current tasks in the orchard
Aug/20/2009 07:46 AM Filed in: Apples
Our current focus is picking up dropped apples. Apples that drop before they are ripe are generally pest-filled, so if we pick up as many as we can, those pests will not develop into next year's problem. Our sheep LOVE almost-ripe apples, thankfully, so they are happy to clean up the apples we pick up. They were not interested in the apples earlier on, when we were thinning the tiny apples in June/early July, so we are glad they like these more ripe apples. Any coddling moth (CM) or apple maggot fly (AMF) larvae that the sheep eat now are individuals that will not damage our apples next year. Ideally, these pests can be fully controlled by this method, although in our area there are a lot of unmanaged, old apple trees on neighboring property so we may always have some AMF and CM pressure. If there are too many apples for our 6 sheep, our neighbor's cattle love them too!
We just returned from a trip to Washington DC and Monticello, where we attended a fruit-tasting event of fruit grown at Monticello. We tasted a number of old apple varieties, as well as grapes, peaches, figs (too bad we can't grow those!), heirloom tomatoes, and others. It is interesting to consider Thomas Jefferson's fruit growing experience - very few American varieties were available at that time, so he experimented with European varieties, many of which were not very well suited to Virginia growing conditions. He was certainly growing without chemical help, but since apples were grown almost exclusively for cider making at that time, apples didn't need to be picture perfect. We also visited Albemarle Ciderworks, a small family-run orchard in Virginia that has just begun to sell hard cider like Colonial-era drinkers enjoyed. We enjoyed a cider tasting in their new building - some very fine cider indeed. We feel very inspired after this visit, having talked with other farmers who are passionate about apple varieties and traditional cider. And we may need to plant another variety of apple...