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Thursday, 21 September 2017 14:26

Merrill Center back on track

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STATELINE NEWS -- The Merrill Community Center in Beloit has new life thanks to Community Action Inc.

Community Action purchased the center in July and re-established programs at the facility on Sept. 5. The center at 1428 Wisconsin Ave. closed last November due to financial reasons.

Marc Perry, director of community programs, said Community Action purchased the center to continue to serve residents in the Merrill neighborhood.

“We’ve been working with the Merrill neighborhood consistently with different initiatives since 2007, but this gave us the opportunity to have a permanent space,” Perry said. “We’ve been doing housing rehab. We have a community garden (in the neighborhood). We’ve been working with the neighborhood watch group for quite some time, but this allowed us to have a daily presence in the neighborhood.”

Community Action Executive Director Cecilia Dever said Merrill Center staff and board members  approached them about buying the facility last year.

“When the Merrill Center staff and board contacted us about possibly purchasing the center, I brought it back to my board,” Dever said. “At the time we voted, we believed it fit within our mission, and we decided to maintain the services at the center.”

Perry said little work had to be done to the building to prepare for the reopening. He said officials also communicated with residents to inform them that the center was reopening.

“The building was in very good shape for the most part,” Perry said. “We did some painting. We did some de-cluttering and moving staff in and getting our Internet up and running, getting computers up and running and figuring out what worked and didn’t work. The other part of it was reaching out to the community so they knew that we had purchased (the center) and we were reopening it and that programming was going to restart right away.”

The center offers programs for children between the ages of 6 and 12 and for senior citizens.

“The Merrill Center means a lot to the people in this neighborhood,” Perry said. “When the doors closed, there were a lot of people who were hurt and sad and concerned and worried about the seniors and children in the community. The community wanted the Merrill Center, and we wanted to make sure the doors were reopened. We needed the space, and we needed the programming. It’s the neighborhood hub.”

The center’s after-school program is held from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, when students receive assistance with their homework and participate in games and activities.

“The kids learn socialization skills. We have a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. So, the Boys and Girls Club staff comes in every afternoon and runs programming for the kids,” Perry said. “We send staff to Merrill Elementary School every day and pick the kids up after school and walk them here as a group to make sure everyone gets here safely.”

Perry said the after-school program already is at capacity with 35 children, but a waiting list has been established.

“We’re already at our limit. We’re really excited,” Perry said. “The parents of the community have responded and have notified other parents. I think the best part is how supportive the rest of the community has been about us reopening, how appreciative everybody has been and how respectful everyone has been. It’s genuine support. People are genuinely happy that we’ve reopened the center and that Community Action is in charge of it.”

Dever said some residents have suggested that the after-school program also be offered Fridays.

“We’ve said let’s get the program up and running and then we can see about that,” Dever said.

Betsy Schroeder, principal at Merrill Elementary School, said she is pleased that the center has reopened because it gives students a safe place to visit after school.

“We’re very excited about the Merrill Community Center reopening,” Schroeder said. “It meets the needs of our neighborhood. Many of our students participate in the after-school program. Having the center gives students a safe place to go after school, and it allows them to participate in activities.”

The center offers programs for senior citizens from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Activities include bingo, health education programs and field trips.

“The biggest benefit for (the seniors) is that they can get connected to other seniors, and it allows them to be in a safe place,” Perry said. “They know they can walk through the doors on program days, and they’re going to be treated with dignity and respect. They’re going to be appreciated. They’re going to have the opportunity to interact with their peers and learn some things that they may have not been exposed to.”

Perry said about eight seniors have participated.

“Word is starting to spread, and seniors are starting to recruit other seniors. Our target is 25 seniors, ultimately,” Perry said. “All of the seniors in the program were in the program before. Several of the kids were here before. It’s really nice that they’ve been back.”

Community Action’s Personal Responsibility and Education program staff and Neighborhood Revitalization and Stabilization Areas staff also are located at the center. The NRSA program helps residents find affordable housing, and the PREP program educates students ages 11 to 19 about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy.

“In the first five years of (PREP), the teenage pregnancy rate in Beloit was lowered by 22 percent, and they give PREP some of that credit,” Perry said.

More programs could be added in the future.

“As we connect with our partners and talk to the community about what their needs are, over time we will add more programs here,” Perry said. “We always assess what we’re doing as an agency overall. Whatever the community needs is what we will try to respond to. What their greatest need is, is what we’re looking for.”

Perry said Community Action wouldn’t have purchased the Merrill Community Center without grant funding from the United Way Blackhawk Region.

“United Way gave us some of the initial funding to get this place up and running, so we definitely want to acknowledge them,” Perry said. “It was their support of Community Action that allowed us to purchase the center. We approached them about purchasing the Merrill Community Center, and they were very receptive.”

For more information about the Merrill Community Center’s programs, call 608-313-1300 or go to

Thursday, 21 September 2017 12:48

They’re painting the town

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WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- The newest addition to downtown Delavan marks some of the city’s oldest industrial roots -- in a way that makes people stop and stare.

A new mural on the west side of the Delavan Fitness Center building, 114 N. Third St., features three of Delavan’s early industries: Barker Lumber Co., Moser Screw Machine Co. and Urbandale Dairy.    

The mural is number 20 for Delavan in a public art project painted by a group of skilled sign painters and mural artists from around the world known as Walldogs. Eighteen of the murals were painted on downtown buildings when a group of Walldogs convened in Delavan for five days in June 2015, thanks in part to Brad and Kit Bandow, owners of Brushfire Signs in Elkhorn. The Bandows, Walldog artists themselves, nominated the city for the group’s annual event. 

This year the meet was in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, with a second event in Pawkatuck, Rhode Island. According to the Walldogs’ website, 30 communities around the country have held mural events, including five in Wisconsin.

The group’s murals are designed to look like vintage advertisements painted on the sides of buildings a century or more ago by itinerant artists who earned the nickname of “walldogs.”

The Delavan murals were highlighted when an episode of the Milwaukee Public Television show, “Around the Corner With John McGivern” was filmed there last year. Another MPT program, “The Arts Page,” also featured them in an Emmy-nominated episode in 2016. 

The city’s 19th mural was unveiled last May and featured a longtime Walldog artist, FranCisco Vargas, who died shortly after working on the 2015 Delavan mural of the Rodriguez Brothers Potato Farm. The Vargas mural was painted on panels in Illinois, became part of a traveling exhibit and was finally brought to Wisconsin. 

The 2015 murals illustrate such chapters of Delavan’s past as its ballrooms that once attracted the likes of big bands with names like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, its renown as home of one of the world’s most popular handcrafted cigars, its connection to Frank Lloyd Wright, even the military contract work its residents did during World War II.

Both visitors and locals have learned more about the city and town, from the area being the home to the Wisconsin State School for the Deaf to the fact that Delavan was founded as a temperance community, said Lori Wuttke, the owner of Remember When, a Delavan antiques store.

“I think it’s another reason to come to Delavan. It’s very unique to see the city and town’s history in pictures,” said Wuttke, who counts the World War II Rosie the Riveter mural on the west side of the Delavan Fire Department as one of her favorites.

“Many people don’t know that during World War II, Delavan was on the top 10 list of cities that could be sabotaged by the enemy because it had one of the highest number of military contracts in the country,” she said.

“Tourists always ask why there is a giraffe and an elephant statue in Tower Park. People know about Baraboo, but they don’t always know about Delavan’s circus history and how circuses used to winter right here.”

The murals have been a good attraction for the area, even drawing bus groups and walking tours that stop to admire the artwork, said Patti Marsicano, president of the Delavan Historical Society.

“We’ve gone through a lot of brochures,” she said of the self-guided maps of the murals.

Marsicano pored over historical files and old photographs for all of the murals’ subjects -- including the latest -- for the painters.

She found it interesting to see how the three businesses -- all of which are still operating -- changed over the years.

“Barker Lumber has evolved into more of a hardware store. Urbandale Dairy grew into the Alder Companies and Moser Screw Machine Products is now MicroPrecision,” Marsicano said.

The new mural is just 44 inches to the right of a 2015 mural that features another trio of early Delavan industries --  Bradley Knitting Co., J.B. Reader Windmill and Pump Factory and Sta-Rite.

All the businesses were chosen by the Delavan Walldog committee, said Brad Bandow, who worked with his wife on the new mural, including designing the layout and the actual painting.

“Since (the new mural) is a continuation of Delavan’s historical past industry, celebrating the business people and what they brought to the city, the subjects that were selected happened to be very important for this area’s growth, mainly that of building materials and Wisconsin’s finest milk products,” Bandow said in an email. “It was our job to bring those pictures alive through paint and display them on the wall so that citizens could remember or learn something new about this beloved city.”

Bandow said he and his wife love history, so reviewing the old photographs Marsicano furnished was part of the fun of the project.

“We study (old photos) more than your average person because we’re seeing them through artists’ eyes, looking for those interesting details that many miss by a glance,” he said. “These photos tell a story, a snippet in time, a place you want to go back to and even stay, if it were possible.”

For some subjects, there’s not a wealth of visual material to draw from. Moser Screw Machine Products was a good example, Bandow said, because most of the intricate parts the company manufactured were often hidden inside larger objects and, if drawn, wouldn’t be easily recognizable to a viewer. Instead, the factory building where those parts were created became part of the mural.  

Bandow, a former Delavan resident, and his wife, who once lived in Lake Geneva, were scheduled to be at the Rhode Island Walldogs meet earlier this month, but both agreed to forgo the trip to work on the Delavan mural. Because almost all of the Walldogs were at the meet, the Bandows recruited a handful of local helpers, including Lake Geneva artist Elayne Tirtilli, to help fill in large areas while the couple “concentrated on detail work that only experienced Walldogs can tackle,” Bandow said.

Bandow thinks Plymouth is the only Wisconsin city that has more Walldogs murals than Delavan. But he has hopes Delavan can add more murals in the future, particularly with a focus on the arts.

“Plans are in the works, but I can’t let the paint out of the can just yet,” he said. “We want to build on what we’ve created in the downtown business area and get people to come enjoy what’s being offered in this wonderful place to live.

“There’s good stuff here and we want to bring more -- more food, more music, more dance, more sculpture, more art and more celebration in this historical haven.” 


See for yourself

• Delavan’s newest mural, featuring three longtime area businesses, is located on the west side of the Delavan Fitness Center building, 114 N. Third St.

• A mural of Walldog artist FranCisco Vargas, unveiled in May, can be found on North Second Street, near Hawk’s Nest restaurant, 103 N. Second St.

• View the series of 18 Delavan murals painted by the Walldogs in 2015 online at the Delavan-Delavan Lake Area Chamber of Commerce website,

• Pick up a self-guided tour map of the murals at the chamber office, 52 E. Walworth Ave., Delavan.

Friday, 15 September 2017 08:54

The past is always present

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WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- If your grandparents lived and grew up in Walworth County, it’s a good bet your ancestors would feel right at home at Old World Wisconsin, the outdoor living history museum located just south of Eagle.

 Do you have German, English, Irish, Swedish, Danish or Norwegian heritage? Old World has separate “villages” representing the traditions of these ethnic groups who settled in the state. The housing and daily life of these settlers in 19th-century Wisconsin gives today’s visitors a sense of their past.

 The buildings at Old World come from near and far, but they all represent Wisconsin’s past. Harmony Town Hall, built in 1876 in Rock County, was moved to Old World in 1976. It is part of the Yankee Village. The Sanford House, so named for the family that built it, also is located in the Yankee Village. Built in 1858 in the town of LaGrange, its original location would today be a skip and a jump away by car, yesteryear it would have been a four-hour drive with a team of horses.

 Sue (Duerst) Earle grew up in the Sanford house. A family story recounts a first date with her future husband: “You know where I live, right?” she asked.

Sure he did, but when he got there, he found it empty and uninhabited; the Duersts had built a new house with modern conveniences just down the road. The home’s uncertain fate was all too typical of outdated buildings. No longer habitable, they fell down, were razed or donated to a fire department for practice burns.

 Fortunately, members of the Sanford family saw the empty house and approached the owners to inquire if they would donate the house to what was then the very beginnings of Old World. They did and now the Sanford and Duerst families and all of their relatives can visit the house at the museum, along with anyone else interested in the history of Wisconsin.

  The museum opened with 10 buildings, including the Sanford House. Today there are more than 60 structures, representing different ethic groups. From the start, the museum enjoyed international interest. The queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, was on hand to dedicate the Danish exhibit on May 14, 1976. The museum officially opened at a time when U.S. citizens were particularly vulnerable to digressions of the past. The dedication ceremony was held June 30, 1976, just in time for the United States Bicentennial celebration.

 According to genealogist Mary Evans, the anniversary of this country’s birth sparked a renewed interest in the past and one’s ancestors. This included people interested in re-enactment groups, genealogical research and membership in groups like DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution. The group has 3,000 chapters across the United States. Along with the Sons of the American Revolution, DAR works to preserve the legacy of the Revolutionary War patriots who made it happen.

 Evans became a member of DAR after working on her family’s genealogy.

“It was like a big puzzle, with more pieces added all the time,” she said. “Fortunately, I lived out East for a time and had access to a lot of the records I needed to prove my connection to a Revolutionary soldier.”

 Applicants to DAR or SAR need to submit copies of original documents, including birth and death certificates, marriage certificates and supporting evidence such as census records and probate records. It can be challenging, but there are people, like Evans, who can help.

 “Usually this means you have to trace your ancestors back to those years (1775 to 1783),” Evans said. “Once you find an ancestor that was alive during those years, you have a good chance of finding the connection you need.”

 The research is a lot easier to do now, with more documents being digitized all the time. There are vital records and census records available online and through websites such as, a subscription-based service, or, a free service managed by the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Local genealogy groups and historical societies are available to help as well.

 The Walworth County Genealogical Society maintains a staffed library in the Mary Bray Room of Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn. Martha Hay and Christine Brooks are co-presidents of the group.

 Hay said she loves helping people discover their past.

“Most people want to know where they come from and if those family stories they heard growing up are true,” Hay said.

Today, renewed interest in genealogy is spurred on by TV shows such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots.” Advertising from DNA testing sites also encourages people to discover more about themselves. Sites like 23andMe offer tests that provide health and ancestry information.

 Hay and Evans agreed there are pragmatic reasons to do family research. Evans said your history is full of records that can pinpoint health issues even before you go the route of having a DNA test done.

 “Every family has a story,” Hay said. “Death records can indicate a health history that might be important to you. If you see that your grandfather and great-grandfather and great uncle all died of a heart attack, you pretty much know that runs in your family and it’s something you should watch out for.”

 Most genealogy research, though, is based on a natural curiosity of finding out who we are in a larger scheme of things. Hay recalled a particular instance of this when she was able to help.

“We had an older gentleman come in for help,” she said. “His older sisters had all passed away and because his mother had died when he was quite young, 5 years old, he didn’t have any information about her.”

The gentleman had no idea how to go about finding anything about his mother, but the Walworth County genealogists were able to help him.

“We found his mother’s obituary and from there her family,” Hay said. “He was like ‘Wow, I have all this family I didn’t know about.’

 “It was one of the best days we’ve had around here.”


Learn more

• Walworth County Genealogical Society: Meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at the Community Center, 826 E. Geneva St., Delavan.

Oct. 3 meeting features a presentation about American Indian history.

• Walworth County Genealogical Society library: located in the Mary Bray Room on the upper level of Matheson Memorial Library, 101 N. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn.

Open to the public and staffed with volunteer researchers from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the first, second and fourth Tuesdays of the month and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. the third Tuesday. Also open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the third Saturday of the month. Call 262-723-9150 for more information.

• Burlington Genealogical Society: Meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month in Room 100 at  the Gateway Technical College Burlington Center, 496 McCanna Parkway, Burlington.

Sept. 20 program, “Mapping Your Ancestors,” will be held in Room H100 in the Gateway HERO Center, 380 McCanna Parkway, Burlington.

Go to for more information.

Friday, 15 September 2017 08:44

Let's get pickled

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STATELINE NEWS--At Bushel & Peck’s Local Market in downtown Beloit, some of the most popular items sold -- cherry bomb hot sauce, cherry lavender jelly, classic dill pickles and pickled beets -- are made in the market’s own preservation kitchen.

The foods prepared in that kitchen, which began operating in 2010, fit in with the locally sourced milk, cheese, meats and more offered in the market. And many of the finished products, like the hot sauce, also are used in food served at the market’s café. 

“It’s a way to enhance our farm-to-table spirit,” said Bushel & Peck’s co-owner Jackie Gennett, who noted that with the exception of an ingredient like sugar, the preservation kitchen produce comes from area farms, including the one she runs.

“I do a lot of experiments at home,” Gennett said. “I’ll take a new type of pepper and experiment until I get the recipe right.”

She’s found more consumers like the idea of not only buying preserved food, but making their own, so Bushel & Peck’s offers preservation classes in the winter.

A popular one on fermentation lets attendees create foods like sauerkraut and a traditional Korean side dish gone viral: kimchee -- a concoction of fermented cabbage, carrots, onions, ginger and other vegetables and spices.

Besides a tangy taste, fermented foods offer health benefits because of the probiotics, or good bacteria, found in them, which contribute to good health and healthy digestion, Gennett said.

The fact that more consumers want to avoid commercially processed foods has contributed to a growing interest in food preservation, Amanda Olsen, the founder of Preservation School in Woodstock, Illinois, said in an email.

“With food allergies and nutrition-related diseases on the rise, consumers are becoming more aware of what’s in their food and how it can impact their health. Being able to be in control of the food they feed their families is a big draw for most people,” said Olsen, who has been offering in-home and on-site classes since June 2016.

 While fermentation is big, more traditional preservation methods like canning are seeing a resurgence, as well.

“One big sign is that when I first started teaching my classes nearly 15 years ago, a lot of the basic equipment and supplies needed for canning was not as readily available in the stores outside of Farm & Fleet or specialty stores,” Ann Wegner LeFort, owner of The Mindful Palate, said in an email. The Mindful Palate is a Milwaukee-based culinary school that offers cooking and canning classes around southeastern Wisconsin.

“Now you can find canning equipment and beginner kits at just about any big box store as well as the supermarket. Varieties of jars are no longer limited to the standard pint and quart Mason jars. As the interest has grown, the market has responded.”

For LeFort, it was her Gramma Lucille who was her muse in the kitchen.

Most of those who attend her classes now might have a fond memory of a grandmother who canned, but they primarily want to use the excess harvest from their gardens, community-supported agricultural shares or even farmers market purchases, she said.

Her most popular offerings are an introductory class on food preservation and a tomato preservation class.

Canning and preserving aren’t part of the current programming offered through the family living departments at the University of Wisconsin-Extension at Rock and Walworth counties, but the offices provide a wealth of information and help, including a free service to test the gauge on pressure cookers for accuracy.

“We get about a dozen folks who come in for pressure canner testing each year,” said Angela Flickinger, an educator and the family living department head at UW-Extension Rock County. 

People often have questions about the canning process, especially when it comes to safety, LeFort said.

“I still get a lot of students who are scared to death of pressure canners exploding or killing people via botulism,” she said. “After a basic intro class, I have found I can temper a lot of those concerns, but then I invite people to take a hands-on class to try it themselves. For me, actually trying is a better way to learn.”

Additionally, she gets lots of questions about older canning methods, such as using paraffin to seal jams and jellies and canning tomatoes in a hot water bath without adding acid.

“There are a lot of techniques that were used 30 or 40 years ago that are no longer recommended by food scientists and canning experts,” she said. “If you’re putting a lot of time, effort and resources into canning, it’s best to work towards the safest outcome.”

Olsen, who has been practicing home food preservation for more than a decade, says many students are intimidated by the canning process because of misconceptions not only about dangers, but equipment needed and time commitment involved.

“The first thing I tell new students is, if you can cook, you can can! You don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen canning bushels of produce into dozens of jars. Start small -- you can get started with supplies you have in your home kitchen already, and use recipes that are scaled down to create just a little bit of each thing.”

By far, Olsen teaches more basic than advanced classes.

“The students that seem most drawn to hands-on instruction have had no practical experience with home canning,” she said. “It’s a skill that essentially skipped a generation or two -- most of us can remember our grandmothers or great-grandmothers canning, but our moms often didn’t. So there is awareness of what it is, but not the practicalities of how to actually do it.”

Preserved foods make sense economically, but there are other reasons for embracing the techniques.

“I always make dilly beans, if nothing else,” LeFort said. “I don’t have my grandmother’s actual recipe, but I have found one that tastes just like hers. It’s like a memory in a jar. I like to say that when she passed, it wasn’t the fine china that the family (was) fighting over, but who would get the last jar of dilly beans from her pantry.”



Books and pamphlets

• University of Wisconsin-Extension: or

• The National Center for Home Food Preservation:  

Food preservation classes:

• Bushel & Peck’s, 328 State St., Beloit, 608-363-3911. Schedule isn’t up, but check Bushel & Peck’s on Facebook at for updates.

• The Mindful Palate,

• Preservation School won’t offer classes until spring; visit for details.

Dial-gauge pressure cooker testing:

• UW-Extension office at the Rock County Courthouse, 51 S. Main St., Janesville, 608-757-5696. Office is open 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• UW-Extension office at the Walworth County Government Center, 100 W. Walworth St., Elkhorn, 262-741-4951. Make an appointment to have the gauge tested on-the-spot, or drop it off at the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and get a call back when it’s ready.

Friday, 15 September 2017 08:32

Apples of their eyes

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JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- Providing tasty, quality apples to area residents and visitors is a labor of love for a local couple.

Darcie and Todd Haakinson operate Hawk’s Orchard, 9034 N. Serns Road in Milton. The orchard is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from early September through late October.

The 10-acre orchard features 14 varieties of apples grown on 2,200 trees, and Darcie said most of the apples begin to blossom in May.

However, operating the apple orchard takes a big bite out of their lives and keeps the couple busy throughout the year.

That’s because they have other jobs: Darcie works as a dental hygienist, and Todd is a lineman for Alliant Energy.

“A lot of times people think you just plant the trees and you pick the apples, but there’s things you have to do throughout the year,” Darcie said. “In the winter, my husband is out here pruning the trees. Usually in January or so, I cut out the lower limbs, or if (the tree) needs more sunlight, I might cut out some of the thicker limbs so it can get sunlight.

“In the summertime you have to monitor the pests, because there’s the Japanese beetle that starts eating away at the trees,” she added. “There are turkeys that come in. When the apples are ripe, we have a lot of birds that will start pecking at them, so we will lose apples with that. There’s always something here dealing with birds and animals.”

The couple started planting the trees in 2010 and opened for business in 2013. Todd developed the idea after his years of experience working at the Apple Hut in Beloit.

“We were looking for a change, and we thought it would be fun to start (an orchard),” Darcie said. “Todd said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to start an orchard?’ There’s a lot that goes into it, so we attended an apple school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“That’s how we first started learning about it. We went through a multiple range of classes, from business to what type of orchard you want. We learned about the trees and the varieties, just a little bit of everything.”

But she said it’s been a labor of love for them ever since. And that means offering as many varieties as possible for their customers.

She said some varieties are more popular than others.

“People love honey crisp, but everyone has their favorites,” Darcie said. “People love Cortlands. It really depends. It’s good to have some different varieties. We have varieties that are ready at the end of August, some are ready in September and some varieties aren’t ready until the end of October. They’re ready at different times depending on the weather.”

Roberta Haakinson, Tom’s mother, said some varieties are better for eating, while others are better for baking.

“I would say three-fourths of them are good to bake with, then you have some like the Cortlands, they’re a soft apple, so they’re better for applesauce,” Roberta said. “Some people like to bake with (Cortlands), but then you get a mushy pie. But some people like mushy pies. We’ve got something for everybody. Zestars are bigger apples, and they have a lighter consistency. But if you just want to grab an apple and eat it, they’re almost too big. So, the galas are better for eating.”

Darcie said because most of the trees are dwarves, they don’t allow too much apple picking, which means most of the apples are available for purchase by the bag. The dwarf trees can last between 15 to 20 years and can be more durable than some of the larger trees, Darcie said.

“The nice thing with these dwarf trees is they’re a lot easier to maintain than the bigger apple trees,” Darcie said. “It’s amazing what these little trees can carry.”

Darcie said they might add more varieties of apples in the future.

“We don’t have any plans for next year,” Darcie said. “We were going to grow some new varieties this year, but we weren’t able to get them. We have a lot to handle right now. We just thought we should take a little break so we can manage everything.”

Besides apples, the Haakinsons grow pumpkins.

“It wasn’t a good pumpkin year unfortunately with the rain and us working other jobs and the weed control,” Darcie said. “We had a lot last year, but not so much this year.”

The couple started selling apple cider doughnuts this year, which has proven to be a big hit among customers.

“We just had our first weekend doing multiple batches,” Darcie said. “It went well, and it’s keeping us busy.”

The orchard also features apple cider, hot olives, flavored popcorn, hot pickles, hot mushrooms and honey produced by local beekeepers.

“Their bees will come over and pollinate our trees, and we sell their honey,” Darcie said.

Darcie said her responsibilities as a dental hygienist sometimes take over while she is working at the orchard.

“There’s a kid that comes in and he’s always buying cider, and I say, ‘I’m glad you like it, but you need to take care of your teeth. Apple cider is acidic, and I want you to floss so you don’t get cavities,’” Darcie said. “I always say in moderation, but I really don’t push the two worlds too much.”

Although the Haakinsons spend a lot of time at the orchard, they receive help from friends and family.

“We recruit a lot of family and some friends,” Darcie said. “We have a family friend who is a big help. Everybody works at their other jobs, and then they come to the orchard when they can make it. We have two daughters, and they help out. They’re 16 and 13, and we put them to work.”

They also attend Wisconsin Apple Growers Association continuing education classes.

“We try to soak up as much knowledge as we can,” Darcie said. “I think you learn a lot from the other growers, and we’ve met some other people and learned what works for them. Everybody has been so nice and helpful.”

Darcie said their hard work has paid off, because the orchard has received a lot of support from the community.

“(The orchard) keeps getting busier,” Darcie said. “The word keeps getting out more, so we have a short time span selling apples. Luckily, we’ve been able to get our cooler ready to sell another variety for the next weekend.”

For more information, call 608-247-6301 or search for Hawk’s Orchard on Facebook.


Orchard varieties

Hawks Orchard, 9034 N. Serns Road in Milton, offers 14 varieties of apples for consumers to enjoy. Below is a list and brief description of each.

Zestar: Sweet, tart, full of flavor. Good for eating, baking

Ginger gold: “A cross between golden delicious and Albermarle Pippin.” Mild flavor and a tart finish. Good for eating and baking, especially for making apple pies

Gala: Sweet and crunchy. Red with a portion of yellow-green with vertical stripes. Good for salads, sauces, desserts

Honeycrisp: “Cross between macoun and honeygold varieties.” Honey sweet and good for eating and baking

Ruby McIntosh: Sweet-tart, tangy. Starts crisp and softens with storage. Good for salads and applesauce

Macoun: “Cross between McIntosh and Jersey black.” Skin is dark red with a purplish hue. Sweet taste with a hint of berry flavor. Good for salads and applesauce.

Cortland: Sweet with a hint of tang. Good for eating and can be used for salads, sauces and pies

Empire: “Cross between red delicious and McIntosh.” Sweet, tart, crispy and juicy

Fuji: Sweet and crisp. Good for salads and baking

Jonagold: “Combination of Jonathan and golden delicious.” Crisp, juicy. Good for salads, pies and applesauce

Haralson: Tart flavor, juicy and crisp. Hint of pineapple or lime flavors. Good for apple salsa

SnowSweet: Balance between sweet, tart and buttery. Firm and crisp

Golden delicious: Mellow, sweet with firm, crisp, juicy flesh

Idared: Crisp, red skin with juicy, fine-grained and tender flesh. Tangy with a slight sweetness. Good for apple butter and sauce

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