Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mill Valley Most Romantic Hike

This is Sarah and Patrick who had something to talk about.

This is mid-hike, going down to Pirate's Cove.

Merry Christmas!  Kirsty got us going on a new Christmas tradition.  The Most Romantic Hike as a family. This is fresh on the trail.  Or at least the first day.  We've settled into being out there.  I can tell we've been on the trail because Pog has taken Kirsty's pack, with all the snacks and food.  It's always a little rough at first, and this was no exception, that is, getting the family all going in the same direction.  Back to the hike:

Plan on some uphill to begin.  Take it slow.  Trust me.  I've added more logistics and details below.

See Fort Cronkite down on the right?  The photo almost looks like it's from the forties or fifties.  Likely not much has changed from this perspective.

This is (hopefully) our new family tradition, making the Most Romantic Hike from Marin Headlands / Fort Cronkite to Stinson Beach.  It was some work to get here, though everyone said it was worth it.  From Fort Cronkite look for the Coastal Trail.

Coastal Trail
The whole first day is on the Coastal Trail.  Don't be fooled, it twists and winds quite a bit, above Fort Cronkite, and several times it seems like it's going the wrong way.  Don't worry, it'll straighten out, and actually does once you get to the top of this ridge.

This is shortly after Fort Cronkite.  There are some steep sections!

Patrick and Sarah still had something more to talk about.   After the first bit of climbing, now there is some downhill into Tennessee Valley.
 Are we there yet?  We've just finished the first section.  Below is Tennessee Valley and beyond that is Pirate's Cove, followed by Muir Beach.  Lot's of ocean views.    It's like our own little slice of mother nature, shared just for us.

 We could have brought Ellie?!  We hardly saw any people, and I don't remember seeing any dogs, but you can bring them!  I think they aren't allowed on our second day, the Dipsea.  Somehow we did not notice this on our last trip.  In fact, are these new trail signs?

Moira studying rock formations.

I think they are still talking...  Pog is concentrating.  We hardly saw any other hikers, but I see a couple behind us here, along with a view back to San Francisco.

This is heading down after Tennessee Valley, now into Pirate's cove.  It's like our own little slice of mother nature, shared just for us.

I love the rugged coast here.  It's so amazing, and beautiful.
Not finished yet... Pog and Sarah are still discussing.
Muir Beach and the few houses surrounding it.This is heading into Muir Beach.
First Glance at Muir Beach

Poggy at the top with his mom.
We picked up the car at Muir, and high-tailed it to Mountain Home Inn for the sunset.  It's hard to tell, but that's the ocean in the background.  From here, you can see the Pacific and San Francisco bay, down through Mill Valley.  Exceptional spot.
 Patrick and Sarah hugging.  We can all relax!

We had a tremendous meal at Mountain Home Inn, Dungeness crab was king.  Best ever.  Super fresh, sweet, straight up- still in the shell.  So so good.

Day 1 - Start at Fort Cronkite/Marin Headlands.  Hike from the Headlands to Muir Beach along the Coastal Trail.  To cut the hike to two days, we drove from Muir Beach to Mountain Home Inn, on the Panoramic Highway, about 5-6 miles away.

Getting there:
It's the first exit north of the Golden Gate bridge, or last exit before, heading south on 101.  Take the signs to Fort Cronkite.  It's about 5 minutes from the exit.

Fort Cronkite:  There's lots of it, and it's free and you can park overnight.
Muir Beach:  Plenty of parking.  We left a car here, for the end of our hike.

The trail:
The Coastal Trail.  It's well marked, but don't worry when it wraps back around on itself, you are headed in the right direction.  It's about 5 miles to Muir, and takes about 3 hours with a stop for lunch. 

Hiking Options:

Pelican Inn is at the end of Muir Beach.  An English Pub and Inn.  Totally awesome people, pub, restaurant and about 5-6 rooms.  The hike from here takes you to Muir Woods and finishes at Mountain Home Inn.

We stayed at  Mountain Home Inn last year, but it was just Kirsty and I.

The best thing about MHI is the view.

This is the view from our room from lucky number 7.  It had the fireplace like last year, and the tub with this view, as well as the balcony and double doors to this view.  We had a fire at night, and another in the morning.  :-)

Day Two- The bar turned coffee bar.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Trimming The Fruit Trees!

This pear tree was the first to get pruned.  I planted it as a bare root start 2 springs ago, and we actually harvested about 3 pears from the 8 or 10 pears I saw on the tree this year.  They were so frigging tasty!!  I don't know what kind of pear it is, unfortunately I didn't keep track.  None the less, on to trimming.

Notes on pruning fruit trees:
Trim fruit trees every winter, after leaves fall, especially the first 5 seasons.  This creates a strong foundation and shape to the tree.

Terminology:  Trim means cut all the way back to the base of the branch.  Head means lop off the head of the branch.  Typical is anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3rds of the branch depending on the type of tree.  As it turns out, pears produce fruit on the 'old' wood, so you can trim more of the new wood without eliminating next year's harvest.

What happens if you don't?
I learned from several of my trees, what happens if you don't trim.  The pear was a good example.  It came in the first year, and looked great.  The next year it looked even better.  Very healthy, albeit all pretty narrowly grouped branches.  As it turns out, a huge branch broke from the trunk.  I don't know if it was Ellie, wind or a human or fruit that broke it.  I found it like that one day, and tried tying it back in, which seemed to work.  The leaves grew, and I thought it may have re-grafted itself.   The string I wrapped it with embedded in the bark, disfiguring the trunk (oops!) and when I pulled the string out, I could see the branch had not healed, at least not completely.  I am sure I am supposed to trim it off, but I want expert advise.  Other than the damage, it's one of my largest branches in a good position to give the tree shape.

First year:  Trim everything off the trunk, except 3 evenly distributed base branches.  You can see at the base of this tree, I now have 4-6, depending on which branches you count.  I might take one more off, you'll see why later.

Second year:  First, remove all dead or deformed branches.  Next, trim branches to give the best shape to the tree, while eliminating crossing or crowding branches.  This seems really hard to do at first!  Who wants to cut any of what looks like healthy growth in your new tree?  Let alone selecting which branches don't make the cut!

From reading, my strategy is, keep the inside of the tree open and select branches that give the best distribution around the tree.  The books say, go for 3 main branches, 120 degrees apart.  Once you've narrowed it down to these main branches, head 1/3 to 1/2 of branches with new growth.  (Head means prune the newest part of the branch in tree trimming lingo.)
Here's my trimmings.  Stacking them made me realize, yes, I did remove quite a bit of wood.  The ones on the ground are from the rose.  He's another success story.  We moved him exactly when you aren't supposed to in Spring.  That season he looked like he was going to die.  Then, mid summer a part of the bush grew again!  Yes, a big part of it died off, but it flowered again in all it's glory.

This is the upper cherry tree, before I trimmed it.  Notice the string up top, left over from the branches drooping so much with just a few cherries.  Again, this is what happens when you don't trim.  Weak droopy branches.
 The upper cherry looks much cleaner and healthy post trim.  I've got it down to 4 main branches, and all of them are headed. 

Here, above you can see the first cherry tree after pruning.  In front of Ellie is the lower cherry before trim.  You can see there are way too many branches at the base, and the longer branches are spindly.

 Here you can see the lower cherry has a much more defined structure.  I could probably take out a couple more branches at the base.  Below the cherry, is the apricot.

When I look at this view of the apricot, I can see why the guy at the nursery went to overload when I showed him photos of all these trees and asked him what to do.  This tree has been through two harvests, the last one producing a huge amount of fruit, which was mostly eaten by squirrels.  It's also way overgrown.  Right above the soccer ball, you can see two major branches crossing, a no-no.  Most of the branches are spindly, and you can see shoots going long distances.  I even have branches going out, getting redirected and coming straight back.

I agree.  Looking at this view, I could still take more out around the right side.  The tradeoff is, with an apricot, the fruit produces on last year's shoots, so you don't want to trim them all off.  It looks a lot better, but I am likely going to take out a few more. 

This is my final cut on the apricot.  It's much more cleared out, with a few of the new branches left to produce fruit, while much of the inner branches have been removed to give it shape and structure.

The Apricot trimmings.  Quite a bit of branches when you see it.

Jib Jab with Tim
I feel like a real tree farmer now!  I've got more work to do, but doing the pruning was a big step.  I used my Christmas present pruners, the famous Felco #8 hand pruners from Wegman's.

Amazon v Indies
I struggled with the age-old Amazon versus local merchant battle again - $83/pair from Wegman's or $52 from Amazon.  I love a bargain and I love Wegman's.  Wegman's wins today.  I also got the book you can see on the concrete bench.  Best book ever, on pruning fruit trees.  I'll give you the details on it later.

What's next?
Sarah and Moira made 10 batches of Christmas cookies, so likely we'll need to post some new recipes.  I can also trim the fig.  As it turns out, figs fruit on the new wood, so much can be trimmed.  I am still waiting for the leaves to drop on the apples and nectarine and peach, so we'll get into those later.

Tree care:
I've got the trimming started.  Next is moving the drip system to circle the tree drip line.  What I learned is, the roots up near the trunk are just that, trunk roots that pass water and nutrients from the feeder roots, which are all out at the 'drip line' of the tree, which is this imaginary ring at the perimeter of the tree branches.  So, I need to create a 'well' or a raised edge around the drip line to hold the water.  I should be watering the trees more each time, and less often.  The cycle between waterings gets longer and longer as the trees grow.  I think at this stage I will still water about 1/week during the heat of the summer.  As well as the water ridge, I need to get mulch in there to hold the water.