One, Two, Three Orchards: Local Apples Galore!

For most people, keeping one orchard going strong would be challenge enough. But Ron Knutson (aka Ronnie Appleseed) has his hands full currently caring for not one, not two, but three orchards. Halverson’s Orchard was the first. “Around 2009/2010, my wife’s (Shelly) Aunt Kay knew the Halversons, and Dennis Halverson was needing help with pruning, so we met and reached an agreement: we would prune the trees in exchange for some apples,” Ronnie explains. “In 2016 Dennis, who had cancer, passed away, and the family graciously turned over the management to us.  Also, in 2015, we heard at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference that Class Apple was looking for somebody to manage it. A small 1.5-acre pick-your-own orchard was just what we wanted. We made inquiries about the orchard and contacted Lorretta. She had lost her husband, Dale, the year prior, also to cancer, and with the family living out of town, she needed someone to take care of it. So we took that on as well.”

Their third (original) orchard is AVEnue Orchard. Ronnie notes, “We purchased what was formerly known as The Apple Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast in October of 2007 but didn’t move in until January 31, 2008, after General Billy Mitchell Air Reserve Base, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, closed, and I retired. Instead of a bed-and-breakfast, we are an adult family home. I was going to retire and just do a little woodworking, primarily making flag cases, but the great outdoors called me, the trees were crying for help, and a new adventure was born. WE HAVE AN ORCHARD! So we added 1,500 more trees and two more small orchards.”

AVEnue Orchard sells jarred and canned goods, as well as prepicked apples. “I think we have as many varieties of jams, jellies, fruit butters, sauces, and pie filling as we do apple varieties, which is at twenty-six and counting,” Ronnie laughs. “And we are always dreaming up new recipes. This year’s leader in our jarred and canned goods is our Strawberry Rhubarb, followed closely by Chai Apple Butter, and who would have guessed but gaining fast is our new Apple Watermelon.  Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Hobenaro, and Apple Pie Jelly are neck-and-neck and close behind.”

What kinds of apples does AVEnue Orchard offer? This year there will be twenty-six varieties available:

Chestnut Crab
Connell Red
Daybreak Fuji
Grimes Golden
Honey Crisp
Honey Gold
Northwest Greening
Paula Red
Prairie Spy
Red Delicious
Snow Sweet
State Fair
Sweet 16
Whitney Crab
Wolf River
Yellow Transparent

Our pears are:

Available for pick-your-own at Class Apple, are Honey Crisp, Cortland, McIntosh, Connell Red, Empire, and Honey Golds. “At Class Apple, we have cider, our very own blend from our very own apples. Class Apple is a quiet place to come and enjoy the greatness of God’s country,” Ronnie says. “Bring your picnic baskets along, you ain’t gonna wanna leaf,” he jokes.

AVEnue Orchard generally opens around mid-August. Class Apple opens September 9 and is open Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 to 5:00 pm, and will close October 8. Halverson’s is not open to the public.

Ronnie seeks to promote access to and use of local food products. “I love it. As much as possible, all our products are from local sources. It is a well-deserved and an awesome show of support to the local farmers, who work hard at bringing you a quality product. Besides, it always tastes better when it ripens on the vine.”

“Oh,” he hastens to add. “I forgot honey! We have honey. Yes, we have the bees here. Fascinating creatures they are.”

The Root of the Issue

by Gordon Petschow, Midwest Environmental Consultants

In today’s modern world, the philosophy of lawn care and gardening is quick results at the least possible costs for the greatest yields. These expectations are not un-realistic, but perhaps if we can make an effort to understand that soils and nature’s disciplines are forgiving but firm and unchangeable in its established procedures. To be successful, it is advisable to stay within the inherent boundaries of nature’s principles. Nature’s workings are complex and interactive, but it becomes clearly focused when we garden, practice lawn care, or grow crops. It’s at this point we understand its workings, procedures, and limitations. To be more specific, we must discuss in an itemized fashion these procedures.

1. Land ethics: By definition, land ethics is being willing to respect, accept, understand, and appreciate the land and soil we work; regardless of our desires or our vote to change the landscape and land use. To monocrop, erode, toxify, or demineralize the land with chemicals and incomplete fertilizers is classified as surface, short-term use of the land or mining the soil. Yes, it is easier to spray weeds with chemicals than to cultivate, but we transfer our savings on labor and materials costs to medical or environmental costs at some future date. When we realize that our living environment has degraded to a point we can no longer ignore the reality, we then take action at higher dramatic costs. To use the land and change the landscape, it’s advisable to know nature, its procedures, and the soil that is going to be altered before we start. Yes, income can be made in short order temporarily, but the soil base and ecological base becomes degraded to where the results may last a lifetime trying to recover to a natural productive state of well being.

2. The natural world we work with is dependent on the nonliving or abiotic part of nature. Water, ice, broken rock, and minerals make up a large portion of the abiotic composition that assists in forming the mineralized portion of soil and lays the groundwork for the biotic communities to live and function.

3. All living organisms are derived from a single cell. The cells in time build tissues, and organs that in turn become a total living being. It survives on minerals and nutrients derived from the abiotic world. Its life span is terminal and its remains create topsoil – the jewel of gardens, lawns, and agricultural crops. Together, living organisms have inherent physical characteristics but are dependent and interacting with other species and their living and abiotic environment. This is understanding the root of successful land management, and cell promotion and living organism health.

Working with nature’s principles brings success, whether medical and health, financial, or environmental. This is the vital key. Short unplanned surface management gains, and elimination of the basic necessities of life (air, water, minerals), and chemical applications to life systems is the beginning of mutations and eventual demise of the living organism. For prosperity and preservation of the bases for living now and for the future, pursue the root of living.

For a customized lawn care or landscaping project that is cost-effective, call us at Midwest Environmental Consultants, LLC at 715-586-1302. Working with Nature – Working with You.

Light Conditions for Planting and What to Plant in Them

By Beth Luck, Tin Roof Garden

Full sun: at least 6 to 8 full hours of direct sunlight. Many sun-loving plants can tolerate more than 6 hours per day but need to be watered regularly to endure mid-summer (July through August) heat. Annuals that tolerate full sun: verbena, lantana, geraniums, petunias, marigolds, thunbergia. Perennials that tolerate full sun: yarrow, silver mound, butterfly weed, coreopsis, cone flowers, salvia.

Partial sun/partial shade: these terms are often used interchangeably to indicate 3 to 6 hours of direct sunlight, preferably morning and early afternoon sun, daily. Morning and early afternoon sun are less harsh than the afternoon sun, especially in the summer months.
Annuals that tolerate part sun/part shade: bacopa, ivy, torenia, fuschia, impatiens, begonias. Perennials that tolerate part sun/part shade: Jacob’s ladder, hostas, coral bells, perennial geranium, lamium.

Dappled sun: less light than the limited direct exposure of partial shade. This is the sunlight that makes it through a canopy of deciduous trees. Think of the plants you would see growing in the woods, ferns, lady slippers, trillium, etc.
Annuals that tolerate dappled sun: fuschia, ivy, begonias, coleus, streptocarpus, cyclamen.
Perennials that tolerate dappled sun: hostas, coral bells, columbine, ferns, brunnera.

Full shade: less than 3 hours of direct sunlight daily, with filtered/dappled sun during the rest of the day. Full shade does not mean no sun. There are not many plants, except mushrooms, that can survive in the dark.
Annuals that tolerate full shade: ferns, ivy, cyclamen.
Perennials that tolerate full shade: ligularia, bergenia, ivy, ferns.

Tips regarding planting and sunlight:

  • When you are planning out a garden, keep track of the amount of sun the location receives throughout the day and pick plants according to the descriptions above.
  • If you are planting in the spring before the trees have leaves, make sure to take into consideration where trees, when they do get leaves, will shade your plantings and for how many hours per day.
  • Spring sun is not as intense as summer sun, it still being a bit further away, and this is why shade-loving plants can be planted in spring in locations that might receive more light while the sun is low and there are no leaves on the trees.
  • Plant according to the light conditions you expect to see at the end of May and throughout the rest of the summer.
  • The amount of change in light conditions throughout the growing season due to the movement of the sun does not affect the growth of a plant if it is planted in the correct location from the start.

For more information, stop in Tin Roof Garden at 5310 Friedeck Road, Eau Claire, visit, or call 715-834-4232.

Make a Backyard Bee House: It’s Easy!

Did you know you and your kids can make a special house for bees? This isn’t the bee habitat used by those raising bees for honey; this bee house simply provides a safe place for bees to raise their young.

From the National Wildlife Federation, here’s how:

  1. Take some scrap lumber and drill several 3 to 5 inch deep holes in it—BUT NOT ALL THE WAY THROUGH.
  2. Cover the structure with chicken wire to protect it from birds and other larger wildlife.
  3. Place the house on the south side of a building, like your house! Or on a fence post or a tree. Attach it securely.
  4. Some DO NOTs:
    1. Do not move the bee house once it is established until at least November.
    2. Do not use insecticides near the bee house.
    3. Do not use treated wood to build it.

The Nifty Homestead website encourages you to build “insect hotels,” made from upcycled materials placed between layers of sturdy protective material like old pallets, in which bees can overwinter. Why are insect hotels a good idea? Nifty Homesteader explains: “Insect hotels provide safe areas for solitary insects to hibernate over winter. Big lawns and the lack of dead wood in our yards leaves wild bees, spiders, and ladybugs without a place to live. Building accommodations for beneficial insects like ladybugs or flying pollinators can help benefit both your environment and your garden in the spring.”

When you make a “hotel” for solitary bees (bees whose females are all fertile and build separate nest cells for the baby bees), put it in a location that is sunny but sheltered from harsh weather. Wood nester bees like to nest in cavities they find, like hollow stems or holes in wood. The female will then create individual compartments for each egg. As she goes out to find pollen and nectar for the brood, she pollinates various plants and food crops. She puts nectar and pollen in each compartment before laying an egg in it. You can make a “bee hotel” using materials you find at home or out on a walk that either already have small compartments in them or have small spaces the female bee can then develop, or you could drill tunnels in wood, too. If you open this hotel for business, bees will “check in” for winter!