Feb 4, 2020
Jerry Mills: Book has successful launch; products, tools help out

Happy days! I was at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids in early December to help launch my new book.

“Notes from the Farm,” a compilation of my columns published in the Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News since 2004. It was great fun and the high point of my life as a writer.

A percentage of book sales will go the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research. It would be nice to raise a ton of money before we all die.

I wish I had the energy to make the rounds of all the other winter meetings. Peddling books for a great cause is a good excuse for traveling, but the real joy is meeting other growers and making new friends. There were many in Michigan.

Quite a few folks at the Michigan event purchased copies of the book as Christmas presents for their older friends and family. I know they will enjoy it. Young’uns could learn something too. For ordering information, click on the promotion for the book on the Fruit Growers News website, www.fruitgowersnews.com.

Best “new” product at the show. A controlled atmosphere bulk bin system presented by JMT US LLC. It actually has been around a long time but was new to me.

I doubt if any small grower has the ability to store fruit much past March or April without spoilage. It appears to me that this system would allow those of us who have stores to keep our harvests fresh longer until needed in the store, or for cider.

I did not see the booth until we were leaving, but I think it needs looking into. The website is www.jmt-us.com.

Tool of the month: A one-bladed tree topper for bringing down trees with vertical limbs too large for the regular hedger.

Actually, this is a reprise of a machine I built 30 years ago. The boys put a cab on the original tractor and we could not use it after that. It has hung in the top of the shop ever since.

The original version had a five-horsepower Briggs engine on one end of a 10-foot bar and a 30-inch sawblade on the other. Two long belts connected the two. A long handle extended forward so the operator could swing it back and forth, cutting off growth as it moved.

This time, we removed the engine and installed a hydraulic motor. Hoses connect to the tractor system allow control of the blade. A shield keeps woodchips from hitting the operator.

This is obviously much cheaper than the big commercial rigs but just as effective though slower.

We had to remove a side door from a tractor in order to operate the saw. A little work but much easier than pruning by hand and a heck of a lot faster.

I will try to include a photo next month.

Related: Order your copy of “Notes from the Farm”

Heroes in the night: One night at 2 a.m., I checked on family members and saw my oldest son had just arrived home. We have the app Life360 on our iPhones. It allows us to keep track of each other, regardless of where we are. In fact, we can even zoom in and see what room someone might be in at his or her location. With the street view, we can also check out the neighborhood. Ideal for families with roaming children.

I texted him. “Where have you been? “He replied. “Heart attack, CPR in progress, on Lower Marine Road.”

Later that day the banker said he, too, was there and the man eventually died.

Each member of our volunteer fire department carries a small radio. Whenever the department gets a 911 call, everyone is paged. This way, they all know what the emergency is, and where to go. Some go to get trucks. Others go directly to the scene. The emergency medical technicians always respond, along with the local ambulance service. The rest respond according to the type of emergency.

Thanks to a continuous monthly training program, each member knows exactly what to do.

We have used our fire department’s services several times. It is a comfort knowing they are well trained and available, usually responding within just a few minutes.

It is a comfort to me, too, to see where my firefighters are.

— Jerry Mills, Mills Apple Farm





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