Exploring antique apples and more at Weston’s Antique Apple Orchard!
October 17, 2022 | Topics: Places
By Eddee Daniel
There are apples of course. I thought I knew what apples looked like. The ones in the supermarket are red, yellow, and green, but nearly always roughly the size and shape of a baseball. The ones I find here come in the same hues but with many more variations in shade, and even more variation in size and shape. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of apples in my life! Some fully grown apples are the size of a walnut while others rival grapefruit in girth.
The trees are even more surprising. I’ve been to pick-your-own orchards often enough to expect cultivated apple trees that march along in regimented rows, as uniform in size and shape as soldiers. Here are trees that grow tall and thin, short and wide, ragged and gnarly, as if drawn from the imagination of Dr. Seuss. Limbs extend out sideways for great distances, laden with dangling fruit. Some are propped up with multiple planks. Some are broken, torn limbs still thick with apples lying prostrate on the ground.
These are more than antique, I think; they are metaphorical.
On my first visit, the sign over the entrance—ISABELLE WESTON MEMORIAL TRAIL—led me to believe that there would be a path of some sort to follow. Instead, you walk right out into the grassy orchard, free to wander around amongst the fruit trees. So, I did. I expected apple trees, of course. The surprise was how beautiful and varied they were. And there were other kinds of fruit in addition to apples. Plums and pears were recognizable. Peaches and cherries, I was told inside the barn, had come and gone.
It is vital, I think, to live in the world knowing—and seeing—that everything is neither the same, nor as expected; where everything is not beautified; where wildness is allowed to flourish. Uniformity is overrated. I want to be astonished now and then.
According to Weston’s website, this is the oldest active orchard in Waukesha, established in 1935. “Some of the orchards’ trees were planted in the late nineteenth century and significant additional plantings were made during the Great Depression by the current owners.” Here are brief excerpts from the website:
“The orchards cover 16 acres with more than 700 trees and over 100 varieties with dates varying from the Calville Blanc d’Hiver (1598), Gravenstien (1600) to the Wolf River (1881) and Pink Pearl (1944). Weston’s Orchards work to conserve these antique apple varieties from extinction. The Old Church apple, for example, is grown solely on their farm.”
“Weston’s Orchards were included in the Prospect Hill Settlement Historic District because the grounds are an excellent example of a preserved turn- of-the-century farm. The orchards have also been added to the National Register of Rural Historic Landscapes.” In fact, according to the Historic District website, it was one of the first landscapes in Wisconsin to be put on the National Register.
My first exploratory visit was on a day when the weather was bright and sunny. While I took a number of photos with my cell phone, I decided I needed to return with my camera when the light wasn’t so hard and contrasty. Most of the photos in this essay were shot on a more suitably overcast day. It was also a Sunday, when the barn is open and apples are for sale. While the Isabelle Weston Memorial “Trail” (meaning the orchard) is open to the public, the apples are not for picking. I asked if there was a guide to the apples so that I’d know what I was seeing, but, alas, there is not. So, the photos come without identification, except for the ones inside the barn.
While it was wondrous and important to see all of this at harvest time when the apples are full and ripe, I just might stop back in the spring when the trees are flowering. Maybe I’ll be astonished all over again!
The photos above are a selection. You can see the entire set of photos from Weston’s Antique Apple Orchard in my Flickr album.
For more information about Weston’s Antique Apple Orchard, including ripening dates, varieties, and classes, go to their website.
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks.