My ideal brewing operation would produce apple and pear ciders to my exact specifications, at a scale which precisely offset my cider consumption.
Assuming Elizabeth and I were to each enjoy a pint of cider per day (for breakfast, perhaps?) we would need to start with 3/4 ton of milled and pressed apples, which would eventually yield about 100 gallons of cider. But Federal Law sets the production limit for our household at 200 gallons per year, suggesting that we should either increase our consumption to two pints each per day, or make more friends.
All things considered, we decided that one ton of apples and pears would probably meet our needs. However, the trees in the Agate Orchard were in rough shape. The original varieties were not known to crop heavily or consistently, so I anticipated only a few hundred pounds of apples per year until the orchard was improved.
It would be necessary to scrounge, beg, trade, and perhaps even poach most of that ton of fruit. We needed to find other trees, other orchards, and other orchardists to help fill our barrels.
Small private orchards have proven indispensable, but the following are public or “open-to-the-public” places were one can harvest, sample, or perhaps just admire orchards of apple and pear trees:
Magnuson Park in Seattle is just down the street from my neighborhood. Asidefrom boasting a huge lakefront recreational area and the off-leash dog park where Pearl rolls in the mud each week, there is a small orchard of a few dozen trees, very deliberately laid out on dwarfing rootstock. There is a diversity of varieties here that is not found in most orchards of this size. The selection is mostly of critically acclaimed dessert apples. However, the size of the trees and proximity to the playground encourage careless picking in the Summer (before the fruit has even ripened), so the full potential of this orchard is not always realized in the Fall. There is a second string of older apple and crabapple trees along the water, on the other side of the park.
Anderson Island is the Southernmost island in Puget Sound. Accessible only by ferry, it is the location of several old farms and orchards. The Johnson Farm (Anderson Island Historical Society) has a small and neatly kept dwarf orchard of the traditional varieties: Spartan (Elizabeth’s favorite), Liberty, and Gravenstein.
Remants of small homestead orchards can also be observed in yards and pastures throughout Anderson Island, and near old playgrounds like (private) Interlaken Park.
Piper’s Orchard at Carkeek Park in Seattle is a great example of a historic orchard maintained and renewed in a traditional way. Surrounded by forest, century-old trees tower above or lie fallen beside younger trees, planted and cared-for by volunteers (including Elizabeth and myself).
There is a quantity and variety of fruit here that is unmatched by other public orchards, and an admirable attempt at public outreach and education. This site features at least 20 varieties of apples and perhaps 10 varieties of pear and plum. The fruit can be picked and enjoyed freely after the Festival of Fruit in mid-September. The knowledge and skill communicated by the Stewards of Piper’s Orchard has been critical to my understanding of old fruit trees, as well as the harvesting and preservation of fruit.