AppleLuscious Organic Farm
Once again 2007 has been a busy time of year. Just like housework, organic farming expands to fill the time. Very few farmers I know, ever get bored, or have trouble sleeping.
On Salt Spring Island, due to our mild climate an apple farmer has work every month of the year. Just for tradition, I planted a new apple tree on January 1, 2008. Are we lucky! I know because, I moved here from Cobalt, Ontario (which in terms of latitude is south of Salt Spring Island) but is a Zone 3 (if lucky), where no apple trees could grow.
I am going to start out by introducing you to our 2 year old Shitsu-Japanese Chin cross, named Avery. She is a delight and a real bundle of joy. If she ran the world, there would be no wars. She loves all the animals here, although occasionally she enjoys running through the chickens and scatter them. Here she is below with a leather dog chew.
Here she is with Minou, her favourite cat to play with.
Sharing a meal with Lucky.
Playing with Sparky.
Sharing a hay bale with Lucky during an afternoon relax.
Trying to sniff the new chicks of Ruby, who allowed her to get so close.
Avery represents the true spirit of Apple Luscious, and loves visitors also.
We were very lucky with Avery during Apple Festival 2007. Because it is so busy here on that day, knowing she would be in danger on the road because the gate is open all the time and not able to stay in the house because the kitchen is open to dishwashers also, we had taken her to a local kennel for the day. About 11 AM, I got a call from the kennel saying, “We lost your dog”. So Debbie goes there immediately, along with about 3 other cars of locals to search the area where she was lost. The good news. One searcher found Avery, cold and wet beside the road, about 3 hours later. Deb did not get back until about 3 PM, having missed one of our busiest days at the orchard, but she had Avery wrapped in a bundle of towels. WOW. What a relief. We can’t imagine life without her. Needless to say, we will have a different plan next year.
We only sell apples, plums and garlic, but we love to grow as much of our own food as possible. I think that is the result of wanting to eat the healthiest, best tasting vegetables and fruit available. We do raise our own chicken also, but buy local beef or pork, again to ensure quality. In the greenhouse we usually grow about 20 varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Part of the fun with gardening is trying out new varieties to see how they grow and also how great they taste. Below is a photo of my cousin Doug’s daughters, Hannah and Faith with one of our cauliflower. In the background is a volunteer sunflower (grew without us planting it) and at the base are some onions.
During harvest of the garlic, we came across a birds nest with 3 eggs in it, that previously had been sheltered by the garlic. We quickly harvested the garlic and then placed some shelter around the nest. To our delight, the mother bird came back and raised her family.
In the orchard, we encourage vegetation of all types to diversify insect life. Below is an example of 2 ladybugs making more ladybugs. They are on stinging nettle plant, one of the more common plants here and also a very valuable plant. In spring, we cook it to make “poor man’s spinach” and Deb drinks nettle tea to build immunity.
We also love roses and grow over 100 of them. We attempt to get them all growing on their own root, which makes strong healthy growth. So we will buy grafted roses and then take a cutting the following year to root it. This is a David Austin rose called A Shopshire Lad. June is the best month to see our roses, before the heat of summer arrives.
This is a Cox Queen apple and it tastes as good as it looks.
The apple varieties which delighted last year were Honey Crisp, Scarlet Surprise, Orenco, Laxton’s Epicure, Cox Queen, Shizuka, Winesap, Gascoyne Scarlet, Karamijn de Sonnaville, Bramleys Seedling, Red Gravenstein, Spigold and Sandow.
Have you ever heard of the “5 year itch”. In the apple business, that is the intervening time from when you plant an apple tree, until you get to taste it to assess whether the taste is good enough to keep, and even whether it is the variety stated on the label. If you are not satisfied with the variety, then you dig up the tree and begin another “5 year itch”.
We keep an eye on which varieties the birds and insects are eating as well. Their taste is very astute. This year, the pileated woodpeckers complimented us on our Red Gravenstein apples. Unfortunately, when they are finished tasting, they leave the cone shaped hole in the upper side of the apple (below), so the apple is ruined. But we love having them around and hearing their enthusiastic call, so we let them be. I can tell by the call, when the woodpecker is up in an apple tree sampling one of our apples.
We had a cool spring, so that some apple trees did not pollinate properly. As a result, the early apples (ripening August and September) did not produce much fruit. The late fruit (October and November) produced quite a good crop. We sold out by end of November, just keeping enough for us to eat through the winter. We also made 140 litres of fantastic apple juice, which we freeze, and use all year. So we tend to eat good fruit for most of the year.
Every year in March, I graft up about 400 apple trees of the 200 varieties which we grow. After growing for 1 year, they are sold as 1 year whips, which means they are a straight stick about 4 feet tall, with no side branches. They grow side branches in the second year and produce fruit about year 5. We tend to sell out of those 1 year old apple trees by April.
• We now have a 3000 gallon water collection system catching rainwater from the roof of our selling area to use on gardens in the dry summer.
• We got to taste the first fruit from Dapple Dandy, one of our Plumcots (plum apricot crosses). Just fabulous with a dark red flesh.
• We used about 350 bales of hay for mulch this year.
• We organized a very successful 9th Annual Salt Spring Apple Festival on Sunday, September 30, 2007 with 700 happy apple lovers roaming the island in an apple trance. It was a terrible, wet and cold day, but these hardy 700 did not let the weather stop them. They love their apples. At Apple Luscious, we only had about 100 varieties for tasting this year.
• Best of all, had many happy customers on Saturdays at Moss Street Market in Victoria, delighted at all the great tasting apple varieties we grow.
• Articles about Apple Luscious or the Salt Spring Apple Festival were published in:
UP Magazine (photo only in WestJet inflight magazine)
• In April, Apple Luscious Organic Orchard was one of a number of recipients of a Countryside Canada Awards for Wildlife Habitat Conservation.
• The Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce awarded Apple Luscious Organic Orchard the
Farm/Agricultural Business of the Year 2007
Harry gave his 1 hour presentation Celebrating Apples at Apple Luscious Organic Orchard to the following groups:
1. Cowichan Garden Club in Duncan
2. The Salt Spring Island Rotary Club
3. Victoria Horticultural Society
4. The Explorers Club on Salt Spring
5. The Office of the Attorney General in Victoria
6. The Salt Spring Island Garden Club
This speech includes amazing apple facts, historical apple growing on Salt Spring Island, some ideas to ponder and 80 slides (photos) from the orchard. The audiences have been very enthusiastic about this presentation. Contact Harry for future engagements.
The 10th Annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival
Theme: Celebrating Red-Fleshed Apples - THE APPLES OF THE FUTURE
Growing over 350 varieties of apples organically.
Sunday, Sept 28, 2008
A chance to visit Apple Heaven while still on earth!
Winter Red Flesh (crab) on left and Hidden Rose on right
Pink Pearmain apple
I am reminded of the words of a Stan Roger’s song, “Put another season’s promise in the ground”. The only thing wrong with being a farmer is that most of our experiments take one year so we have to wait another whole year to try again.
As I am planting the 40 new 1 year apple tree whips going into our orchard this year (the last big planting needed, include 8 new varieties and 10 red flesh apple trees), one gets to experience the anticipation of putting the new variety into the ground. You have acquired it. Then you have the excitement of waiting 4 more years to taste it. Finally at about 9 years, the apple hits the peak of quality, much better than it was at 5 years. What a trip.
One of the real joys of having Apple Luscious Organic Orchard is meeting all the amazing people that cross our paths. Our orchard tours are great, as you can see the chickens roaming the entire orchard, but we also have about 100 info signs spread throughout the orchard to help make this a real education, entertaining and enlightening experience.
A toast to your health.
Recommended Reading: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan