Our neighbor Miguel just gave us 3 female Date Palms, volunteers from his mother tree that have already started producing fruit. What a special gift as only 1 in 10 Palms are fruit-bearing females. Date growing is very science-y and involves getting a lot of things right, including hand pollination with paper bags. He’s gonna share what he knows and maybe in a few years we’ll be harvesting. To the tune of 300lbs per year, from each tree. Which sounds insane to me. Desert dreams #joshuatree #datepalm

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Here’s a bit of info on the fruit trees that are doing well for us.

We buy online from Bay Laurel Nursery:

They are fantastic. We order in fall and they ship bare root trees in February.

I usually buy things with the following characteristics that seem to matter a lot in the desert:

–low chill hours (because our winters don’t get that cold)
–early ripening (so the fruit doesn’t have to make through our long, hot summer)
–self-fruitful (i.e. self-pollinating so you only have to buy one)

Here’s a complete list of what we’re growing that’s sourced from Bay Laurel Nursery, with descriptions taken from the Bay Laurel website. Arctic Star Nectarine and a Blenheim (Royal) Apricot are doing particularly well after only a few years in the ground

Eva’s Pride Peach – Standard
Delicious, very low chill yellow freestone peach is medium to
large, firm, with sweet flavor. Ripens late June/early July, midway
between May Pride and Mid-Pride. 1-200 hrs. Self-fruitful.

Arctic Star Nectarine – Standard
Earliest to ripen of the white fleshed nectarines. Low in acid,
super sweet with no tartness. Semi-freestone, snow white flesh with
beautiful dark red skin. Rave reviews in trial tastings. Ripens mid to
late June. Low chill, only 300 hours. Self-fruitful.

Babcock (!) Peach – Standard
Longtime favorite white fleshed, freestone peach. Sweet and juicy,
aromatic, subacid. Ripens mid July. Widely adapted: low chilling
requirement, yet not early blooming. 250-300 hrs. Self-fruitful.

All-In-One Genetic Semi-Dwarf Almond on Nemaguard
No. 1 almond for home orchards. Heavy crops of soft shelled nuts with
sweet, flavorful kernels. Hot summer required to ripen; ripens late
September to early October. Fifteen foot tree, very winter and frost
hardy, probably to zone 5, but with better results in zones 8 to 9.
3-400 hrs. Self-fruitful.

Blenheim (Royal) Apricot – Standard
All-purpose freestone, sweet, aromatic, flavorful. Long-time no. 1
apricot in California. Early bloom. Late June/early July harvest. 400
hours or less. Self-fruitful.

Burgundy Plum – Standard
Sweet, juicy and pleasing mild flavored plum with maroon skin and
flesh, small pit and little or no tartness. High taste test scores.
Very productive. Tree has narrow, upright habit. Prolonged harvest,
late July to mid August. 300 hrs. Self-fruitful.

Royal Rosa Apricot on Myrobalan
Extremely vigorous and more disease tolerant than other apricots.
Bears young and heavily. Sweet, low acid, fine-flavored fruit ripens
very early, in late May. Pollenizer for Flavorella plumcot. 500 hours.

Arctic Star Nectarine on Citation
Earliest to ripen of the white fleshed nectarines. Low in acid, super
sweet with no tartness. Semi-freestone, snow white flesh with
beautiful dark red skin. Rave reviews in trial tastings. Ripens mid to
late June. Low chill, only 300 hours. Self-fruitful.

May Pride Peach on Citation
Very early ripening peach for warm winter climates with delicious,
sweet, tangy, yellow semi-freestone fruit. Ripens in late May/early
June; very large for such an early peach. Large, showy pink blossoms.
150-200 hrs. Self-fruitful.

Pakistan King Mulberry
Large maroon to black fruit is 3 1/2 to 5″ long and very sweet with a
raspberry-like flavor. Multi-month long fruiting season. Cold hardy to
USDA zone 9, maybe 7 when mature. Frost sensitive when young. Sweating
is recommended in dry, cold or windy climates to encourage bud break. Self-fruitful.

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POST NO. 401

This blog isn’t as active as it once was, but that’s mainly cuz we’re doing other stuff elsewhere, and not everything quite fits the theme here, such as it is/was. Here’s where else you can find us:

Stephanie is active on Instagram in two places:

JTHomesteader: “Homesteading life in Joshua Tree, California. Vacation rental cabins and more”

Sunever Farms: “A ‘desert food’ arid lands farm and nursery under development on 20 acres in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree”

Jay has a personal Instagram account: random stuff that interests him

and Jay has “Landline”, an irregular TinyLetter available as a free email, archived online: “A small bailiwick outside the unceasing current of cruddiness: Irregular epistles intended for friends, colleagues, Arthur heads, pastoral people, plant people, rural country people, dharma people, herbalists, wild people and other curious sweetfolk.”

Sorry we’re so dispersed, but that’s how it is. We’ll keep updating this blog, but if you want to find more stuff from us more regularly, now you know where to go. Thanks again for all the feedback and kind words.

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Stephanie says:
Not the gorgeous shot we typically aim for, but wildlife photography is tough folks! What’s important here: We are welcoming our first desert tortoise to the food oasis at Sunever Farms. She’s built her burrow in a swale right up against a newly planted Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana). A good omen!

Jay says:
I love this. A bit more info: I made the swale by piling up branches and trunks from the dead asian pear trees that were on the property, then mounding with sand and dirt, forming a trench and a swale at the same time. The dead trees provide undergirding and also retain moisture. And now it looks like they’re acting the same way as creosote tree roots do — providing a space where a burrow can be safely dug by a wild animal. So awesome.

Stephanie says:
It’s part swale and part ‘hugelkultur’ planting bed.

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FIRST FRUIT. The ‘food oasis’ is officially live. A super-sweet Pakistani King Mulberry. Note: Not just live for the first time this year but for the first time E V E R #desertfood #foodforest #foodoasis #droughttolerantfarm #mulberry #springfruit #joshuatree

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Stephanie got this footage, today, in a nearby wash that ORV riders used to use a lot. They still go in there but not as much. It’s illegal, of course. The riders often argue ‘there’s nothing there, what’s the problem?’ because they can’t see a three-inch-long infant tortoise, like this one. Washes are desert tortoise’s native habitat. This is the tortoise’s *home*. Leave her be.

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I rigged up a temporary greenhouse sitch while I await construction of the real thing. It actually works pretty well and fun (drought tolerant, edible/useful) things are already popping up — Chaste Tree, Hopi Tobacco, Red Fairy Duster, Mojave Aster and Mescal Bean (Sophora secundiflora). Native Americans used the Mescal bean in ceremony; it’s a potent hallucinogen. But I plan to cultivate the lacquer-red seeds for ornamental use, along with the shrub’s showy purple flowers.

#desertplants #desertfood #droughttolerantplant #desertgardening #greenhouse #temporarygreenhouse #seedstarting

Follow Sunever Farms on Instagram

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60-minute internet radio show archived here, stream or download:

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We’ve had at least six inches of rain here in the last year, and now the desert is by far the greenest and life-full we’ve seen it in our seven-plus years living here. Exciting, energizing!

Says Stephanie: “We’ve had so many first-time-ever wildflowers at the farm this year. Pictured above is a Desert Evening Primrose (Oenothera primaveris), so soft and wilted after blooming like a champion throughout last night.”

Some random updates from all over:

* Stephanie saw a cloud of Monarch butterflies at the Sunever Farms garden Monday morning. She thinks it could be because of the butterfly attractors — globe mallow, winterfat — that she’s planted, as well as the native milkweed that is popping up.

* An Audobon Society couple were our guests recently at our Sunever Prefab Homesteader Cabin. Birds they spotted:

Black Throated Sparrow
Le Conte’s Thrasher
Cactus Wren
House Finch
House Sparrow
Ladder Backed Woodpecker
Eurasian Collared Dove
Ana’s Hummingbird

And they saw an adult desert tortoise, our first encounter of the season.

* We’ve started planting seeds for our spring/summer vegetable garden. This week we planted the following, sourced, from Native Seeds Search:

– Grey Zucchini Squash
– Texas Early Grano Onion
– Tarahumara Squash
– Chimayo Melon

* There’s been good news on the anti-stupid development front. From last week’s local newspaper Hi-Desert Star:

The NextEra corporation is stopping, at least for now, construction of the solar farm planned in the old Roy Williams airport, a company official confirmed this week.

“We are not proceeding with immediate construction of the project,” Steven Stengel, a representative of NextEra, said.

Joshua Basin Water District General Manager Curt Sauer first announced the company’s turnaround at a board meeting on Wednesday.

Sauer said the project manager mentioned the hold on the project about three weeks ago.

“They decided that they will not pursue this project anymore at this time,” Sauer said in a phone interview. “They may decide to pursue it later, though,” he added.

The project, a utility-scale solar farm 2.3 miles from Joshua Tree National Park, has been under fire from some Joshua Tree residents for more than a year.

After the San Bernardino County Planning Commission approved a permit application from NextEra, a group of residents appealed the decision to the county board of supervisors.

The supervisors upheld the permit on Aug. 16, 2016.

Afterward, a group of locals and environmental groups sued the county and the corporation, saying standards for environmental protections had not been followed. David Fick, a Joshua Tree resident involved in the lawsuit, said litigation is ongoing with NextEra and its subsidiary, Joshua Tree Solar Farm LLC.

A lawsuit was also filed against the county by the SoCal Environmental Justice Alliance over the project, Fick said in August. …

* We were featured in Sunset Magazine (PDF).

* Stephanie was featured in the Sunday New York Times (link).

* And Jay is very psyched indeed to be author Erik Davis’s guest on his long-running livestreamed internet radio show, “Expanding Mind,” tomorrow (Thursday, March 23, 2017) 11am PDT. The show will be archived after it airs so you can listen at your convenience. Stream/download the show from the Progressive Radio Network archive here:

More to come…

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First snake of the season. Very small, maybe 15 inches…? The animal was in creosote shade, just outside a burrow, near a water pipe here in “our” yard. Very still, barely moved when I tossed a leaf near her. I have since checked with the region’s snake experts and they have concluded that this is a JUVENILE GOPHER SNAKE. We’ve seen an adult gopher snake here many times — perhaps this is offspring.

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