Our orchard is certified organic and we cherish our land and take our responsibility of being stewards of this beautiful place very seriously. We have nurtured our trees and they are thriving. The orchard has over 1000 trees and many varieties – MacIntosh, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome beauty, Gravenstein, Arkansas Black, Ginger Gold, Gold Rush, Blenheim Red, Matsu, some pear, and some heirloom unknowns that are just starting to produce. we just planted an acre of cider varietals and started with Wickson and Belle de Boskoop.
All of our orchard activities are focused around the seasons. The activities change every few months which keeps us from getting tired of the work. In winter, we give the trees a rest and clean up the orchard floor by mowing and tilling. We try to have all of our trees pruned in mid March before they break dormancy. In the spring, things start to get busy. The trees bloom in later April through May. We use a very targeted virus on the trees to prevent the coddling moth (worms!) This is done by counting the “degree days” to track the lifecycle of the moth and then spraying the orchard at just the right time. We have had really good results with the virus and it doesn’t affect any of the other beneficial insects. Spring is also the time of year we fertilize the orchard and start irrigating. The irrigation system is gravity fed from our irrigation pond at the top of the orchard. The water is fed by underground main line pipes to the tree rows where it passes into smaller lines through the tree rows with micro spray emitters on each tree. Another early spring activity for us is grafting. We have repurposed many of our red delicious trees into apple varieties that we can sell fresh and also use to make cider. Grafting is an interesting process and we have had great success with it in our orchard.
Summer usually starts in late June early July for us and things start to slow down again. We are finished with our spray programs and our grafting and pruning. We are still irrigating and mowing the orchard floor while we can. As the apples ripen the branches get heavier and begin to droop into the rows which makes it difficult to get through the rows with the tractor! We get to take a break in July and August to focus on other things around the property.
Late August is harvest time. We start off with Gravensteins and ginger golds and then things really begin to take off at the orchard. We press about 750-1200 gallons of cider per week. On an average harvest year we will yield anywhere between 60,000 to 150,000 pounds of fruit. Our apples are harvested every week and typically a new variety will be ready to harvest every two weeks. We end harvest in early November and try to finish processing our cider by Thanksgiving so we can finally take a break and rest after working 7 days a week for over 3months.