At this time of the year, in early September, there comes a moment to decide whether the number of apples dropping in our organic orchard justify moving into full time harvest mode. For the last ten years, we have been custodians of an orchard planted by Raymond Hunter in the early 1990’s. Raymond was an early organic farmer in the Valley.
Last year, we picked fourteen bins. It takes eighteen boxes to fill a single bin. The apples come from ninety one trees; four varieties: NovaMac, MacFree, Liberty and NovaSpy — all scab free. We arranged for Brian Boates in Woodville to pick up the fourteen bins on a flat bed, and then to juice the crop. The juice was transported to Ironworks distillery in Lunenburg, where Pierre Guevremont is turning it into apple brandy. It will be another year before we can sample the result.This year, so far, we have picked five bins. It looks like the yield will be less this year. The size of the harvest depends on pruning, pollination and microclimate. This year we pruned the higher branches to make for easier picking. We have had a dry, warm Summer. Less water likely affects the number and size of the apples.
Besides picking for brandy production, we have invested in a hand grinder and press. Last year, we borrowed the equipment from the Community Gardens in Annapolis Royal. This lets us produce small batches of sweet cider (apple juice). There may be a business opportunity here. I can envisage a mobile unit travelling throughout the Valley to relic orchards. The apples could be collected, allowed to ripen, and then pressed into sweet cider. With different varieties, we could then experiment with the effect of apple variety mix on taste and quality. A further step is to use the juice to make hard (alcoholic) cider for personal consumption.
Future considerations include the addition of organic fertilizer (earthworm castings), drip irrigation in dry years, the addition of beehives for increased pollination. These thoughts are my brain pickings from the orchard.
Every Sunday morning, I receive a blog from Maria Popova; Brain Pickings (brain pickings).