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1997 was the first year we planted trees on the farm. Most of the farm was still being rented to a neighbor but we had 5 or 6 acres of former pasture land that we were free to use. In the spring of 1997 we marked off rows, plowed furrows (with a single bottom plow that I had to cut out of some trees - that had grown up through it - at Roland's woods) and planted walnuts and butternuts. We planted a mixture of seedlings that were started in Roland's back yard, in River Falls, Wisconsin, and nuts that had been vernalized over winter in that same yard.

Our renter has been raising mostly corn on this land. He has broken up all the little fields my family had this devided into and runs it as two large fields; 45 acres on the top and 8 acres down in the valley. For a few years he was using a bean/corn rotation but now he just plants corn, year after year. We have asked if he could do hay for a couple years, in order to build up the soil and reduce the need for chemical weed control, but he said it wasn't worth it to him.

The rent he pays for the land covers the property tax bill. There is nothing left over.

1997: "Five Miles of Walnuts"


First planting of trees on farm - south end of strips down into back field (between barn and Hurley's Woods). This land was currently not rented to our neighbor and therefore not planted to corn.

Plowed furrows with single bottom plow at 8' - 10' row intervals from west side of spruce patch west to Hurley's Woods. Direct seeded with walnut seed that had been gathered by Roland Baker in River Falls, Wi. in the fall of 1996 and over wintered (for required cold treatment - vernalization - stratification) in a pit dug in Roland's back-yard.

NOTE: Roland has found that the best way to vernalize Black Walnut seed is:

  • Remove outer hull from hard inner nuts (messy job)
  • dig hole in ground (or bury some sort of container that is open and has good drainage).
  • fill with nuts and cover with screen to keep out squirrels.

This works best because it exposes the seed nut to natural conditions of temperature, moisture, and air that are all needed to vernalize the seed.

We also transplanted Black Walnut (and Butternut) seedlings that were dug from Roland's garden nursery.

Roland, Debi, Jordan and I planted seeds by walking the furrows with pickle pails containing the Walnuts (both nuts and transplants). We would drop a nut every 1 or 2 paces and gently press it into the soil with our heals. Taking care not to crack the nuts in their weakened state (already starting the germination process by loosening the tight seal between the two hard shell halves). If the nut comes apart it will probably kill the newly forming embryo.

Alternatively (when seeds were farther along and weaker) We also used a small shovel to 'hoe' a small divot in the soil to hold the seed and then brush the dirt over the top and gently step to pack it down.

We planted for two whole days (a lot of work for us city slickers - and a 10 year-old). The total area we planted was 5 Acres and I calculated we planted about 5 miles of furrow.

Fall: Pictures to follow - as soon as I dig them out....

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