It is hard to believe that we are on the road again. This morning we drove over the Confederation Bridge and made our way to the Saint Lawrence River, about an hour outside of Quebec City. The last few days have been a hectic blur as we packed, cleaned, and crammed in as many final activities as we could before leaving the island. As we built sandcastles, visited favorite playgrounds and explored the National Park for the last time Five String remarked that it reminded him of “college finals weeks”. The busyness of the week was tiring, but there was always an air of excitement about what was to come next. The long drive today was a nice transition between remembering our wonderful time on Prince Edward Island and looking ahead to many more great adventures.
When the days start to get cooler and the leaves start to change color, as it has here on PEI, we can think of no better place to be than an apple orchard. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to spend a beautiful crisp morning at Beamish Orchard, an organic, family-run apple orchard located just outside of Charlottetown.
In addition to visiting the farm for some delicious apples, we also scheduled an educational tour with the owner, Mike Beamish. He started our tour in the orchard’s newly finished Apple Barn and gave us an overview of the strategies and challenges facing organic apple growers. We learned about fertilizing the trees with compost tea and a few tricks for disrupting the reproduction of pests that like to lay their eggs in the apples. From dusting the apples with a clay that the female insects dislike, to spreading female pheromones among the trees so that the male can’t find a mate, Mike uses some creative tactics to keep his apples looking and tastings great.
We then headed out to the orchard to see some of Mike’s varieties first-hand. We were joined by Stepanie Compton from the Atlantic Canada Organic Research Network, who also shared her extensive knowledge about apples and organics on PEI. As we sampled some delicious Redfree and Novamac apples, we were all interested and a little shocked to learn that Mike doesn’t plant apple “seedlings” but instead adds new trees to his orchard in the form of a “whip”. A whip is a piece of a desirable apple tree that has been grafted onto a specially selected root stock. Since apple seeds don’t grow into trees that match its parent in the taste and character of the fruit, grafting is a much more reliable way to produce the kind of apple a farmer is looking for. We left the orchard with a lot more knowledge as well as plenty of apples and cider to make an apple feast.
The next day, we followed up our visit with a homeschool lesson devoted to everything apples. We used some of the resources below to watch a video about pollination, use an interactive map to trace the apple’s journey from its origins in Central Asia, and play a game to match plants with their pollinators. A quick outdoor apple hunt later and we were ready to prepare and enjoy our apple feast with the apples from Beamish Orchard.
We ended our apple extravaganza with a walk along a dirt road in the Prince Edward Island National Park. Earlier this summer we had come across several wild apple trees growing along the road. During our tour at Beamish Orchard we learned that you never know just what kind of apple a tree grown from seeds (rather than grafting) will produce. So, we decided to go and sample some of the “wild apples” and see what we would find. Some were pretty tasty, and others, well, not so much. While we didn’t find the next big variety this time around, we will keep on munching wild apples in the knowledge that the “Fives Fancy” apple is out there somewhere on some abandoned road or old orchard, just waiting for us to find it.
Crash Course Biology Video: Plant Reproduction
Disney Johnny Appleseed Video
Curious George Apple Picking Game
Apple Tree Reproduction
Apple Blossom Anatomy
Fruit Tree Pests and Diseases
Michael Pollan’s Interactive Apple Map
Nova Pick the Pollinator Game
With our two months on Prince Edward Island coming to a close this week, we’ve been thinking back to our favorite experiences on the island. Here are a few of the things we will miss as we start heading west toward Glacier National Park in the coming weeks.
Five Ball: I liked Highland Storm, the show with the bagpipes. It was pretty cool. There were dancers and drummers, and it was a lot of fun watching it. All the dancers were my favorite part.
High Five: Biking. I liked blackberries, cows and the geese [off the Confederation Trail]. I want to go biking again!
Five of Hearts: My favorite thing was the Pirate Camp I went to. I liked all the activities like swinging on the rope and making treasure chests.
Five String: Exploring Robinsons Island was the highlight of my time on PEI. The day really had a castaway feel. There was nothing like the excitement walking through a winding path in the woods and suddenly emerging on a beautiful empty beach.
Five Spice: My favorite experience on PEI was exploring the sand dunes at Greenwich. I loved seeing the excitement in the Younger Fives’ faces when they reached the top of the final sand dune and rushed down to the ocean. It was certainly a swim we hadn’t planned for, but one we will never forget.
Honorable Mention: We all agreed that Orwell Corner Historic Village was a delightful day. From carriage rides to candle making, we all learned so much about life on the island a hundred years ago while having a lot of fun!
So far all of our bike trips along the Confederation Trail have been wonderful. However, our absolute favorite so far was an excursion along St. Peter’s bay on the eastern section of Prince Edward Island.
The Confederation Trail from St. Peter’s to Morell runs directly along the bay and features three bridges that cross over rivers entering into the bay. The scenery along this stretch is truly fantastic with great views of the mussel production/aquaculture industry that takes place in the bay.
Apple trees and raspberry bushes along the trail provide a heavenly scent and a yummy snack this time of year. We were also fortunate to see some fabulous wildlife along the way. The highlight being an osprey with a fish in its clutches being chased by a bald eagle. The osprey got away with its lunch and as the bald eagle doubled back towards the water it flew directly over our heads.
The Younger Fives particularly enjoyed exploring the bridges along the trail. For a family with young kids they provide a great rest stop and an interesting diversion from pedaling.
We highly recommend a ride between St. Peter’s and Morell to anyone looking for a nice outing along the Confederation Trail.