red Shed. Our you-pick is still by reservation only. This helps to guarantee lots of social distancing while you harvest. You can call a day ahead to see if there is an opening or schedule your harvest-day weeks in advance. We have lots of openings on weekdays, but weekends fill up quickly. We are also planning on making a video about you-pick at Red Fern Farm.

Red Shed - Customer checkout shed
Our Red Shed – where we weigh out customers’ harvests.

We are continuing the $15 minimum. This $15, usually paid when you first arrive, covers the time it takes us to show you around the groves, train you on what and how to harvest and taste samples of fruit and nuts. After paying the $15, you don’t have to buy anything at our farm. If you do make a purchase, the first $15 is already paid for. How cool is that? The $15 is per group. As an added bonus we will be utilizing our new “Red Shed” to weigh you out at the end of your harvest. No need to drive back to our house for your weigh out.

You-pick at Red Fern Farm is a fun family outing.

What to Expect: You can usually drive up and park close to the spot you will be harvesting. We have clean latrines, hand washing stations and picnic tables at each parking area. This is a safe area for children, but no dogs or cats are allowed (food security issues).

The grass will be mowed, but not as fine as a lawn. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, prickly chestnut burs are scattered on the ground. Our orchards are in a rural setting, close to “wild” timber. Bring bug repellent. Your children are welcome to observe and catch  the frogs, insects, spiders and snakes they encounter.  Please ask your children to be gentle and release all creatures before you leave the groves.

Aronia Berries:  The Aronia bushes had a light crop this year. There are a few dried berries available free for you-pick (see note on $15 visitation minimum above) but almost all juicy berries are gone. We hit the peak of ripeness during early September. We only have a few bushes still bearing fruit. They are located in the shade of chestnut and heartnut trees. Call for more information.

Handful of hazels collected at Red Fern Farm on August 24, 2019.

Hazels:  As of September 20, 2020 the season is over for our hazels. We had a great response and the bushes have been picked clean. They were available at $1.00/pound for un-husked  clusters or $2.00/pound husked nuts for you-pick. The season for hazels usually starts in late August and continues to mid-September. Hazels can be picked from the bushes or from the ground underneath. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into. It can take 30 minutes for one adult to pick clean one 10 foot tall bush and gather about 1-3 gallons of hazel clusters. One gallon of un-husked nuts (an ice cream bucket full) will yield about one pound of husked nuts. If you are interested in saving hazels for seed nuts, we have free information available – just ask. Hazels qualify for the pick-all-you-want for the $15 entrance fee mentioned above.

Cornelian Cherries: As of 10/3/20 the Cornelian Cherry season is over. Cornelian Cherries were available at $2.00/pound for you-pick. The season usually runs from August to late September. We recommend bringing a gathering cloth to spread under the bushes. The ripe berries are soft and sweet. Under ripe they are firmer and very tart. They will continue to ripen after picking. We have none available already picked (the family eats them up too fast).

Pawpaws:  The pawpaws have been happy this year and there is a bumper crop. The cooler weather of late July and early August did delay the ripening. For 2020, the season started 9/19/20.

Drew Latta shows off a harvested pawpaw.
Drew Latta shows off part of his pawpaw harvest in 2019.

September to late October. Pawpaws are $3.00/pound when you pick them, $5.00/pound when we pick them. Bring buckets, boxes or crates. Ripe pawpaws are very soft and should be stacked no more than 2 deep. Weekends are very popular, so call early to reserve a time slot. Tuesday – Thursday is an excellent time to have the pawpaw patch to yourself. It only takes about 15 minutes to get 5 – 10 pounds of pawpaws. Late afternoon is the best time to pick, but ripe pawpaws will be available all day (after 1:00 pm). Recipes are available. There is no minimum or maximum for the amount of pawpaws you pick. We do ask you only pick what you plan to take home.
We have many grafted trees. If you want to see what grafted variety you like the flavor of best, bring a black sharpie with you. You can write on the outside of the pawpaw what the variety it is. When you eat it later, you can compare it with other varieties.

A member of Emily Slayton’s group harvests some American persimmons.

American Persimmon: Persimmons are available, but took a hit from the late, May frosts. We have a smaller crop, but still plenty for our customers at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick them. The 2020 season is off to a slow start but should pick up by early October. Persimmons are very soft when ripe. They should not be piled deeply in your gathering container. Bring bags, buckets or boxes to collect into.
They can be gathered from the ground or picked from the tree. Slightly under ripe persimmons are very astringent. Only orange persimmons will continue to ripen off the tree.

Heartnuts: Heartnuts took a hard, hard hit from the late, May frosts. We see no nuts at all on the trees this year. 

Asian Pears: The Asian pears have set a plentiful crop of Korean Giants. They did over-produced and many have brown rot. The Korean Giants will ripen in late October. Feel free to taste sample any fallen fruit or fruit damaged by brown rot to find a tree whose flavor you enjoy. They are available at $2.00/pound when you pick them, $3.00/pound when we pick.

Spicebush: Our spicebushes froze to the ground the winter of 2018 – 2019. They are still recovering and have no berries this year.

Chestnut burs high in tree
For the 2020 harvest, burs are developing only 20 feet or higher in the chestnut trees.

Chestnuts: Limited You-Pick in 2020 –   What happened? Weather again. We had two late freezes in May. The chestnut trees were putting on fresh leaf growth from the first late freeze when they got hit by a second freeze. Fortunately the freezing temperatures were low to the ground. Any branch above 20 feet was not hurt by the second freeze. We think some burs are developing high in the trees, but we can not see them. (and Kathy can not take photos of the burs). As of August 13, we are not sure what we will have for chestnut harvest.

burs circled in red
The chestnut burs are hard to see as of August 21, 2020.

2020Chestnut You-Pick Prices:
If you manage to find any chestnuts, you pay $3.00/pound for everything you picked up. We discount that price by 25¢ if you come on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On these days the price is $2.75. If you don’t want all the nuts, we will pay you 50¢ for each pound of chestnuts you gather and don’t take home.

Red Fern Farm & COVID 19

Tom Wahl talking about shelters at Red Fern Farm
Tom Wahl talking about shelters at Red Fern Farm

Here at Red Fern Farm we are taking the need to slow the spread of COVID 19 very seriously. Our entire permanent staff (our family) already work from home (the farm) and we already require people to call ahead to schedule a visit.

We are still open for business and plan to remain so unless required by the government to shut down. We will transact all business outside, in the fresh air and sunshine, keeping a proper 6 feet apart.

Son and father harvest American persimmons
Harvesting persimmons can be family fun time.

We realize guidelines and restrictions will change in the weeks and months to come. If you have ordered trees that will need to be picked up this spring or summer, call or email us to discuss your options or restrictions.

We do plan to offer you-pick again this fall. We see our groves of trees as a valuable resource to people this fall for a way to gather fresh, wholesome food. We will be looking at options to allow people to harvest on shares or to barter for fruit.

Weighing out you-pick harvest fall of 2019.
Customers proudly weigh out their harvest of pawpaws, chestnuts, hazels, heartnuts and Asian pears at Red Fern Farm the fall of 2019.

Pawpaw and Persimmon Videos

The Native Fruit Association (NFA) was formed to promote and share knowledge about native fruits of the Midwest that have commercial possibilities. The group has received grants from Iowa Department of Land Stewardship to create demonstration plots and to create informative videos and a website. Red Fern Farm has been involved with NFA since its beginning.

We are proud to present 6 of the videos.

Pawpaw cluster hanging from a tree.
Pawpaw cluster hanging from a tree.

Introduction to Pawpaws

Growing and Marketing Pawpaws

Handling and Cooking Pawpaws

Introduction to American Persimmons

Growing and Marketing Persimmons

Handling and Cooking Persimmons

Other Good Tree Nurseries

We know how frustrating it can be trying to find reasonably priced, good quality trees to start your own perennial venture. That was one reason we started our own tree nursery here at Red Fern Farm. We grew trees to meet our own needs. We ended up selling the surplus trees and eventually developed it into a full time business.

Unfortunately for our customers, we have been trying to scale back our nursery. We have been offering less variety and, despite selling out sooner and sooner each year, we do not expand.

The good news is there are now other nurseries offering good tree stock. If we are sold out of what you need or stopped supplying it, please check out these nurseries. Some may be much closer to you.

Route 9 Cooperative Located in Ohio and managed by the president of Northern Nut Growers, Greg Miller. They offer excellent genetics with their chestnuts trees. Do be cautious as they are in an area with Chestnut Gall Wasp and Chestnut weevils. https://route9cooperative.com/

Forrest Keeling located just north of Saint Louis in Missouri. They have an excellent selection of chestnuts, pawpaw, pecans, and persimmons. they use a growing technique, RPM, that will give you tall yearling chestnut trees. The chestnut trees can have a problem with spiraling roots, so try to get your chestnut trees as early in the summer as possible. They are also in an area with chestnut weevils. https://www.fknursery.com/

Honeyberry cluster on bush.
Honeyberry cluster on bush.

Honeyberry USA in Minnesota is an excellent source of good quality honeyberry plants or Haskap and information on this wonderful crop. This is the nursery where we order all our honeyberry plants from. They are very nice people to work with. http://www.honeyberryusa.com/

Oklahoma Chestnut, Fruit & Nut LLC with Steve Lucas. He is selling beautiful looking chestnuts down in Oklahoma. Reach out to him via his facebook page. An Oklahoma Chestnut, Fruit & Nut LLC

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Photo from Ave Maria Nursery.

Ave Maria Acres in eastern Nebraska. This nursery is run by Jarred Dressman (who learned a lot while he interned on our farm). Along with chestnut seedlings and a varieties of other perennials, he has an incredible array of grafted apple trees available. https://www.avemariaacres.com/

Other nurseries we use for hard to find plants or seeds:

Burnt Ridge Nursery & Orchards, Onalaska, WA https://www.burntridgenursery.com/

Oikos Tree Crops, Kalamazoo, MI https://oikostreecrops.com/

Richters Herbs, Canada (seeds only) https://www.richters.com/

Raintree Nursery, Morton WA https://raintreenursery.com/

OneGreenWorld, Portland OR https://onegreenworld.com/

There are a lot of other fine nurseries, but these are the ones we are familiar with and can vouch for.

Scionwood Available Now

We offer high quality scion wood at $5/linear foot. Quantities of some varieties are limited (only 3 feet available). Shipping is $15 to cover handling cost as well as postage. There is no limit on how much scionwood you can get for the same $15 shipping price.

Bundles of scionwood.

Deadline for ordering Apple and Pear scionwood is February 15. All other scionwood orders will be due March 1st. Scionwood will be shipped in February or March, depending on what you order. We do cut the scionwood into 6 inch leangths to facilitate shipping.

We have a “Practical Grafting” guideline available at Helpful Info/Grafting/. Also available there is our guide to Tom’s favorite grafting technique, the “Barn door Graft”, also known as ” Mega Chip Bud Grafting” .

Scionwood is not a tree. This is just a small piece of graft-able material that you can use to create an excellent tree of your own. You do need to graft it onto root stock. We do not sell root stock.

Student grafting.
Student learning “barn door” or “mega chip” grafting technique.

Ordering Chestnut Seedlings for 2020 can Begin!

Stacked seed trays in walk-in cooler
Chestnut seed trays stacked in walk-in cooler for winter stratification.

We have all the chestnut seed nuts in their seed trays bedded down for their long winter’s nap. We can fairly predict what we will be able to grow for 2020. Because of the almost complete failure of our chestnut crop, we were not able to harvest seed nuts from most of our outstanding chestnut trees. You will see a great change in what varieties we offer this summer for chestnut seedlings.

Because of the almost complete failure of our chestnut crop, we were not able to harvest seed nuts from most of our outstanding chestnut trees. You will see a great change in what varieties we offer this summer for chestnut seedlings.

One bright point is the new variety  “Resilient”. This 29 year old chestnut tree is the only one out of over 1,000 bearing trees that was able to stay healthy and put on a full crop of nuts despite all the weather extremes. We will be offering seedlings from this tree as well as ‘Ohio Outstanding’. ‘Ohio Outstanding’ seedlings are from some of the best trees in a large commercial planting in Ohio.

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Our chestnut trees will be in either small or medium sized pots.

You will also find we are offering chestnut trees in two sizes this summer: “small” and “medium”. To fulfill the demand for early planting in May, we will be offering chestnut trees grown in 58.6 cubic inch pots that will be available a month earlier than our standard/medium sized trees grown in 78 cubic inch pots. Both pots sizes are 9 inches deep and are designed to keep trees from becoming root bound. Because the trees can quickly fill the smaller pots with roots, the smaller trees will be released from the nursery earlier at a discounted price. These trees will be available by pre-order only. We are potting them up based on the orders we receive.

You will notice a price increase as well for small orders of trees and for trees of known parentage. The cheapest option for trees, at $4 each, are for orders over 100 of our small trees from the PQK selection. The PQK selection are seedlings who have either Peach, Qing or Korh for a mother tree and another grafted variety as a pollinizer.

Please feel free to email or call with your questions before placing an order. Remember you can mail a check with your 25% deposit to hold trees at our nursery to avoid using PayPal or paying credit card fees.