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~ Caramel Apple Cheesecake ~

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine- melted

Mix crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and margarine. Press onto bottom of 9 inch spring form pan. Bake 10 min. at 350 degrees F.

Filling:

  • 1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
  • 2 packages of 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 large apples (thin peeled slices) –We used our Jonagold’s for this recipe.
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar at medium speed with mixer until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend vanilla and pour over crust from above. Drizzle with half the caramel sauce. Toss apples with 1/3 cup sugar and cinnamon. Layer apple mixture over cream cheese layer; sprinkle with chopped pecans and drizzle with the other 1/2 of caramel sauce.

Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. Loosen cake from rim of pan; cool before removing rim of pan and refrigerate.

We also added more caramel to the top when serving it…cause can you really ever have too much caramel?! 🙂

Orange You Glad I Asked?…

A couple of Friday’s ago I had the opportunity to go to Lincoln to the State FFA Convention to participate in the Career Fair. We offer a variety of summer internships for college students, and while all of the attending FFA students were still in high school, it provided a great chance to inform hundreds of youth of the potential opportunities available to them.

Two things I learned. 1.) I need to bring more pens and promotional material. 2.) We might need to consider growing oranges at the Orchard. (Okay, not really, but I will explain why here shortly.)

Going in to this I didn’t really know what to expect, as I had never been to a career fair involving high school youth.  I learned they LOVE free promotional items. I had brought a few things…bags, candy, etc.., but not even close to enough to provide something for every student! Rest assured, more pens and apple shaped stress relief balls were ordered! 🙂

Stress relief balls and pens for everyone!

Stress relief balls and pens for everyone!

Secondly, when students would visit our booth I would initiate the conversation with the basic questions…what school are you from, what grade are you in, do you have future plans, etc…  I could immediately pinpoint the younger students as compared to the juniors/seniors based on how timid some of them were. But what really through me for a loop was that no matter the age group when I asked the next question, the overriding answer was the same. The question: Name 4 of the 8 fruits we grow at Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard.

Some students gave blank stares, some tried to quick flip through our brochure and most saw the apples that were sitting on our booth space as display and started their guessing with, APPLES? Yes! They guessed one, three more to go! And this is where I was completely amazed. An overwhelming majority of students guessed oranges.

Oranges?!?!

Oranges?!?!

I was absolutely stunned at that answer. Do students really think we grow oranges in Nebraska or are they just guessing the first fruits that come to mind? While I am sure it is a mixture of both, it left me troubled. I tried to think back to the “good ole day” of being in high school (while I don’t like to consider myself too old, high school was already 9 years ago!) Would I have guessed oranges also? I tried to reassure myself thinking; no way would I have thought a citrus fruit could be grown in Nebraska. But then again, before I started working at Kimmel Orchard I really had no idea cherries and peaches could be grown in Nebraska, either. So, while I wanted to assume I would have NEVER thrown out oranges as an answer to a question like that, I couldn’t help but wonder if my 16 year old self would have guessed the same thing.

Ok, so students guessed oranges, does it really matter? For some maybe not, but as someone who works at an Orchard promoting alternative agriculture, it is huge.  Personally, my eyes were widely opened when I first entered the Orchard industry. (And for someone who only knew red and green apples coming in to this, I’ve come a loonnngg way…25 apple varieties later, I am kind of a snob at the grocery store anymore. J ) Anyhow my point is; attending the career fair only solidified what I have experienced in working at an Orchard for the past three years; there is a very strong disconnect amongst consumers and knowing when and where there fresh produce/food actually comes from.

Whether it is guests visiting the Orchard in June wondering why we don’t have apples or hundreds of FFA students thinking we grow oranges, there is such a learning curve for most individuals when it comes to fresh produce and their overall logistics. And, while I think it is a concern, I also believe it provides us Orchard folks a great opportunity to educate children, students, adults, consumers, or whoever on fruit based production.

Therefore, I encourage you to visit a local Orchard (Kimmel Orchard of course if you’re in Nebraska J ) and talk to the grower, farmer, retail associate and ask questions if you have them.  I know we are always trying to help guests learn of the different fruit and vegetables we grow, as I am sure most retail farm markets are.  So, even if it’s not an Orchard, visit a dairy, local honey maker, berry farm….whatever or whoever it may be; it is one step closer to becoming more knowledgeable on locally based food production.  Plus, you will probably end up leaving with some of the freshest produce you can get…and maybe a promotional pen. 😉

-Erin

“Tuesday’s With Tyler” – New Tree Plantings

This spring we planted 300 new trees at Kimmel Orchard.  These trees were planted based on the tall spindle model that I had written about in a previous blog post.  Some of these trees were intended to be planted last year but with a shortage from the nurseries we received the trees this year and planted them yesterday. These trees were planted in the same block we started to fill last year.  With the additional 300 trees, we are getting a little closer to completing the newest block of tall spindle trees at Kimmel Orchard.

The trees that were planted this year arrived last week.  After marking our rows we will go through with our Bobcat and dig up each hole where the trees are to be planted.  From there the guys will be following close behind to put the trees into the ground.  With these dwarf trees we want the graft union to be 4-6 inches out of the ground and the roots are well spaced.  They will fill dirt in around the tree and then compact the dirt as best as possible.

Once all of the trees are planted like this we will work very quickly to get the trellis or support system up.  In a previous blog post I had written on the style of trellis system we like to use.  The trellis system is extremely important for these trees.  The trellis system can be viewed as an investment, rather than just an establishment cost.  The reason behind that is a good, tall, and strong trellis system will help these young trees grow straight and tall without breaking due to the weight of any fruit set or natural causes such as wind.

After you have the trees in the ground and the trellis system up we are not completely done yet.  Next we will do something called branch manipulation, or bending of the branches below horizontal.  This will help eliminate these side branches from competing with the leader for the most growth while also promoting an early crop set.  We will also irrigate these trees throughout the summer to help them grow. In a perfect world we would like to see these trees reach the top wire after the second year and no later than the third year.

It is very important for us at Kimmel Orchard to continue planting new trees each year so we can continue to provide our guests with a great opportunity to learn where their food comes from and how it is grown.  We also enjoy seeing people taking a great interest in learning the evolution of these fruit trees.  This way of planting trees differs so much from when Mr. Kimmel first established the orchard 90 years ago and I am sure 90 years from now there will be unthinkable ways to produce apples.

Tuesday’s With Tyler: High Density Orchard Plantings

Over the last few years we have experienced a great number of guests visiting us at Kimmel Orchard.  Along with all the family fun and educational activities at the orchard, the biggest attraction for us in the fall months is of course, APPLES!  We have noticed larger crowds throughout the months of September and October and we want to be able to provide the growing number of guests with apples throughout those months.  We currently sit on 98 acres and since we cannot stretch the ground, we need to become more economical with the way we use it.  That is where the decision to start planting high density/tall spindle tree plots has come into play.  In today’s blog I will provide a brief description on what exactly a high density orchard is, the effectiveness of them, and how in the long and short run this decision will benefit the orchard as well as our guests!

High Density Orchard Plantings

A high density/tall spindle orchard (pictured below) consists of dwarf apple trees planted in close spacing with relatively narrow rows.  For example, this last year we planted our trees three feet apart from each other, with 12 feet in between rows.  This model will allow us to plant roughly 1100 to 1200 trees per acre.

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That is a lot of trees compared to a traditional 12’X18’ vertical axis orchard planting (pictured below) which would only generate roughly 400 to 600 trees.

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You will also need a good trellis system for these trees.  We will use posts every 30 feet or so and four or five wires to help support these trees.  The posts will be 10 feet out of the ground.  We will also use bamboo stakes to help support the central leader of the tree and promote upward growth (I wrote about this two weeks ago).

When comparing a high density/tall spindle orchard to a vertical axis orchard; the question often arises, “how in the world can those small trees produce more apples than the bigger trees?!”  This question can be answered by saying, sometimes bigger is not always better.  It would take a vertical axis orchard 8-10 years to produce the amount of bushels per acre a high density/tall spindle orchard could produce in 5 years.  The biggest difference in how you achieve that number is the fact that a high density/tall spindle orchard could (and will) come into production (if trained right in the first year) in the second year, as opposed to 4 to 5 years on a vertical axis plan.

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Along with higher yields in earlier years, fruit maturity and color are also improved with a high density/ tall spindle orchard.  With fewer branches and fewer leaves, the fruit on these trees will receive more sunlight causing both maturity and color improvements.  Some other benefits of planting a high density/tall spindle orchard are: non-permanent simple branches (we will talk about these in a future post), a thin tree, and much improved labor efficiency.   Although there is a little more time involved when getting this orchard established, the labor reduction that results from simple pruning when the tree has become mature is extremely desirable in the long run.

As mentioned, this was a very brief description of what a high density orchard is and we will continue to write about this style of orchard planting.  I believe we are on the right path at Kimmel Orchard and taking the most efficient steps in continually providing our guests with the fresh, locally grown apples that everyone loves.

In the next blog we will be writing about renewal pruning of high density orchards.

“Tuesdays With Tyler” — Training of One Year Old Apple Trees

In the winter, when people ask me where I work and I answer Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard Educational Foundation Inc., the next statement that follows is usually, “Well this time of year should be nice for you, with nothing to do…”  With that not being entirely true, Erin has asked me to start writing a blog  entry every other Tuesday explaining what we are working on or something of interest that happens here at the Orchard.  In the first installment of “Tuesdays with Tyler” we will be talking about training of young trees.

TRAINING OF ONE YEAR OLD APPLE TREES

IMG_0220 smallPictured above, we are looking at a one year old Aztec Fuji apple tree. These trees were planted based off of a high density orchard model. (I will talk more on what a high density orchard is in a future post.)  After going to a few grower conferences this past month and a half I noticed that we had not done some of the recommended items in growing this kind of orchard.  So this winter I am making an effort to implement as many of these items I can.  In this post I will show you how we are going to try and promote growth and early cropping of our young trees.  Last year these trees were planted in mid-April and we had very favorable conditions for getting good growth out of these young trees.  In a perfect world we want to get two foot of growth out of the tree in the first year.  We achieved this on nearly 3/4ths of the trees planted this year.  I am hoping that by implementing some of the things I will be talking about today will help us get another 2 foot of growth this year!

U-Clip CollageLast year after the trees were planted, we made the effort of tying down any branches (pictured above) so they are less than horizontal.  We try to get the branches pointed downward at approximately a 45 degree angle. Doing this will promote central leader growth and early spur development so we can get an earlier cropping tree.  There are many things you can use to tie limbs down with (twine, avi strap, rubber bands, etc.) and on this particular tree we used a very small gauge wire.  You want to make sure when you do tie the limb down you do NOT wrap the wire around the tree or limb but instead use a U-shaped hook as pictured.  Using the U-shaped hook will allow the tree to grow without interrupting the normal growth of the limb.

This year, a corrective action we need to do is get a support system in place for the leader…other than our hand holding it in place. 😉

IMG_3092 smallJust like tying limbs down, there are many things you can use to accomplish a support system for the central leader.  Some depend on the kind of trellis system you have, but for ours we have decided to use bamboo stakes.  I ordered 6 foot long bamboo stakes this year with pole clips to attach to the wire that already exists.

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(Pictured: Pole Clips & Rubber bands)

The main purpose for having this support system is to ensure the leader of the tree grows straight up and that the weight of any apple(s) that are produced towards the top of the tree, do not bend or break the leader.  Once the bamboo stake is in place using the pole clips, I will then use a rubber band to tie the leader to the bamboo stake.  Depending on the tree, I may tie the tree in two to four places.

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IMG_0223 smallThis will complete the support system for this tree…only 999 more to go! 🙂 In about mid-June we will go back through these trees and re-tie any new growth on the trees.

 

Apple Candy Halloween Treats

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Sorry we have been away for sooo long! It has been an eventful, busy and fun-filled Fall season!  But, with Halloween only a week away, we had to create these tasty treats….with apples of course!

We just put peanut butter on the ends of the apples and dipped them in a variety of different crushed up candies! It is a super fun and easy treat idea for a Halloween party, or any party really! 🙂