Sketched Sept. 11, 2014
Harvest time at Piper’s Orchard has started and Don Ricks is up on a ladder, loading handfuls of Tompkins King apples into a bucket strapped to his torso. Every now and then, he throws one to curious passers-by walking on the trail nearby and he’s happy to answer questions.
The unique urban orchard of nearly 80 fruit and nut trees was part of bakery owner Andrew W. Piper’s homestead in and around what is Carkeek Park today. For decades, the land sat abandoned and covered by blackberries. But since 1983, volunteers have helped maintain it, pruning the overgrown trees and planting more of the same apple varieties chosen by Piper back in the 1890s such as Dutch Mignone, Wealthy and Rhode Island Greening.
Ricks, a longtime member of The Friends of Piper Orchard, said volunteers get to keep some of the apples in exchange for their work, but most are taken to food banks and shelters.
You can sink your teeth into these vintage apple varieties during Saturday’s Festival of Fruit at Carkeek Park. The event also includes cider pressing and tours of the historic orchard.
Ricks said the orchard setting is so beautiful, the late Andrew W. Piper wouldn’t be surprised to know
how much volunteers enjoy working here today.