One Bad Day

This post is about pigs, not apples. 

Often times in the pastured pig world, you’ll hear people refer to their pig’s butcher day as their “one bad day.” This is because these pigs have lived on grass, rooting and running and generally being happy pigs for their entire life, rather than confined indoors in crates the size of a coffins in CAFO-style situations (contained animal feeding operations). The only bad day for my pigs is the one where they go to the butcher. This essay is NOT about all that. This essay is about MY one bad day this year. Yesterday, September 10th, 2019.

For those of you who follow me on social media, you might have gotten a chuckle out of how hard last year was for me to keep pigs contained within their paddocks (which I move regularly). They got out a half-dozen times, with the majority of those escapes happening when trying to load them out of the fields and into a trailer for their butcher date.

The most story-worthy scenario happened when the pigs ignored my attempts to load them and busted out of the fence, nearly making it into a 10,000 square foot wedding tent across the street. I chased behind them in the dark early morning, freshly electrocuted from getting tangled in the electric netting that I did not see and only wearing one boot because the other got stuck in the mud (it was pouring down rain). It took everything I had to sprint and get in front of them, ultimately turning them around and getting them back on the farm.

The memories of not getting pigs loaded out of the fields and missing butcher dates has stuck with me to the point of anxiety for this year’s butcher date. That day was yesterday, and this is the story of my one [really] bad day…

A few days ago, I backed the trailer up to the pig paddock, reorganized the fencing (creating hard walls for loading rather than the normal poultry-style netting) and started feeding them in the trailer. When the day came to load these pigs, I rallied a few friends and used my friend Sara’s truck instead of mine because it has 4 wheel drive and the loaded trailer would need to go across several hundred yards of cow pasture. All went amazing well and the pigs were loaded within 20 minutes, a personal record! We hooked the trailer to Sara’s truck and headed back to the road, where I noticed that some cables had been eaten and the lights were no more. Because of this, we decided to delay taking the pigs that night and instead take the pigs to the butcher in the morning, after I had gotten some temporary lights on the trailer.

Fast forward to yesterday morning with lights that work and a trailer full of pigs.  I got up early, sang to the dogs that I’d be back in a couple hours for a nice long walk, and skipped out the door. Sara had suggested I use her truck to take them to the butcher since it already had the trailer hitched to it, and I thanked her for the suggestion. Off I went…

8 miles away from the butcher, on Interstate 70 in Maryland, the truck started to lose power. I thought to myself: If I could just get to the butcher and unload these pigs, all will be much more easily handled. 3 miles from the butcher, and 30 minutes from the deadline to bring in the pigs, the engine light came on and I pulled over as much as I could, cars whizzing by at 80 miles an hour only inches away. The electronics on the dash read: TRANSMISSION.

I screamed a string of curse words, watching my happy productive day flash before my eyes, and called GEICO.

The GEICO lady, whose name I do not remember,  should get an award for best performance “out of her comfort zone.” Pigs in a trailer attached to a truck that doesn’t belong to me that won’t move. She worked really hard to finally break it to me that, turns out (she must have called 15 tow companies), it is near impossible to get a tow company to tow a trailer full of livestock anywhere. Even if it’s 3 miles away. She could, however, tow the truck back to it’s home location. Deal.

I then texted farmer friends Andrew and MK of Open Book Farm to see if they knew of anyone who could help me in the area. Andrew, a wonderful man and livestock farmer, told me that he had invisioned this for himself before and it was his worst nightmare.  He would come get me and the trailer full of pigs.

Meanwhile, the tow truck had showed up and the tow guy was in a bad mood. He pointed out the trailer had a recent flat (probably from driving on the side of the road and hitting glass) and when I asked for him to help me fix it, he started in on how that was not part of the protocol. I warned him that I was about to start crying and his attitude got a little better, no doubt to avoid having to console me in some way.

Soon thereafter, Andrew showed up and we decided to try limping along for the remaining 3 miles with only one good tire on the right side of the trailer. We hitched up and made it, 3 hours after I first had to pull over. The butcher accepted my more-than-late deposit of pigs and they unloaded like champs. I left the trailer at the butcher’s shop because there was no way I could get it 40 miles back home.

Andrew brought me back to his and Mk’s farm and Sara then came to pick me up and take me home. On our ride back, the mechanic called. He had gotten a chance to take a look at the truck and the transmission was blown. $3500-$3700 in repair costs.

Folks, we are in need of some meat sales in order to afford these truck repairs/another truck that can host a snow plow.

Beef: <— Click Here for Sara’s website

Sara is an amazing beef cattle farmer who is the 10th generation to reside on her family land in Northern VA, Oakland Green Farm. She has 4 cows going to the butcher next month and needs to sell some sides to help pay for the blown transmission. If you are in the Northern Virginia area, or en route from Northern VA to Hampton Roads, I can deliver beef to you: A whole side or by the cut (cut minimum is $100). More info about her cuts and sides can be found HERE.  Beef sides are $4.50 a pound hanging weight plus processing and Hagerstown is where you’d pick it up (unless you contract me to deliver to you)

Pork: <— Click here to buy salami on

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Salami: Price: $17.50 for 6 ounces of dry-cured goodness. Use promo code TRANSMISSION for free shipping on 2 or more. This stuff is delicious, no lie. Now that the weather is cooling off and I’ve blown a friend’s transmission, I’m ready to ship these cured salamis to your door. My HogTree salamis are ‘Cacciatore’- a traditionally cured American-made Italian recipe. It is nitrate free and the ingredient list is as follows:

HogTree Pastured Non-gmo Pork. Salt. Dried Milk Powder. Celery Powder. Dextrose. Vitamin C. White Pepper. Garlic Powder. Fermentation Starter Culture. Natural Pork Casing.

Sara and I will be collaborating on a half pork/half beef Spanish Style Chorizo in the next month as well. This will also be available online in early November.

Pork Cuts: I am primarily selling cured bacon, ribs, pork chops and sausage (assorted flavors). This is pick-up only or delivered en route between Northern VA and Southeastern VA (but try me. I drive all over the place). Pick up by appointment only.

Everyone in the Frederick MD area: Go shop at Open Book Farm’s on-farm store on Saturday mornings and support really amazing people who grow nutrient dense food and saved me big time!






Behold the Graft-Chimera!

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog and that’s not to say I haven’t been writing (I’ve been writing quite a bit and getting extremely (and excitedly) nerdy). However, my 1000 word essays have been in short supply and I thought I’d throw one up on the blog today. It is inspired by the amazing Jack Kertesz of Maine, who shared this photo with the Maine Tree Crops Alliance  last week:


Same branch.
Same tree.
Two distinctly different apples. (Calyx, stem, skin, fruit shape, flavor, etc)

This was one of those WOW moments for me because I don’t ever see this sort of thing.  No, the yellow/green apples aren’t unripe versions of the red apples. Nor are they a more pale version of the other. This is something special and when I first saw it, there were three possible scenarios for what this was:

1.) Bud Sport. Not a typo for the epic Jean Claude Van Damme movie. A bud sport it’s basically a chance mutation of a single bud on a tree that produces a different looking fruit.  Sometimes this bud turns into a branch that produces apples double the size of the others on the tree. Sometimes a red delicious apple tree produces a branch of black apples…

black diamond apple.jpg

No, I don’t think what Jack found is a bud sport, as two distinctly different kinds of apples are coming out of the same bud. We won’t venture down this rabbit hole, however I do plan to write more about bud sports in the future. They are fascinating!

2.) Top-Grafting. This is one of my favorite methods of grafting because it allows you to graft one or unlimited cultivars of fruit onto an existing tree of the same genera (ish). I made a quick video of how to do this with Bradford Pear:

However, if everything goes correctly, you still wouldn’t end up with a tree producing two different apples from the same bud on a branch.

3.) THE GRAFT-CHIMERA!  OMG. I’ve been waiting to find one of these! I had first learned about this crazy concept  when reading about the rediscovery of the citrus fruit cultivar ‘Bizzaria’. The gist of the story is this: Back in the 1600s, a Florentine gardener named Pietro Nati discovered a citrus fruit tree  that was growing three different fruits.  One fruit was the sour orange, which was from the rootstock’s genetics. The next fruit was the citron, which had been grafted onto the sour orange and was of the scion’s genetics. A third fruit was growing from this stem, which appeared to be a complete meld of the two fruits. The scientific community at the time, perplexed, fittingly named this fruit ‘Bizzaria.’ This branch was grafted in gardens all over the place and, amazingly, the chimera held true.


Bizzaria Fruit- half sour orange, half citron

Centuries later, the concept of having 2 or more distinctly different fruits emerging from one stem was revealed to be a graft-chimera, a botanical phenomenon where the cells of the rootstock and the cultivar being grafted get wrapped up together in a single branch and both traits are exhibited.  Sometimes, like with the case of Bizzaria, a 50:50 fruit also emerges. How this happens can be boiled down fairly simply thanks to a German botanist named Hans Winkler.

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Winkler was fascinated with the idea of graft-chimeras and began to experiment with how this sort of thing could come about and happen more regularly. How could he cause two different cultivars of fruit/vegetables/flowers to come out of the same bud? Instead of using apples for his experimenting, which take years to produce fruit, he used tomatoes and other graft-compatible nightshades (I’ll use eggplant for this essay, though it may not be historically correct) to conduct his experiments because they looked completely different in fruit and leaf.

The experiment goes like this: He grafted a tomato cultivar to an eggplant rootstock and when the graft was well healed and the plant established, he cut the graft union in half so the rootstock/scion union had exposed cut tissue.  He watched these cuts callous over and develop adventitious buds (new buds that arise from calloused tissue) grow. If a bud arose from the eggplant portion, it was an eggplant. If it arose from the tomato portion, it was a tomato.  If it arose from the graft union, it was a n Eggplato, composed partly of eggplant and partly of tomato. Essentially, two different species present within the same stem!

20190907_232857.jpgTurns out, this little experiment from Winkler is highly replicable and he was able to show how such branches can arise incidentally from normal grafting methods. The genetics and botanical world should have gone crazy at this time, experimenting with these concepts and producing serious Frankenfruit. But, like many cool experiments uncovered from the last century or more, they never picked up steam.

Two varieties on same tree

Back to Jack! And apples!

When I asked for more pictures, especially of the trunk, they sent this one over to me:70440750_2423351177877972_14148004525113344_o.jpg

After seeing the picture, I think there are two possible scenarios for this graft-chimera.

1.) The tree’s graft union was buried and suckers came about from the union, producing chimeras.

1.5) The tree was mowed/driven over at the graft union and what came up was the graft-chimera

2.) The tree’s graft union was buried and some low-down injury occurred (weed eater?), causing a deep enough cut around the tree to reveal both rootstock and scion tissue. Up from that came these chimeric shoots.

Regardless, I think this ability to meld two cultivars into a single stem is very cool and somewhat witchy. I definitely want to experiment more with this concept in the future and I don’t know why more hasn’t been done with this concept. Maybe it has and I’m unaware, but I have found that some ornamental cultivars, especially the variegated types, came about as graft-chimeras.


Sidenote: I find it fitting that Winkler coined the term ‘Genome.’ How did he do it? Much like the Bizzaria fruit being half citron and half sour orange, he combined the words ‘Gene’ and ‘Chromosome’ together to get ‘Genome,’ lol.


  3. STOUT, A. B. (1920). A GRAFT-CHIMERA IN THE APPLE. Journal of Heredity, 11(5), 233–237.