414. Systems Based Approach to Growing Tree Crops | Montana Fruit Trees | LUKE Ruffner Robinson | Missoula, MT

LUKE RUFFNER ROBINSON from Montana Fruit Trees

An aspiring architect, Luke interned on a farm in Portugal to design a bathroom and became fascinated by the farm’s ability to mimic nutrient and energy cycling in forests. Luke withdrew his architecture plans and began research in Systems Ecology. Luke holds an MS in Systems Ecology from the University of Montana and a BA in drawing and drafting.

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Golden Seeds from Luke:

“Actually that was what got me really interested in, I call it the systems based approach to growing food, you know, which I think, or get organic can fall into that permaculture, regenerative, agriculture. I mean, there’s all these words, but I think, I think anytime you’re using a systems based approach, I think that’s really, when you start to see benefit in productivity, in all of these different properties that can emerge from the system beneficially, I think.”

“I want to just tell what any of your listeners that might be, that might, that they’re listening to what I was saying about specifically watering towards the end of the year. You do want to give them one, all the trees you’ll cut them off. You’ll cut the water off. I mean, in our climate in August, but then towards maybe after leaf drop, give them a final drink to get them through the winter”

Resources Luke reference

Howard T. Odum Emergy Society

WWOOF Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms

Oikos Tree Crops

GardenFit on PBS

Rogue Hoe Tools

 

https://www.montanafruittrees.com/

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Transcript
nd,:

1m 42s

Luke

Thanks Jackie. Thanks for having me. Sorry.

1m 44s

JackieMarie

I lost my thing there for a second. So go ahead and tell listeners a little bit about yourself and your place that you guys, how big is your place?

1m 53s

Luke

Yeah, so I grew up in actually Northeast Ohio and came out to Montana let's see, that was about 12 years ago and came out here for school and then ended up, ended up staying and yeah, and we started this nursery about really three years ago. I originally wanted to be an architect and my dad was an architect. He actually designed commercial facilities, a fair bit of commercial facilities.

2m 36s

Luke

He did some residential, so I kinda wanted to just follow in his footsteps. But I didn't one thing that I felt was kind of problematic, at least from the standpoint of involving yourself in the field of architecture is that, you know, you go to school and you get all this training and then you go and you get your apprenticeship and then you're not actually an architect until like once you actually are immersed in, maybe the same could be said for a lot of fields, but how do you know if you're going to actually like that until you're at the helm?

3m 17s

Luke

Right. And so for me, it was very much like how do I get my feet wet and know what it's like to be an architect before spending the next eight years of my life? You know, training and doing all that. And so I ended up getting an apprenticeship or kind of just an internship with this fellow. It was part of WWOOF. I don't know if you're familiar with, I'm sure you are, but the worldwide, yeah. Worldwide opportunities on organic farms. I've heard other people say willing workers on organic farms, but either way where you go around the world, anywhere in the world where they have, where they're part of the WWOOF network.

4m 1s

Luke

And it's usually a farm that just applies. It's pretty, pretty simple. And I was, I was looking cause it's hard to just say, oh, I want to design something here in the U S without having the training. Right. So people would say, rightfully so. Well, what's your, how do I know you're qualified to design this building? And so I ended up scouring the WWOOF pages in various countries, mostly, mostly in Europe at the time I was interested in just traveling to Europe. And so I got a hold of this individual who had this farm in Northern Portugal.

4m 43s

Luke

And he, you know, he said, you know, in search of designer to design our composting toilet on our organic farm, permaculture farm in Northern Portugal. And I'm like, all right, I have no idea what any of that stuff means, but I'll try it. So, yeah, he suffice to say after that month and a half, that I was there helping him design the composting toilet bathroom. I was a little bit, I was a little bit upset because I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to be an architect. And I was upset because I had invested a couple of years in and you know, this trajectory, but I was also relieved because I'm like, you know, better to learn now than 10 years down the road.

5m 32s

Luke

And so I came back a little bit dismayed and, you know, one, I ended up recording a lot of the tours that this fellow gave as far. And I listened to the, to those tours that he gave. And it's amazing how much you miss the first time around. And I ended up transcribing that cause there's a lot of really dense information there. And I just, I got really interested in what he was doing. It didn't really make intuitive sense at first when I was there. So I think I had, there was a lot of unlearning that I had to do being from Ohio and seeing how they grow a lot of the crops they grow there, like the corn, I mean, just monocultures of corn.

6m 17s

Luke

And this fellow had, it was entire forest ecosystem that he was basically mimicking on his four acre plot there. And he had ducks. He had different patches. So this part of the property was the dry land patch. This part was, you know, kind of his, he did have kind of his row crops in one area, but the common thread was a ton of diversity. I mean, he's blessed to live in a spot work four climate zones can kind of converge in any given area. And I think there's about five places on the planet where that is the case.

6m 59s

Luke

There's one in Chile, there's one in Northern California, Australia. I talked about Portugal and then Johannesburg. So these are all kind of maritime climate systems where you get the chilling hours required for a lot of tree crops to grow successfully in that sort of niche of tree crops. But then you also get a lot of the warmer climate stuff. So he could grow, you could grow apples and colder climate crops, but he could tree crops, but you can also be growing figs things that we just really, it's not a snowball's chance in Hades as one of my professors would say that we could grow figs in Montana, at least without doing work to try to try to protect them from those frosts.

7m 47s

Luke

So anyways, all this is to say I,

7m 49s

JackieMarie

Can I ask you two quick questions?

7m 49s

Luke

Yeah, of course. Okay. Did you, did this guy speak English or did you have to learn Spanish or like, how did that work? So I like year and a half, two years prior, I actually lived down in Argentina. And so, yeah, this is just like a totally separate story and I could probably spend an hour on, but I didn't know any, I didn't know any Spanish. And I came down like arrived at the airport. I tried to actually get involved in this program, but they denied me because I didn't have the university program and exchange program.

8m 30s

Luke

They denied me because I didn't have sufficient amount of credits, even though my friend said, oh, you're totally fine. Just apply. And I applied and they're like, no, you haven't even taken spanish. So yeah, that was kind of a massive ego check for any of any of the listeners out there, if you're, you know, any 18 year old. I mean, in general, I don't think gender really matters. I think for just, you know, being a guy in at 18 and having a pretty, I don't know, sizeable ego, which I think I'm still working to kind of continually kind of set back, but that was one of the greatest ways of setting that back.

9m 20s

Luke

Just immersing yourself in another culture and allowing you to also be extremely appreciative and grateful for what you have, but pushing yourself. And I think Nelson Mandela, I think was quoted as saying, you can connect with a human being in their, in their second language at the brain level, like their for second tongue at the brain level. But if you connect with them in their mother tongue, and then you're connecting at the heart level. And I think that totally made a lot of sense or at least in practice, that I was able to meet a ton of people from that experience of just learning that other language.

10m 0s

Luke

And, I've since gone on to study other languages. And so that really helped in Portugal because there the Portuguese languages, you know, it's so similar to Spanish.

10m 12s

JackieMarie

star millennial born between:

10m 21s

Luke

No, I'm, I'm born in:

10m 24s

JackieMarie

Awesome!

10m 24s

Luke

So I got a cell, I got a flip phone and when I was a freshman in high school. And so I didn't, I didn't, I didn't have a smart, I didn't grow up with a smartphone. We had dial up internet growing up. So yeah, I think that would classify me. I think if you experienced dial up, you're probably a millennial, right?

10m 51s

JackieMarie

know. The dates I go with her:

11m 17s

Luke

Yeah. Do you want me to, I know this has kind of been a little bit meandered, but I can, I can try to steer the story back on course to the listeners. Aren't like kinda totally scattered, but

11m 28s

JackieMarie

I like to really take you a month and a half to build a composting toilet? like, I'm really curious about what that looks like. Cause I want a composting toilet on our property, or I just want like a bathroom down by the garden. So like when visitors come or if we have Woofers coming here, like we technically, I mean, we have a bathroom in front of water and a shower and everything, but we still use our outhouse because I don't know. I just, I love my outhouse and I'm like, but I also, like, don't like, I feel like they should have their own place and like, how hard was it? Like, did it really take a month and a half to build that? And like, do you have any questions about that?

12m 11s

Luke

Yeah, yeah, I should clarify. So I was just there to help with the research and design process of the composting toilet. Like when I say composting toilet, I'm talking about the design of the composting toilet, as well as that structure that it was in which it was being housed. Right. So we went with it. No, it did not get completed. There was another fellow that came after me that I believe ended up using my initial designs. And then he, I think, refined the design a little bit. And then they, and then they actually built the bathroom itself that was after.

12m 54s

Luke

It may actually have even been a year after I left. So the following summer, no, not a month and a half. Not that it can't be done if you're, if you're hustling, but this fellow who owned the farm was very methodical. And, actually that was what got me really interested in, I call it the systems based approach to growing food, you know, which I think, or get organic can fall into that permaculture, regenerative, agriculture. I mean, there's all these words, but I think, I think anytime you're using a systems based approach, I think that's really, when you start to see benefit in productivity, in all of these different properties that can emerge from the system beneficially, I think.

13m 52s

Luke

So this fellow, his name was Guy. He really bright. I think he got his PhD from the Royal Institute of Stockholm in system science. And, if I'm not mistaken, I think he was teaching at the time. And then not when I was there prior, before he even started the farm and then gave up all of that to kind of use this systems-based way of designing his farm and implementing it, he could actually use the theoretical approach that he learned and taught at the graduate level on his own farm. So that was kind of really out there for me at the time. I didn't really quite get that.

14m 33s

Luke

And then that's when I kind of had to re-engineer everything, reverse engineer everything through those recordings that I had made and a lot of my notes. So I came back and was like, just totally inspired. Although it was funny, I wasn't inspired at first. I was just kind of absorbing all of it. And then when I came back to the US I became really fascinated by this alternative way of growing food, but also cycling nutrients and energy onsite and mimicking nature, you know, really, really understanding the hydrology of your landscape.

15m 17s

Luke

I mean, he was doing all of that and I just thought, wow, this is really neat. And then I withdrew my architecture plans looking to go to MSU and enroll in their architectural program there, and then basically gave up all of that and ended up learning that there was, I learned, I started diving into the system science literature, and specifically as it pertains to ecology, because ecosystems are one of the clearest ways in my view of being able to observe the inner workings of system science. And so when I started learning about that, I learned about a fellow by the name of HT Odum that's H T and then O D U M, and Odom was a brilliant scientist.

16m 13s

Luke

He's I think he's probably the most brilliant scientist or one of the most brilliant scientists that you've never heard of, that that a lot of most people have not heard of him, but people in the aquatic ecosystem literature, or with aquatic ecosystems backgrounds have heard of him. People studying extremely ecology or even ocean or S3 ecology have heard of him. Cause that's where he got his start. But then he started doing a lot in the way of research in terrestrial ecosystems.

16m 54s

Luke

And so when I, when I started learning about this guy's research specifically towards the latter part of his career, he died unfortunately in the early two thousands. And he pioneered this idea called Emergy, right energy with an M. And I think that's kind of been a big influence in my thinking of, you know, not just growing food, but constructing a business as well. And also just living in a, I don't want to say sustainable cause I think that that in a sense kind of misses the mark, but maybe think about it in terms of reality, this regenerative way of living, which of course I I'm sure that like, yeah, I'm missing the mark there.

17m 51s

Luke

I think that a systems way of thinking about it might tell you, okay, what, what's the previously available energy that's used up in the process of doing anything, whether it's creating a good or creating a service for, I mean, I don't know, traveling around or going on a bike ride and having that whole systems view of any process that you're engaging in as a person. And I think that's what Odum's research really did, is it tackled this idea of grit. It got to the essence of what are the inner workings of any process, whether it's, you know, cutting down a tree in the forest or biking across town, if you were to really

18m 40s

JackieMarie

How does this get to the fruit trees? Did you ever tell us how big your place is?

18m 45s

Luke

Yeah. So we're only on about half acre in our nursery in Missoula, and then we've got another quarter acre plot, but this is kind of just interim before we really start to ramp up more of our tree crop production. So yeah, to answer how that all related. I think for me it was, wow, like growing food is really kind of at the nexus of nature and culture. I think it was Michael Polin that said cooking is that the nexus of nature and culture, but I would extend that to growing food as well.

19m 27s

Luke

And if you're, if you're looking at that nexus of nature and culture and we're on the culture side and also on the nature side, and then there is natural ecological systems on which we depend to grow food a really important way of observing our, role in that process is looking at energy and looking at material and energy cycling. And I mean, that's what you're doing when you're composting, you're, you're cycling nutrients, you're doing so in a way that is kind of the human way, right? I mean, we're, we're not out eating grass and deprecating.

20m 9s

Luke

I mean maybe some of the listeners out there are, you know, don't know, right. But I think that, you know, a way that we try to construct construct this business is through using a lot of the, and I know this may gross out some of your listeners. And I'd say for people who are, you know, using veggie crops, I'm not, or growing veggie crops, it's going to be a different approach, but we're working with the city of Missoula to basically use a lot of the bio-solids, which really is just to be honest, a euphemism for human shit, but those bio-solids are R an R really nutrient rich.

20m 58s

Luke

And they're what they do is they, they actually convert all of the raw waste, you know? So the, you know, the effluent that, so, you know, the urine, the feces, all of that they compress it. They, the effluent actually goes under well, it's treated once. And then it goes under a system of about 10,000 hybrid poplars that are all growing, so that, so that it can get out some of those nitrates before it's then, actually, most of those nitrates before it's then released back into the ecosystem, which a lot of city treatment plants do not do at all.

21m 44s

Luke

And they should incorporate some sort of bio-based remediation protocol. But, in this case, those biosolids that are, that left are then composted with all of the cities "yard scraps", quote, unquote. So leaves grass clippings. I mean, felled trees from just, I mean, even local areas or urban trees that are, that are in need of that are dying and in need of replacement. And they're therefore fell down and sent to the composting site. So, so we're all kind of working in conjunction.

22m 24s

Luke

And it, I would say it's a really neat, well, before I get ahead of myself, we use that. We use that as our soil for growing our plants. And so we don't use grow our tree crops in the same way that a lot of other nurseries do, which, which unfortunately, in, in the nursery business, there, there are a lot of, there are these industrial nurseries that tend to be pretty, how do I say it intensive with the way in which they're growing their trees and they're using a ton of quick release fertilizers and, you know, they're of course in very fertile territory, but it's very intensive.

23m 17s

Luke

And so I, I liked the idea of, of using the cycle, recycle nutrients, and, you know, one thing too, that people may have concerned concerns within it and other things I'm not necessarily, unless you know, where the human error is coming from, then I would say, be careful about using it on, on veggie crops. Like, I, I actually did once use this huge human Nuer on onions and tomatoes, and I will say they, they grew pretty well, but I think, and I don't, I don't know to what extent, you know, I mean, there, I dunno, maybe you can make an argument, I'm a little cookies, so there was maybe some effect there, but no, I don't know to what extent it actually was detrimental to my health.

24m 7s

Luke

It's not like I, I did it that much, but it was more of a psychological effect, I think, you know, but I think trees are, if there are heavy metals in pharmaceuticals, in the sewage, I think that a bio based approach to eliminating or alleviating and breaking up some of those compounds is way preferred to just doing what a lot of cities do, which is they don't even, they don't compost it. And they just, they compress the biosolids and then a waste company allied waste, for instance, or Republic.

24m 49s

Luke

I'm not saying those in part, I'm not scapegoating them. Those are the companies around here, but they'll, just take them to the dump. And I think that that's such a waste of vital nutrients that can be used. And if there are any hazardous materials in the biosolids, then either they're not being there, it's not being alleviated at all.

25m 16s

JackieMarie

I think they should grow some hemp on top of it because that doesn't, that take out like the metals and stuff that's bad in the soil. And then they could, and then they could be like, use the hemp as a cover crop and chop it back into it. And then it would be, I don't know. I want to know about fruit trees you have growing at your place. My husband wants to know my stepdaughter lives in Butte, and we wanted to see about getting her some fruit trees. And we're curious about like, what would do you know, what would grow good where she lives? Or actually, I guess they're done in Dillon now, which is south of Butte and like, what kind of fruit trees do you guys like are you growing?

26m 4s

Luke

Yeah, so we I'd say our main fruit trees are apricots, apple, plum, cherry, so tart and sweet cherry peach, pear and nectarine. And then we're growing a fair, we're starting actually a growing up a lot of different nut trees. So I we've been in contact with, you know, my, my buddy Buzz who has Perfect Circle Farm, I've obtained a ton of seeds from him. And he's, kind of followed the whole clan of growers to better have been growing nuts, tree nuts out of Ontario.

26m 44s

Luke

And so there there's some, there's some good genetics that I've obtained through Buzz. Some good genetics I've obtained through Ken over at Oikos tree crops. So that actually is kind of our next project of growing as many, as many viable nut bearing trees for cold climates as we possibly can. And then we do a bunch of native trees, shrubs, and then we do grape vines. So that's kind of the, that's where we're at right now. We're actually in the process because we've so some, some listeners might think Montana? You're growing peaches and nectarines in Montana?

27m 30s

Luke

I will say that that Montana's climate, like a lot of places varies pretty drastically. So we get a lot of the warmer climate systems coming in that come over that the cascades, right? And then there's that rain shadow creating dry Eastern Washington, which is a sight to behold there's rainforest and desert basically only at like a hundred miles from one another on coastal Washington and then, you know, central Washington. But then a lot of that moisture actually then falls before the Rockies and creates the inland temperate rainforest, which if any listeners, you know, look, look into, you know, you'll be, you'll be pretty excited to learn that, learn about this amazing inland temperate rainforest.

28m 17s

Luke

That's one of the most extensive in the world. And one of the few in the world actually, and that comes down to kind of hugs the Alberta BC line. It comes down into the US and that actually hugs the Idaho - Montana border. It's not, I wouldn't say it's the Heartland to quote like an ologist Toby Sprigle here in, it's not the Heartland that the inland temperate rainforest here in the U S that you'll have to see that to kind of the income of blue river valleys is what the best example of lowland inland temperate rainforest. But without, I guess, going down that rabbit hole, because I certainly can, the, as that moisture is then is that captured and part because of the orthographic effects of the Rocky Mountains that pull that down, which then interestingly enough, makes another rain shadow, which is east of the continental divide.

29m 20s

Luke

So where you're well, not quite Butte, but somewhat in Butte, even, even colder, drier and windier though, east of Butte. And we're in that pocket there where we're still, we're getting, we're capturing some of that moisture, not as much as, as say, like north Northwest of where Missoula is, but we're capturing some of those warmer air systems and that moisture. And so we can grow peaches, sweet charities, some nectarines, and then of course, all the other trees that I mentioned.

30m 22s

Luke

So anyway, I guess as I was saying, we are technically zone five, but I think in it's maybe less of an issue for maybe some of your listeners out there who are growing more of the veggie crops, but for our tree crops, we've been learning a ton about our climate over the last couple of years, especially, and as it pertains to the extremes in which fruit trees can handle extreme temps. And it's I mean, all of your listeners are gonna, I mean, maybe unless they're in, you said you had some listeners in Australia, maybe in perhaps some more temperate climates, but I think a good portion of your listeners have to deal with frost.

31m 15s

Luke

It's just an ever, ever evolving or ever constant ever-present issue for, fruit trees. And as it pertains to understanding of zone hardiness, we're zone five, but it there's so many different factors that come in that, that come into play, you know, so, well, first of all, that oftentimes those zones are measured in the middle of a winter. Those minimum lows that define the, the cold hardiness zones are measured in middle of winter. So because that's typically the coldest point that any given area will, we'll see, at least in Montana.

31m 55s

Luke

I mean, apart from some of these polar winds that can come down from the Arctic, like actually what we're seeing right now that can happen kind of later, usually January, February are our coldest months. And that's where we may see negative 20, which every, every variety that we have can handle a negative 20 in theory. But really the, the crux of the matter is those early fall in late or late winter frosts, that can be really particularly devastating on young fruit trees.

32m 38s

Luke

in:

33m 21s

Luke

Maybe don't quote me on that, but definitely down to Utah saw just extreme death just to put it quite frankly from that event alone. And usually it was the stone fruits that don't have the really, really cold climate genetics. So a lot of the sweet cherries, I mean, we grow gold sweet cherry, which is the most cold hardy sweet cherry that I know of in the world. Maybe someone can let me know of a more cold hardy sweet cherry out there, but it's able to withstand negative -38º. And that was measured in river falls, Wisconsin. Of course it was probably in January or February when the tree was really hardened off.

34m 5s

Luke

But the issue with those even a negative -10º in October is that those trees had, and my understanding of it, they've just for one, their metabolism is still, still cranking up. Even if you can, you can reduce the water and take a fair bit, and that's going to start slowing down growth, especially given that a lot of these nutrients are, solubilized in water and they're all, when you're cutting water, you're also cutting nutrients. And when you're cutting both, you're, basically, you're telling the trees metabolism to basically start to slow down.

34m 45s

Luke

and at the end of October of:

35m 28s

Luke

And you're growing squash and it succumbs to frost damage, you'll see right away that those tissues that were once kind of light green are now dark green and their moisture has been bled out of them. They've that the water pressure filled balloons that they are just popped at that point. And all those cells are dead. At least they're in the process of dying. So, yeah, I mean, that's been a big that's kind of made us pivot in terms of what we're trying to grow. So we're really trying to just, even though we're zone five, we're, seeing colder fall frost than probably any, any just about anywhere in the country.

36m 14s

Luke

Maybe it's, you know, somewhat colder in a few other places in Montana and in North Dakota, but that's, that's making us need to grow like zone 1, 2, 3, we're totally retrofitting all of our apricots we're, we're growing as much apricots that are, I mean, Hardy does own ones. Some of them like sunrise apricots, that's Hardy to zone one, according to Bob Purvis, same thing with some of the other zones, two and three apricots that are of the Manchurian genetic line. Those are, those are kind of the route that we're going. And we've obtained a lot of genetics from Bob Purvis in Idaho, and same thing with the Japanese American plum hybrids, a lot, a lot in the way of like zone two plums, zone three plums, we're going to be growing the zone three-ish zone for a peach of Siberian peach genetics got that one from buzz.

37m 19s

Luke

And of course all the apples and pears, those are I think, easier to find for really cold climate apples and pears. Those are, I mean, if anyone's curious of all the varieties that were going to be growing in the future of what, of what we're talking about, shoot me an email or something. I won't go into all of that right now, but yeah, we're totally retrofitting everything too, because of, you know, even if, even if there are listeners out there that are, that are skeptical of the whole climate science thing, which I'm not in with the climate change, it seems like it's certainly happening right before our eyes.

38m 0s

Luke

There is one thing that I've even, I've even heard, you know, people of more conservative disposition say, which is that, regardless of what you think there's a climate. How it, how would you call it? Like chaos maybe might be the word where just unforeseen abnormalities in, you know, we have seen these early fall frosts in the past. We're seeing more of them. It just seems erratic. Maybe that's the word I'm looking for and how do we protect ourselves?

38m 40s

Luke

Even if we're wrong about this, about it seeming more erratic climatically than it has been in the past. It's still is a really, I think, good idea to find the toughest genetics and build your system around that, because it's already hard growing. So you might as well try your damnedest to obtain the best genetics that you can so that they can be sort of anti-fragile, which is word that I like. And I'm using more of it as opposed to resilience, sort of, kind of getting stronger in the event of volatility.

39m 15s

JackieMarie

Can I just, like I know it was a while ago, but did you say something about, like, if you give the trees extra water, like in November, before that it's going to help the tree more likely be to survive because it's helping it get those nutrients into its system? Or did I get that backwards? Cause I wasn't sure if you'd been, you said something like maybe in August, want to start cutting off the water?

39m 42s

Luke

. And when he told me that in:

40m 29s

Luke

I just, it just seemed crazy to me to think that we're getting hundred degree temps in August. And meanwhile, he's saying, no, you got to cut the water off, but it actually, when you unpack what he's saying makes a lot of sense. I mean, I brought up from a tree metabolism standpoint, how that slows down the trees metabolism and hardened, and helps transition the tree into hardening off. And then, and then really preparing itself for winter because we can see frost that following month in September, but more importantly, or just as important is, is the fact that when, when you do something like that, or how do I put it there, there's visible signs that you can look for.

41m 18s

Luke

So I don't want to say more important, but every climate system's going to be different when you're doing this. So if you do end up taking this approach, then you really want to do what you really want to do is after you've cut the water off significantly. And I would say maybe even end of July, start to, well, I'm speaking for Montana, starting end of July, cut it, cutting the water in half. And then maybe that first week, just, just stop giving it water altogether. And what that'll do is you'll see the turgor pressure, that osmotic pressure that exists inside the living tissues.

42m 4s

Luke

You'll see that start to drop in parts of the tree, the specific parts that you want to see that drop are in the leaf peel, right? So in that stem of the leaf, you want to see that drop because when you do that'll, that will start to tell you that, that its metabolism is shutting down. If you see that pressure drop inside that new leaf, the newly formed tissue present in the new limbs, then you've got an issue. And so you may want to be careful with, if you start to see that. I don't think you would, because even maybe you can push these trees to the limit. And we don't at our site, see leaf, we see leaves down pressure drop.

42m 47s

Luke

We don't see a leaf. We don't see limb pressure drop of newly formed limbs, new wood, new growth from that year. So once you start to see that in the leaf PDO, that pressure drop, you know, you're doing the right thing. Just, just keep doing it. Even if you're seeing a hundred degree days. I know it sounds crazy, but just keep telling yourself, people have been doing this and it's been working and it prepares them for winter. Even if you think, oh my gosh, I'm killing your tree. You won't kill the tree unless you see the limb pressure drop, which I don't think you will.

43m 30s

JackieMarie

But what about your harvest? Isn't your fruit gonna suffer?

43m 34s

Luke

So your fruit doesn't suffer from like, from what I've seen, your fruit shouldn't suffer because at that point you're, I mean, the tree has enough water stored in its reserves to be able to the only thing that would probably really the only fruits that would be affected would be, well, I guess there are, there are plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines have already have already fermented by that point, cherries have already fruited, apples, pears, plums have not. And of course, I'm only speaking about our, our main seven that we grow.

44m 16s

Luke

There's a lot more, but I haven't seen any issue with, because really, I mean, the fruits by that point have matured significantly and they should be getting all the water that they need. You know, maybe this is, this would be a question for Roger because he's got more, I mean, he's got time on his side, but he's got way more established fruit trees, but from, what we're seeing. No, it shouldn't, it shouldn't affect the flavor quality of the fruit at all.

44m 51s

JackieMarie

Well, these are great tips. My husband was really worried because I don't know if you guys got the snow we just got this week. But like, so Sunday it's snowed like crazy. We got more snow than we've had since before Christmas, everything was getting really icy. My husband was so worried we were going to lose the trees. Cause then how it dropped down. Like today it's like, I don't know, we're below zero, like all of a sudden after, like, it was almost like spring, we're totally like Punksatawni's wrong. You know, like spring is coming, things are warming up. Like, it almost felt like almost all the snow was gone. And now all of a sudden we got a foot of snow Sunday, which I think was probably a blessing cause maybe it kind of covered things, but it was like weird because it was also like rainy and like there was ice on the trees and we're still like, I don't know what's going to happen from this storm, but yeah, weird stuff has been happening. Like I wrote an article in the paper about how like seasoned gardeners around here. Like it's a totally new learning curve because it's not like it used to be 10 years ago or 20 years ago, or, you know, it's so unpredictable, what's going to happen. Unfortunately, I have another interview starting in a few minutes. So like, can we go through the getting to the root of things really quick? Like, do you have a least favorite activity or to force yourself to get out and do like, what do you have? Like an orchard? Do you have like a regular garden?

46m 20s

Luke

Yeah. Yeah, sure. Hey, one more thing tho, before I say that, I don't want to, I want to just tell what any of your listeners that might be, that might, that they're listening to what I was saying about specifically watering towards the end of the year. You do want to give them one, all the trees you'll cut them off. You'll cut the water off. I mean, in our climate in August, but then towards maybe after leaf drop, give them a final drink to get them through the winter. That's what, that's what a lot of the literature says to do anyways. So just leaving that there. I do think that that is important now to answer your question about

46m 59s

JackieMarie

Yeah, I'm so glad you brought that up.

46m 59s

Luke

Yeah, yeah. To answer your question about, you said what's my least favorite activity to do in the garden? Or okay. Yeah. So my least favorite activity. Hmm. That's a good question, I guess, because nothing comes to mind that's probably a good sign. Well, you know, actually I will say this, I think it's for me personally right now, it's it's any time there's heavy lifting.

47m 40s

Luke

I unfortunately slipped a disc in my back between I think it was my L four/S1 and whenever I do heavy lifting, I feel that now, which is just a big bummer. So I think that would be my answer.

47m 54s

JackieMarie

Well Luke the people I just got off the phone with just started this new show that's going to come out on PBS on the first day of spring, March 21st called Garden Fit. And it's with this guy that probably will help you address that issue, because that was kind of one of the things I told them about my husband's always bending and lifting heavy things and like him and this woman went around to all these different farms and, and talk to farmers about what they can do to help make, make things less painful in the garden and use their bodies better. Anyway, on the flip side, what's your favorite activity to do in the garden?

48m 36s

Luke

Favorite activity? I think it'd be observation, you know, just infusing that childlike curiosity that I think is in all of us, as long as we allow it to be there, infusing that with anything, anytime you observe, how do I put it? Anytime you observe, just instead of, instead of having this narrative of what you think is going on, try to refrain from, at least right off the bat, try to refrain from giving whatever observation that you have a narrative. And I know that's tricky, but it's kind of a form of meditation in a way.

49m 22s

Luke

And I think that allows us as people to better connect ourselves with these ecological systems of which we're certainly a part and it'll prevent, I think it'll get us through potentially tricky situations, you know, that are tricky because we're creating some false narrative of what we think is going on relative to what actually is going on. And I think that kids are kids have that intuitive sense I think of just not judging something, right. Not creating a judgment or a narrative.

50m 5s

Luke

And this is kind of, this comes out of the nonviolent communication literature, but I think it can be applied to our observations of nature in general. And that's just, don't be so quick to judge and explain the narrative. You can do that, but maybe don't be so quick to do it. And I think that doing, yeah, that, that's all to say that I think observation is my favorite thing to, and then try to unpack it later.

50m 36s

JackieMarie

I LOVE ALL THAT. Because I think it also like I, a lot of, you know, people have written books about permaculture methods and things about, you know, just because you spot a problem, don't just grab for the first like pesticide or whatever that you can. Like doing what you're saying, observing and seeing, you know, what's really going on there and maybe it's not, you know, one way you might find out that it's not exactly what you thought it was and there was a better way to treat it or solve your problem. Or a lot of people, like on my show, I've talked about like, if you have aphids and then the black wasps will be on there eating the aphids and it looks like you want to just get rid of that leaf and get it out of there, but it's actually the black wasps doing their job. And if you wait a couple of days, all that wash and the aphids will be gone because the wasps ate them and then they've moved on.

51m 23s

JackieMarie

And I think that's kind of where you're getting at.

51m 28s

Luke

Yeah, completely. I think it was, was it Bill Mollison who said protracted and thoughtful observation will always trump protracted and thoughtless action. And I think that embodies exactly the example you just gave.

51m 42s

JackieMarie

Yeah. I think you're right. How about the best advice you've ever received in your, for growing tree crops?

51m 56s

Luke

The best advice I've ever received? I think it's probably just life advice in general, but to not be kind of on the same lines of thought as to not be so quick to take up a narrative or to judge something, I think it's to continually ask questions and not necessarily think you know, at all, you know, and I've heard people who know, you know, way more than, than, than I know say that.

52m 36s

Luke

And I think that that allows us to remain humble and it allows us to continue with that deeper trajectory and that deeper path of learning because nothing's getting in the way of our ego, a narrative, a judgment, I think in theory, in practice that that's harder perhaps to do. But I do think that it's regardless, I think it's really good life advice and it's good advice when it comes to growing anything.

53m 5s

JackieMarie

How about a favorite tool? If you had to move, and you can only take one tool. What could you not live without?

53m 14s

Luke

Ooh, that's a good one. You know, I would probably just say the line of Rogue hoe tools that we have. I bought, I want to say like three or four, I splurged on some like three or four Rogue hoe tools and they weren't, they weren't cheap. I think they were like 150 bucks each or

53m 37s

JackieMarie

Yeah, but you're not the first one to come on and say, they're worth every penny.

53m 42s

Luke

There are. So they're so awesome. You know, and it's a great company to the people that I've, I've dealt with that are over there at, Rogue just, they've always been so kind. I mean, actually I should just say they've been kind of one the one time that I dealt with them because I haven't had to ever deal with them because the tools have been spectacular. The only time I would probably deal with them again, would be to buy more. This isn't like a paid promotion.

54m 15s

JackieMarie

But my other guest is like already in the zoom meeting cause it starts in four minutes. So just do you want to tell listeners how they can learn about you and where they can get in touch with you if they have other questions? Cause you really dropped a lot of golden seeds. It was kind of a roundabout way, but I feel like we all learned a ton and just, you have a really great passion for sharing your knowledge. Like I want to say you should start a podcast.

54m 44s

Luke

Yeah, it would be maybe someday. Yeah. Check us out at montanafruittrees.com we're we need to come up with some more content. We're actually in the process of hiring a content creator. So if anybody out there is interested, get ahold of me, but you can check us out there actually just created an Instagram page. We're kind of, we're kind of late to some of this stuff. I'm not the best promoter at times, but I guess that's what we're doing here right now though.

55m 17s

JackieMarie

Yeah. And it's hard work and it takes a lot of time for sure, so I'm certainly not either like I have all to do to do the podcasting, but I don't know. I like it the best. I got to go Luke, thank you so much for sharing with us today and you have a great day and I'll probably meet you someday when I come to Missoula,

55m 33s

Luke

Sounds good Jackie, I really enjoyed it myself.

55m 33s

JackieMarie

Thanks. You have a great day.

About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.