Apple Hunting with Bears

Last fall, I was driving past Ewing, on the west side of Okanagan Lake, when I slammed on the brakes. This is what caught my eye:

First Growth Apple Orchard Gone to Roses and Elders…

and mud. Don’t forget the mud.

I wandered around. I tasted a few seedling apples growing here and there. The rain ran down my neck. I found this:

Apples Just Out of Reach

I jumped up and down. I worked my fingers along the branches, and eventually I got a taste.

It tasted like … a bottle of apple cider in my hand. Well, OK, a bit like an old tea bag, and a bit like snow and a bit like champagne and a bit astringent and a bit like clouds and a bit like…. mmmm. Let the acids ferment out in a secondary in-bottle fermentation and we could put ourselves solidly on the cidery map. I don’t mean the industrial cider in 2-liter sploosh bottles map. I mean the cider-as-good-as-they-make-it-in-Winterthur-or-the-Cotswolds-map. No more bluffing it with dessert apples looking for a refuge during the global apple wars. No more value-added economy. No more of this:

The Leading Face of Apple Cider Source

Cinnamon Stick Extra

There might be a place for stuff like that, but it’s not what I meant.  I meant the kind of stuff made by people who chisel a hole out of the mountain and keep it there in the dark and check on it once in awhile when the snow blows. So, of course, I went back mid-March to get some grafting wood. This is what I remember:

Cider Tree Smelling So Sweet

Darling of the Sun, Taste of the Earth, Beloved of the Sky, Elixir of… well, you get the idea.

This is what I found:

Bear Attack!

Black bears like apple cider, too. Good to know! Obviously our brothers and sisters have taste and class, because this one left the other trees alone. So did I. Bah. But I think the bear who did this might do well to learn to climb a ladder.

Now I’m looking for some rootstock, so I can save this baby before there’s more of this:

Old Apple Orchard and Genetic Bank For Sale

I saw an old orchard and a promise for the future. Someone else saw a little easier to market. View Property, it says. That is, I think, human for “Bear Attack” or “Bare Attack”. 

You be the judge. Is that view better than a renewed cider industry? Is it better than this?…

Wild Elder, Ewing

Doing a successful imitation of an orchard in the sun. Perhaps there’s a whole new fruit industry trying to get noticed. These guys are all over that old orchard site.

I think it’s a little premature to abandon one of the valley’s last surviving 120-year-old horticultural banks (if not the very last one), in the name of stretching the limits of the real estate imagination. Of course, the irony is that the land was alienated by real estate hooplah in the first place, but, still, it left something behind that has become native to this place, and has valley-wide potential for building new relationships.

Those Apples Again

Any name ideas? Ewing? Fintry? Black Bear’s Delight? Harold’s Mostler? Send them on. There’s a comment form at the bottom of the page that you can use. Please do. I went to the Orchard Hill Cidery in Osoyoos. I asked them what apples they used in their “Red Roof” cider. “That,” I was told, “is a trade secret.” Good grief. Apples are a trade secret? It’s the bears we should keep an eye on. They need pruning lessons.

Oh, and just for fun, this sign was in the ditch nearby:

West Side Advertising

Maybe the bear posted it. 

Seriously. Got a name for that apple? Got some spare rootstocks? Got a branch of your apple tree you want to donate to the cause of spreading this thing around so someone doesn’t patent it? Want some grafting wood? Over to you.

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