The smell of cider is permeating the air..We are starting the process of filling the large fermentation tanks for our brandy operation.. The apples on the trees are thinning out and the season is on it’s final stretch.. This is the time for picking up drops for home applesauce making. They a so sweet.. I’ve heard people say that “Buy Local” means more expensive.. Drops are cheep right now and freezing applesauce in ziploc bags is a great way to preserve apples for the year.. If you have a family to feed, this is the cheapest way to buy and store apples. It doesn’t get better than this.. Applesauce can be used for many things, like on pancakes, for making cake, with pork chops, or just buy itself.. We will be open here at the orchard until halloween.. See you down here..
Every apple has it’s time. McIntosh apples are what we grow here better than anywhere in the world!! The climate.. the soils.. The stone walls and covered bridges!! Ok maybe not the bridges. There is no question that these apples are extremely good to eat and to cook with. I think they taste better here in Vermont than anywhere els.. They do have a season however, and I’m going to lay down this rule of thumb. ”Mid-September to Thanksgiving”.. Now! that being said, there is another mini season within this one.. and thats right now. It’s when the Mac is still a little tart.. but the the starch is just starting to turn to sugar.. so there is both sweet and sour at the same time.. this season lasts just maybe 2 weeks.. or until the apple reaches it’s full sugar content. Today is Sept 20th… and Its just starting. 2 weeks will be October 5th.. and that’s about right.. every year the dates will be a little different. It’s this sweet and sour combination time that is truely when McIntosh is in it’s glory. I believe there are few apples anywhere that can come as close to perfection..
The Paula Red apples are almost picked out, and the McIntosh are still a little early. There are those people who like that “pain just behind their jaw” when they bite into the sour apples. For those people, this is the time to come pick Macs.. We are open every day. If its pouring rain and no one is in the orchard sometimes we close early.. Our “Small Farms food festival is Sunday Sept. 11 this year.. and we are happy to get the picking season off to a great start.. The crop is beautiful in spite of hurricane Irene.. The apples are getting sweeter by the day… We hope to see many happy faces in the orchard this season.
We have been open now a number of weekends.. The email news letter goes out naming the time for the peach picking.. “Sunday Morning at 11am..not before!!” and when 11 o-clock comes.. the cars are backed up all the way back to Bostwick road. The peaches get picked out in 45 minutes! last Sunday it was over 1000 pounds of peaches that were picked in the first 45 minutes! .. It feels like some kind of happening. It’s fun and almost everyone gets what they came for.. Tree ripened Vermont peaches! It feels so unnatural. Anyway It’s awesome and I just ordered 300 more peach trees to be planted next spring.
Gum drop grapes, We’ve names the ruby red seedless table grapes that are now producing heavily on trellises just south of our store. We keep a bowl of them on the store counter to temp anyone who has come for mere apples and peaches.. What a wonderful thing to be able to walk away with 3 stunning fruits in you basket! We are feeling pretty good about it!! I love it.. I hope the rest of the season goes as well..
In the years we have peaches, I always feel I’m getting away with something.. Like.. “This is not supposed to happen here”.. Yet.. here they are again! they look beautiful and plentiful.. I’m guessing sometime in mid August for the first variety.. “Reliance”.. then ”Harrows beauty”.. then “Red Haven” ”Crest Haven”..Golden Glorry, and finally “Flaming Fury”.. this brings us well into September. The Apples are also abundant and beautiful.. They have had a good year with all the rain. It’s actually been a very good growing season. Being so wet in the early spring and summer, the orchard is filled with deep ruts in the rows between the trees. I’m going to have to smooth them out before Pick Your Own traffic can navigate through. If I don’t we might gain a good collection of mufflers and tail pipes.. We just finished our sour cherry season.. many people showed up on the day of pick your own for them.. They were picked out in a few hours.. If you are not on our email mailing list, be sure to sign up (on the home page) and you will be notified about all our off season activities…
Someone must have learned how to rain-dance really well ..and then couldn’t tell when the party was over.. There is no chapter in the book on how to back-step this dance.. There was a window however yesterday and the sun came out. The bees were so happy to fly they were out within seconds.. the flowers opened.. and we had a few hours of magic. We hadn’t seen the sun for so long.. when it finally came out.. everything just shifted into gear. Where-ever I was in the orchard I could hear their buzzing-hum .. Every branch on every tree was filled with bees, not just honey bees.. all kinds of bees. Thursday morning, Chaz Mraz, along with James and Ian from Champlain Valley Apiary delivered 30 hives to us on loan for the duration of the blossom. We do this every year. Actually, Chaz’s grandfather was providing this service to my father before me. After the hives are placed around the orchard, we all have a traditional Pancake breakfast with the old cast iron cook stove that sits out under a porch roof and looks out over the blossoms and the Lake This year, We had my grandson with us.. Little Nicholas (17 months old)… he was pounding down the pancakes with the rest of us.. Then the rain stopped ..the sun broke out, and gloriously the whole orchard buzzed into pollination…
The copper still is put to bed for the winter. Over 300 gallons of 120 proof brandy from this falls apples are aging in 55 gallon oak barrels in the cellar. Every morning when I wake.. is one more day the clear apple spirit draws the vanilla and caramel flavors from the oak.. turning just a tiny bit more amber and smoother tasting.. Being our second year of distilling we now have barrels marked 2009 and 2010.. with 8, 55 gallon barrels now filled, the cellar is starting to feel like a real cellar. I love to go down, sit quietly and just listen to it age..
It’s time now to prune the trees.. Terry has been pruning since before Christmas.. He’s way ahead of schedule, It’s truly amazing how many trees he can do in a day.. Rob is also pruning trees this winter. With the deep snow, it’s tiring to just get around the trees.. but the light still fades by 5 and I’m happy to get home knowing I’ll sleep really well.. I love these long winter nights..