Part I: Harvesting our Apples

Today is a day we wait for all year!

Today is the day we will pick our apples! We’re a little late this year, by about a week, but the time has come. The weather is mild, partly sunny, and calm with a temperature in the low 70’s. By mid-morning, my husband had cleaned our five gallon buckets and was heading out to our home orchard to pick. I joined him soon after.

We have about 25 trees, I think. I’d have to go count them to be sure. It might be closer to 30 in three rows of ten. But, I know we’ve lost a couple over the years. Some of the “specialty” varieties, even if grown on root stock from the University of Minnesota extension service, have not survived. Still, we have several Honey Gold apple trees, Cortland and Haralson trees that have been consistent performers. Those are the trees we will pick today. Our honey crisp apple trees did not fair well this year. The pollination timing must have been off because very little fruit set.

If anything upsets the amount of fruit we get it is the timing of the blossoms. From 2016 to 2019, we had April snowstorms and/or cold days after the trees had bloomed. The blooming was the result of an early warm up, which then was followed by the snow. As you can imagine, the snow prohibits the insects from doing their job! We cringe when the weathermen start talking about 70 degree weather in April! It really doesn’t do any good for us at all.

In 2015, we had a banner year for our fruit – all of it – pears, cherries, apples, and blueberries. We made 40 gallons of apple cider that year, along with canning applesauce, dehydrating apple slices, and freezing some for winter apple pies. Did you know that it takes a 5 gallon bucket of whole apples to make one gallon of cider? It does! Think about that the next time you complain about the cost of a gallon of cider! It takes a lot of apples to make it!

We won’t get nearly 40 gallons this year. Our apples are small. And, not all the trees produced a good harvest, but we’ll have enough to make some cider. After an hour of picking this morning, we have 4, five gallon buckets filled, and a peck basket of unblemished apples for eating. There’s more to pick, too. Just before dinner, we headed outside to pick another three, five gallon buckets.

The trees are not bare yet, but we will make cider with what we have in the next few days. The rest of the apples will be picked soon enough.

Apples Need Care

Often, I am asked whether or not we spray our apple trees. We do. My husband grew up with apple trees and is used to the work it takes to care for them. This year, the weather allowed him to do a good job with the spraying schedule. Some years, as in the past few, the weather is too wet and rainy to get the pesticide on in a timely fashion. Despite the spraying, we still have some worm holes and scab on the apples. They are not blemish free, nor do we aim to have them that way.

Sure, deep red, blemish free apples look delicious but we know the imperfect ones are tasty as well! While picking today, I put aside some really nice looking apples to save for eating out of hand.

The rest? Well, they went into the five gallon buckets to make the cider.

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