Today we spent time at a wonderful apple orchard planted by the Red River south of Fargo. My Sis and her husband live out there and we took them out for dinner to celebrate my Baby Sister’s birthday today. She is in her early 60′s so she is not much of a Baby anymore but she will always be the Baby Sister I cared for and took out for stroller rides, rocked to sleep and sang lullabies to… when she was a baby and I was a third grader.
After our birthday dinner, we all trekked to the super-duper Cass County apple orchard and picked small apples for making apple juice and bigger apples for eating. It was a hot job and I felt like I had "been rode hard and put away wet" after spending time in the hot wind among the many, many apple trees that are planted there and free to the public to come and pick.
The origin of the orchard is even more fascinating than the fact that a County maintains it and allows people in to pick apples in the late summer and early fall. Deer also harvest apples from the ones that fall to the ground. The last time we visited the orchard, we met several deer among the trees who were eating fallen apples in the early dusk. But back to the origins……a medical doctor who used to practice in Fargo was the person who planted all these apple trees years ago. He owned a lot of river land along the Red and put it to use by planting apple trees and some oak trees (which are now growing large and producing acorns for the deer). He had to have been a modern-day Johnny Appleseed planting trees for future apple lovers. What a gift to a community! His home is no longer standing—must have been torn down in flood prevention action of years ago, but the orchard stands as a tribute to his thoughtfulness and foresight and regard for future generations. There are so many apple trees in this orchard I could not begin to count them and some of them have grafts on them—-he was also a Johnny Appleseed experimenter. I saw at least one tree today that had two kinds of apples on it….tiny crabapples plus large eating apples.
Apparently the doctor sold his land to Cass County and that government agency has taken care of the orchard (mostly mowing the grass) ever since. The trees are not sprayed so the apples are "natural and organic" as far as I can see. It is such a treat to get northern apple varieties out of this orchard. The apples range from crab varieties to larger eating apples.
It puts me in mind of another orchard planter of generations ago out in the Rollag MN area. A man named Petrus Folden was an early apple tree planter when most folks did not have such trees as part of their homes and yards. Pete Folden planted many kinds of apple trees at the time and raised a lot of apple varieties that no others even attempted. I think he may have even developed some new varieties with his orchard experiments. IN fact I seem to remember my Mother telling me that the University of Minnesota cooperated with old Petrus in developing some new Northern apples. I wonder if any of his orchard survives today? I do not know where his farm was but if my Mother were alive, she could tell me. We so often do not pay attention to interesting things our parents tell us when we are young. I wish I had listened to her because she was the one who told me the stories about Petrus Folden and his apple orchard.
I also have memories of picking wild fruit in the woods near my Grandma’s farm just east of Rollag, MN. Juneberries (Saskatoon blueberries) were abundant in the 1940′s and 50′s before farmers began tearing down groves and woodlots for more farmland. I loved picking Juneberries with my Aunts, wild currants, chokecherries, wild grapes and plums. These wildfruits were processed into either "sauce" or jelly. The jars of home-canned fruit sat on many cellar shelves—to be eaten all winter long,fruit desserts for farm families. They were loaded with sugar in the canning process, but oh were they good!!!! Especially if you could dip home-made bread and butter in the juice to sop it up!!!! Farm cream did not hurt the dessert either and I remember well,the canned rhubarb "sauce" with the thick country cream poured into it.
Visiting today’s apple orchard along the Red River brought back a lot of wonderful "fruit picking" memories for me.