In the fall of 1985, I came to Green Bluff and visited the Rinck and Wing Farm looking for some pears. I mentioned that my husband Rod always had a dream of owning an orchard. Laughing, Gert Rinck said they had 10 acres for sale down the road. Sure enough, on the property was on old 4-SALE sign laying on the ground in an empty field. That evening when Rod arrived home from teaching at Whitworth University, I mentioned that there was a beautiful piece of land for sale on the west side of Green Bluff that we needeed to look at. Thanks to Kenny and Gert Rinck the rest is history.
In the spring of 1986 a well was dug, nearly 1,000 apple, cherry, and peach trees were planted, and a house was built. The dream was taking shape! However, we had no tractor, no implements, no out-buildings, and no knowledge of ocharding. We did have a love of the land and a willingness to work hard and learn.
Very early we realized we needed equipment beyond shovels, rakes, and hoes. Our first tractor was an old Ford 9N (is there any other kind) which we had used in Montana. Later a John Deere 1010 was purchased in Ellensburg. The current John Deere 2150 came from Hood River. Implements were added as needed and as we could afford them... an orchard sprayer, a rototiller, a disc, a mower, two John Deere gators, weed eaters, picking bags... In 2020 we purchased a 3320 John Deere with loader and backhoe.
Equipment needs shelter. We located an old double garage in Spokane Valley and moved it to the farm. It's now our cider room. Later we added a room on one side and a sales room on the other. Most recently a storage building was constructed by our neighbor in 2014 to house the ever increasing equipment needed to operate the orchard.
The apple trees are grafted to M111 rootstock, suitable to dry land farming - meaning no irrigation. It takes about 6 years to get them into production. We were looking forward to a wonderful harvest in 1994 when a terrible hailstorm hit mid-June. The crop was ruined: This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Not wanting to waste the less than perfect apples, we borrowed a neighbor's antique press and made apple cider. Friends really liked the taste of the cider and requested more. Our current press is a patented invention... one of two in the world. Hansen's cider production continues to grow as we try new combinations and add varieties of apples. In 1997, due to concerns over the safety of raw cider, we purchased a pasteurizing unit to ensure our customers' safety. We have recently upgraded to a HTST (high temperature short term) plate pasteurizer to meet the ever changing regulations. We were the first farm on Green Bluff to treat cider in accordance with WSDA regulations.
Homemade food production has always been a part of our family activities. During our years in Montana we picked choke cherries, rose hips, raspberries and Flathead Lake cherries, turning them into jams and syrups. We continue to manufacture homemade jam from fruit grown on Green Bluff and huckleberries foraged from Mt Spokane. Our apple butter is made with Gravenstein apples and the chunky applesauce is a blend of apples to produce the flavor and texure which tastes so good with caramel.
Grapes entered the scene over 25 years ago when our son, Derrick, appeared one day with some Concord grape plants in the trunk of his car. He planted them in front of the house and today they cover our grape arbors.
In 2009 a 10 acre Christmas tree parcel that adjoins our orchard became available. It's a great addition to the farm! Our son-in-law, Serg, helps manage that operation... with the help of our daughter, Grandkids and Seattle family. We grow mainly fir Christmas trees and a few Blue Spruce for the brave tree decorators. We learned the art of wreath making, garland roping and continue to improve our bow design year upon year.
Rod passed away in November 2016 and his dream of orcharding lives on.
"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." Martin Luther