view from Mesa Winds Farm at sunrise
Mesa Winds Farm & Winery
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Orchards 2006

apples in snow
November 30 in the Galas.

November apples at rest

Not much happening in the orchard at the moment. We are thinking about pruning and expect it will be easier this year.

We're also wondering how we can cut down on the codling moth. That worm enjoyed too much success in the orchard last year.

At the Brown Bag Lunch today we heard from other growers in the valley who were also disappointed about the amount of damage they sustained from codling moth. It seemed that both conventional and organic growers experienced more stings. Perhaps abandoned apple trees / orchards in the area have something to do with large pest populations, but how to get people to take responsibility for their trees?

October apple harvest

picker girlRomana – picked all day!
golden deliciousThese apples are headed for juice.
SalvadorSalvador helps.
field sort applesAmanda field sorts the Goldens, medium and large.
loading applesWink prepares for the trip to Big B's.
eating applesAmanda and Anno enjoy freshest possible apples on the way.
on the way to Big B'sOur apples leave the farm...
going through Hotchkiss...and cruise down Hotchkiss main street.
Jeff SchwartzJeff at Big B's unloads the bins.
winter banana applesWinter Bananas are an heirloom apple, we are considering grafting other heirloom varieties to 150 red delicious trees.

September Gala apple harvest

GalasApples almost ready.
pickers in trellised galaWe had 11 apple pickers and it took them 5 days to pick 160+ bins of Galas.
loading binsSalvador loads apples bins.
full apple binsMore apples waiting for pickup to go to the shed.

Peach Harvest

picking peachesWink and Erasmo pick and pack early peaches.
red globesRed Globes

red globes
The early peach crop was affected by late spring frosts.
The Galas are progressing nicely. This photo taken in mid-August shows fruit that is a couple weeks away from peak harvesting.

"Early" peaches are ready!

The glory work is about to begin. We'll be harvesting our early variety of peaches this week (Aug 14) and are fortunate to have a couple of Springs friends coming to help and transport the peaches back home with them.

Right now, those delicious well-colored, good-sized, tree ripe peaches are worth all the months of work! It's a joyful morning indeed to get up early so we can pick those peaches in the cool morning, sort and box in the field, then move them as directly to the consumer.

We don't have a big crop of Red Globes due to spring frost and our own crop management decisions. We removed peaches from the younger trees to invigorate them and gain a better crop in the years to come.

The Crest Havens will be ready in a couple of weeks though and we have plenty of those! - M

Mid-July, too much fruit?

thinning apples
Wink and his daughter Andrea thinning apples.

We've had several mishaps with thinning, both in the peaches and the apples.

Peaches can only be thinned manually, no chemicals are available. The Cresthaven, a later-season peach, needed a repeat thinning, so we passed through them twice which cost time and money.

The apples are worse. We've spent weeks going over each tree, removing small, blemished, and excess fruit — now we've run out of time! By mid-July we've given up thinning to increase apple size. Five rows of trellised Galas remain but the cost of hand thinning can't be recouped at this point. The apples that remain clumped up will stay small and go for processing or juice.

Because the apples are the most labor intensive crop in the orchard, and quite possibly the most expensive to tend with the least return, we are considering replacing them with a different crop.

Next, we're turning our attention to finding the right buyers for our peaches and apples and lining up the harvest crew. - M

This morning's lighting shows too much plume, so we calibrated the sprayer to cut the overspray.


Just when we thought all danger of frost was over (mid-May), May 27 registered 30°F. The orchard trees were unaffected, only the older grapevines were nipped. We must finish thinning the peaches, fertilize, spray the apples about every 10 days (at $300/acre) and mow, mow, mow!

We dodged the peach aphid bullet! The hot weather in late May sent them to the hills and Max is greatly relieved. We found sporatic outbursts of this sticky green soft-bodied nymph, but not enough to hurt the trees or fruit.

By mid-June we finished fertilizing the fruit trees. This is important timing since we want that nitrogen boost to help the fruit attain size and taste — not to show up after the fruit is harvested and lead to a burst of growth that decreases the tree's winter hardiness. We had to pamper the younger trees with a heavier dose, plus compost and sulfur for all. We removed the peaches on smaller trees that need to spend this season's growth on themselves. While that decreases our bounty this year, next year we hope they will bear fruit. - M

gala apples blossoms

April-May, blooms everywhere

A beautiful time of year when everything's still weedless and flowering. Our neighbor trucked in bee hives in addition to our new bees and one hears the orchards humming all over the farm.

A portion of the apple and peach crop were thinned for us compliments of Nature's freeze during bloom time. We lost a lot of fruit on the early Red Globes. We plan to boost most of the smaller Red Globes with fertilizer and not crop them anyway, so maybe freezing saved labor.

burning prunings
Removing the prunings from the orchard was a huge task taking days to rake and burn, both by hand and with special rake we borrowed.

Red Globe blossoms are the most beautiful. These blooms were soon frozen (no peaches this year) after this photo was taken. The wind machines prevented a total loss. Wink was in the dog house momentarily when he assumed the propane tank had enough fuel for a second night of freezing temps. Max also felt remorse when she neglected to push for earlier aphid spraying, prior to bloom.

We thinned the apples with the only organic option, lime-sulfur spray, which is hard to calculate, in fact "iffy." So we have to thin by hand next month! YIKES! Otherwise our apples will be golf ball size. If the peaches go unthinned they will be marble size! Many of the Golden Delicious are taking the year off since they are biannual and were not thinned last year.

We hang codling moth traps in the apples to gauge the "bioflux", the virus that attacks the worm before it burrows into the apple. The first spray takes place in late May. - M

March, peach pruning

We started pruning peaches in late March when the trees couldn't be hurt by deep freezes. Peaches are easier than apples, less wood and shorter trees. Still it takes days to complete the job with Salvador and Octavio doing most of it. - M


January–February, apple pruning

The last week of January and first week of February, we focused on pruning the apples. We met with CSU extension pruning expert at Orchard Mesa in Grand Junction armed with photos of "typical" apple trees and learned that we have 3 kinds of training systems working. We sought out the advice of apple orchardists nearby and received onsite demos from a kind and knowledgable neighbor. Bravely and with apologies to our trees, we whacked worked on the four shortest rows.

Salvador (who's lived and worked on this farm for 30 yrs) pruned them a different way. We questioned him, he poo-poohed all previous advice, sniffed at our efforts and there we had it - pretty much in Spanish. The crop will tell, which is months away with lots of variables in between. Even then we may not be able to tie which cause to what effect. But the trees do look great and match the photos in the pruning book!- M

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