A wonderful article about our family orchard. This story was originally published on Saturday October 6th, 2007 in Section H2 of the Telegraph Journal. Story by Marty Klinkenberg
Century old trees heavy with fruit draw pickers and picnickers to the heavenly and historic piece of New Brunswick that is Everett Farm.
ISLAND VIEW – Fred Everett walks through the orchard overlooking the St. John River Valley that his family has operated for more than 200 years. Trees, more than a century old, bow, heavy with apples. The aroma of ripening fruit fills the air.
“I love this place, no two ways about it,” Everett, 86, says. “I don’t get the urge to go anywhere or see anything else.
“When the apples start colouring up, well, I just can’t explain the way I feel. But I think it comes from growing them.”
Fred Everett grew up on this heavenly plot north of Fredericton settled in the 1780s by his Loyalist ancestors. His great- great-great-grandparents are buried in a pretty little graveyard here, a steam-powered mill used to sit over there. When he was a little boy, he played at his grandfather’s place, a dead ringer for the Loyalist House in Saint John; over here, he raked hay behind a horse team driven by his father, over there.
There are memories – and apples – everywhere.
“We’ve had such a heavy crop this year that one tree snapped in half,” Everett says. “It looks like it was cut with a saw. And another one had so many apples on it that before we noticed, the limbs started breaking off.”
Carloads of people are arriving at Everett Farm every day now as pickers seek out consummate Cortlands and perfect Paula Reds. There are Bishop Pippins and Dudley Winters and Golden Russets and Honey Crisps and Lobos, too, nearly 20 varieties in all on this historic orchard that dates to 1792.
“It has been very busy. I wouldn’t want it to be much busier,” he says. “I wouldn’t dare advertise much more. People are coming and picking apples, and then they are coming back and picking more.”
A man with white hair and a white moustache who looks 20 years younger than an octogenarian, Everett is one of eight generations in his family to have worked the farm in Island View. He oversees the sprawling property just east of the Mactaquac Dam with help from his son, Chuck, who is shadowed all day long by a 14-year-old, apple-fed chocolate lab named Cedar.
Other family members, including his wife, Kit, help, too. Kit works in the farm store and bakes a mean apple pie, apple crisp and apple strudel, too. She also makes apple jam and jelly, apple fritters and, well, anything else that can be made with apples.
A former airman, Everett has felt such a strong connection to his family roots that his grandmother used to send apple seeds along with her letters to him during the Second World War. He moved back onto the farm after his father died in the 1960s, and has pretty much been running it ever since.
”I’ve always been interested in the varieties and the root stock types of things,’’ he says.
The family orchard, which is open from 9 a.m. until dark, sits on nine sloping acres that are so beautiful, families come just to have a picnic lunch. There are friendly horses that beg apples from visitors, wild blueberries, a garden that helps feed the family in winter and a small patch of sweet corn protected by an electric fence.
“The coyotes aren’t as bad this year as others, but they just love corn,’’ Everett says. “They’ll jump the fence to get in and jump right back out.”
A seniors group is sitting in lawn chairs amidst apple trees, enjoying a lovely fall afternoon, as Everett leads a tour around his property. Cars pull up and pickers hop out, heading for trees full of apples that can be picked for as little as 40 cents per pound.
He stops at a barn that dates to the 1930s that he helped his father, H. Hazen, build. Then he stops at a post-and-beam wagon house that dates to 1800.
“In all of my days, we never did have a wagon but we still always called this the wagon house,’’ he says. “My dad used to park his cars in here, first a McLaughlin, then a Nash.
“I’ve had my driver’s license since I was 14, but I never did take a driver’s test.”
Then Everett heads for the orchard, a commercial farm that opened its doors to U-pick customers three years ago.
He walks by three rows of Paula Reds and more McIntosh apples than can be counted. He stops to admire a Golden Russet that is so full its branches are sagging. Everywhere, there are apples littering the ground.
“I wouldn’t want a tree to have much more on it than this one right here,’’ Everett says.
He stops to peruse a tree that has been picked clean.
“Boy, they really stripped that one bare,’’ he says. “Wow, and they picked high. People will do anything to get at apples.
“I saw somebody lift somebody else up on their shoulders once. But I understand the attraction.
“They look some nice some times.”
Everett shows a visitor a hybrid that his son grew from a seedling. The fruit it bears are golden and gorgeous and the size of a grapefruit. But the Everetts give them away for free because they are not convinced the taste is worthy.
There are a few trees here that date back 150 years, and another, a Dudley Winter, that dates back at least 100 years.
“My father used to talk to me about seeing a bear here when he was a youngster,’’ Everett says. “That puts it back quite a ways.”
Marty Klinkenberg is contributing editor at The Telegraph-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.