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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Camping --- at Carlson’s Island View Cherry Orchard – Door County, WI

With all of our crazy weather we have been having this past week in Wisconsin, the cherry growers are afraid of losing their crops.  If you have snow and ice on the cherry blossoms that are in bloom right now, the bees can't pollinate.  And if the bees don't do their thing, that means no cherries!

Soooo---  in thinking about this, I thought I would do a blog post about our friends, Mark and MaryPat Carlson who own Carlson's Island View Cherry Orchard in Door County, WI    Steve has helped them harvest cherries from wayyy back in his highschool days when Mark's dad owned the orchard.  The orchard has been in their family for over 100 years.  So sometimes even now, if they need help, we head around the loop in our motorhome to go help with the harvest.    We joke that we should put pontoons on the motorhome and float across and save on time and fuel!   LOL

And THIS is the bumper crop of cherries waiting to be harvested!  These are called Mount Morcency cherries and are of the tart variety.  Great for baking and making wine! 

Here is some more information on the orchard from a tourist website:

This photo was from a few years back when we took our older motorhome, the Coachmen gasser, up to the orchard.

Mark and MaryPat also have a travel trailer parked in the orchard to stay in during the harvest season.  After the work is done, we light up a big campfire and cook out and relax with a few beverages, well into the night.

The orchard is quite large with many older trees.  
As each tree stops bearing fruit, they plant in a new tree to take it's place.

When it's time to harvest, it takes three or four guys to keep the process going.   MaryPat (along with some college students)  hand-pick cherries for all the local stores with stems still on, and then big flats are brought to the local restaurants and bakeries and farmer's markets.  Some years I would help in the booth at the road.  I would rinse bins of cherries and help sell them to folks who wanted to buy some already picked or hand out buckets to folks who want to pick their own and pay by the pound. 

Sorry, this is such a dark photo...  it was cloudy day and storms were rolling in, so they had to work fast.

Steve and the guys were running all the equipment that shakes each tree's cherries into a huge upsidedown canvas umbrella...  and then a conveyor belt dumps them into big vats of icy cold water.  The vats are hauled to the processors building where they are flash frozen with stones (pits)  in them or they get run through machinery to remove the stones inside and then frozen, ready for baking or eating, or making wine!

The machinery is moved from tree to tree, each time wrapping that huge umbrella device around under the tree,  attaching a big hammer drill like thing that clamps to the trunk and shaken till all the cherriess fall off.   Too much shaking can break a tree, too little and you don't get the cherries off.

Ducky, the bottomless pit chow hound always finds something to eat.... they also grow other vegetables, flowers and berries on the property that are sold in the road side stand.

It's quite a process and needs to be done in a matter of a few days for the bulk of the crop to get processed in time. Weather can cause a lot of problems, and high winds can ruin a whole harvest.

Their daughter, Anna, enjoys it when I come along.  We did a run to a local bead store and we worked on some projects together, staying outta the way when the guys were working.  

Anna brought out a neato puppet that drove our dogs bonkers.  
They could not get over the huge bird that kept walking around and trying to peck them! LOL 

We also made these wreaths and dried them in the sunshine. 
 I still have mine, hanging over our bed in the loft of our home.

I just love the textured slab wood logs used to build this shed.  The texture was just amazing and the weathering in the rugged Door County climate just adds to the flavor of the building.... 

Now those pics above were all taken back a few years ago.   The ones below are from this past summer, 2009 when we took a ride up thataway.      Steve had helped with the wiring and work on this migrant workers shack, which is now the bigger store, housing a lot more items than just cherries.  It took quite a long process to be allowed to move this historical building from one part of their land to another.  Door County and the township in this district take any changes very seriously.  And the hoops that the Carlson's had to jump through to be able to do this was just unbelievable.   See how nice it looks now?

THIS is what they were improving it from: 
(why would they fight the Carlson's from making such an improvement along the road side? I guess it was considered "charming" in it's original state????)

Steveio says:  "Let's Go Shopping!"

The new interior with all their lovely products for sale to the tourists

They put the bathrooms and a drinking fountain at the far back section, so folks who wanted to use the facilities just HAD to pass by all the temping treats and goods....

Now... why does Steve go to such trouble to harvest these wonderful cherries??? 

Steveio making cherry wine - previous blog post

As I typed this blog post today, we are windy, whipping trees back and forth like mad, cold and icy and rainy... sigh... this does not look good for the cherry and apple blossoms.   Not good at all.   Sigh.



  1. What a great way to spend a fgew days and camp out too, Sam has never tasted cherry wine, so save a small glass of Stevieo Special Brew for when we get to visit. From the map I can see why it was such a drive to Rock county where Janesville was located, some day we will try to get up your way when the weather is warm for a weekend campout. Be safe ,Sam & Donna.

  2. Great job educating me on the harvest of cherries. Wonderful pics to go along with your narrative.

    Hope the weather improves for you guys up there!

  3. I hope this doesn't mean a "dry" summer! That would be a real tragedy!

    Nice post, I learned alot and now I'm thirsty...;c)

  4. I would sure love to be up there to pick some of those cherries. They are so pretty and I'll bet tasty!


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