All In: Restoring a Neglected Orchard, Part 1

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We told our story about finding and restoring one of the few organic heirloom apple orchards in Maine at Pecha Kucha presentations in Biddeford and Kennebunkport earlier this year.  Not familiar with Pecha Kucha?  Neither were we!  It’s a fun, concise format to story telling using 20 pictures and speaking for 20 seconds per picture.  In case you missed it, here it is…

From a willingness to seek change, our family found Eden Acres Family Farm in East Waterboro. In 2015, we acquired the neglected six-acre orchard with the responsibility to restore and care for more than 700 trees. Using a gentle organic approach, holistic orcharding adds flavor and nutrition to the apples we grow. Complete immersion in holistic orcharding has taught many lessons about the growing process, crop management, and the developing of a business. This year, we are offering an apple CSA to promote the more than 30 organic heirloom varieties grown at Eden Acres Family Farm. This is our story.

Eden 1

We started our adventure having sold our home in NJ and putting everything we owned into storage.  We bought a small tow-behind camper and set our sights on discovering a new life in Maine, one that would bring us closer to nature.  Our first priority was finding a school for our two boys.




Eden 2

While visiting a school, within minutes of meeting a teacher there, we were asked if we wanted to live on a 26-acre organic apple orchard with an old farm house.  Something immediately clicked.  The house, from 1792, and the organic orchard personified every reason we wanted to move to Maine.


Eden 3 But, we weren’t prepared for the winter of 2015 with feet of snow piling up and only a hand shovel to move it.  With a failing furnace, everyday Bryan searched the surrounding woods for standing dead trees in his snowshoes pulling behind him a kid’s sled to bring back wood to burn in the fireplace.




Eden 4 So the first logical purchase for a farm after a winter like that, was a tractor with a front loader!  That’s a picture from March of last year, which is quite a difference from this past winter.  The tractor has become the single most versatile piece of equipment on the farm from moving snow to building a parking lot.




Eden 5

With the snow still feet deep, it was time to start pruning.  All hands were on deck, including our little guy here.  The orchard had been neglected for at least 6 years prior to us, so pruning was a larger task than normal and one of the most important things we could do for the health of the trees and apples to come.




Eden 6

Prior to 2015, Bryan had only the experience of organic gardening that he did for fun.  Now immersed in pruning more than 700 trees over a two month period, he quickly learned what he was looking for in the shape of a tree and developed a deep connection and understanding for what he was doing.




Eden 7

As spring arrived, so did the pests.  Groundhogs will treat your garden as their own personal salad bar and are known to climb trees for snacking on apples.  Likewise, porcupine are another big offender.  They are particular to fruit trees and do not make for very good pruners.  We had to relocate 8 groundhogs and 11 porcupine our first year.  




 Eden 8That’s where our super tactical pest control program came into play.  Poisoned conventional apples covered in sticky glue attract female apple maggots before they lay their eggs; guinea fowl comb the orchard for ticks, Japanese beetles and other insects; and we also have 2 barn cats for catching mice and  voles.



Eden 9

After collecting the prunings, we chipped them up for use around the orchard and for purchase.  Recently, a local organic company sought us out specifically because we had organic wood chips to use for smoking their product.  The difference being that there are no toxic chemicals added to what is being smoked.




Eden 10

In May, the blossoms arrived and the orchard was alive with the hair-raising sound of bees buzzing all around.  It’s an intense experience.  Most of our blossoms were white but there was one specific tree that had purple blooms on it.  We never had a map for the orchard that laid out the more than 30 apple varieties scattered throughout, so this blossom color was special.


To be continued…

The Power of Suggestion

I love how everyday life has its lessons thrown in there, just waiting to be discovered.  A recent one for me, as I hang out waiting in the ER, is the power of suggestion.  This can be both positive and negative, of course.  It was highlighted for me by my 9 year old.  Let me explain.

Recently, I’ve been a particularly tasty nibble for bugs.  I’ve always had pretty big reactions to bug bites.  (I’m sure there’s a lesson hidden within that too!)  This time, I was bitten by a fast acting mosquito right in the middle of my forehead.  Within a short while, the middle of my forehead started to pop out.  I looked like a dinosaur.  Then, the swelling moved down my nose and eventually around both eyes.  It wasn’t pretty.  The swelling restricted my breathing in my nose a bit, but wasn’t worrisome.  I tried a few things to relieve the swelling, but neither the cold compresses, homeopathic medicine, nor the antihistamine was cutting it.  I went to bed and by the next morning, I was still puffy and swollen.  It took 2 days for the swelling to subside.   Once it did, it was just my luck that a giant horsefly attacked me and took a chunk out of the right side of my forehead.  What are the chances?!  It started to puff and swell as the evening wore on, this time on the one side.

I had sent a picture to my family, mainly as a joke, because I looked like I was using Botox.  (I just turned 40, I thought they’d find it funny.)  They didn’t find the humor.  It’s family, so I received more along the lines of concern and suggestion that I go to a doctor, citing a nurse friend that each incident could produce greater symptoms, anaphylactic shock, etc, etc.  I dismissed it readily, but the seed was planted!  Not long after, at bedtime, I started to feel the one side of my tongue swelling.  That’s it!  I started to panic, I need to go to the hospital.  The one thing about the ER is once you’re there, you have time to think… plenty of time, in fact!

Upon admission, I talk to the triage nurse.  She asks me, using the pain scale, what kind of pain I’m in.  I’ve been through natural childbirth, I think to myself.  It’s not painful, really just a minor discomfort from the pressure.  I realized the reality of my situation.  It’s a bug bite.  My face is swollen.  I’m not in any pain.  It’s a minor discomfort.  I’m going to be okay.  The feeling of my tongue swelling seemed to subside on its own.  That was the frame of mind I needed to be in to get better.

Punctuating this lesson all the more, I came home to hear that my 9 year old was giving a pep talk to his friend who had hurt himself.  You’re gonna be alright, back and at it in no time.  Sometimes, the best medicine can be the power of positive suggestion.  It’s so simple, even kids get it!

It reminds me of a phrase written by a family friend in a baby book for my son, The Little Engine That Could: “What you think about, you bring about.”

Happy, positive thoughts to you all!

Ali 🙂

Opening Yourself to Receiving

imageHow many times have you had the courage to make a change, but when questioned you doubt yourself only to retreat to the safety and comfort of what you know? It may not be what you truly want, but at least it’s familiar. What’s unknown is scary. It creates discomfort, but without discomfort, there is no stimulus for change. That’s part of the human condition.

The struggles and hardships in your life are designed for you to evoke change. It builds and builds until you cannot keep it in anymore. You have two options: make a change or merely exist. Release what no longer serves you to be free to receive with both hands. You were born to grow and change. Without change, you have nothing new to offer.

Be truthful and honest with yourself. Ask your higher self, the core of who you are, “Is this what I want?” Without conditions. Without logic or rationale. Is this what I want? The answer is right there in your initial gut reaction. The conditions holding you back are the questions and in the thought process that comes after. To gain the strength and courage to live a truly authentic life, live in that moment. See, feel, and appreciate the moment you answered that question authentically. Many blessings are ahead.


Ali 🙂

DIY Peanut Butter Cups – Mmmmmm So Good!

File_000Early season apples, just perfect for baking pies and dehydrating, will be here by mid August.  But, if you know me, you know I love desserts and chocolate any time of year!  I’ve been known to not-so-discretely peruse the dessert menu before deciding on what to order for dinner.  Dark chocolate, in particular, is my absolute favorite.  So, when I came across this recipe for DIY Peanut Butter Cups that was so easy and even looked healthy, I had to try it.  Around Halloween, I had tried another recipe that was similar, which called for powdered sugar as the binding agent.  It was not something I would do again.  The consistency was too tacky and had way too much sugar.  This recipe is far better because it uses coconut flour.  It is so much healthier and easier to work with.  My experience with the recipe just needed one improvement – to thin the chocolate a bit so it was not as thick and messy.  First I tried milk… milk chocolate has milk in it, right?  Don’t do that!  The chocolate curdled and was not useful for a smooth chocolate shell.  Then I remembered another recipe I had tried for a raw chocolate sauce that used cocoa powder and coconut oil.  Coconut oil… Voila!  It’s the perfect addition for a chocolate shell.  Also, in my experience I would not use a peanut butter with added oil, like palm oil, but if you must, use more coconut flour to absorb the oil.  Depending on your ingredients, this can be a dairy free, vegan, and gluten free treat.

The original recipe I used is here:

Healthy 4 Ingredient Reese’s Eggs

I recommend this website highly for great recipes and other healthy living advice.  

Here is my process using what I had on hand…. Feel free to substitute what you have or your favorite ingredients.  Organic is best!

Ingredient List:

  • 2/3 cup Natural Peanut Butter (creamy, peanuts and salt only)
  • 1-2 tbsp Coconut Flour
  • 1 tbsp Real Maple Syrup (or honey)
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • Coarse Salt (optional, I used pink Himalayan salt)

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Mix together the peanut butter, coconut flour, and maple syrup in a medium sized bowl, adding more coconut flour if the batter is too loose.  The batter should be slightly sticky like a cookie dough.  Using a small ice cream/cookie scooper or a tablespoon, drop tablespoon sized peanut butter mixture onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Push down to flatten into a coin shape and freeze for about 20 minutes.


Melt chocolate using a double boiler method and add the coconut oil to thin the chocolate.  Use more or less coconut oil depending on your personal preferences.  Coat frozen peanut butter cups in the melted chocolate (I used two forks to handle it) and top with coarse salt, if desired.  Put back into the freezer for another 20 minutes or so to harden.  Keep frozen until ready to eat.  They don’t last long, at least not in my house!

Indulge in what you love and enjoy life!

Ali 🙂

How Did I End Up Here? Trust.

IMG_0356How Did I End Up Here?  Trust.

The journey that led me to our apple orchard was a leap of faith and trust.  One that I resisted for many, many years.  I lived in New Jersey almost my whole life, up until recently.  The oldest of six children, there was an 11 year difference between myself and my youngest brother.  I made a conscious decision at 17 to go to college in my home state, only applying to two colleges.  I never even visited the colleges I applied to, I just knew I wanted to be close to home so as my little brothers and sisters grew up, we would know each other.  I always thought of New Jersey as my home.  I had no intention of moving.  I thought I’d buy a house, renovate it, buy a bigger house, have kids, then get an even bigger house, and so on.  After buying a starter home, renovating it, and selling it to move into a bigger one, I would spend four hours each week cleaning it spotless when there was only two of us living there.  Then… I had kids.  A statement I’m sure many of you can relate to!

My children have been one of the most profound changes in my life.  One I will no doubt have many more tales to write about.  The unexpected nature of my children, especially my first, threw everything I knew into a blender and mixed it all up until nothing I had known previously was recognizable.  My oldest started his schooling at a highly academic preschool and kindergarten, where it became obvious that it was not a good fit.  He would never be the student that could sit down and turn to page 47 and do his work quietly.  At the end of his kindergarten year, I was introduced, rather serendipitously, to the philosophy of The Free School.  I read everything I could about it and fell in love with the dual tenants of individual freedom and responsibility.  The year my children went to school there was actually more freeing for me.  It ushered me along the process of shedding my need for perfection and learning to trust; trust that everything will turn out okay.  It was at this point, that I was in a place where I was willing to seek change.  My husband and I put our house, located a busy highway, on the market where it miraculously sold in less than two weeks.  It was a sign that we were moving in a new direction that was just waiting for us.

Somehow I felt at ease with my decision, although leaving family, friends and an incredible job that offered me all the flexibility and security I could ever ask for, was not easy.  Now having sold our home and putting most everything we owned in storage, we bought a small tow-behind camper and pointed our compass north.  New England in general for me always had a quality about it I can only explain as the feeling that I could breath again.  Maine was where my husband most identified as home and so we started touring the state looking for that magic combination where we all felt a fit.  A school for our two boys was our first priority, one that placed more emphasis on learning from experience rather than test outcomes.  We thought, we’d find a school and then a home would follow, but when we looked at a school we liked, the area wasn’t resonating with us.  All the while, Bryan and I were dreaming up our wish list for a home: wide plank floors, lots of acreage, a big barn, an older home with character.  Then, when we were visiting a school, within a few minutes of meeting the science teacher she asked us, “You don’t want to live on a 26-acre organic apple orchard with an old farmhouse, do you?”  My eyes lit up!  It sounded perfect.  Bryan had kept an organic garden for fun, not nearly the experience you’d need to run a 700+ tree orchard organically, but it ignited an underlying passion that started us on our journey at the orchard.  The whole process has been a leap of faith and trust.  It’s a beautiful reminder that we can put out to the universe what we want and then let go and just trust that everything will happen as it should.  If it’s not exactly what we wanted, it serves as a lesson just waiting for us to discover.

Blessings to you as you discover your own personal path and trust in it.

Ali 🙂  


PHOTO CREDIT: Tess Johnson of Tess J Photography