This is Ravenskill Orchard today. We have two acres of dwarf apple trees and 3 more acres ready for cultivation. Most recently we’ve built our cider barn. When we started on this journey 12 years ago, however, things looked very different.

This is what our orchard looked like when we purchased our 27 acres in 2003. We had to look past the recently logged tree stumps and heavy underbrush to see this land’s potential. Situated on a nice sunny slope, the rocky, loamy soil was a little low on nitrogen, but otherwise well suited for apple growing. The work for us was getting to it.  With farm properties at $100,000 per acre, we had to rethink our expectations.

Keith standing on the site of our orchard in 2004.

Scientific method on where to plant an apple tree? How about here! Marti at the orchard, 2004.

Clearing the land was our first big task. But all the brush and tree stumps we removed, were put right back into the ground as compost. We supplemented our composting with locally produced poultry manure and fish emulsion to give the soil the nutrients needed to produce fruitful trees. With our soil cleared and healthy, our next step was to begin planting.

Soon clearing the land became a family affair, Marti’s son Joel sawing up tree logs for the wood chipper.

Marti’s son Alex, using a 2nd hand excavator, removing some tree stumps.

Commercial nurseries did not sell the varieties of heritage apples we needed on dwarfing root stocks so we had to propagate our own trees through a technique called bench grafting.

Our apple trees are a unique breed of dwarf trees that only grow between 30%-60% of a standards size tree. Dwarf trees have the advantage of fruiting earlier and have heavy fruits loads, but they do require extra attention in their early stages. This is our nursery of young trees. To date it has produced over 1,000 trees made up of 25 different varieties of apple.

This was our first block of trees planted. Because the dwarf trees bear such heavy fruit loads, we build a special support system for them. The result is our apple rows are reminiscent of a vineyard.

These are our maturing trees today. So far we have had 3 successful harvests and are producing a variety of products from sweet apple cider, to homemade apple caramels. Our plan is to add Pear and Cherry trees to the orchard in addition to cultivating blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.

Orchard Block 2 in 2009, the land transformed and ready to plant.

Orchard Block 2012.

in 2012, the juice of our labors!

Our dreams come true!