Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Peach thinning

Dave wanted to make a video of peach thinning to clarify exactly what he’s doing this time of year.  (I hope our four year old terrorizing our one year old in the background isn’t too much of a distraction.  We were considering doing another take, but he probably wouldn’t have behaved the second time either.)


Of spring and the return of tomatoes

DSC_0053Spring is a beautiful time to live on a fruit farm.  After months of trudging through feet of snow, even our dogs are exuberant to welcome spring.  The peaches are about done blooming, and the apples are about to start blooming.  Here is a view of the orchard on Thursday.




DSC_0038We feel fortunate that it looks like the peaches didn’t get frozen.  Dave was just out in the apples, and it appears that some of the apple varieties got thinned pretty hard with frost.  Dave thinks there will still be a full crop, though.  Usually Dave thins many of the apples, so this year he will have to be little more frugal with the thinning.

DSC_0055These are the apples showing their pink tips.  It won’t be long until they are in full bloom as well.

prunersDave just got done pruning the peaches.  He’s never pruned peaches when they were in bloom before, but because of the nature of this cold, cold winter, it just didn’t get done.  There was much celebration when Dave was done pruning.  We took a celebratory trip to the hardware store to buy swings for our tree and out to eat.


Dave spent the last two days in the greenhouse which has been neglected because of the push to get pruning done.

Speaking of greenhouses and tomatoes…Dave is planning on coming to Clark Park this Saturday with tomatoes.  Hooray!  Come on out and get yourself the first delicious tomatoes of the year.

The long-awaited Spring

Things are starting to look promising around here.  After a cold and cloudy spring, blooms and the promise of the harvest to come makes us hopeful and grateful.  All of these pictures were taken a little more than a week ago, and I’ll to my best to update before the week is out.

cherry trees

If you would come driving up the west side of our orchard, you would see our sour cherry trees.  Last year the young cherry trees didn’t  give a whole lot of fruit, but we’re hopeful that this year’s crop will be much better.

peach blossomThe peach trees, while once clothed in glorious pink blossoms, are starting to lose their petals to reveal the tiny peach fruit beneath.

baby peachOnce the peach is revealed, we wait a couple weeks to make sure that the peach doesn’t drop and then start the long process of hand thinning the peaches.  (More on this once the thinning starts.)

blooms on treeApples bloom later than peaches, so the apples are in full bloom right now.

apple blossomApple blooms, unlike peach blooms, do not leave a baby apple within the blossom.  Instead, the blossom will stay with the apple for the remainder of its life.  The little bump you see behind the blossom will continue swelling and is the actual apple.  If you turn an apple over and look at the bottom, that is the blossom end.

bee hivesApples, unlike peaches, also require pollination to form.  While we probably have enough wild bees buzzing around the orchard for pollination, Dave always likes to ensure that we do have enough of the busy little pollinators.  This year we borrowed our neighbor’s bees.  During pollination we always hope for sunny and warm weather.  Bees are a little like humans in the aspect that cold, cloudy weather makes them want to stay inside the hive.

blueberry bushes

Our blueberry bushes in this picture are just about ready to start blooming.  We only planted these guys last year, but we’re hoping to bring some juicy blue fruit to market this year.

greenhouse aisle

And to the greenhouse.  This perpetually cloudy spring has our tomato plants expending all of their energy desperately stretching towards the sky, searching for sunlight.  At times Dave was pretty depressed at the lack of the color red in our greenhouse, but now…at last…

red tomatoes… some fruit that we can eat!   Happily Dave has collected enough tomatoes to come to market this Saturday.  Hooray!  Wahoo!  The first juicy bite of tomato after a long, dreary winter without them is one of the highlights of our spring.  The plan is that we will come to Rittenhouse with tomatoes this Saturday and then will come to Clark Park with tomatoes the following week.

These tomatoes are worth the trip!

Picking Tomatoes

Since we are just starting tomato season, I thought I would give a glimpse into tomato picking and tomato pollination.

Tomato pollination needs to be done in the greenhouse since there is no wind or bees to shake the pollen from the anther part of the blossom to the stigma of the same blossom.

Dave uses what I think is a retrofitted “doodle pen”.  (I had one of these said pens sometime in the late 80s.   I remember it well.)  There is a counterweight on the end that spins, causing the long plastic stick on the end to vibrate, thus loosening the pollen when it is touched to the blossom.

If Dave wouldn’t pollinate, there would be no tomatoes.  He goes through the greenhouse once a week, briefly touching the end of the pollinator with each blossom.

Tomato picking comes two or three times a week once we get into warm weather.  Dave picks the tomatoes and places them carefully into white crates.  They typically have a little green on them, and are ripened as they sit in trays in a cool (but not too cold) location.  We wouldn’t want to pick them dead ripe because they would be overripe by the time we got them to market.

You can see how close the rows are together. The tomato rows are not great places for four year old Caleb to have a race.

When Dave has the white crate full, he transfers the tomatoes to the trays which display tomatoes at market.

This picture captured the five seconds that Caleb helped to transfer tomatoes. Some day this will be his job. Today, Dave was glad when he stopped being so helpful.

In other news, this is the progress that our peaches are making.  Thinning will be happening very, very soon.

The apples are coming along as well.  They have all lost their bloom and are working on swelling to be real apples.  This cluster will be pruned down to one apple at some point, but not until it grows a bit more.

We are also excited to introduce you to our new puppies (!).  Jack and Sarah arrived last Monday night and will eventually keep deer and other varmints out of the orchard.  For now, they are just a whole lot of fun.

Bloomin’ Apples and BLTs

April 19, 2012

Things are moving along here in Lancaster.  The peaches are totally out of  bloom and are starting to grow.  Soon we will start thinning the peaches.  We’ll leave one peach about every three or four inches.  If we didn’t do this the tree would grow a whole bunch of tiny, tasteless peaches.

This is what our peaches look like right now. If you look to the left of my fingers, that particular peach and most of the peaches in the orchard still have what remains of the blossom called the shuck. And can't eat it yet. Micro-herbs are totally different from micro-peaches.

The apples are just finishing up their bloom.  I was a bit lazy and didn’t get out to the orchard to take pictures until today.

Did you know that bees can be rented? Yup. It's true. We rent bees for the period of time that the apples are in bloom so that they will be sufficiently pollinated. Peaches are self-pollinating, but apples need a little help. The beekeeper will come pick them up in a week or so.

The other exciting news is that we are coming to Rittenhouse Square this week with tomatoes.  These babies are red, juicy and delicious.  I just had my first BLT of the season for lunch.  It was summer on a plate…and it’s only April.

These guys are making the trek to Rittenhouse Square this Saturday. They are very excited.