Yesterday morning Jon, Sarah, and I went to the Century Farm Orchards Open House in Reidsville, NC. Their open house is every Saturday in November and February each year. This is a priceless and lovely family ran orchard that specializes in heritage varieties of apple trees. We signed the guest register when we first arrived. There were visitors from Georgia and South Carolina. We had no idea this was such a big deal. There were quite a few people there.
There were over 100 varieties of apples on display. We had heard of very few of them. We were able to taste test many varieties and sampled their apple cider. Over the course of the time we were there, I believe Sarah may have drank her weight in apple cider. We were taking notes on the varieties we liked. Bill even mentioned making “good” cider requires crab apples. We were immediately intrigued. We have an ornamental crab apple tree that we made jelly from. It was tasty, but those tiny crab apples were a test for the ole patience. He showed us a few varieties of crab apples that were golf ball size. We honestly did not know crab apples could be so big! I guess what we were used to seeing is the various ornamental crab apples. When we asked Bill for some suggested crab apple varieties for cider he deferred us to Anne who was nearby giving instruction on all things apple. We learned a lot of information on the history of certain apple varieties.
After our tasting and sampling we meandered on to hear Anne Stomp, a NC State University Professor, passionately instruct on planting and caring for apple trees. Anne was so interesting. We were taking notes on her best suggested books. Some of her suggestions included:
- The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips
- The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto
- Craft Cider Making by Andrew Lea
We hung on every word. Others were asking questions that we did not even know to ask. It was fantastic. Along with the many things we learned about was cedar rust. This came up from one of the other visitors. After hearing about it and seeing a picture of it we realized that is exactly what our newly planted apple trees got this past year. It wasn’t disastrous for our trees, but apparently it can be. Now, we have a game plan on how to identify when it is spreading and know the correct time to treat. Anne also stated that is virtually impossible to grow organic apples in NC with much success. Our climate and humidity makes it so conducive for pests and disease that it is just too difficult. From some of our previous research, we had been pondering this. She stated that further north it is possible. Although it is too difficult to grow organic apples in NC, she did talk about how to minimize the use of chemicals by choosing the correct ones and using them specifically at the correct time. We even had the opportunity to ask Anne about crab apple varieties and making cider. She shared a lot of good information on making cider and suggested a handful of good crab apple varieties. In an attempt to not be selfish and allow others to glean from her wisdom we finally meandered on.
Later, we even had a chance to hear a brief conversation between Anne and Lee Calhoun, a local heritage apple expert. Anne referred to Lee as the expert. You can view a brief CBS News segment on Lee here.
We had the opportunity to speak with David, the owner, about apple tree varieties. Out of Anne’s suggestions for making cider he had a Red Siberian (crab apple) and a Virginia Beauty (sweet). We had preorded two Mcintosh trees a few days before. We decided to add the Red Siberian and Virginia Beauty to our order. When we went to finalize our order we found we could get the trees for a discount if we purchased five. Well of course we had to add a fifth one. We chose the Terry Winter, one of the varieties we had taste tested that we liked so much. Oh we wanted to buy more trees, but Jon had just bought a bunch of apple and peach trees on clearance at Tractor Supply. Their choice of varieties are limited, but it is hard to pass up cheap good size live (not sticks) fruit trees. We have apples on the brain!
|Tractor Supply Clearance Fruit Trees|
While at the open house we tried to soak up anything possible that could help us in our quest to have our own orchard. We were even checking out their fence on the property surrounding the orchard. Surprisingly, it was pretty much what we had decided to do for our fencing. It was nice to have some outside confirmation that what we were planning was plausible. Oh, I could go on for pages about all of the stuff we learned. We plan to return to the open house in February and possibly each year.