APPLE NOTES '23
Producing the 2023 Crop...
This year marks the 45th year for our orchard... and what a ride it has been! To borrow a phrase our daughters often used in their childhoods, each passing year has been the same, but different. This year has been no exception. While the changing seasons follow the same, general pattern year after year, there are always tweaks that make each year different. We completed the u-pick and sweet cider operations of the 2022 harvest in late October. We then concentrated on harvesting our hard cider apples, finishing up in mid-November. We then scurried about, battening down the hatches for what we were sure would be a hard winter. As it turned out, the winter was quite mild. Oh, there were plenty of crappy weather days, but few extremes; there were no sudden, late Arctic freezes such as we have experienced all too often in recent years, and the snow piled up only intermittently. We spent quite a bit of time repairing one of the wind machine engines for what we thought could be a very nasty frost season. As it turned out, we didn’t need the wind machines to chase away frost this year - there were no frosty nights during bloom, nor did we have any of the near misses that make for sleepless nights most years. The first pear blossom appeared on May 2, and the first Summerred apple blossom opened on May 3. Full bloom occurred on May 13, a solid two weeks before full bloom in 2022, but close to average for other years.
Unlike most summers, mowing and weed-eating occupied very little of our time this summer - we only mowed and weed-ate (this is the correct conjugation for weed-eating in the past tense, is it not?), the entire orchard once, as opposed to 2-4 times in most years. Of course, our relief from battling weeds and grass was brought to us compliments of the unusually dry spring and summer months we experienced this year. We spent much of our time doing routine chores, such as thinning apples, repairing and improving our irrigation system, maintaining and repairing trellis, and the like. We also spent some really, really frustrating hours searching for the valve box housing the main-shut off valve for the water to the new orchard. During the winter, the valve box cover became covered with soil and debris. Then, when it came time to turn the water on, we found ourselves scratching our heads and wondering where the heck the valve box was. We probed and probed, and again probed for the cover, all to no avail. We finally resorted to digging. We located the main line, and then followed it to the box... and of course, the box wasn’t where we all thought it had to be. Instead, it was slightly uphill from where we were just sure it must be. What a circus! The box location is now burned into our collective memories like a hot brand on a longhorn.
As of this writing in late August, and completely contrary to our natural, farmer-like predisposition to be pessimistic about everything, we believe our crop is above average in quality and numbers. We should have good numbers of all apples and pears (including both Bartlett and D’Anjou pears).
We expect to open for picking on September 7 and 8th. The Summerreds will be the first apples ready, followed almost immediately by the Wealthy apples, then on to the McIntosh and others. Pears should come on about the same time as the McIntosh. To confirm our harvest schedule, please refer to our website (www.bishops-orchard.com).
Our hours for the 2023 harvest will be:
Thursday, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., picking only
Friday, 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., picking only
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., picking and cider
Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., picking and cider
All other days and times we will be closed to allow us time to complete our day-to-day orchard chores, and to pick apples for the cider operation. PLEASE NOTE, THE CIDER PRESSES ARE AVAILABLE BY RESERVATION ONLY, AND ONLY ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY. We are not open on school holidays or week days other than Thursday and Friday. If you look up our orchard hours on any internet site other than our website or our Facebook page, you may not receive the correct hours or days we are open. We will not be able to accommodate anyone coming to the orchard other than the hours specified above for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
CIDER MAKING WILL BE BY RESERVATION ONLY
TWO GALLON MINIMUM
The cider presses will be available beginning September 16, and we will be accepting reservation requests on Tuesday, September 12. To request a reservation, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will not consider any reservation requests by telephone because of the difficulty in keeping track of telephonic requests. All requests must include all of the following information:
1. The number of anticipated cider-makers in your group;
2. The number of gallons you anticipate making;
3. Your preference for a date and time; and
4. Your contact number in case we need to contact you with last minute scheduling changes.
This information allows us to schedule enough time for you to make your cider. If your request for a reservation does not include all of the information requested, we may not be able to schedule you in, and we may not have time to contact you for the missing information. There is a two gallon minimum. If you find you have enough time to continue making cider after completing the gallons you estimated in your request for a reservation, you should feel free to continue making cider until your allotted time is up. Please try to be on time for your scheduled time slot. If you arrive late, we probably won’t be able to adjust your allotted time.
The reservation system worked fairly well last year. However, we had some folks who emailed and asked “what times are available on such and such day,” or “ how does the schedule look for such and such day.” If we don’t know what the time preferences are for the person requesting a reservation, it is pretty hard to answer those questions and we end up spending too much time emailing back and forth trying to narrow down these preferences.
Due to the demands on our time, it sometimes takes one or two days for us to respond to reservation requests. If it happens that you request a reservation, then don’t hear from us after two days or more, please don’t hesitate to call (509-635-1276) and leave a message; we will then look into the matter. We never intentionally ignore anyone (after all, we are in the business of selling what we grow) but, please remember, we are a one horse operation and, like anyone, can get overwhelmed when suddenly everyone wants to make cider on the same day at the same time. This is especially so when folks make a same day or late night request for the next day - in such cases, we often don’t see the request until after the fact. Also, if you schedule a reservation, but then discover you can’t make it, please let us know as soon as you can. Otherwise, we will probably take a dim view of your future requests for a reservation unless you have a pretty good reason for not letting us know.
Cider making safety...
You will need to remember to bring your own jugs and containers for the cider - we don’t have any spare jugs. Jugs and containers should be clean. Like any natural fruit juice, cider can become contaminated by harmful bacteria. Using good food preparation habits while handling cider is a must to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination. The biggest risk of contamination comes from those handling the cider, an important vector being unwashed hands. To reduce risk of contamination, ALWAYS wash your hands before you begin making cider, and keep them clean until you are done and the cider is in the jug. You will be responsible to assure that your cider is free of bad bacteria. The only practical method that we know of to completely eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination is pasteurization. Pasteurization is a relatively simple process; it involves heating the raw cider to approximately 160° F, then quickly cooling and storing it in good, clean containers. By no means should you boil the cider - boiling destroys the unique flavor of cider. Once pasteurized, the cider should be refrigerated and treated with the same care as any other food.
In mid-May, we planted 561 new McIntosh and Spartan apple trees. These new trees replaced the Williams Pride and Redfree in the old orchard, and the embarrassingly few remaining Honeycrisp and Wealthy trees in the far southeast corner of the new orchard. The Williams Pride we replaced because of limited demand for them - most were on the ground attracting yellow jackets before the first day of harvest - and the Redfrees were replaced because they were in their final, sunset days as a result of a sudden, unexpected hard freeze in the second week of October, 2009. The Honeycrisp and Wealthy were replaced because of incapability issues between rootstock and scions (that is, the roots to which the Honeycrisp and Wealthy were bud grafted). We planted new Spartans because our original Spartan block is in decline as a result of the 2009 freeze, and we added more McIntosh because of their popularity. The new trees were bud grafted to dwarfing root stock (Geneva 41 for those who follow such things), and will be supported by trellis for the duration. These trees will top out at about 8-10 feet, and should be easy to pick. Even though we propagate replacement trees in our own nursery, we contracted with Cameron Nursery in Eltopia to graft the new trees because of the number of trees involved.
One day in mid-August last year, we went out in the early morning while it was still cool and harvested bud sticks for the new trees. Bud sticks are current year limb shoots or extensions, and are typically about 14-18 inches long. Under each leaf is a tiny bud, and each bud stick has about 10-15 mature buds. These buds are removed and grafted unto growing rootstock, one bud per root stock.
We drove the bud sticks to Cameron, and they were grafted -budded- to the waiting root stocks that same, hot August day. Cameron then tended to the newly budded trees until late winter, when they were dug up, graded, topped back to the grafted bud, and tied into bundles of 50 trees each (or fewer for the final bundles). The bundled trees were then kept in a huge cooler until we drove to Eltopia to pick them up on May 12. We transported the trees home in coolers, and began planting them the next day. We had a great planting crew consisting of us, our daughters, Jenny and Edilsa and their respective spouses, two and sometimes three grandchildren, and one granddaughter’s boyfriend. Planting time is always exciting for us, but we are always glad to have it done and over - we are getting more and more decrepit as the years go by, and planting involves a lot of hole digging, and crawling around in the dirt, making sure the trees are planted at just the right height with their baby roots fanned out just so, in a very straight line (to prevent any of them from getting snagged by machinery as they grow and develop into a hedge). Planting involves periodic breaks where we gather together tell stories, gossip, and drink incredible amounts of water. Wow! ...putting these memories down on paper makes us pine for more blocks of trees to plant, but only on warm spring days. Of course, it is not always so idyllic – we have slogged through the mud planting trees in some pretty crappy weather over the years... .
Our apples provide the basis for many of the hard ciders produced by Liberty Ciderworks in Spokane. These ciders are sold throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and have earned a solid reputation in the world of artisan ciders. We are quite proud of the contribution our humble apples make in the production of Liberty’s very excellent ciders. The climate and soil of the Palouse have the potential to yield world-class hard cider. We will again host Liberty’s seasonal tasting room at the orchard to showcase some of its ciders, which will provide an opportunity to experience another dimension to our apples.
Apples, pears and prunes will be $.50/lb. Cider apples (excluding English apples used for hard cider production) will be priced at $8.00 per gallon of juice pressed.
Some final thoughts...
We encourage you to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of our picnic tables or under the shade of an apple tree in a private corner of the orchard. You are welcome to wander around and explore the orchard, and you can sample the fruit - we won’t be asking you to step on the scales on your way out. We also invite you to rest your weary feet and sit on one of the benches scattered through the orchard. Please do not enter any outbuildings unless specifically authorized to do so.
Please don’t climb the trees; the limbs are very brittle, climbing breaks off fruiting spurs. Besides, falling from a tree is not cool and could result in serious injury.
The orchard floor has sticks and windfall apples - please watch your step to avoid falls.
Please remember not to park in front of the homes across the street from the orchard.
And finally, please have fun when visiting the orchard!