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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?

Farmer Zippy’s Notebook: Thinning Asian Pears!

May 27th, 2014, by Zippy, translated by Hannah


I’m thinning Asian Pears today! This is the first time I’ve helped with the thinning, and it’s a lot to learn all at once, but so far I think I’m doing okay.

The trees make lots of baby pears on each of the branches, and Farmer Lisa says we have to cut some of them off so the ones that are left are able to grow bigger and sweeter. See the baby pears next to me on the ladder? Aren’t they cute? The ones that are left on the tree are going to grow into big yummy Asian pears before the summer’s over! We use big orchard ladders – six and seven feet tall! – to reach up into the higher branches, and they’re hard for me to climb. Some of the farm helpers who know how to drive the Brownie (a giant hydraulic lift that’s even scarier than the ladders are!) come down the rows after we’re done and thin the upper branches that short sheep like me can’t reach.

The clippers we snip the fruit with are almost as scary as the ladders are. Farmer Ike keeps the clipper blades really sharp, and I have to be careful not to cut myself when I’m using them! So, I have to hold the clippers with one hoof, a branch with the other (keeping track of where both hooves are so I don’t snip one by mistake!), AND stay balanced on the ladder – all at the same time! I sliced one hoof already – it hurt! Since then I’ve been much more careful.

So far, I like thinning the Asian Pears! It’s hard work, but there are other farm helpers working at the trees next to me, which makes it more fun! I can’t wait to learn how to thin other kinds of fruit as the season goes on . . . or to taste the Asian Pears once they’re ripe!

(Is there something you’d like Farmer Zippy to explore during his farming adventure? Let him know

Spring Cleaning: Out with the Old

April 3rd, 2014, by Lisa


Do you engage in spring cleaning? I know it was a big deal for my grandparents and great-grandparents. I think that was because (as I recall my great-Aunt Dot explaining) the coal soot from heating over winter (and having windows closed up that whole season) left the house and the drapes with a coating of crud. Ick.

I am glad I don’t have coal dust crud to deal with. I only have plain old dust!

We still hear about spring cleaning a lot, however: marketing ploys, magazine and media articles, etc. (uh-oh, I guess I’m guilty here on this one). But in my case, I’m not talking cleaning of house and switching of wardrobe, but rather the spring cleaning that comes with the routine nature of farmwork.

We long ago said goodbye to fall crops, and we’ve been pruning like mad since the snow and uber-cold finally left. Some of our major spring cleaning (as pictured above) included what we call ‘ground-level pruning’. This is the type of pruning that doesn’t require much know-how other than how to operate a chain saw.

And what brings about such pruning? Various things like disease or other major damage, or perhaps we just don’t like a particular variety. In this case, it was a partial row of peach trees that were a part of a trial, grown simply to see if we liked the varieties or not. After about two years of fruiting, we cut down the trial trees to make way for others. Those varieties which ‘made the cut’ (so to speak) we’ll plant more of. Those that we didn’t like made another cut in our minds, and will not grace the farm again with their presence. So, “Out with the Old”!

We’ll “In with the New” in a few upcoming blog posts – stay tuned!

What kind of spring cleaning do you do?

(BTW, if it’s of the interior sort – can I hire you? I’ve still got that dust…)

The Three Bears

April 1st, 2014, by Lisa

Three Bears of Orcharding-s

So many things come in threes, wouldn’t you agree?

Right now, just off the top of my head:
-Red, white, and blue
-Flyers, Sixers, Phillies (and this coming from a NON-sports person!!)
-Ham, beans, and potatoes (a non-favorite dish from my childhood)
-Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
-John, Paul, George, and Ringo (oops…)
-Harry, Ron, and Hermione

So, hey, why not the same on the farm!

Here we have an example of the three bears of orcharding: Papa, Mama, and Baby orchard ladder. As in the story, Papa is just way too extreme. Mama, in this case, is middlin’. Baby is (both in story and orchard) “just right”.

And by “just right” in a ladder sense, I mean tall enough to reach into the trees a few feet higher than you can normally reach, yet not so high that you’re afeared for your life. (yes, pity and pray for those who climb Papa ladders…)

I found it so amusing this morning that the “family” decided to take a nap lined up just so.

And now I’m off to enjoy my own personal favorite three: coffee, a small nibble, and a listen to some crazy prog rock. Working with Baby Ladder will, for me, wait until May. Until then, wee one, sleep well!

Pruning for the New Year

January 1st, 2014, by Lisa

While walking in the orchard first thing this New Year’s Day morning, I happened to notice the apple trees Ike was pruning yesterday.
How very like the New Year’s holiday is pruning season.

While we reflect on our personal experiences over the past year and look forward to things to come in the new year, so it goes during pruning. While pruning the trees, one reflects upon that particular variety’s flavors as well as how well it grew and produced; its challenges and successes. As the cuts are made, one thinks of the crop yet to come and how the pruning may help the growing tree succeed in having a fruitful year.

As people, we also take this time to prune… to ditch bad habits perhaps, or try to carve more personal time into our hectic schedules. And we also look forward to having a fruitful year with the so many experiences life has to offer.

Pruning an apple tree well takes many years of experience and observation to learn how to make the best cuts to help the tree along its journey for the new season. May your own years of pruning experience likewise help you towards a fantastic start for a fruitful new year.

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