Apple Bounty in Blue Sky

Apples in Blue Sky

While this was a poor year for pumpkins and sunflowers it has been a fantastic year for our pasture forages, apples and pears. Life’s like that. One thing is down in a particular year but other things are up. That is part of why diversity is key.

This apple tree is one of many we planted in 2005. Now just ten years later those 1/2″ saplings are about 7″ in diameter and bearing bushels of fruit.

Our primary purpose in planting fruit and nut trees is to provide food for our livestock. They start bearing drops in late June to early July, as the trees culls extra fruit. Then in August through late October is the main harvest. We plant the trees in protected double fence lines between paddocks so they drop down into the places where the livestock can harvest the apples, pears and such. The bottom fence wires are set as creeps so that smaller pigs, ducks, geese and chickens can get in close around the trees to get the protected drops there.

Pears in Blue Sky

These pear trees were planted at the same time, in 2005, as the apple tree above and are also having a bountiful year, weighed down with hundreds of pounds of fruit.

Out in our pastures we have hundreds of wild apple trees and they’re doing fabulously this year as well. In the forest you’ll sometimes come across a group of apple trees seemingly in the middle of nowhere. This means there was likely a house site there long ago – the early homesteaders back in the 1700’s planted those trees or their ancestors.

We don’t spray our apples, pears or any of our plants with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc. They’re just growing naturally. Key is that we keep a lot of chickens and they eat insects, the pigs clean up all the drops and there is plenty of ventilation between the trees. This allows us to raise them organically and easily. I like easy.

I plan to plant a thousand more apple, pear and nut trees. They are easy to grow and require little attention to produce a bounty of fruit for us and our animals as well as the wildlife. What ever you do in life, plant apple trees. Plant pear trees. Plant nut trees. Plant perennials. It is never too late.

Outdoors: 49°F/34°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/59°F

Daily Spark: I’m easily fascinated.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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22 Responses to Apple Bounty in Blue Sky

  1. Cary Howe says:

    If you want to plant hundreds or thousands check out this site. Really cheap trees if you buy in quantity. They have a good selection and some sell for under a $1 for 18″ to 24″ trees in quantities of a 1,000. A 100, 500 and a 1,000 are the best discounts but you can buy most any quantity. They call Swamp Oaks Swamp Chestnuts but it’s the same tree and they have the largest acorns and are great for pigs. Surround your ponds with those. They have apple and pear trees and a few cherries. For nuts you can get Hickey and others. You can’t beat their prices. They do have larger trees but the insane prices are on 1′ to 2′ trees. You can always stick those in buckets for a few years to save money if you want to plant larger trees. I’m sure a pig would think of a 2′ tree as a tooth pick.

    • Aye, they do eat down small fruit trees and the sheep are positively evil to fruit trees. Thus the double fence lines. Once the apple trees get to a few inches thick they do fairly well out in the pig pastures since with managed rotational grazing the pigs tend to focus on easier fare.

      I see that the orchard at the link does dwarf apple trees. We have been doing full size since space is not a limitation here. My understanding is that the full size also hold up better in our climate. I have no experience with the dwarf so no way to compare from experience.

      • Cary Howe says:

        Yeah I checked and I guess most of the 1″ and above are Maples. I hadn’t thought about the dwarf trees. The area I plan to settle in is a little milder than your climate and I tend to like dwarf trees for harvest. I can get away with fruit pickers instead of ladders. You’d definitely have to keep them fenced until they got bigger. Their prices are the lowest I ever found if you wanted to plant say 500 or a 1000 chestnut or hickory nut trees. I doubt they’d chew down walnuts, they’re pretty acrid but the nuts have that bitter pulpy hull and I hear they won’t eat them unless they are cracked. At different times I’ve been interested in picking up some cleared land and planting fruit and nut trees so I keep my eyes out for cheap sources. With really young trees you have to fence or the deers will wipe you out. It’s amazing young trees get started in the forest at all deers are so bad.

        I’m sure you know Fedco. They have a really good selection of northern adapted trees. Not as cheap but you seem to be after larger trees and not the young bulk ones.

        • We’ve been getting our trees from St. Lawrence Nurseries in Potsdam, NY which has a similar climate to us. They’re an actual grower which is good. We’ve had very good luck with their tree stock. I’ve gotten seed from Fedco Seeds before but never trees.

          • Chiral says:

            Thanks for that link. I’ve been wondering where to get full sized trees! I want be able to pollard/coppice them and still get apples :). My husband has been getting into hard cider and it’s nice they’ve listed the usage of each variety. I was just about to start planting apple cores and see what happened. I might still do some of that, but it would be nice to get some named varieties going so we’ll know the apples will be tasty ahead of time.

            We have an apple “bush” now from a tree someone cut down to the ground years ago with about 30 watersprouts. I have been letting my dwarf goats kill some of the stems and we got a good crop of fruit this year. It’s about 30′ high now so I think it must have been big before (non dwarfing rootstock)

  2. aminthepm says:

    Not many pigs live through several seasons to notice the difference do they ?

    • Very few, only the best of the best. For most pigs one year, just three seasons in fact, is a lifetime. Pigs born in the winter come into spring where the world transforms from deep snow pack to this strange greenness, a color they have only seen on the tractor. They live in a Helliconia world.

  3. Farmerbob1 says:


    Take a look here ” as the three culls extra fruit”

    Think you meant ‘trees cull’, not ‘three culls’.

    That said, it looks like you’re going to have apple and pear flavored pigs soon, eh?

  4. skeptic7 says:

    I am glad to hear that you are planting full size apple trees — these are nearly a historical curiousity in the modern world since they take up so much space. I know that there are cold adapted apple trees and New York state used to be a great apple producing area, but are there many nuts that can grow in the cold New England climate?
    Since you are mainly letting the pigs eat the apples, would you consider planting some native American crab apples? They are great pollinators and interesting as a possible historical food source.

    • I also wanted many varieties to be able to observe how they perform as well as taste in addition to the fact that one needs multiple types of apple trees since they don’t self pollinate and not even between varieties. We also have many crab apple and old style apples that grew from seeds the original homesteaders planted hundreds of years ago.

  5. Bob says:


    Interesting post! Did you choose varieties carefully in order to spread the main crop of fruit from August through October? Also, do your customers, especially the chef’s, notice the difference in the meat’s flavour when the pigs have been eating a lot of apple & pear?

  6. DrFood says:

    I think you plant saplings, not samplings.

  7. Peter says:

    I would be interested to ask, for the apple trees that you did not plant yourself, have you contacted Seed Savers Exchange to determine if it’s a lost variety? My understanding is the guy who runs the heritage orchard there has grafted numerous varieties presumed lost.

  8. Nance says:

    I really liked your photo of the apple tree branches and fruite and the clear blue sky. I have tried a dwarf apple or two and really prefer the full-size old fashioned. I live about 40 miles from where the Red Delicious apple was developed. My sister here in Iowa has had a record/limb breaking apple and pear harvest.

  9. Melissa says:

    I hopped on your site today to look for what varieties of apples caught your interest enough to be worth planting. Would like to try my hand at grafting and show the kids. And feed the chickens, sheep, etc.After much research, though I am learning that the dwarf and semi-dwarf rootstock has a limited lifetime. In contrast to the trees I remember the best are the old apple trees at my mother’s that were mature back when I was a teen in the 1970’s. Definitely not dwarfs. And still producing well. Which brings me to the question of which full size rootstock did you use?? Or rather, what did St Lawrence Nursery use?? If you know…..

  10. Melissa says:

    THank you for your reply. Will have to give them a call ……

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