12147 Corey Lake Road, Three Rivers, Michigan (269) 244-5690

Monthly Archive: February 2015

What’s keeping YOU up all night?

This past month I have had the true joy of taking care of my new granddaughter, Emma-Grace. It brings back memories of when I was caring for my own newborn: those sleepless nights, the unsolvable puzzle of why they are crying,  every sound from the baby monitor triggering a “better get up and go see” until of course, you begin to figure a few things out and relax as a new parent. It seems to me that Jay and Michaela got this figured out pretty quick and are blessed to have a newborn that sleeps through the night already. As most grandparents had told me, one of the many benefits of being a grandparent is you can get the few hours of cuddling in, the baby goes home and you don’t have the sleepless night part anymore.

Emma-Grace, the farm's 4th generation, arriving for Grandma time!

Emma-Grace, the farm’s 4th generation, happy and excited for Grandma time!

Any long term customer knows that this is the time of year around the farm where it feels like we have a newborn. A 3000 square foot newborn, full of thousands of “baby” tomato plants, with sleepless nights and constant worrying in tow.

We have Schram’s Nursery in Portage start our plants every year, and we decided this was the week to bring them to the farm. We picked Tuesday, which was supposed to be one of the warmest in the ten-day window.  It turned out to be pretty doggone cold, never getting above 22 degrees, with wicked windchill.  Add the bad weather to some Tuesday morning discoveries: frozen water lines to the greenhouse, fried thermostats, and a few other issues.

And yes, we plan and prepare every year and things STILL go wrong! We have discovered that when you go to start up something that hasn’t been touched in a year, expect there to be problems and rejoice when there is not. This is why problem solving and patience is a highly valued skill set here. Rest assured, through the teamwork we got it done.

First Becca picked up the flats from Schram’s, carrying trays on her lap, putting them under her feet, stacking them on the dashboard, and balancing them across cup holders to get them all here in one trip, with the heat on high pouring out of every vent.  While she was doing that, David and Jay were climbing in well pits, unfreezing pipes, plowing snow, and changing out thermostats. Tom and Nichol had worked all day to get the soil ready and setting up pots. Becca pulled the van as close to the greenhouse door as possible  and everyone available, ran the plants as fast as we could into the greenhouse to keep them warm. And they all lived! Today, each plant was transplanted to its own pot and watered, they look  beautiful.

The main concern through the next several weeks, especially with these below zero nights coming, will be to make sure the heat keeps going. We have layers of back up systems in place along with some sophisticated alarm systems which let us know when things go wrong, but at the end of the day, we still need someone to check the temperature several times a night and react if need be.  So, thank you to Becca who has got the “greenhouse” monitor by her bedside and is the first responder! The BLT timeline is on track and we hope to have our first tomato in about 75 days!

1000 tomato plants having arrived safely into their new home 2_23_25

1000 tomato plants having arrived safely into their new home on 2/24

The bone chilling days of late has also kept us up worrying about the fruit.  We simply don’t know yet, the weather person is predicting some more very cold nights before we will even think about making an assessment.

Denim and Beth walking and 'worrying' through the peach orchard

Denim and Beth walking and ‘worrying’ through the peach orchard

 

Denim did not seem to have any worries preferring to play in the snow!

Denim did not seem to have any worries preferring to play in the snow!

Maintenance is in full swing with every tractor, vehicle and implement coming in and out of the shop for an intimate “look-see” and fix. Cousin David Hubbard is in the shop daily pushing through this important work. As he provides information on what needs to be fixed and what may/may not make it through another season, it gives us something else to worry about at night!

It is not always easy to get everything into the shop for maintenance!

It is not always easy to get everything into the shop for maintenance!

We are grateful to have David helping us this winter on maintenance, he is Beth's cousin, 2nd farm generation

We are grateful to have David helping us this winter. He is 2nd farm generation (& my cousin)

What else have we been doing?

Michaela, Patti, and Becca all participated in A Chocolate Affair, a bake-off featuring fair-trade chocolate and local talent in downtown Three Rivers. In the true spirit of winter, there was a snowstorm complete with white-outs the morning of the event, so we appreciate everyone who made it down to World Fare to sample all the wonderful baked goods! Michaela and Patti made decorated Chocolate Coca Cola Cupcakes, while Becca made Brandy Brownies. Michaela and Patti won the Best Presentation award! A big congratulations to all of the other winners.

Patti and Michaela, put the finishing touches on their Coca-Cola cupcake display for the contest

Patti and Michaela put the finishing touches on their Chocolate Coca-Cola Cupcake display for the contest

We want to give a huge “THANK YOU” to everyone who participated in our 2015 customer survey. With feedback from over 200 people, we really feel like we got valuable information to improve our operation and your orchard experience! It’s an opportunity for us to hear both the good and the bad parts of your experiences here, anonymously. 2015 planning meetings are underway as we take to heart your feedback.  We wanted to share a few comments people made, just as a small sample of all the information we’re taking to heart.

“Love the orchard!”          “Love the updates on email & Facebook”          “The cinnamon bread is too dense and needs to be lighter.”          “The pies and fresh donuts are both delicious!”          “I have been looking for a cherry pie like yours since my grandmother passed away over three years ago– thank you!!!”          “Peach pies need more peach.” “The cut flowers are so nice, especially the sunflowers.”          “Please try to keep prices affordable for local customers.”

As we’ve said, this is really our opportunity to do better so that you enjoy your time here more. We feel our farm is one of the most heavenly places on earth and it’s a privilege to share it with you all.

With our greenhouse now open–providing us the chance to put our hands in real dirt while working in 80+ degree air–we can almost feel spring coming! We have yet to finish the hoophouse – we can’t put the bottom boards in until the snow melts back a little more. But there is a patch of grass showing in Becca’s front yard right now. All that stands between us and spring is the month of March. We’re going to make it, people!

We hope you are sleeping well!

-Beth, Becca, and everyone else at Corey Lake Orchards

Becca and Patti hanging out at the Chocolate affair

Becca and Patti hanging out at A Chocolate Affair. Patti made that hat!

Broken Heart…Healed Heart…Happy Valentine’s Day

I’ve spent about ten days of the past two weeks traveling, starting January 31st with a trip to to Nashville, TN for a one-week Agritourism conference. As I was leaving for the airport, I grabbed the local paper out of the box at the end of the driveway. I saw a thick insert inside it and realized it was the annual printing of the winners of the “Best of” local awards. I knew then and there that since we hadn’t been notified, we had not won in the category of “Best Place to Buy Fruit” in Three Rivers. I tore through the pages to find the winner, and when I saw that it was a big box chain store, my heart was broken. If we aren’t serving our local community, what is our purpose? I arrived in Nashville later that night with my spirits down.

The next day, eight buses of farmers like myself headed on the road where over five days, we visited some pretty amazing farms and had two days of classroom style learning. I met some really great folks, had some fantastic local food and drink, had some down time just  for me, and got a chance to think out loud with my peers. It was exactly what I needed.

Upon my return, I read the summary of the survey we invited you all to participate in–still on a positive high from my week away, I read the many wonderful comments from all of you. My heart was restored along with my energy and enthusiasm to give my all to this family farm–to make it not only the “Best Place to Buy Fruit,” but a one of a kind destination that gives people a happy and memorable experience. Your feedback will help guide some of the changes we hope to make this year, so we are grateful so many of you found the time to take the survey. If you haven’t taken it yet, you’re still welcome to do so – just click here. We’ll leave it up until 2/20/15.

Becca also took a work trip recently, but a little closer to home! She spent four days in Chicago at CiderCon, a national conference on all things hard cider. Though she commented she feels all February conferences should be held in New Orleans or possibly Hawaii, she came back ready to brew. So you may anticipate the addition of more hard ciders and fruit wines this season too.

For those of you in Three Rivers, please come celebrate Winterfest downtown on 2/14! Patti and Michaela will be entering World Fare‘s “Chocolate Affair” contest, and there’s plenty more to do in case eating chocolate desserts isn’t enough for you. We also want to give a shout out to our farm’s beekeeper (also Becca’s mom/Beth’s sister/farm helper) Charlotte Hubbard who discussed her love of bees in this week’s Three Rivers Commercial-News.

This is normally the week we start up the greenhouse, but we are waiting on this next cold snap to be finished so we can safely get the tomato plants from Schram’s greenhouse in Portage back to the farm.  We are still on track for the first BLT of the year in about 100 days!

Beth and Becca and everyone at Corey Lake Orchards, stay warm!!

Just a few of the hundreds of pictures Beth took while in Tennessee:

Enjoyed touring their gift shops, cider mill, winery, restaurant and bakery

Enjoyed touring their gift shops, cider mill, winery, restaurant and bakery

Southern hospitality and "good eatins" like these homemade fried apple pies and homemade ice cream was abundant

Southern hospitality and “good eatins” like these homemade fried apple pies and homemade ice cream was abundant

We made a side stop in Gatlinburg to visit the moonshine distilleries.  This blue flame 128 proof couldn't put a candle to my  Dad's original 120 proof apple brandy!

We made a side stop in Gatlinburg to visit the moonshine distilleries. This blue flame 128 proof couldn’t put a candle to my dad’s original 120 proof apple brandy!

Really enjoyed the great antiques displayed at so many of the farms we stopped at.

Really enjoyed the great antiques displayed at so many of the farms we stopped at.