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


domestic pear in bloom

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

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The very first planting on our new homestead was some apple trees and a Bartlett pear, maybe something else. Purchased from a nursery downstate 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. And most of the varieties weren't the best choices for the cold north. Yet many of the apple trees lived to set fruit. The Bartlett didn't make it past the first few winters. It wasn't its fault; it was a poor choice, especially with so little initial care.
     But the rootstock, likely a seedling common pear, did survive. It grew into a beautiful tree (see photo above). With no pruning it was allowed its natural form and no limit to size. Forty years later it's about 35 feet tall and 20 wide. It blossoms profusely and sometimes sets an amazing number of equally amazingly bitter, astringent little 1" pears. Cute they are, and the deer and squirrels love them, but food for humans they aren't. But that's OK; we don't have to eat everything.
     But that was the end of my pear planting until 2003 I bought and planted a Stacey Pear from Fedco, then in 2006 a Summercrisp. They are both small, hardy, sweet "snack" pears, though they are just starting to give more than very small sampling harvests. Pears in general are independent and take their own good time to fruit. But they are well worth the wait. Which is why I do rather wish I'd continued planting pears. But it wasn't to be -- until now. See the story below of my re-entry into the pear world. Now we've expanded the orchard beyond its newly expanded fenced area - so I can plant more pears (and other fruit as well!).

2017 September 11 - Pear Faith

L'Anse pear graft growingMost of the 30 grafts we did in May grew, which is nice. I love walking around cheering them all on. But one in particular is exciting to me this year - the L’Anse pear.

Last September we were at a polka dance in L’Anse and a young couple brought in a wonderful basket of beautiful medium-small pears for the snack table. My experience with pears had been pretty much limited to occasional canned ones and a handful of first small Stacey & Summercrisp pears from our young trees. Happy to have something other than sugar snacks, both Steve and I picked up a pear and a few cherry tomatoes. When I sat down and took a bite of the pear...Wow! I had no idea pears could be that good. Sweet, smooth, great texture, wonderful snack size. Immediately I went back to the table for another one.

L'anse pearsImmediately I was interested in Pears. I wanted to know more about this one. But this was a large lively noisy polka party and the young couple had their three young children with them to manage so in-depth conversation just wasn’t going to happen. But I found out that the trees were “old” (inherited when they bought the house), were well known in the area for decades for having good fruit, were wonderfully prolific, and they didn’t know the variety. Later, by quieter email, I got a promise for scions and more information. Their trees are growing near the south shore of Lake Superior.

I searched online and asked around, trying to put a variety label on these pears. The current owners shared this information with me:
     “This type I believe is either a Forelle pear or a Tyson pear. Many of the flavor characteristics remind me of the Tyson description, however the blushing seems to give it away to a Forelle. Perhaps it is neither of these. They typically come mid August - 1st week of September [we had them Sept. 17]. ... the blossoms I think they are pink. Very sweet, hints of cinnamon and other spicy flavors. ... fully matured pear trees are quite old -- I estimate that they were planted in the 1940's - 1950's.”  [mmm, well, I don't think that is so very old but that may have something to do with our ages!]

Well, this chance encounter opened up a new world to me. There aren’t many pears growing in our area, unlike apples that are all over. Suddenly I wanted to plant more pears. I managed to get 5 Ussuriensis Siberian (very hardy) rootstocks planted out in early spring and we grafted onto four of them - the above pear onto two, plus a Patton and a Sauvignac (both old varieties). Then, since we had extra scion pieces left, we grafted two L’Anse pears, a Patton and a Sauvignac onto shoots of our very large old seedling chokepear. Neither Sauvignacs grew, and one of the rootstocks with a L’Anse graft died, but the other L’Anse pears and the Pattons have done well. It’s a long wait for fruit, and these little shoots have to make it through their first winters (the hardest for young trees), then the many winters after that, but I’m feeling positive about them. We may never know the real identity of the L’Anse pears but that won’t stop us in the least from enjoying them thoroughly when they arrive, finally fruiting, on our homestead though that be many years in the future.


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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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