Urban Homestead Apples, Bristol, Virginia
If you're looking for a wide
variety of heirloom apple trees grafted and tended by a master, the Urban Homestead in Bristol, Virginia, is the
place for you. I could spend hours poring over the descriptions of
their old-fashioned apple varieties, of which this excerpt is a prime
Davis - The most
widely planted apple variety in the South after the Civil
War. Think of it as the
nineteenth century’s Red Delicious. A
large, dull-red apple; hardy, vigorous, dependable, productive.
Keeps like a cobblestone. Often
described as having only passing flavor. Ms.
Genevieve Gray, an octogenarian from South Elgin, Illinois sent us a
several years ago that well illustrates the point:
“There was a joke going around when I was a girl about a fellow who
claimed to be such an expert in recognizing apples by taste that he
identify any kind blindfolded. He
was challenged, of course, and given apple after apple to
each correctly. Finally, in
desperation to fool him, one of the challengers grabbed a large piece
carved it into the shape of an apple, and offered it to him.
He bit out a chunk, hesitated, bit out another, then reluctantly
that he wasn’t real sure. “I
think it’s a Ben Davis,” he said. And
then he quickly added, “But if it is, it’s the best one I’ve ever
eaten.” We would add only that
any tree that can stand up to 125 years of ribbing has
earned its place in the
The Urban Homestead
offers just shy of 100 old and new favorites, and yet they feel obliged
to add this apologetic note to the website: "Economics dictates that we keep a tight rein on the
number of varieties
we graft each season. We have
access, however, to a large number of stock trees, and offer a custom
service for some of the harder-to-find varieties." Basically, if you've
heard of it, they can probably get it for you. I was thrilled to
read that they have not just one, but two versions of the old-fashoned
Winesap (as well as the easier to find Stayman Winesap.) I
ordered a Winesap and Liberty from them to round out our orchard.
Tim Hensley is the man behind
this 2 acre operation, which he fits into his suburban backyard and a
rented lot across the street. I was charmed to see three of his
sons digging and labeling apple trees while I snooped around the
premises, and their father said that all of his kids help out ---
except for the four year old, who isn't terribly handy yet. I'm
going to have to reserve tomorrow's post for notes on his intriguing
permaculture techniques, but suffice it to say that he's not an
old-fashioned apple grower even if his apples have deep roots.
In addition to apples
($18 to $28, depending on size of tree), Tim Hensley also sells a
selection of other edible plants, not all of which are listed on his
website. For example, I was shocked to see rows of Chicago
Hardy figs, just
like the one I mail-ordered --- I wish I'd realized I could pick them
up in person at the Urban Homestead!
of picking them up, if you live closeby, I highly recommend that you
make the drive to the Urban Homestead, not only to get your trees in
the ground ASAP so that they will thrive, but also to explore Hensley's
operation. Mom wants you to know that they have the best swing
she's enjoyed in years. On the other hand, don't let distance
stop you --- Tim Hensley mails his trees across the United States.
The Urban Homestead is
located on 818 Cumberland St., behind the library in Bristol.
Give them a call at (276) 466-2931 or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget that
buying heirloom apples not only preserves a vanishing tradition but
also means your trees are more likely to survive the pests that nature
throws at them with no need for posionous sprays.
Looking for the perfect gift
for the backyard homesteader on your list? Our homemade chicken
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