Apple Orchard


My brothers Hawkeye apple tree.

After many hours of thought we have decided to take the direction of the farm to be an heirloom apple orchard. We like to just take off for parts unknown on a moments notice so having animials was not going to work for us anyway. I have always had a passion for trees and heirloom apple trees are my newest passion. Last March my wife and I took a course on how to graft apple trees at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah Iowa and ever since I have become addicted.


Me standing in front of a wild seedling apple tree by Newton Iowa that I am about to collect scion wood from. Someone told me about this tree that’s growing in a ditch along a gravel road. They said it had some very good tasting apples. Most apple trees that grow from seed is a new variety, and if this apple turns out to be as good as advertised then I will name it Niki Sweet after my wife.

Finding out about my brother’s Hawkeye apple tree has pushed me in that direction and now I am on the lookout for other old trees where I can take cuttings from while the tree is dormant and graft them on to other apple rootstock this coming spring. That way I am sure to get the exactly the same tasting apple. If you grow a tree from seed you won’t get the exact same tasting apple. The seeds are like offspring of the tree and are the result of the tree that produced the apple and the tree that pollinated the flowers in the spring.


This is an old unknown variety at an old farm by Liberty Center Iowa that I have taken cuttings from.

The varieties I now have are Hawkeye, Niki Sweet, Grimes Golden, Duchess of Oldenberg, Wolf River, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Liberty, Pristine, Arkansas Black, Honey Crisp, Empire, Candy Crunch, and several unknown varieties. I am always on the lookout for new varieties, so if you know of any very old or wild apple trees please let me know.


Some of the scion wood I have collected this winter.

At this time, collecting apple trees is just a hobby and not sure if I will start selling trees or have a pick your own orchard in the future.


About Gordon Milligan

I am a retired conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I now live in and have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I have built from the ground up. My wife and I are trying to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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18 Responses to Apple Orchard

  1. purlygirl2 says:

    I can’t wait to taste my sweet namesake.

  2. We have an old variety called ‘Beauty of Bath’ here. It is a real hardy tree that produces lots of small sweet apples every year. You may be able to get it in US, especially if you can get the Cox’s. If not I send you some seeds in the Autumn!

    • Thanks Margaret, that would be great if you would do that. I would love to have Beauty of Bath in my apple collection. I had never heard of that variety before but its an old apple that originated in the south of England in 1866 by the town of Bath. It doesn’t need a another tree to pollinate it to produce apples so it may be one of those varieties that produce true from seed. So yes, I would love some. I will get back with you in the fall, thanks so much.

  3. Very interesting, Gordon! Once you get established, I may take a drive and visit and taste and maybe buy seedlings if you start up that kind of business.

  4. Thanks Matthew, I would enjoy that. I will keep you updated.

  5. david g glover says:

    It’s good to see that you are doing well. When last we visited (two or three years ago) you promised to send us one-half a side of beef from your herd. Where is it or do I have to wait for a crate of apples?? Congratulations are making your dream successful. I do read your posting periodicaly and enjoy them.

    David Glover

    • Hi David, good to hear from you. I am doing well and I hope you are too. Sorry about the beef, looks like you have to wait for the crate of apples lol. Anyway it’s good to hear from you and glad your still around.

  6. steve says:

    Hi Gordon. Heirloom Apple Orchard ? What a great idea, especially with so many of the old varieties being lost, & replaced by the more modern “Heavy Croppers”. For many generations my family owned a farm in England, which had a fairly large Apple Orchard, with all of the trees dating from pre-war, & many of the trees originating from the 1900’s, & even beyond. Sadly when my Grandfather died a decade or so ago, the Farm was sold off, & the new owners dug up & cleared out the Apple Orchard within weeks of the purchase. It was interesting to read the comment about the “Beauty of Bath” variety. It’s a variety I’ve never heard of, even though I specialised in Fruit Trees in the UK, & also was born & lived the first 30 or so years of my life just a few miles from the City of Bath, lol. I’m looking forward with great interest to your future posts about your Heirloom Orchard. Steve

    • steve says:

      Sorry, I should have said the trees originated from the 1800’s, not the 1900’s, lol

    • Thanks Steve for your reply, and I feel the same about saving the old varieties and I was sad to hear about your Grandfathers farm and the new owners tearing out all those old apple trees, I know you must have felt sad about that. I hope someone was able to get some scion wood from those old trees before it happened. I had never heard about “Beauty of Bath” either until Margaret told me about it. No one sells that variety here in the states so I hope she follows through with sending me seeds.

      • steve says:

        Sadly Gordon there was nothing saved from the old Orchard, as nobody realised what the new owners were doing until it was too late. The old Plum/Pear Orchard on the farm suffered the same fate, although those trees were not as old (probably 50 years or so). So, out of interest, are you going to grow solely Eating Apples, or will you include Cooking Apples/Crab Apples ?

  7. Mostly eating apples and a few that make good hard cider. I also want a few like Calville Blanc and Winesap for cooking, but not many.

  8. Mike Smith says:

    I know where there is an old apple tree in SW Davis county Iowa near our ground. Its in a cow pasture, but it has a fence around it to protect it from the cows and deer. It is close to the county road. I am not sure who the land owner is but most of the residents in that area are very nice and I am sure would let you take a cutting. I will be glad to give you directions to this tree.

  9. That sounds great Mike, I would appreciate that. Have you tried the apples?

  10. Yes please email me Mike, I would love to know where this tree is.

  11. John Freeberg says:

    Close to my home near Fairfield, Iowa is large, old, productive pear tree. No idea of the variety. The pears need to go through a freeze or two before they are ready to eat. Great keepers. If you want scion wood LMK.

  12. John Freeberg says:

    We have had good luck with Iowa-Indian peaches.

  13. John Freeberg says:

    Here’s our place 641-451-0438 if you want to visit

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