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 Feel free to call or email if you think our website is out of date.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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The weather extremes of 2018 – 2019 in southeast Iowa will be affecting Red Fern Farm into 2020 as we deal with the shortage of good quality chestnut seed nuts for our nursery. Our chestnut trees were damaged by weather events and for the most part did not set a crop in 2019. As a result, we were not able to gather seed nuts from many of our own named varieties or any of their crosses (Red Fern Super, Shotgun, QingSu, BadgerQing, Giant Badger I or II, Large Badger). We purchased seed from other sources. As a result we will have a limited number of seedlings available from known grafted mother trees. These seedlings will have a price mark up to reflect their limited numbers.
We will have a cheaper option that includes what was sold to us as a “bulk” seed. We know the bulk seed came from 3 types of grafted mother trees: Peach, Qing and Kohr.
As we create our seed trays, we will create an estimate of how many trees we will have available of each variety and list them as available for ordering on our website. You can then order your trees. You have the option of paying in full with a credit card on the website (requires an additional 3% fee to cover the credit card fees) or mailing a check. The check option includes no extra fees. The check option allows you to pay down a 25% deposit on the order. The deposit will hold your trees at our nursery until August 31.
We will have no bare-rooted chestnut trees available for shipping Spring of 2020. – Kathy Dice