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Apple Pickin'

Garth Brown |

Over the weekend we went apple picking on our hill. One of the old cow pastures from back in the dairying days of my farm has a number of volunteer apple trees in it. They present a wide variety of flavors - tannins, acids, and sugars - as well as different and textures and hardnesses. Most of them are not very good table apples, but for cider, they're great. The kids actually had fun picking too. Often farm jobs are difficult to include small children in, but this was one where they enjoyed it for enough time that Normandy and I could really pick some fruit, and it was safe enough to include them. The only bummer was the succession from pasture to forest - land around here just "wants" to be forest - was well on its way. In the open spots the blackberry canes were thick and ferocious. We got by with the tractor pulling the running gear so the children had a good platform to work from, but it was not ideal. I've seen my cows eat blackberries, the whole canes that is not just the berries - and I've heard rumors that pigs do the same. I am excited to get my livestock up there around those trees to help clear around them.

Next year I plan to re-fence that section of the farm so I can bring it back into production. It's had roughly 20 years producing little other than wild apples every other year or so and some venison during hunting season. The old fence is not actually completely gone yet, but I can't think of a single animal it would hold seeing as it's sagged to the ground and buried in grass along most of its length. Also it's barbed wire, and I'm partial to the modern hi-tensile electrified version. It works better and it's safer for animals and humans alike, so that's what I'm going to build. With proper timing and placement of animal impact I will be able to produce just as many or more apples and venison, as well as a lot of healthy grass-fed meat to nourish people who don't live here.

But I was trying to write about apples... One of the wild trees up there on the hill tastes distinctly of pineapple. Another has dark red skinned fruit with bright red flesh and so much anthocyanin in its veins, perhaps I should say in its phloem and xylem, that the leaves and bark develop a reddish tinge too. The hard little pomes it produces are numerous and difficult to eat they're so astringent. I had a dream about that tree the first year after I saw its fruit and in the dream it was known as the "Maroon Sturgeon". Why name a tree after a fish? Lacking a quick riposte all I can come up with is, "why not, I dreamt it?" The rest of the Cairncrest gang thought that was fine and funny name for an apple tree and it stuck.

Sorry for no picture of the red apple, perhaps a future post will demonstrate the color of the cider that comes off the "Sturgeon" apples.

Edmund Brown

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