Monday, December 8, 2008

Winterfest, Indian Ladders Farm

After a last-minute suggestion while we were chatting on Facebook, my pal Kate agreed to come to Indian Ladders Farm for their winter activity day. Most of the fun was indoors (music, Santa, cookie decorating and crafts) but I wanted to go on the orchard walk with the owner, Peter Ten Eyck. We got a late start and got a we bit lost at first, but we arrived just in time for the walk! (It had started late, lucky for us).

It was very cold; and some of the folks who started out on the walk turned back before it was over (a group of developmentally-disabled adults and their helpers--I salute them for being troupers, it was freezing and windy in the valley!). Ten Eyck told us all about the place, where he'd lived his entire 70 years. With humor and old-school wisdom, he talked about the property's glacier-formed rocks, its trees and most of all its history as former pasture land (some of the parcels, divided by rock walls, had hills and valleys forty feet high!), and its past orchard lives growing pears and plums and heirloom apples. Much of the former pasture land had been planted with pines, and some of it has been reclaimed by florabunda roses and other thorny shrubs.

One old orchard planted in the 1970s with heirloom trees was being "brought back" and Ten Eyck listed the varieties: Snow, Spitzenberg,Old Smokehouse, Sheepnose, Chenango Strawberry. I asked about when they might start to blossom so I could come photograph them. He described the time when the shad trees bloom in spring in the forest : "first there's nothing then suddenly there are white blossoms everywhere; the apple blossoms appear about a week later." The timing can vary each year depending on weather.

After a brisk and invigorating walk, we returned by way of the barn and saw some goats and sheep in the yard. There was also a huge Highland cow named Rosie (I thought it was male at first since it had huge horns), looking like a huge stuffed animal, regarding us from under its shaggy forelock. Ten Eyck called it a "Yuppie cow" bought a few years ago by his daughter and son-in-law.The furry animals looked as if the cold didn't bother them at all.

We had hot cider and delicious homemade Knudsen caramels in the cafe, then bought some goodies to bring home (I got a few apples, some peach preserves, cheddar cheese and a half dozen fresh cider doughnuts. A wonderful way to greet the coming winter and bid farewell to the season of harvest. The farm store is open through Christmas so I hope to get out there one more time, as I forgot to bring my camera! But Kate took some great photos on her cell phone!

Apple photos (A Chenango Strawberry above a Spitzenberg) from Apple Journal and Trees of Antiquity.


K. A. Laity said...

Thanks for suggesting the impromptu day out, Peg! It was great fun and I enjoyed reading your write up, too. It was chilly but so interesting to hear all the history of the farm and forests.

And oh, those caramels! Man, they were good -- so was the cider. Thanks!

Peg said...

Thanks for being part of that lovely outing! I hope to get out there again before Xmas.

Those caramels--man, I am pining for them!