The chill in the air this morning is a reminder that the autumn season is nearing, and along with autumn comes apple season.
Residents will soon be able to enjoy the first taste of cider from locally grown apples when Rocky Ridge Orchards, owned by Bill and Sherry Jones, begins squeezing apples later this week.
Bill Jones said they plan to begin squeezing apples Thursday and anticipates having it ready for sale Friday morning.
Fresh squeezed cider pairs well with the donuts they sell. The business is located at 285 S. Settlement Road, Kane.
While Rocky Ridge has a variety of healthy apples for purchase, some early apples were harmed by a springtime frost.
A freeze this spring — with temperatures dropping to 21 degrees — hit the early varieties like macintosh and empire apples the worst.
Temperatures “have to be at 28 degrees or above in order to make an apple,” Jones explained.
Many other varieties — such as jonagold, northern spy, gala and cortlands — are “wonderful” this year.
Jones prefers to keep several varieties rather than just one their orchard.
“If they all got ripe at the same time, we’d have to pick the whole orchard at the same time,” which would be a “giant undertaking,” he explained.
This year, the Joneses also had peaches from 20 trees. Bill Jones said they plan to plant a couple hundred more peach trees, too.
While he doesn’t know for sure if they will hold the Apple Festival this year due to the pandemic, he has some ideas for it.
For one, there is an area band that he really enjoys listening too that he hopes will be available to perform, if the festival happens. They are looking for vendors, too, for the event. Jones notes they don’t charge vendors to come.
People can watch the Rocky Ridge Orchards Facebook page for updates on the festival and apple offerings.
Jones said he feels “very lucky” that he and his wife have been able to have the orchard.
The Joneses started planting trees 38 years ago in 1982 on a former dairy farm they purchased. They bought 300 trees to plant on about two acres — a much smaller orchard than the Jones’ current one of 4,500 trees on almost 10 acres.
At that time, they “Didn’t know anything about nothing,” Jones said. “More confidence than brains.”
A few years later, after one losing one crop to freezing temperatures, the couple purchased a wind machine — the second ever purchased in Pennsylvania — which sucks slightly warmer air from above down to the level of the trees. This is usually enough to protect the crops.
He recalls being asked to speak at a statewide meeting in Harrisburg about how the wind machine worked. At the time, he had 300 apple trees and was speaking in front of people with orchards covering thousands of acres.
“I was terrified,” said Jones.
Now, he feels very fortunate he and his wife started the orchard.
“Best thing I ever did. My wife talked me into it,” he said.