Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Apple Orchard

Every farm had an apple orchard when I was a boy .Most farms were 100 acres in size.Most apple orchards were very close to the house and had 5 or 6 big old apple trees in them.These trees were overgrown and about 40 feet in hight.The trunks would be 2 ½ to 3 feet thick and there were lots  of sucker shoots growing up on the branches.I never knew any farmer to look after these old trees they just let them grow.The trees were never sprayed but continued to produce apples year after year.They would be scabby and wormy,you would bite off the scabs and cut out the worm holes and these old apples tasted really good.It was something to see these full sized trees covered with hundreds of red,yellow or russet coloured apples.Since only a few of these apples were picked the ground would be covered with hundreds of apples beneath the trees and if the pigs were pasturing here they would really enjoy their fill.I remember walking over all these rotting apples.
                Our neighbour had an Astrocan apple tree which grew some of the largest red apples I have seen.They also had two Tolman Sweet apple trees.My uncle had a tolman Sweet ,a Russet and two lovely Snow apple trees growing close to the house.In 1998 there was still one of those old trees behind the house,the others having all rotted away over the years with big branches breaking off under the weight of a lot of apples.Sometimes a big branch had been cut off and the tree started to rot there.It would decay over the years,sometimes a big hole would develop and starlings would build their nest here.The tree would continue to live and bear fruit year after year after you felt sure it would not be able to survive another winter.
                I remember on our farm the apple orchard was farther away from the house in about a four acre field behind the barn.We kept our calves in this field.We had a little chicken house here too, about 10 feet by 12 feet where we used to raise about 300 chickens.We would line the wooden building with card board,put shavings on the floor and put a coil oil brooder stove in for the baby chickens to gather under when we got them home from the hatchery when they were just one day old,a fluffy soft charming yellow  chick.
                The pig pen windows were at the east end of the barn and the manure was thrown out them into this field too.A big pile would develop here over the year until it was time to load it up into the manure spreader and spread it on the fields in late September or October.
                This was the field where we drew the logs up from the bush and piled them,then we would have a logging Bee and buzz saw them into a very big pileof blocks of wood  which became our stove wood for next winter.
                This is the field where there had been at one time a lovely apple orchard.Over the years I watched the trees fall down,rot away ,or get blown down by the wind.I remember climbing all those trees and picking and bagging many apples which we put down in our cellar to eat over the winter.We had a Tolman Sweet tree,two Russet apple trees and a beautiful big Snow apple tree.I remember taking our big heavy 40 foot wooden ladder and putting it up in the snow apple tree and picking these apples.We would wait until there had been a good frost then pick them.They were very juicy,had  white flesh and a red skin that shone brightly after you gave it a good polish on your pant leg.These snow apples were one of my favourites.We would fill 100 pound sacks with apples.Many that were bruised and had fallen to the ground we took to Wellsly to the cider press and brought home apple butter and a wooden barrel of cider.As the days passed the cider would get stronger and stronger and finally turn into vinegar. We did plant two or three apple trees on our farm.They were dwarf trees and we had to wait 4 or 5 years to get apples.On one tree we grafted five different varieties.We planted a spy apple tree on our lawn but we had to wait 10 years before we got any apples.               
                Our neighbour had a grass farm across the road from us.The ditch called the Gilkinson Drain ran through it.At the back of the farm a long way from the road there used to be a house and well and a large apple orchard.I remember the the old spy apple tree in this orchard that we liked to visit every fall.Lightning had hit the tree,the trunk was half rotted away,a branch had split off but was still attached and some new growth reached up to the sky.This branch was usually loadedwith the best spy apples you could eat.It was worth the walk every fall to go back there and fill our pockets with these tasty apples.
                Such were the farm orchards of yesteryear.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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