Visit to an apple orchard still a big deal

PIETREE ORCHARD EMPLOYEE — Hannah Lowe, of Harrison, transports a wagon load of apples plus several bags of apples to the farm stand during Maine Apple Sunday. (De Busk Photo)

PIETREE ORCHARD EMPLOYEE — Hannah Lowe, of Harrison, transports a wagon load of apples plus several bags of apples to the farm stand during Maine Apple Sunday. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

SWEDEN — Nancy Wood of Harrison would not miss a chance to “just get out and about” and enjoy this year’s Maine Apple Sunday.

“I grew up in the middle of an apple orchard,” Wood said.

Her grandfather started a farm in Connecticut; and her father earned a living as an apple farmer in Ashland, Mass. The orchard no longer exists, except in the stories that Wood tells.

“My father would drive into Boston to Faneuil Hall to sell the apples. That was before Faneuil Hall became a tourist place. It was a big deal back then — to ride in the truck to Boston as a little girl,” she said.

When she was older, “I worked in the packing house with friends from the neighborhood. It was so much fun. It didn’t feel like work,” Wood said. Her job was to sort the apples by sizes as they came down the conveyor belt and then to “very carefully put them into apple boxes,” she said.

Her favorite time in the orchard was not the autumn when the apple had ripened and she worked side-by-side with friends. It was the springtime.

“I remember the orchard when the apple trees were in bloom — just oceans of apple blossoms,” she said. In fact, every spring, she drives to the local apple orchards just to see the trees in bloom and to smell the fragrant blossoms.

On the second Sunday in September, Wood arrived at Pietree Orchard in Sweden.

Surprisingly, the light rain did not dampen the turnout. People showed up in intervals and simply huddled under the canopy or strolled into the farm stand building whenever the rain picked up.

In reality, Maine Apple Sunday signals the beginning (not the peak) of apple season — with the promise of sweeter varieties of apples to ripen in the coming weeks, according to Orchardist Scott Miller, who is known as “the Apple Doctor” at Pietree Orchard.

Naples resident Jada Harris came to Pietree with her husband Jeff and their children Ayla, 4, and Ana, 8 months.

This the first year she has gone to an event being held on Maine Apple Sunday. The family outing at the apple orchard was a spur of the moment decision — something they found out about in a newspaper listing of area events, she said.

However, a return trip is in the making for the Harris family. “We are planning on doing the U-Pick later,” she said. “My father worked during his high school years at Co-Hi Apple Orchard. He told me the sweeter apples mature later,” Harris said.

According to Alexandra “Alex” Tomaso, the public relations and events coordinator at Pietree, people were surprised to find out that more than a dozen apples were already available prior to mid-September.

“We have had fresh apples since the second week of August. The Lodi apple is the first to harvest. It is tart. It is a great cooker and a great saucer,” Tomaso said.

“People were surprised that we have 50 varieties. Some people did not know there were even that many varieties of apples,” she said.

For those people who think an apple a day is just what the doctor ordered, there is some sweet news.

“The Cortland will be available this weekend; and it will be followed by the Ginger Gold and the Honeycrisp — two other sweet apples,” Tomaso said.

The orchard is open to pick-your-own customers from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. People can call the orchard at 647-9419 to ask about field conditions and to see what apple varieties are available.

 

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