Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let The Harvest Begin

Because of Adam's wedding (more on that) and visiting my brother in the hospital over the weekend, I thought my current project might prove interesting. September 15 usually marks the time to start harvesting fruit from my mini orchard.  I am starting with the watermelons that succumb to our early frost.  A wagon full of melons is a colorful way to start the post.  Last year we had a very late and hard frost which essentially eliminated 99% of all the apple and pear blossoms available on the fruit trees.  This year has been quite the opposite as my crop will be the best I have ever experienced.  Both my dad and my Uncle Jerry had an important influence on raising a few apple trees and had successfully harvested from their trees so I decided to follow suit.  Living on 5 acres gave me the room to plant a few trees and plant I did!  Today I really have a nice little orchard that has rewarded me with more work than I know what to do with.  My inventory of trees includes the following: 1 Parker Pear, 1 Patton Pear, 1 Summer Crisp Pear, 1 McIntosh Apple, 1 Wolf River Apple, 3 Honey Gold Apples, 2 Fireside apples, 2 Honeycrisp Apples, and 1 Haralson Apple.  I have 3 new apple trees going, another Fireside, Haralson, and lord knows what the last one is.  Apples tend to bear heavy one year then light the next however last years frost put all of my trees in high production mode.  Normally you should spray them with a Sevin insecticide when the apples are about dime size to chemically thin them out.  This tends to make the remaining apples larger and better evens out the boom/bust cycles of the tree production.  We'll, I didn't get to that this year.  One thing I did do was buy an auger for drilling holes around the tree's drip line for fertilizer.  Each apple tree got 4 holes full of a straight 10-10-10 fertilizer and I would say that it really helped the trees.  With not thinning them, fertilizing, and being a high production year I am literally swimming in apples.  I am sure that having honeybees on the property didn't hurt either. Not only are they numerous and large but with only minimal spraying, the apples are for the most part absolutely beautiful and worm free.  Maybe the wet June and July along with spraying at the optimal time was the ticket, whatever I am enjoying the best apples I have ever grown. 

So let's start with my pears.  This picture is of my Patton Pear tree.  It always yields nice supermarket sized pears that are hard fleshed and sweet.  This week will mark the end of these as they ripen super fast on the trees then fall to the ground.  With apples, those pears that are subjected to long periods of sunlight develop a blush where the sun hits them.  The pears are delicious, numerous and I can't give enough of them away.  My other 2 pears are the totally worthless Parker, and the Summer Crisp that goes from green to over ripe in about 3 days.  The Parker and Summer Crisp really make great pollinators for my good pear.  I suspect someday I will learn to time my early pear harvest better.  Pear trees have quite a few suckers and as a post I did last fall, often grow 8 feet in a year.  My largest pears tend to grow near the top of the trees so I have tended to trim off the crowns to allow a more reasonable means of harvest as my Little Giant Ladder only goes to 11 feet.

My next picture is one of my most unusual fruit trees, the Wolf River Apple.  I call this a heritage apple variety, originating in the Wolf River Valley of eastern Wisconsin.  It is often called the one pie apple as they are an extremely large apple, the size of a softball often weighing a pound or more.  They are very cold hardy and also carry the "Frost Apple" label as it will become sweeter after the first frost.  Fairly disease free I am ready to pick these within a few days.  I have main purposes for this apple, first it provides good blending qualities for making cider and secondly, it's a great bragging apple.  When people see it they are often very impressed with my growing abilities.  Little do they know it's all in the tree!  The funny thing about this apple is I never bought this variety.  For years I thought it was a Fireside but could never figure out why it was so different than my others.  A few years back I decided to do some research and finally solved my problem.  The next picture on the left is my Haralson tree.  This tree is my most prolific, producing a fine crop of apples every year.  They are a late apple and will not be ready for harvest for a couple of weeks yet.   The sun has really worked its magic on this years crop as they are a beautiful deep ruby red color.  The Haralson is crisp and tart making it perfect for eating, baking, and cider.  Because of its tartness, most of my cider is based on this apple. I'm betting I'll get 3 bushels off this tree.

 The fifth picture is my Fireside apples, my absolute personal favorite.  These are the second largest apples I have and are also the latest to mature, often at their best after a hard frost.  The Fireside is another long forgotten apple yet has a very unique flavor with a crisp texture.  The 2 trees I have are very close together, I should have separated them a long time ago.   I did replace one of my original apple tree's that died with a third Fireside.  These apples trees tend to be quite thick branched as well being close together they don't "red up" as well as the others.  One thing I noticed about this apple is it produces 2 different skin types, a dull matted surface and a glossy, almost oily look.  I prefer the dull matted looking apples as they seem to have a better flavor and texture.  This is another nuance that I need to look into.   The next apples pictured are my Honeygold's, an derivative of the Golden Delicious but much sweeter and cold hardy.  These trees are also very prolific and really come into their own around October 1st.   They are an excellent for eating as well as perfect for blending into cider to add that fabulous sweetness.  The apple gets it's name from it's beautiful color and honey like sweetness.  Those apples that have direct access to the sunlight will develop a nice copper colored blush on the exposed side.  If you look closely at the picture you can see on the center apple how the leaf has blocked the sun enough to create an outline of the shaded part of the apple.  Commercial orchards prune their trees to allow the maximum allowable sunlight to hit the apples to create the optimum market characteristics. 

On Saturday I ended up picking about 5 bushels of apples off of 3 trees, my Honeycrisp and McIntosh.  This is the first year my crop of Honeycrisp actually turned out decent with few worms or bruises and are as good as if they came right from a commercial orchard, crisp and sweet. The McIntosh apples always turn out good as they are another relatively older apple with its origins back to 1811.  Being crisp and tart they make a great pie apple and are very good for blending cider.  After picking my first crop of apples I was off to Adam's wedding, a nice affair as they were married at an outdoor park, the weather was kind.  Adam and his dad Mark fish with me every year at Leech Lake.  For his wedding I put something extra in their gift to assure Adam come better prepared to fish with me next year.  His dad  provided the refreshments for the night so we told him that we would fill up our thermos before we left.  Mark appreciated that of course!  Saturday is the neighborhood Pig Roast at the Kuntz's and Sunday Mille Lacs is calling pretty loud.  The water temp has dropped almost 15 degrees from a couple weeks ago and I hear the bite is going pretty strong. 


Duane said...

Mr. Anderson - If you have too many apples, get some over to John. I can always use some extras and the cores and peels I feed to the deer.
Oh, and get yourself a "Sweet 16" apple tree. They are the best.

Jeff King said...

Absolutely gorgeous. Man oh man, kind of makes me jealous for the lower 48....hey, ya wanna trade some apples and melons for potatoes, Alaska grows them real good?

Anonymous said...

Minnesota grown Honeycrisps???? I like them better than Minnesota grown sweet corn.

AK Keith

Dave Anderson said...


I will call John and get him some apples. It's almost overwhelming right now!

Duane said...

Thanks Dave!