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Anne O’Connor

Correspondent

ASHBY — Apple picking is a time-honored autumn tradition for New England families. Nothing beats the taste and crunch of a slightly chilled apple plucked straight from the branch.

Apple picking opened Labor Day weekend at Ashby Apples. This small orchard is the only pick-your-own location in Ashby and Townsend.

Paula Bogue grows a variety of apples in her well-established orchard. “We are your local neighborhood orchard,” she said.

“It’s a labor of love,” she said. The first two years she ran the business out of a tent. All of the trees were hand-sprayed and the family used a four-wheeler to get around the property.

“We don’t make money at all. We cover expenses. If there’s a little extra, we can get something,” she said.

The business now has a retail area and a new tractor. Shoppers can purchase apples, cider made at the orchard and gift items. Bogue makes pies and jams to sell at the barn.

The orchard was originally planted 100 years ago. Things have changed since it was first planted by the Erickson brothers.

Houses line the street, many with a little slice of the orchard in the backyard.

None of the remaining trees are the original trees. Bogue said apple trees stop bearing well and need to be replaced periodically. Most orchards try to replace 10 percent of the trees yearly.

Young trees are scattered throughout the property. “It’s my goal to make this a heritage orchard,” she said. Early macs are already starting to come in and different varieties will ripen throughout the fall giving apple lovers new things to look forward to for months to come.

The Bogues keep the trees well maintained for easy picking. The medium dwarf trees are pruned so branches are low to the ground.

The closely cut grass not only entices picnickers and walkers, but serves to naturally discourage rodents. She said the pests like to burrow in overgrown areas.

Plenty of fruit grows on a mere three acres. In addition to retail sales the Bogues donate apples to the Ashby Grange for making apple pies. They contribute fruit to local food pantries and other charities. Groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts come out to learn about apple growing.

Picking is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and during the weekdays by appointment. Apple picking will close after the first hard frost.

“We try and save our people money,” Bogue said. The more you pick, the less per pound it will cost. Customers can also buy an “Apple Book” with coupons for pecks of apples and a free bag of drops. Pre-picked apples are available

Ashby Apples is located at 416 Erickson Road in Ashby. The phone number is 978-386-7230.

Gary’s Too in on Route 119 in Townsend also sells local apples. Manager Sue Smith said they have a wide variety with more types coming in as the season progresses.