FAIRBANKS Clair Lammers strolls through his Fairbanks fruit orchard like a man visiting his children.
Every now and then he stops and points to a tree, usually about four feet tall with a few fruit-loaded boughs. This is the first year that particular tree has produced fruit.
''You get to know them,'' he said.
Lammers, owner of Clair's Cultivations, has been growing apple trees since 1981, and since then has added plum, cherry, pear and nut trees to his near four-acre orchard off Esro Road.
Last year he picked about 3,000 pounds of apples from 350 varieties and began selling them along with several types of plums at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market.
With the record hot weather this summer, he expects to surpass that weight because the fruit is bigger this year. The apples range from a cute 2 inch fruit to a hefty 6 inch apple, he said. They are mostly a blush type, yellow with a kiss of red.
The fruit trees have needed more water than the usually half gallon an hour Lammers gives them with the orchard's irrigation system.
''I had 104 degrees here this summer,'' he said. ''All you can do is sock the water to them.''
The trees are not large, although a few stand over the average person's head. The trick is to get the trees to withstand an Alaskan winter.
Lammers has rows and rows of trees thriving in a stepped hillside, surrounded by larger than usual spruce and birch trees. Once the snow falls he said he doesn't go into the orchard for any reason so the winter can do its work.
''I don't want it if it doesn't survive,'' he said.
Springtime is Lammers' favorite time of year. That's when he returns to the orchard. The flowers are white and fragrant, and the wind mixes the fragrant varieties into a heady scent.
''I start getting down there to see new shoots, see if they survived the winter,'' he said.
There are a few empty slots in every row.
Lammers uses a hearty apple root stock to graft branches of apple stems with whimsical names, such as Trailman, Brooks or Alta Sweet. The root stock helps the trees withstand Alaska's cold winters, he said.
Lammers usually picks the apples and plums before they are ripe and takes them indoors to ripen. Otherwise they fall to the ground.
He sells a gallon bag of apples for $10 and a quart size bag of plums for $7.
Some of the apples have a sweet fragrant taste while others have a tart bite. The plums are small, about an inch, and have a smooth skin with moist sweet tang flesh and a regular size pit. They come either yellow or red.
Lammers said that the way to know whether an apple is ripe is by looking at the seeds. If they're dark the apple is ready. Each apple has 10 seeds and each seed is capable of producing its own unique fruit with different characteristics within the variety.
Lammers has a cherry tree that supplies fruit for pies and a cherry tree for making a deep burgundy wine. He said he had more pears last year than this year, but they are not as prolific as the apples because bees don't like pear flowers and that causes some pollination problems.
Lammers has grown apples in other cold spots in the United States so it made sense to try it in the far north.
''Have you ever seen this in Fairbanks, Alaska?'' he said as he looked around his orchard.
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