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Farming Whatsit: the Brownie!

May 19th, 2015, by Lisa

Brownies are most everyone’s favorite, and here on the farm the same holds true. Although in this case, we’re talking a piece of heavy machinery not a chocolatey edible.

This week, this Brownie will get seriously busy as we begin the two-month-long process of fruit thinning. Unfortunately, it can’t do it all on its own, but rather requires an operator who stands on the platform driving it around and lingering in the tops of the fruit trees thinning away extra fruits.

As of tomorrow, the Brownie will be running pretty much constantly. This year, if you were here to visit, you’d likely see either Paige, Josh, Justin, Nicole, or Lisa up there at any given time.

Last year, Farmer Zippy had a chance (see video below). He wasn’t too keen on it though, so I don’t think we’ll convince him to do it this year. Plus, his little hooves have a hard time manipulating the clippers needed to thin Asian pears!

Sponsored Apple Trees

May 19th, 2015, by Lisa

Those wee baby apple trees are growing up!

Last fall saw the first fruits from many of the trees everyone has sponsored; how exciting!

Since we now have (at last count…) 353 varieties of apples out there, we set out on an ambitious project to not only taste them all, but also get on-the-tree AND staged photographs of each variety.

So here, then, are some of those sponsored apples in video format – is yours included? If not, no worries – it just didn’t provide fruit yet. Maybe this year!

For those of you who sponsored peaches: many of them fruited last year and will be going gangbusters this year. Sponsored Asian pear trees need an extra year, so this year will likely be the first we’ll see fruit on many of those.

PS. We plant new trees all the time, so if you’d like to sponsor a baby, teen, or adult tree for yourself or as a memorial or to celebrate the birth of a child, look here for more info.

We hope you’ll be able to visit the farm and your tree(s) sometime this year. We have one summer event scheduled (peach/tomato tasting), and three fall “Adventure in Flavor” days where you’ll be able to try more than 40 kinds of apples. Save the dates (all info is listed on our Calendar).

AND (shhhh…secret…still in planning stages…) a summertime soiree of a sit-down farm-to-table type of dinner! More news on that to come, but it’ll focus on our fruits & veggies, plus local meats and cheeses, all of which will be prepared by an amazing chef who thrives on all things local. Stay tuned – we’ll give you the lowdown as soon as we have the details!

Happy Spring!

Farming Whatsit: Tree Spreaders!

May 6th, 2015, by Lisa

Pointy little metal things stuck in trees at crazy angles. Egads, is this torture in the orchard? Well, we can’t exactly get the trees take on it, but I hope not!

As you probably know, sunlight is one of THE key ingredients for plant growth. It’s also instrumental in good flavor development in the fruit. So, when we have young trees where the branches are all crowded together reaching for the sky, there’s not much way for the sun to squeak through. Spreading branches not only allows sunlight in but also encourages good airflow, which helps keep disease pressure down. So, spreaders to the rescue!

In spring our gang goes out armed with these pointy objects of varying lengths (no running, gang!) and place them in strategic spots amongst the branches to encourage them to grow at a better angle for tree and fruit health. After a few weeks of training, the tree figures it out and we can remove the spreaders.

Hey – kind of like braces on teens, right?
tree with spreaders

State of the Farm Report: Blooming!

April 24th, 2015, by Lisa

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this must have like a million!

It’s pretty awesome-looking out there now.

Time to start dreaming of the juicy deliciousness to come!

Peach Pruning!

April 16th, 2015, by Lisa

Josh is busily pruning peaches. Thank goodness for ‘The Brownie’. It is certainly louder than a ladder, but makes the job SO much easier!


March 7th, 2015, by Lisa


Top Ten Apples!

October 15th, 2014, by Lisa

Golden Russet

We get the question all of the time: “What is your favorite apple?”

Ike says something to the effect of “It’s the one I’m eating”. Which is true in his case. He has to sample and evaluate over 400 varieties of apples during the growing season. So if he’s chosen an apple to actually eat rather than just sample (like the old taste-and-spit method wine makers use), then you know it’s one he really likes.

Lisa will often say one or the other is on her Top Ten list, but to this point hasn’t really sat down to come up with a Top Ten list. Well, no more beating around the bush….here’s her list (in no particular order – that’s too hard!):

1. Silken
2. Sansa
3. Winecrisp
4. Stellar
5. Crimson Gold
6. Golden Russet
7. Hudson’s Golden Gem
8. Gold Rush
9. Ludicrisp
10. Rubinette

Interestingly, most of those listed are yellow, gold, or have a high percentage of those colors on them. The exceptions being Winecrisp which is so dark red it’s nearly black, and Ludicrisp which again is dark red an speckly. If you are familiar with these varieties, you’ll also know they are sweet (‘cept maybe early-season Gold Rush), hence you know where Lisa’s tastes lie as well.


It’s a shame that in commercial apple sales, yellow apples are much maligned. Indeed it can be hard to convince a new-to-North Star customer to even try a yellow apple, so ruined they have been on very icky Golden Delicious. You cannot judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge an apple by its color.

What do you think – do any of those apples make it on your personal Top Ten list? What other varieties really float your boat?

How North Star Stacks Up…

September 17th, 2014, by Lisa

Note: These are estimates. Farmer Ike would argue we have 3000+ varieties on the farm, owing to his apple breeding program. But so far those are not named. I understand it’s not a good idea to name things unless they are truly going to be your pets (that may be for chickens, though, rather than trees). But in any case, coming up with 3000 names would be way too taxing, so we’ll stick to the 380 to 400 range for the moment…

Number of Apple Varieties | Create Infographics

Hike with Ike! July 22nd: Staples Redux & How to Determine Fruit Ripeness (without eating yourself sick!)

July 17th, 2014, by Lisa

Farming Curious? Learn from our expert, Farmer Ike!
First peach of the season
From 7PM until dusk every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month through September, join Farmer Ike for walks through the orchard and/or garden and open discussions about various seasonal happenings on the farm. Topics will vary depending on the season. Open to those curious about how a farm like this works and for those looking for gardening and orcharding tips and tricks!

This Coming Tuesday, July 22nd:

There’s not much easy about growing staple crops such as dry beans, wheat, and flint corn on a small scale. Running from the rain last time cut Ike’s staples talk short, and now the wheat harvest is nigh! Learn about the trials and tribulations so you can appreciate your autumn chili and cornbread more!


How to figure out when fruit is ripe without gorging yourself on underripe individuals. Yes, this part of the Hike will include samples straight from the trees!

AND your questions welcome on other subjects!

Free admission; all are welcome.
Light refreshments provided.
Location: 3226 Limestone Rd. Cochranville

Have a topic you’d like Ike to cover? Let us know in the comments below!

Farmer Zippy’s Notebook: Up on the Brownie!

June 26th, 2014, by Zippy, translated by Hannah

Up on the Brownie
Lisa took me up in the Brownie today. I didn’t want to go up at all, but the farm helpers who drive the Brownies talked me into it – they said it was going to be fun. It wasn’t.

It was REALLY scary. So scary that I kept my eyes closed the whole ride down.

Good things about being up on the Brownie: I could see all the way across the orchard. It’s really cool looking from way up high – you can see the whole layout of the orchard, which you can’t see from the ground. I could see the tops of the trees up close, too – they’re really young and bendy at the top, and super green. We even found a bird’s nest in one of them!

Bad things about being up on the Brownie: Everything else. It’s REALLY high up, and there’s only a thin metal rail separating you from the edge of the platform. It’s super noisy – it made my ears rattle. And every time Lisa presses the pedals, it moves! Up, down, back, forth, side to side. Moving down is the worst.

Ike and Farmer Josh use the Brownies to prune the trees, and Lisa and Farmer Justin use them when we’re fruit thinning. I think it sounds like an awful job – I don’t know how they do it. I thought we were going to fall the whole time. I don’t care what the farm helpers say – I’m never going up on the Brownie ever again!

Here’s even a video of my scary ride up in the Brownie. See what you think…would YOU go up in it?

North Star Orchard • Ike & Lisa Kerschner
Email: • Phone: (610)-593-0314
3226 Limestone Rd. • Cochranville, PA 19330
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