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Scionwood available, 2022

You can now order scion wood for grafting apples, chestnuts, pawpaw, pears, and more from our website. 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.

The new deadline for ordering this year for apple, plum, Cornelian cherry and pear scionwood is February 28. All other scionwood orders will be due March 31st. Scionwood will be shipped in early March or April depending on what you order. We will ship earlier at your request. We cut the scionwood into 6 inch lengths 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 stop taking orders February 28 for varieties that leaf out early (Apple, Pear, Cornelian cherry, etc.). We stop taking orders March 31 for all other varieties (we start shipping them at that point). – Kathy

Bundles of collected scion wood
Freshly harvested and labeled persimmon scionwood.

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.

As of October 17, 2021, the you-pick at Red Fern Farm is pretty much done for 2021. Below is the original post:

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.

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

Planting Chestnuts for Deer?

Numerous articles and advertisements in outdoor and hunting magazines are promoting the idea of planting chestnuts for wildlife. It is true that chestnuts bear heavy crops of nuts that are very attractive to a wide variety of animals. On the other hand, some of the claims aimed at deer hunters are wild exaggerations, or downright lies. Chestnuts do not make good trees for attracting deer during most deer hunting seasons. Chestnuts tend to ripen very early for a nut crop. They begin as early as late August in the Deep South and even in the North they are usually all finished up by the middle of October, well before most deer seasons. Chestnuts are very attractive to deer, but only for about one month out of the year. After that, the deer will be off looking for other food. A few late-ripening chestnuts are available as grafted trees, and while these may be useful to both deer and deer hunters in the Deep South, such trees are utterly useless in the North. Chestnuts ripen and fall early for a reason – the nuts are absolutely ruined by freezing temperatures. Once the temperature of the nut falls to 24 F, the embryo is killed. When the nut thaws, it begins to decay. At that point, even the squirrels won’t eat it. How often does your deer season start before the first hard freeze in the fall?  
The American Persimmon is actually a much better choice for attracting deer to a property and then holding them there through the hunting season. Persimmon fruit is just as attractive to deer as chestnuts are – maybe even more so. While some persimmons ripen and drop their fruit at the same time as chestnuts, others produce a massive crop of fruit that begins dropping from the tree in November and continues all winter, right up until early spring. Freezing temperatures do not damage the fruit, and wildlife will continue to consume it all winter long. Deer are known to bed down near persimmon trees and listen for the sound of falling fruit. Hunters report deer often come running from several directions at the sound of a persimmon hitting the ground.
One thing to keep in mind is that persimmons come in male and female. Normally, only female trees produce fruit, and normally only when there is a male tree in the vicinity. 
Another tree that is exceptionally good at attracting and holding deer is the dwarf chinkapin oak, Quercus prinoides. Most oak trees don’t begin bearing acorns until they are at least 10 to 15 years old, and then only bear a good crop once every few years. Dwarf chinkapin oaks can begin bearing as early as 3 years old, and tend to bear a heavy crop every year.

Furthermore, their acorns are among the sweetest and most attractive to wildlife, of all acorns. The acorns are not damaged by freezing weather and remain palatable all winter long. The trees are broadly adaptable and will thrive just about anywhere except on poorly drained soil.
If you are interested in attracting and holding deer on your property during hunting season, give us a call or email. – Tom

Chestnut Growers Workshop

Practical Farmers of Iowa has been working with Red Fern Farm to put together a full-day chestnut workshop. This workshop will cover all aspects of chestnut production and marketing in the Midwest and will be held at the Iowa Arboretum, Madrid, Iowa, on February 2, 2019, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Topics will include site selection, planting and tree management, varietal recommendations, grafted versus seedling trees, harvesting and curing, marketing, and financial resources.

3 Chestnuts in opening bur.

Chestnuts are a valuable nut crop that can be grown in a low-input, chemical free agroforestry system that includes permanent ground cover. Depending on soil types, they can be an excellent crop for land designated as highly erodible. Seedling chestnut trees of superior genetics can begin bearing nuts after 3 – 4 years on a good site and with good management. At 12 – 15 years they can produce 3,000 or more pounds per acre. In Iowa, chestnuts wholesale for an average of $2.30/pound.

The profit potential of chestnuts has encouraged the planting of chestnut groves throughout much of Iowa. Roger Smith, manager and owner of Prairie Grove Chestnut Growers, buys and sells chestnuts.  In 2018 he sorted, bagged and sold over 84,000 pounds of chestnuts grown in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois. He sees no end to the market potential of chestnuts and plans to plant an additional 20 acres of chestnut trees to his existing chestnut groves.

Speakers will include Roger Smith, Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm, Aaron Wright District Forester with the Iowa DNR and Mike Gold, Associate Director of the Center for Agroforestry – University of Missouri. Preregistration is required and costs $10 to $60 depending on membership in Practical Farmers of Iowa. For more information, or to register, visit https://form.jotform.com/tamsyn/pfi-chestnut-workshop or call Debra at Practical Farmers of Iowa at (515) 232-5661.