Friday, September 23, 2011

Our Heirloom Apple Abandoned Orchard Adventure

Back at the end of our epic road trip this summer I asked Ryan if he could arrange for us to come back to the farm in the fall.  It looked like the apples in the old orchard were going to be plentiful and what better way to spend our wedding anniversary than by picking apples? I think wood is the traditional 5th anniversary gift and we aren't quite ready to buy the barn. 

These days there are quite a few wineries in the County but originally it was known for it's dairy farms and orchards.  This original loyalist plot had both.

Sigh.  I'd love to wake up to this view each morning.

Sigh.  Barn Lust is as bad as ever.  We really need to sort out how to make this barn ours.

Check out the daytime moon and the hops.  If we ever get through this cider project maybe we'll move on to beer.

Anyhow, back to the apples. We all took Friday off and headed out of the city along the charming Apple Route to spend 3 days climbing around in barns and falling out of apple trees.  It was lovely.  We walked and biked from tree to tree, tasting everything and picking bushels of the best ones. Eventually Ryan couldn't resist any longer and hooked up the tractor and trailer to hold the ladder and carry back bushels of apples

As fun as those pick you own apple places with pie and corn mazes look, I promise this was better.  Ryan says it was like the kind of exploring you do when you're 12.  I think he's right.  It made me want to build a tree fort and refuse to go in for dinner. We headed out in to fields in the morning only coming back to eat every once and a while.  Poor Becca was worn right out by our antics.

The trees are all a little different but quite a few are huge full sized ones and we took turns falling out of this one. Ryan is the yellow smudge in the middle of this photo.

To add to our adventure, the blackthorn has escaped the hedgerows and seems to have developed a relationship with the apple trees, scratching and spiking anyone who dares to pick too many apples.  I have read that you can use these dreadful berries to make wine if anyone wants to forage next year. (More about the blackthorn later in the week).

On a related note, check out the Hawthorn Honey Black Locust Tree (thanks Jenn and Almerinda).  There are 3 of these "antique" trees on the property.  The modern ones don't have the spikes necessary to make the hedgerows impassable to cattle. Ouch!

I frequently look at google earth, and when standing in the orchards, I really can't make rhyme nor reason of how it was organized. There are no tidy rows but there does seem to be a pattern of sorts.  I think they are separate orchards and that stagered rows run on an angle to the property line.  As things are rather over grown in places its hard to tell but I'm guessing soil conditions and natural grade changes factor into it.  

There are at least 5 distinct grouping of trees including these 2 orchards of smaller trees that make these fairytale like paths. The branches arch over head and the ground is covered in windfall. It's almost magical.

There's a perfect row of apples down a long stretch along one side of the property.

Across from what used to be a neat and tidy row are small wild apple trees.  
These ones were the sweetest most delicious things I've ever tasted.  There were 8 apples on the whole tree and we ate them all.

Isn't it beautiful how the grapes grow up though the trees?  These United Empire Loyalists we certainly proficient at making libations.

I love how complete this orchard is.  There were different types of apples for different purposes like eating, baking, making sauce, making juice and our main objective, of course, the cider apples. Some apples are for eating right away and some apples will keep all winter and even through the following summer.  I think there were apples grown for their pectin and there's one so dry it must have been for drying.

This apple was clearly grown for the dog to eat.

There are even some crab apples. This is a modern tree but crab apples were traditionally grown to add to the cider and to give colour and pectin to jams and jellies,

All in all, we picked 8 bushels of apples which is roughly 320 pounds.  Personally I would have kept going but the car is only so big and there were also marvellous heirloom tomatoes to be sorted.

The cold nights of Prince Edward County are exactly what apples need.  When we were up at the farm we could just leave them outside as there are simply so many apples that animals would rather eat the ones on the ground or on the trees.  Now that we are home in Toronto, Raccoon capital of the world (no really) we are storing them in Rubbermaid containers lined with newspaper.  They are outside on the porch. I take the lids off every morning so they can breathe and seal them up tight at night to protect them from the thieves.  So far so good and they are ripening up nicely and should be ready to press within two weeks.

We've made some progress today identifying these apples over in our first post. There are some truly devoted apple enthusiasts out there on the internet and also in real life.  We've been using the wiki apple articles along with Orange Pippin.  We have so many books out of the Toronto Public Library but are still looking for a copy of the Apples of New York and would love some insight into what the Loyalists brought along to their new Ontario farms. 

This weekend we are lucky enough to be taking 13 types of our most palatable mystery apples to an apple tasting which will certainly be fun and hopefully fruitful.  Ha. Will let you know how it goes next week.


  1. Sounds like a spectacular adventure! I love old apples and apple-tasting. On a side note, I think the thorny tree you called a hawthorn might be a honey locust.

    And I love the photo of your sleeping child - makes me want to find a patch of sun for napping!

  2. Thanks Jenn, you're right . I've corrected it. I was stuck on those blackthorns :)

  3. what a great apple picking adventure - fun work!

  4. That sounds like a great time! I was just telling my husband yesterday that we need to have an outdoorsy fall adventure.

  5. What beautiful photos! This sounds like a simply wonderful adventure. My grandparents have some land. There is an old spur of railroad track on it. Along the track there are dozens of apple trees that sprang up from the apple cores the rail road workers threw to the side as they were building the track. I love the huge variety. Reading your post makes me want go check on them and see how they are doing :)

  6. Just beautiful! We've had nothing but rain here and I've been hoping for a break so we can go picking. We'll have to just go anyway, I think! My mouth is watering thinking of all those amazing varieties.


  7. Those rail side apple trees need to be in a novel!