A few thoughts on thinning

One of the things that makes this orchard feasible as a healthy no-spray endeavor is the close attention Al pays (and is teaching me to pay) to thinning. We thin for a variety of reasons: to improve fruit size and quality; to reduce the load on the boughs; to cull small or misshapen fruit; and to deal with pests. We thin the apples several times over the course of the growing season.

When trees first set fruit, if pollination is good, they have many more fruit than can ultimately ripen into something good to eat. Some (especially Italian plums and some apples) self-cleanse by dropping a healthy portion of their fruit. Others need to be manually thinned.

The first thinning is focused on leaving a realistic and healthy amount of fruit on the tree. We do it when the apples are golf-ball size and the fruit is so small and sour that we drop it on the ground and leave it to enrich the soil. After the first thinning, the tree focuses its energy on the growth of the remaining fruit and the effect is stunning! Below is a pair of photos, one before the first thinning and the other one month later.

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The second thinning was (for me as I learn) an exercise in the process of ‘If you think you’ve thinned enough, thin more!’. It’s hard to remove good fruit from the tree! It’s a chance to look critically at the distribution of fruit along limbs and cull any runt fruit. The apples are still quite tart, but have enough flavor and sugar for a small cider pressing, with the pressings composted to feed the garden and orchard. (This doesn’t produce a lot of cider, just enough for our families; sorry!)

The third thinning is the beginning of inspecting the fruit for coddling moth damage and really making sure that the tree has an appropriate fruit load to ripen. The apples we thin are again used for a small cider pressing.

Since we’re committed to no sprays on our trees, we manually remove any fruit that has had coddling moth eggs laid in it. This year has been worse than most; the wind patterns have been different than in past years and we think the adults may be blowing in on the breeze. We will still have plenty of fruit for you, wonderful members, but we’re noticing more damage.

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Coddling moths lay their egg below the apple peel. The larva hatches and makes its way toward the centre of the apple, eating and leaving frass (insect poo) behind as it goes. In addition to being unsightly, the entrance hole creates a way for fungi and yeast (and earwigs and wasps and…) to enter the apple. Bad news!

All this time and effort means the final crop is delicious, beautiful and healthy fruit for you, and for the critters large and small who love this orchard.

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2018 Signups now available

Spring, and change, are in the air! After a cold winter, spring has arrived with a vengeance and highs in the upper 20s! The orchard is looking wonderful. The pears are in full bloom, the plums are fading and the apples are just starting. The hyacinths and tulips that didn’t feed the local deer are keeping the trees good company.

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This year finds change in Farmer Al’s orchard. While Al is as devoted to the orchard as ever, he has found that the day-to-day work of his traditional techniques is getting to be a lot. The Tinka family loves the orchard and land, and while they work out their succession plan, have found Ella Braden to step in to steward the orchard and manage the operations of the CSA.

Ella grew up in the Puget Sound area on an acre with a small orchard, where she learned much about tree care and gained a love of what heirloom varieties have to offer. When her parents retired to the Methow Valley in Washington, she had the opportunity to learn about caring for an orchard in our warmer and drier climate. She has worked on an organic vegetable CSA and market farm in Wisconsin and is passionate about botany, permaculture and organic agriculture.
Ella lives with her partner, their four-year-old daughter and an indeterminate number of chickens and bees in Penticton. When Ella met Al and Mary and saw the orchard, she knew this would be a wonderful partnership. Their hands-on approach, care for and intimate knowledge of each tree in the orchard and philosophy about plants and locally-raised food is a wonderful fit. As a long-time advocate for farm-to-table economies, Ella is thrilled to learn and work to keep Tinka’s Orchard thriving.
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In addition to the caring for the trees and harvesting and packing the fruit, Ella will be the main contact person, answering your questions and meeting you for pickups. Other than that, things will be the same. The same pesticide- and herbicide-free, cherished orchard, the same delicious fruit and the same pickup location.
Details for signups are on the How Does It Work? page.  Returning members from last season will have priority until June 1, 2018

Once you’re ready to sign up, you can do so here.

To secure your share, please send payment as detailed at the completion of the form. Once we receive and process your payment, we will send you an email confirmation.

Thank you and we look forward to having you on board for the 2018 season!

-Farmer Al, Ella, Kristi, and Jana

A Late Spring Orchard Update – June 2017

We’re now fully subscribed for 2017 and thrilled to welcome all our returning members (and a couple of new ones, too)!

Farmers Al and Mary have written the following late spring update letter:

Summerland, BC, June 15, 2017
A MOST UNUSUAL SPRING

Greetings to all members from the Happy Farmers Al and Mary.
In our 40 years of living in Summerland we have not had a spring like this year’s, wet and cold. The blossom season arrived exactly 3 weeks later than last year (which was about one week earlier than normal), which still leaves us about two weeks behind. Likewise, the fruit sizing is about 2-3 weeks behind last year’s. Mother Nature will catch up though, the lag will slowly decrease and by the end of October we will have caught up completely.
There are, however, some unwelcome consequences to this unusual weather. Some fruit varieties were in full bloom right in the middle of the heavy rains. The pollinating insects did not get out, the pollination was inadequate and the result is a very light set. Most seriously affected fruits are pears and Italian plums. There will be a very light crop. Other plum varieties and apples were affected to a much lesser degree and barring some unforeseen calamity the crop should be at least average.
There is a distinct possibility that we will have difficulties to meet our obligations to deliver the quantities and varieties our members ordered, in spite of the fact that we have decreased the membership number by a quarter. Should that happen, there will be a proportional refund coming your way at the end of the fruit season. In the meantime let’s stay hopeful.
There are some aspects of life which are completely beyond our control. We have to accept them and live with the consequences. We are trying to make the most of what we have and enjoy life in spite of all difficulties.
Wishing you all the best and looking forward to seeing you at the first delivery, sometime in early to mid August.
Al and Mary

Nonetheless, we remain optimistic and excited for the first delivery in August!  Below are some photos of the fruit, sizing up on the trees.

2017 Season Shares Now Available!

Happy Spring!  After a long winter, we are thrilled to see the insects buzzing in the orchard, and the spring flowers (purple violets) leaping up from the ground.  Like most places around the Province this year, the orchard is late awakening from its winter slumber.  The buds aren’t even open yet, but we’re ready to start accepting members for the 2017 season of the Tinka Orchard CSA.

As we attempt to increase safety for all of us working in the orchard, we have had to lower many of the trees to prevent ladder falls.  In the long run, this will make the orchard safer and easier to work as fruit will be lower and more easily accessible.  As a result though, this year the yield from the orchard will be lower, and we have reduced the number of shares we will be offering in the CSA to 30 (down from 40 last year).  As usual, returning members will have first opportunity to purchase shares.  Anyone still interested after shares are allocated will be added to a list of folks to be notified if we have additional fruit available for purchase.  Sign up early to guarantee your spot!

As far as shares go, we are adding an “apple lovers” share this year, consisting of 25 lbs plums, and 75 lbs of mixed apples and pears.

Details are on the How Does It Work? page.  Returning members from last season will have priority until June 1, 2017

Once you’re ready to sign up, you can do so here.

To secure your share, please send payment as detailed at the completion of the form. Once we receive and process your payment, we will send you an email confirmation.

Thank you and we look forward to having you on board for the 2017 season!

-Farmer Al, Kristi, and Jana

 

Mid July Orchard Update

Our family was in the Okanagan a week or so ago, and paid a nice visit to Farmer Al and Mary at the orchard.  While it was unseasonably cool and overcast, the orchard was lush and green, and the fruit was coming along nicely – all the trees happy and healthy.

While we do our best to project delivery dates in advance, it really depends on the weather and on how the fruit is ripening.  We can typically only know about a week in advance at most, when the pickup dates will be.  We appreciate you patience as we work with mother nature to bring you the freshest fruit possible!

At this point, Farmer Al predicts that the first delivery will be sometime in the last week of July, and we’ll update you as we know more!

Here are some shots of the orchard from a week or so ago.

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Happy Farmer Al!

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Final pruning in the orchard

Farmer Al wanted to share these before and after photos of his hard work pruning in the orchard, helping the trees to produce the sweetest, largest and most numerous fruit for us this season! Al has close to 100 trees so he works steadily, pruning a tree a day as soon as the leaves are off to get the job done.

Tree before pruning:

Note the many vertical (non-fruiting) branches.

Note the many vertical (non-fruiting) branches.

…and after pruning

Mostly fruiting (horizontal) branches remain

Mostly fruiting (horizontal) branches remain

2016 Shares now available!

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Hello everyone – we hope that you’re enjoying the first blooms of spring!  We’re happy to announce that we’re once again welcoming members to our CSA for the 2016 growing season.  The details are the same as last year.

Details are on the How Does It Work? page.  Share types and prices are the same as last year.  Returning members from last season will have priority until June 1, 2016

Once you’re ready to sign up, you can do so here.

To secure your share, please send payment as detailed at the completion of the form. Once we receive and process your payment, we will send you an email confirmation.

Thank you and we look forward to having you on board for the 2016 season!

-Farmer Al, Kristi, and Jana