Hawkeye Apples


Hawkeye Apples from my brothers Tree.

As we start farming and planting on our own farm, I am always looking for plants and animals that we like and want to grow. Last year my brother Smokie bought an older home in Iowa and it has this apple tree that has some very tasty apples. As a matter of fact they were some of the best tasting apples I have ever eaten and I wanted to start growing this variety myself and would research what variety it was so I could buy my own trees. Now I knew by the looks of this standard sized tree that it is very old and was going to be an heirloom variety.


My brother Smokie’s Hawkeye apple tree.

Like I said, I could tell that it was very old, but didn’t know how old. The house where this tree is at was built in 1889 and is one of the oldest homes in The area. There are a few sites that you can check out to see pictures of apples and describes all the characteristics of the tree and and apple, so I started my research. I thought at first it might be a Wolf River apple tree, which was discovered by Wolf River Wisconsin in the 1800’s, but wasn’t sure then I came across a picture of a Hawkeye apple and found that this tree and the apples had all the charteristics of the Hawkeye apple tree and I said that must be it. So I started digging into the hawkeye and found it has a very distinguished and interesting history.

One of the characteristics of the Hawkeye apple are 5 bumps on the bottom.

It all started in 1880 in Madison county Iowa by the town of Peru on the farm of Jesse Hiatt. It was a chance seedling that was growing in Jesse’s apple orchard but was growing not in one of his straight rows but between the rows. So Jesse liking his trees being in straight rows and orderly mowed it down, but the little tree sprouted again and Jessie mowed it down a second time. That would have done in most trees but not this one, it started sprouting again and the legend goes Jesse seeing this and being a Quaker said “if thee must live, then thee may” and Mr. Hiatt nurtured the tree and after 10 years the tree prouduced one apple that hung on the tree long enough for it to ripean. When he bit into the red and yellow streaked apple he knew he had something special and was very impressed with the sweet firm juicy flesh and told his wife “Ma, this is the best tasting apple in the whole world.” He named the apple Hawkeye after his adopted state.

Giving some of my apple trees a fresh layer of wood chips.

Mr Hiatt tried to sell his tree to 8 or 10 nurseries but all thought the apple looked odd with its 5 bumps on the bottom and with the odd shape didn’t think it would sell and found no takers for his trees, then his big break came. In 1893 Stark Brothers Nursery in Missouri  was looking for a new and better tasting apple then the Ben Davis which was the biggest seller in 1893. The Ben Davis looked good and stored well, but didn’t taste all that great, so Stark Brothers was looking for better tasting apple. They held a nation wide contest and encouraged all orchards to send in their best apples. When Clerance M Starks President of Stark Brothers Nursery, bit into Jesse’s apple he said “My this is delicious” and declared Jesse’s apple the winner.  Stark Brothers bought the rights of this tree and named it delicious, so the biggest selling apple of all time, the Red Delicious came from the state of Iowa. The current red delicious taste nothing like the original Hawkeye apple with the hawkeye tasting much better. It was changed to be much redder and to store longer through the years, much like the Ben Davis like what they wanted to replace. The state of Iowa used to be #2 in the country in apple production until Armistice day 1940 when a blizzard destroyed many apple trees and Iowa’s apple production never recovered. Mr Hiatt’s original tree was split in half during the Armistice day blizzard, but did later sprout two twigs that they let grow into new trees.

Here is the interesting part to me. You can’t grow a apple tree from seed and expect the apple tree to be just like it’s parent because that can be influenced by other apple and crab apple trees near by that would pollinate the tree. The only way you can get the exact same tree and apples is by grafting. This is how Stark Brothers nursery produced new trees was by taking cuttings from the original tree and grafting onto different rootstock. I believe that my brothers tree was grown from wood from this original tree because of its age. last March my wife and I took a grafting class in Decora Iowa at the Seed Saver Exchange and I plan to graft wood from my brothers tree to some rootstock I already have. I am excited to get started and will let you know how it goes. I am in the beginning stages of starting our own orchard and have planted Over 25 different fruit trees this past year.

Some of our apple trees on our bottom ground.

Some of the fruit trees we planted this year.

Posted in Tree tubes | 10 Comments

Harvested First Deer Of The Season

fileDuring the early muzzle loader season here in Iowa, I was able to harvest our first deer. It is a small buck by Iowa standards but will provide a lot of good meat. I plan to get one more deer and that should provide enoug meat for my wife and I for the year.

I had a couple of deer hunting friends who suggested that I should have passed on this deer and let him get bigger, but I am not a trophy hunter and only wish to get a good size  deer for eating. I don’t like to harvest doe’s because when you kill a doe you are killing more than one deer. You kill a doe you also kill the fawn she would have had in the spring and if she would have twin fawns like a lot of them do than that is 3 deer that will not be there in the spring. Plus doe’s usually have this years fawns with them that if you take the mother the chance of that fawn surviving the hunting season and winter go way down. So this is why I reluctant to shoot doe’s. If I was raising cattle I wouldn’t harvest the heifers but only the young bulls for our meat. I view the deer on this farm as live stock to be harvested in a sustainable way.IMG_0113Being a land owner here in Iowa I can harvest up to 3 more deer and may harvest a doe that is by herself for my next deer. Happy hunting everyone.

Posted in Tree tubes | 7 Comments

Back To Work

Sorry everyone I haven’t posted in awhile I have been taking the summer off. We bought a used fishing boat and have Been putting out our “Gone Fishing” sign. It was nice to take off some months after working 11 months straight , 7 days a week on our home so we could move in. But now we are ready to get back to work and finish up the basement. We are currently working on the rec room and what we are doing to it I think is pretty cool. For those of you who have been following my blog know we once wanted to build a log home, but decided against it at the last minute because of the maintenance of the logs , with having to restain them every 3 to 5 years. So we have added log siding to our rec room. I am also building  another bar and will be doing a post about that. Can’t wait to show you after it’s all done.


We also planted over 26 new trees this past spring and it wasn’t a good year to do that. We had a severe drought this summer and our water bill was very high trying to keep the new trees from dying. I also hope to do another post about our tree tubes and how they have faired so far it’s been 6 years since our trees in the bottom ground has been planted. So hopefully I will do that in the not to distant future. 

This is a sneak preview and can’t wait to show you when we are done.

Posted in Buildng our home. | 14 Comments

Working With Mother Nature And The Bullhead Catfish.

A picture of our creek flooding that happened a few weeks back.

Here at Milligan’s Gander Hill Farm we have learned the hard way to try and work with mother nature instead trying to work against her. Take for instance our pond. We have tried to have our pond be clear and full of bass, crappie, blue gill, and channel cat fish, but that hasn’t worked out. Mother nature thinks we should have a Bullhead catfish pond, so thats what we are going to go along with because just like with my wife, mother nature usually gets her way anyway no matter how hard you try otherwise.

Another look at our flooding.

With the flooding that brings in the Bullheads to our pond and the river otters eating our other game fish, we come the the conclusion its a waste of time and money trying to keep our pond stocked with the other game fish.

Our neighbors house and driveway.

After careful thought I think our pond is better suited for the catfish. It is only about 8ft deep at its deepest and the bullhead can live with less oxygen when the pond freezes in the winter. They also breed easily in a farm pond and you can always catch bullheads anytime of day or night.  Even though the bullhead doesn’t have a very good reputation with most game fisherman they are very good to eat especially in the spring and fall when water temperatures are cooler.

The species of Bullhead we have is the yellow Bullhead catfish.  Most pond owners don’t want the bullhead to get into their pond because they breed very fast and can quickly take over a pond. Also with the bottom feeding habit of this fish it keeps the mud on a pond stirred up which causes water clarity issues.

Bullheads eat just about anything, insects, tad poles, vegetation, snails, minnows, dead fish, marshmallows, pieces of hot dogs, worms, chicken livers, shrimp and catfish stink baits. We use night crawlers to catch ours. Right now there are so many bullheads in our pond, you can cast out a line and catch one in just a few minutes so it’s a very good fish to introduce fishing to new comers to the sport. The only trouble is there are so many fish that they have eaten up most of the natural food in the pond and are not very big because of it. Our solution is to start feeding the bullheads with a commercial floating game fish food that some catfish farmers use.


We are using Purina Game fish Chow but I have herd others using dog food with great success.

We have also just stocked our pond with 5 pounds of fathead minnows. The bullheads and other game fish will eat these too.

The fathead minnow is a prolific breeder and will start breeding once the water temperature reaches 64 degrees F and will keep breeding until water temperatures drop below 64 degrees come fall.

Like most things here on our farm we don’t have any experience with this and are learning as we go. I would like to hear from others who have had similar experiences with their farm pond. If any body would like to catch a mess of catfish, come on down, ya hear!



Posted in Farm Report | 8 Comments

Learning How To Plow

I recently bought this two bottom plow to put in our garden and to put in food plots for deer on our farm here in south central Iowa. I have been excited to finally get to use it so this past Sunday it was warm and dry and I thought I would plow our garden.

Now remind you, I was raised in the city and never have done any farming whatsoever, so I was learning as I went. First thing I did was to hook up the plow to the tractor and that was no easy task. It took me almost an hour to get it hooked up. I learned when you set it down on the ground it is best if you put it on a level surface. I didn’t do that when I had taken it off the truck and set it down. This plow probably weighs close to 400 lbs and once the plow tips sink into the ground it is hard to move it around to hook it up to the tractor’s  3-point hitch.  So with much effort I was finally able to get it hooked up and hopefully next time I use it, it won’t take as long.

Once I was able to start plowing it went pretty good. I wasn’t sure of the angle I needed to set the plow and did it the way that looked right. I must have got it right because it plowed very well, and my tractor pulled it easily.

This kind of plow is called a moldboard plow and as it goes it plows the ground and flips the top of the ground over onto its self so any sod on top is buried under soil and then the sod dies out. That’s if you go at the correct speed and as you can see by this photo some of the sod didn’t get turned over. I wasn’t going fast enough there but learned quickly and got better at it as I went.

After I got the the area plowed, as you can see by the pictures, the ground is really rough looking. Now you have to smooth it out and break up any dirt clods. That is where the disc comes in.


I bought this 6 ft disc just a few days after I bought the plow.

You can see by the picture below how the disk is angled to make sure it breaks up all the dirt clods.

I went over the ground I plowed 2 or 3 times and I was amazed how well it did. It really smoothed out the ground.

It’s not perfect but it was my first attempt at plowing so I won’t be too critical of my efforts. I know I had fun playing with the tractor and the implements and can’t wait until spring to do some more.

What I thought about was how my Grandfather who was a farmer that had a farm by the town of Lacona only about 20 miles from our  farm here. He used to plow with this same type of plow when he went from horse drawn implements to his first tractor early in the 1950’s. He had a 160 acres and I couldn’t imagine doing an 80 acre field with a two bottom plow. Some how doing this has made me feel more connected to my grandfather and more connected to our own land.

Posted in Farm Report | 12 Comments

Starting To Think About Farming

Milligans Gander Hill Farm Plow

As I am taking a break from working on our house I started thinking about our garden this coming spring and how I would plant it. This will be the first time we have planted a garden here and will have to break sod to do it. I found this 2 bottom plow on craigslist and thought this is what I needed to get us started. Milligans Gander Hill Farm Plow

This way I can also put in a food plot for deer hunting. I am starting to collect a few implements, but still need a few more.

Milligans Gander Hill Farm Implements.

I have to buy a disk next so after you plow you run the disk over the ground to break up dirt clods. I also would still like to buy a loader for my tractor, so if any of you know of a disk for sale that has a 3 point hitch and is 6 or 8 ft wide please let me know. With all these implements laying around its starting to look like a real farm around here. 🙂 Here in the country you see these farms with all kinds of farm implements in the yard, mine are just a little smaller.


Posted in Farm Report | 8 Comments

Up Stairs Is Done

Our new sectional sofa

Our new sectional sofa

I am happy to report that our upper level living space is done. We do have a few odds and ends to finish up like some small pieces of trim but basically it’s done. Now that we are done with the upper-level we have to finish the basement but we are going to take a long break first. We have been working hard on our home since April 14 and need a break. I do have to finish the stairs in the foyer but I plan to take my time with that.

Unfinished stairs in the foyer.

Unfinished stairs in the foyer.

Since we posted last, we got some work done. We finished the master bath, the spare bedroom, got our counter tops, cook stove and added some back splash tile in the kitchen and love how it has turned out. Take a look at some more pictures below.

Our kitchen with counter tops and cook stove.

Our kitchen with counter tops and cook stove.

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while know we wanted to create the hunting lodge look and I think we pulled it off.


The cabinets are from IKEA and the stove is from A J Madison.


We are thinking of calling our home “The Red Cedar Lodge” for the many eastern red cedar trees that grow wild on our property.


I also got my deer back from the taxidermist and love how that turned out as well.


We wanted some thing more than just a animal head on our wall so we selected to have it mounted this way because it was more like a work of art.



Counter depth refrigerator, to me regular size fridges just stick out too far and don’t look as good.

Its all in the details that turn a good kitchen design into a great kitchen design.

Its all in the details that turn a good kitchen design into a great kitchen design, like this wine rack.



We did splurge on our cook stove but with all the money we saved by doing the majority of the work on our home ourselves we could afford the cost. Plus I have always dreamed of a stove like this with the griddle in the middle and this is my retirement home so if I didn’t do it here I didn’t know when I would.


My wife turned this old dresser into our master bath vanity, turned out nice.

My wife turned this old dresser into our master bath vanity, turned out nice.

My wife used rustic tile for the shower and tub in the master bath.

My wife used rustic tile for the shower and tub in the master bath. She got to design our master bath and I got the spare bath. She did a great job.

Spare bedroom

Spare bedroom



We now plan to sit back and enjoy our home for the time being. What we have left is the rec room in the basement and do some final grading and landscaping on the outside that has to wait until spring.


Posted in Buildng our home. | 31 Comments