A Fruitful Legacy

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This is a picture of a giant 150 year old pear tree. It was planted in Des Moines Iowa in the 1800’s and is the last remaining tree of a fruit orchard. The owner of this property wants to chop it down and it’s a race to try and propagate it to keep this wonderful old tree before it’s gone.

I often think about the legacy that I will leave behind when I pass away. Things like my children and grandchildren and this farm will be part of that legacy. But also think my many heirloom apple and other fruit trees that I am now collecting and planting. Trees that will be here many years after I am gone and I come to realize that my legacy will also be a fruitful Legacy.

Saving Iowa’s old trees

I have put an ad on Craigslist looking for old apple trees, asking for information and whereabouts of old apple trees so I can graft the trees before the tree dies and that way the tree lives on. I have had lots of people who have called and told me about old fruit trees. Some are really old like the the 150 pear tree in the picture at the top of the page. But some are not that old and were planted in the 1970’s, I am really not that interested in those because in the 70’s most nurseries only offered about 10 different varieties.

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This is me standing in front of an old Winesap apple tree on a abandon farmstead from the 1920’s.

i am looking for varieties that you can’t readily buy from most nurseries, or wild fruit trees that have started out from Seed.

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Me standing in front of an wild seedling apple tree by Newton Iowa.

 

I like wild trees that have grown from Seed because most apple trees don’t grow true from seed. The Seed is the result of the tree it comes from and from the tree it got its pollen from and this creates a new variety.

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This tree is a clone of the original Red Delicious apple tree that is planted on the exact spot were the original tree was discovered as a chance seedling in 1872 by the farmer Jessie Hyatt on his farm near Peru Iowa. He originally called the variety Hawkeye and when Stark Brothers Nursery bought the rights to propagate it and changed the name to Delicious. The big boulder has a inscription on it that tells its story.  Gary Cox is the one standing in front of the tree, who lives close buy and had called me and told me about the tree.

At this time I have planted over 60 apple trees and still plan on adding more each year. I have over 30 different varieties with many of them being heirloom trees from the 1600’s to the 1800’s and are considered some of the best tasting apples of all time. varieties like Asmeads Kernel, Cox Orange Pippen, Hawkeye, Macoun, Knobbed Russet, Esopus Spitzenberg, Calville Blanc D’hiver, Winesap, Grimes Golden, Duches of Oldenburg, Fresh Candy, Wolf River, Black Twig, Arkansas Black, Liberty, and many newer varieties as well. At this time I am not sure what the plan is, I may start selling some trees.

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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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15 Responses to A Fruitful Legacy

  1. What a cool idea and a wonderful legacy! Gordon Appleseed! 😀

  2. Maryanne Giammarco says:

    What a great idea & most people don’t think about it & just go buy new trees. I hope you start selling the OLD fruit trees! I’m in Texas and would certainly buy some saplings of some trees.
    You’re very forward thinking, old school smart, and apparently old soul! 👍🏻🙏 Never change!

    • Thanks Maryanne, I am too old to change now lol. There are some other apple geeks like me that are doing the same thing across the country saving the old varieties and it gives me something to do in retirement. If start selling some what heirloom variety you might be interested in.

  3. Johnny p says:

    Gordon, what’s up man I hope you and nicki are doing well it’s Johnny p. It looks like your dream is thriving one day I’ll try to make it out there.

  4. Hey Gordon, you’d probably love this place which is quite near to us … they are doing a great job on saving and identifying old varieties : http://www.irishseedsavers.ie/

    Margaret

    • Thanks Margaret for sharing the link to Irish Seed Saver, they do sell many old varieties and even Beauty of Bath. We also have a place like that here in Iowa called Seed Saver Exchange.

  5. langela1 says:

    Very cool, Gordon. Let me know when you get fruit and I’ll be up!😀

  6. Valerie says:

    Love what you are doing; thanks for sharing your story it is inspiring

  7. hazel says:

    we are near warkworth ontario, and similar to you and your wife, have decided to have a farm. We have saved over 30 old apple and pear trees from the wild vines that covered them. I do not know what variety (though one is a russet), but if you are ever up near us, feel free to come out.

  8. Thanks Hazel, I w outdoor love to stop by and see your farm and trees if I am ever up your way. That would be awesome.

  9. steve says:

    I must have missed this post Gordon, which is a shame, as it got me thinking about my own legacy, if any, which i’ll leave behind. But what you’re doing at your farm, with your trees, is great. Over time, too many Varieties of Fruit, Veg. & Livestock are disappearing, due to Industrys pursuit of higher & faster production, which is such a shame, as with ( cough ) “Progress”, quite often are we not only losing the History of the Breed or Variety, but the distinctive flavours as well. I’m also a firm believer that the Old, Historical Varieties of Plants or Livestock, have survived for a reason, & have built up a greater natural resistance to disease etc. Sadly, when the Old Strains have completely gone, they’re gone. So yes, if this is to be your Legacy, then I think it’s one you should be proud of. Steve

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