It’s been a busy year in the orchard. Despite the chaos in society, life on the farm continues as usual. Our tender buds have dropped their delicate petals and now swell with the promise of harvest. Pale green dots crowd the limbs of apple trees. Sometimes they blend in with the leaves but a gentle breeze will reveal the clusters of baby apples hanging from the bough.
July brings not only the heat but also the very first apple harvest. At the end of the month, we began picking Yellow Transparents. They are a hard, green, tart apple that cooks down into beautiful sauce and work well in apple pies. Although our market is not yet open, we take orders by phone and the bulk of the harvest is delivered to the Amish.
Even though they are tart, I can’t help myself when I see a ripe one dangling in the tree. The anticipation of a fresh apple after the long spring and summer months is overwhelming. It’s an exciting experience to look forward to!
It is hard to believe that the trees laden with fruit were once small twigs in the ground. This year we had to take out a small orchard we had planted the year before. Between the wet weather and the deer’s unfortunate tasting, our little orchard didn’t survive. Danny and Donald spent many days in the hot sun hauling dirt and removing the trees in order to give the earth time to recover. In a few years, we will try again, planting new trees for the future.
It’s a never ending task. It takes a lot of careful planning when it comes to planting new orchards. Not only is the soil health important, but it can take time to receive the trees that you order. Any trees we plant are long term, so we need to pick varieties that are sustainable, popular and will thrive in our climate. The trees that we choose will (hopefully) grow and produce for the next 20 – 30 years.
The harvest and sale of the Transparents happens pretty fast. On really plentiful years we will still have some when our market is officially open. By early September we have other early varieties like Jersey Macs and Paula Reds, but the busiest month of harvest is October. The ripening of apples depends solely on Mother Nature, making each harvest different from year to year. Harvest dates can vary up to two weeks, so we are constantly sampling the apples to pick them at just the right time. You don’t want them to over ripen on the tree because then they will not last long. Most apples ripen and harvest in one go, but there are some varieties, such as HoneyCrisp, that ripen in different stages and require multiple picking. If the apple is still under ripe, they have a starchy texture and lack sweetness and flavor. Apples that are over ripe can be mealy or soft. It’s a delicate balance deciding when and what to harvest in order to supply the best quality of fruit.
Pretty soon the orchard will be alive with the clatter of ladders, chatter of pickers and hum of tractors. It’s an exciting time as the apples turn rosy alongside our cheeks. Any free time we might have had now will disappear and the quietness of the orchard will subside. Although the time away is always nice, right around this time I begin feeling anxious for the fall – for fresh apples and apple cider. The farm evolves with us and yet somehow stays the same – a comfort that tomorrow is coming and we have many harvests to look forward to.
Submitted by Sara Frank, who currently serves on the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau Board of Trustees and helps run Cold Springs Orchards with her family.
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