...with a husband and 5 sons, I am truly outnumbered....stories and thoughts on life from a mom in a houseful of little men!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Next Best to Having My Own: day 16

In autumn, there are few places more idyllic than an apple orchard, and I've always dreamed of having one.  One of the first things I did when we built our house in Alaska was purchase baby apple trees.  We dug deep holes, enriched the soil with bone meal and all sorts of recommended goodies, then replaced the soil along with copious amounts of water and planted those little trees.   I had visions of the trees growing along with the children, and of all the lovely fruit the trees would yield.  I hauled buckets of compost tea to water them with.  I dutifully picked the blossoms off every tree the first and second years, though it took every ounce of my will power to do so.  "Your trees will never be good producers if you don't pick off the blossoms the first two years." the greenhouse lady told me.  "They need time for the root systems to become established."   Oh but I was anxious to start picking!  The following year, the trees blossomed once again, though not as much, and two little apples began to grow.  One got eaten by something when it was about the size of a large cherry.  The other was approaching the size of the smallest "schoolboy" apple you've seen, and then it rotted.

The following year, the trees did not blossom at all.  We decided to move a couple of them against a fence, where we thought they'd get more sun.  We carefully transplanted them, and once again we fortified the soil with all sorts of good stuff.  There they sat for a few years.  They didn't die, but they certainly didn't thrive.  A few years later, we moved them again.  I concocted chicken wire coverings to protect them over the winter from moose in this new location.  I watered them faithfully and fertilized them with fish fertilizer and bone meal.  They leafed out beautifully the following summer, but still didn't blossom.  One day upon returning from town, we noticed the crowns were bit off and bedraggled.  A moose had eaten them for his lunch salad, and he may as well have swallowed my hopes of my little orchard as well.  At that point, those pitiful trees had been in our yard for nearly 13 years.  Unless the new owner has removed them, they are still there today.

So despite my romantic dreams, this is my history with growing apples.  I share this just to give you some background--fruit trees are a big deal to me, and I am amazed when anyone can get them to grow and thrive and produce.  Which brings me to the subject at hand, which is, East Tennessee is amazing for growing apples.

On a lovely day this early fall, we took a drive up through the Smokies and into the countryside to a popular orchard.  We passed three or four others on the way there.
 The orchards here are large and grow many varieties of apples. They ripen at different times, which make the apple-picking season very lengthy.
There is nothing like the smell and the taste of fresh-from-the-tree apples...
....except maybe the smell of those apples cooking and being made into applesauce in your own little kitchen.
Applesauce is a staple in this family, and after having canned our own, we're wrecked from buying Tree Top forever.

A couple more things to love about this lovely orchard in the South?  It's a general produce market, full of wonderful melons, tomatoes, squash, and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. 
And the prices...ohhhh the prices.  $20 a bushel, Baby.  A bushel is one of the giant baskets pictured below.  That's a lot of apples for $20.  After regularly paying $2.79 per pound in Alaska for the one to three different varieties of organic apples available, this is something to love. 
They also have shelves and shelves full of preserves of all kinds, as well as our new friend here.
Very good, indeed.  Good to the last drop, in fact.

1 comment:

JJ said...

I love reading the comments people leave on facebook regarding my blog posts. So, I am taking the liberty of posting them to my blog so I can re-read them again. Jessica

Sandi Williams: AWESOME blog entry!

Joy Heasley: Officially jealous! We used to go to Oak Glen CA to a place called Snowline. They got to know us over the years. Instead of paying $40.00 a bushel, we called ahead and they saved us #2 grade apples for $10.00 a bushel. They were supposedly smaller and with blemishes. We found they were really #1 grade and made wonderful sauce. Our favorite for sauce and eating was Jonagolds. Ok, now I am hungry for an apple, sigh, off to pay a kings ransom for an apple!

Bonnie Cameron: Apples!!! Yes!!!!!

Stephanie Bakk: You're killing me!!!!! I'm loving your blog posts by the way. Love ya and miss you too! Got a little family in the back window of our truck...Ayla thinks it's amazing, and my mom and dad just saw it today and loved it!!