Blueberry Pruning and Adopting a Row

Earthen Heart blueberries are primarily of the “Jersey” variety, which is genetically the closest to wild blueberries; rich in anti-oxidants, very nutrient dense and very sweet.  A few bluecrops and other varieties are also planted around the property as well and, as blueberries cross-pollinate they are all technically a new variety.

There are 12 rows that make up a little over 1/3 of an acre.  Currently seven rows are up for adoption:  rows 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 & 12.  When you adopt a row, you have priority access to care for them, clear the row, prune them, pick them, eat them and do whatever you want with them.  You should plan a minimum of 10-20 hours for the year.  You do not have to commit to doing all the work and we will step in to do what ever is not done but only after all other rows have been attended and we communicate with you.

Then you can leave half of what you pick or make a nice barter/trade offer.  In the past wine, pickles, venison and other trade items have been gladly received and then the person takes all the berries they picked home.

Ideally we will also be working collectively at times during peak season (usually late July to mid-August) to make jam, juice, wine, fruit leather and other value added products. If you work to process these foods as well you can camp out on the property (or stay in the house) for a few days and go home with lots of various blueberry products!

blueberry ice cream!

These berries have not been sprayed or fertilized since at least 2011 when we arrived.  Irrigation is also taken care of passively by the existing water of the area.  We are hoping to dig a pond and create a solar pump in order to be able to move water around but even in the drought year we had no major issues with water shortage.  Mulch from the forest and dark soil from the area can be added if needed but thus far the yield has been good to great.

lots of red shoots need to be pruned back

Blueberry pruning should happen late winter and early spring; after serious cold is over but well before buds have broken.

Here is a link to a pretty good resource for pruning blueberries from University of Tennessee Extension.

There are many other videos and documents out there.  Feel free to research a bit on your own and come up with at strategy for a row.

One or two of the larger canes can be removed at the base every year in order to allow for new growth. Most of this (much harder) pruning has already been done over the past 5 years.
Very few if any of these big cuts still need to be made (depending on the row). Loppers are needed for that job and we have some here.
mostly regular pruning shears are needed
young growth needs to be tamed
older and low branches can be removed

Once you visit one time and we talk and philosophize about the berries for a while you can feel free to tend to them as needed.  We have a small group of dedicated people already but really need a few more committed folks to get this little patch of berry heaven tended properly!  You will want a pair of shears, gloves and waterproof boots when you come out.  We might be able to offer you some of those items but please come as prepared as possible!  Reach out if interested in any of this – or (269) 447-1355.

November, 2017

The cold weather is upon us in Michigan.  All the visitors have left.  It is back down to my two daughters and I.  For a while this takes some getting used to.  It is not my want.  I like to have people here, sharing this place with me.  It was only a week ago that there were two visitors.  Several more are planning to come soon and the Spring will have many visitors.  But, for now, I have to accept that this place is for my tending and care.  Once this reality settles in I get comfortable with it, knowing that soon visitors will arrive again.

I just received a call from a man who is interested in Earthen Heart but only if he can have some ownership of the property.  This seems to be a theme.  I must honor the needs of others and give respect to this desire.  At the same time I feel a desire to keep things simple for now and offer a very inexpensive and low impact lifestyle for those who are not so interested in ownership.  I vacillate on this one quite a lot.

The woodpile is looking good.  This little bit of wood in the picture is covered and is the emergency dry wood for when it has been raining a long time. The sun room has been warming up nicely on cool fall days but at night it does not hold the heat. It was a good year for berries of all kinds.  Dewberries were a new experience for me this year. Family comes and goes.  Surprise visit by my father Raymond this past summer who I rarely see.  He has been traveling the world promoting Neo-Tango through his magazine and events.  He is a cool guy though we don’t have the strongest relationship.  My ex-partner (and mother of my two daughters) Palma and her older kids live in town now.  It seems to work a lot better that way.  Love and trust.  Come what may.  Family is a strange and changing phenomenon.Mother Nature continues to humble me and offer many gifts.  Thanks Pachamama for all you do for us!

Summer 2017

Many if not most of us are raised in a culture that promotes a notion that there is a lack of resources, competition, winners and losers, not enough for everyone.  That “I better get mine” and “Survival of the Fittest.”  Well, many of us believe that the next stage of our collective evolution has to do with interdependence, gratitude and the understanding that we DO in fact live in abundance.  We still live in the Garden of Eden and the shift has to do largely with our own powers of perception.  Science and Spirituality can and do merge in many ways to bring a holistic approach to live on Earth.  Creating a community that thrives on interaction, effective communication, conflict resolution, healthy lifestyles and artistic creation is our goal here at Earthen Heart.

I have not been very good at documenting the incoming visitors thus far to Earthen Heart but I would very much like to thank Liv, Rachel, and now Emma for their help recently with all things Earthen Heart.  There is an effort now to create a community land trust and partner with regional nonprofit organizations so that ownership of this land and the mission can be shared with others, especially the younger generation.

Thanks to those who adopted rows 5-8 and those who continue to visit and take us up on our 50/50 u-pick opportunity!

For now we focus on weeding, picking and processing blueberries, harvesting herbs and making tinctures and other matters related to food.  Everything seems to be coming on a bit early this season and the blueberries will be full force within a week of two.  We have already picked enough to fill almost one entire freezer, make blueberry leather and dried berries.  Juice and wine are yet to come.  Currently we are making blueberry kale leather.  We shall see how that turns out in the morning!

Spring renewal as a gift in turbulent times.

Earthen Heart offers an opportunity for Community Homesteading in rural Southwestern Michigan.  We are creating a model for how to live collectively; improving our quality of life while curbing our consumption patterns.  Julian is putting most of his energy into building this model and promoting it through various channels, including submitting a proposal for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge and soon to have an article in the Michigan Land Trustees newsletter.  Though connected to intentional communities, ecovillages, co-housing and other movements, community homesteading has some unique characteristics which I can expand upon in an upcoming post, likely in the Fall.

Kids in a Canoe

Currently the Burdick-McGuire-Lauzzana family is in the main house.  However, with some sadness, it seems that Palma and the three oldest kids will be looking for their own place in town.  For ten years we have been on a journey of blended family, with several long separations.  After having another go at it this past year, it seems that we are clearly better as friends and family but not under one roof.  This will allow us to see each other more purely as friends with separate lives and passions and hopefully make us all stronger.  The struggles, the joys, the many shared moments are and will be collectively something substantial in my own evolutionary path for sure.

As Spring gets real finally I look out the window and ask my dreams to illuminate my tired fractured mind.  What fills me?  What gifts can I share with this world?  What legacy do I want to leave?  How can I honor myself and others, especially women, through my actions?

Star lichen on this boggy sandy soil offers a little micro-world for fairies and other creatures to play.  This stuff is a sign of “poor soil” but to me it seems a filter and a place of wonder.  Perhaps we can make some home-made peat moss some day?

The darker flowers on the blueberries are, I believe the few blue crop variety plants we have.  They come earlier and are generally larger.

Now that they have cross-pollinated for many years, I believe that technically they have created a new variety.  The Earthen Heart variety.  Thanks to Elbert Parker for planting these back in the day.  After 5 years of pruning we are looking really good.  4 rows adopted.  Perhaps we can get them all picked.  Making plans for the first ever “Earthen Heart Blueberry Harvest Gathering!”

A frost a couple days ago did not appear to do any noticeable damage to the flowers.  Those crop dusters are flying all around but not dropping anything on our bushes.

Is it really Winter?

A dark rainy winter is upon us in Southwest Michigan.  Snow has been sparse and weather patterns are quite strange.  Overall, my sense is that our hardiness zone is shifting from 5 to 6, meaning possibly less fruit diversity and more things like Okra and crops that grown in Tennessee.  2012 was a pretty bad year for all kinds of fruit around here.  Paying attention to these shifting weather patterns is not easy or ever truly predictable.  

We finally made a new sign for Earthen Heart by laminating this lovely painting by Ms. Palma Jane Burdick.

Amaranth has been a new crop for us the last few years.  Getting down to clean seeds proved to be very labor intensive – though the end result is very valuable.  Both leaves and seeds are super tasty and tremendously nutrient rich.  We have been experimenting with frying and boiling the seed with the chaff and leaves all at once into a stew.  Also drying and making into a powder in breads.  This crop is so nutrient rich but is generally considered as a mere pest.  In fact it is one of the only plants that is not killed by the deadly Monsanto chemical Round Up.  Thus it is a greatly despised plant by most farmers.  But in case you were not aware, we are not most farmers.  We have at least four varieties growing and are planting more varieties.  This plant is considered a super food and sustained people for many centuries.  Another example of a neglected plant to pay attention to when we need something hyperlocal and nutrient rich.

We have begun planting rye as a cover crop and as a grass to compete in the fields.  We are trying to establish it in areas that soil is extremely sandy, pushing the seed to its limits.

Fully processed a 5 gallon bucket of rye berries that are being used in baking and for making sprouts this winter.

We are happy to have completed a south facing solar collection room.  It is a good place to grow potted plants, get seedlings going, set up a table, let the dogs hang out and collect heat in the spring and fall to filter into the house.  In summer it will need more ventilation.  Hopefully the wasps don’t like it quite as much as we do.  Also connected is a water collection gutter system that goes into a couple 50 gallon buckets for the animals and watering plants.

The barn is set to become a multi-purpose building with a wood burning stove, sleeping loft, kitchenette and an outdoor shower. 

As you can see we built a little stage on the south side of the barn for musicians and performers to share some songs and creations.  The old foundations around the barn are slated to become a greenhouse and hang out environment.  We hope to have more hands on deck to make this space become a cornerstone of the Earthen Heart experience. 
We are looking forward to the upcoming season and the bounty that is forthcoming and we are thankful for the goods that currently stock our shelves and freezer…. such as this tomato blueberry fruit leather with curry, sumac and yogurt.

Thanks to Lorena and Jocelyn and the many other visitors from Chicago to Siberia who have helped us slowly build this dream into a reality.  It is happening all around us on this lovely planet Earth that we share.  I trust we can focus on the positive act of building and nurturing something beautiful and protecting that which is sacred.  Again, I thank you all for your support, smiles and hard working hands!