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Lost Orchard

Apples Like You've Never Seen Before

Dreaming of an Apple Orchard

One of the heritage apple trees I discovered

The first time I set my foot in an apple orchard, I fell in love. I loved the fragrant, fruity scent that wafted through the air. I loved walking among the trees with their gentle canopies full of plump and beautiful fruit. And, I loved the feeling of being among them, the energy that instantly picked up my spirits and made me feel so alive.

But, the trees soon faded into shadows as I discovered that owning an apple orchard was simply not in our budget. Fast forward several years when my husband and I decided we were going to leave our beloved British Columbia after living indoors for weeks at a time during the summer months while forest fire smoke filled the air and our lungs, making it hard to breathe, even indoors.

At the same time, we decided that we were tired of large mortgage payments where more than half of the money we paid out was eaten up by bank interest. We knew we wanted land and to become more self-sufficient so we bought one of the most affordable forested acreages we could find in Ontario, close to a town with amenities but with enough space to roam. Upon it sat an old, brick home built around 1890. The house needed a lot of work, after all, it didn’t even have a full kitchen or even a stove for that matter. And, we couldn’t find a single hookup for a washer and dryer. It appeared that the old farm house was suspended in time, having never seen such modern luxuries as laundry facilities.

After many months of installations, renovations, restorations, and what felt like endless amounts of cleaning, we finally took to the land, slowly but surely cutting through the overgrown grass and brush. Since we arrived at the home at the end of November while the land was already covered in a thick blanket of snow, we were pleasantly surprised to find two lovely apple trees in our yard. There were many dead and craggy branches so we weren’t sure if the trees would even yield apples, but they did…lots of them.

Imagine my great surprise as I ventured further out into the forest on the property to discover an ever-increasing number of apple trees, including a gorgeous old, heirloom tree that looks to be about forty feet tall. And, many other trees approached that lofty stature. Today alone, after hours of cutting trails through the brush with an old, but tough, riding mower, I discovered six more apple trees, bringing the current total to thirty-three.

I nearly burst into tears of gratitude when I suddenly realized that we are the unexpected but proud owners of a magnificent apple orchard full of beautiful Victorian-era heirloom trees. We still have lots of brush to clear and plentiful amounts of skin-piercing, thorny buckthorn that makes the job all the more treacherous, but beyond it lies our coveted and beloved apple orchard. In some ways battling the thorny and tough landscape to reveal the forgotten and beautiful rewards has been a metaphor for life. And, while most of the apples aren’t going to win any beauty contests, with a few nips and tucks of a paring knife, they’re perfectly crisp and delicious to eat and ideal for apple sauces, cider, hard cider (check out our awesome new Alchema for making homemade artisanal ciders, wines, and beers—save 10% with the coupon code COOK10), and baked treats.

Better yet, it’s clear that these apples have been organically-grown for years, if not for their full lifespan, so we don’t have to worry about toxic pesticides that may potentially cause cancer, nerve or brain damage, or other serious health concerns.

Now, I'm waking up early to walk the newly-cut forest trails with my wicker basket in tow to pick (or pick up, as is more often the case) the apples from these gorgeous trees. While I have always dreaded mornings, and have indeed been a night owl my whole life, the excitement of the fruits that await each morning has turned me into a cheery morning person. Every day is an exciting adventure worth waking up early to embrace. And, I've never felt more alive as I help to restore food diversity and preserve the living history and legacy of these gorgeous apple trees.

Join us for more of our thrilling farm life escapades on our acreage at FoodHouseProject.com.

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Thanks to the commercialization of apples that favour appearance over taste, nutritional value, or ability to survive changing climatic conditions, we've already lost hundreds of varieties of superior apples. Help us to save seemingly near-extinct varieties of apples and preserve our food heritage at the Lost Orchard with your purchases and donations. 

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