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John's orchard alive and thriving

Posted: Thursday, Jul 3rd, 2008

John Moriarty checks out the apples on one of the many trees in his orchard near Eighth Street and Western Avenue.

A "seven-acre piece of appleblossom paradise."

Those seven acres and seven words pretty well sum up the approach John Moriarty takes toward his Brookings orchard that continues to thrive and bring a piece of the country to the city, just off Eighth Street and Western Avenue. And come the first week of September, as with years past, he will be bringing the fruits of his labors to the Downtown Brookings Farmers Market.

First will come Chestnut Crab, a variety that John, with a bit of a laugh, calls a "good apple, a small apple that people with false teeth can handle well." Next comes Red Baron, "good for diabetic people " because it's high in natural sugar."

To follow those varieties, two of the 35 or so that grow in his orchard, will come Honeycrisp.

When it comes to an apple that's king of the orchard, the crown goes to Honeycrisp.

"Oh , that's a good apple, very good." John says. "Honeycrisp makes good pie. You look at the seed. The top of the seed is brown, in here is a little bit yellow ; you pick it like that, it'll keep until February or March." In keeping his orchard productive , every year John pulls out some trees and replaces them with others. He said he planted about 50 Honeycrisp trees last year and about 100 more this year; he explained, "Honeycrisp is the apple that everyone wants." Learned apples via OJT

Moriarty, 87, is a retired pharmacist . With the help of a "good old Norwegian" the late Joe Stangeland, from Stavanger, Norway, and then living in Volga John started his orchard in 1984. He was then 63.

He added, "I always said that it should be called the Stavanger Orchards, after him. It's still John's Orchard for now." Initially, he said he found some skeptics looking askance at his long-range vision: "Look at that old dog. He'll be dead before the apples are done. And if he doesn't die, the apples will be dead because of floods in here."

But while over the years, including this year, the flooding waters from Six-Mile Creek have come and gone, John and the apples have stayed. Inspired by blossoms

Asked why he chose apples for his new passion in life, he explained, "I like the beauty of the blossom. And I thought, you can't build down in here; and so I thought if you plant some apple trees, they might grow."

He found out that trees that bear fruit with a core and seeds would grow in the low-ground area, while trees producing fruit with a pit would not.

So over the years, he has added pear trees to his orchard. "They are just beautiful," he said.

"Everybody should have a pear tree in their yard, just for the beauty of it." Like the apple trees, the pear trees have thrived.

He now brings pears to market . He added, "Im selling them, but they go so fast."

Plum trees, however, died. "It's all on-the-job training," said John, again smiling as he explained the knowledge he has gained about fruit-bearing trees. For family and friends

John isn't in the business to make money. Rather, he sees his orchard as a place for his extended family and for friends and their families, for parents, children and grandparents "to enjoy the blossoms in the spring and pick apples in the fall."

He said he enjoys "watching the little ones run from one tree to another, in joy, bringing happiness as we age."

John Kubal can be reached at jkubal@brookingsregister.com.

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