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The ManyTracks Orchard


Beautiful in Blossom, Handsome in Winter,
Elegant in Leaf, and Delicious in Fruit

photo apple tree in fruit

Four decades of Growing Good Food in the Northwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Down to Earth Information, Experiences, Thoughts

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Black Oxford








The very first planting on our new homestead was an apple tree. Several apple trees, and a pear, maybe something else. Purchased from a nursery downstate -- Macintosh, Winesap, Prairie Spy, Bartlett Pear -- it was what they recommended. We brought them north and planted them in the newly fenced (we did know about deer) cold and wind-swept (except from the west) garden-orchard area in 1978. We had no amendments to add to the old worn-out sod soil, no mulch to help the new trees get established, little water to help them thrive, no time to devote to the new orchard, and no knowledge of pruning. But most of those trees not only grew they lived to set fruit! They are amazing creatures. I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for them.

The Macintosh was not a good choice as it's not well adapted to this area, especially back then when the winter cold was more severe. I wouldn't plant a Macintosh now. I have a note of some fruit harvested in 1987 but then nothing. The Winesap could have been a good tree for here. I remember it fruited prolifically but the fruit was small. I didn't know about pruning or thinning for fruit size and it eventually disappeared from my scanty notes. The Bartlett Pear didn't make it past the first few winters. But the Prairie Spys. Oh those three wonderful hardy survivors, they live to this day. Well, actually, they turned out not to be Prairie Spys at all, but Beacons.

Fast forward and it now seems I spend more time researching the varieties I plant and graft than I do taking care of them! But I enjoy it and am comfortable with those I've chosen. I expect them to survive and thrive. I've learned to prune and graft and care for my trees, or rather I continue to learn as I expect I'll be doing that as long as I have trees to care for. We now have Haralson, Dudley, and Black Oxford producing, in addition to the original revived Beacons, and another dozen or more that should be fruiting over the next six years or so. Plus some good 'wild' seedling trees. We continue to graft and plant more every year. There is a lot of other fruit in my garden/orchard and it is much enjoyed and appreciated, but it is the apple that is our mainstay, the one that would be most sorely missed were it not a part of our lives, and our diet.

Apples! - September 28, 2017apple varieties end Sept

I do love my fruit! And I think apples are some of the most interesting and amazing -- for their beauty, their variety, their adaptability, their ability to make so many creatures of the world happy with their fruit and their foliage, and all the tiny creatures that live on and in (and those who live eating those). Almost every year the apples growing on our land feed us well. We were blessed with an interesting (and delicious) variety this year, from both named and wild trees. Here is the best excuse for growing your own.


2018 - Record cold, record hot, record long, record short, record low, record high, record  number of voles - a very interesting year is was! Winter was a test, and several young trees didn't make it - Pomme Gris and Gray Pearmain, all cherry grafts, one pear. Not that it was particularly cold overall, but the extremes were short and fast, going from unusual warmth to record cold in December, little snow on the ground all winter, record cold  April, then suddenly slipping right into summer the end of May with no spring. A long hot summer, things grew well. Trees and shrubs and plants need to be of hardy soul and limb to survive, and I so appreciate that so many did.

We had reasonable apple harvest with light crops from Dudley and Black Oxford, and a bumper harvest of Haralsons, plus some wild apples. Variety and diversity helped to feed us well!

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Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener" ? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.

updated 01/16/2017

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