11030 Macon Rd., Saline, MI 48175
Phone: (734) 429-5145
Hours: Seasonal - call first
Bill Lutz's dairy farm and apple orchard are located amid lovely centennial farms that line Macon Road (an old Indian trail, he says) between Saline and Tecumseh. Outside a sign advertises both Apples and Åpfels, a nod to the German lineage of Lutz's family, one of the many German families that settled in this part of Michigan. Lutz's great-grandfather purchased the farm in 1882. In 1884, that same great-grandfather built the solid red barn where Lutz now stores his apples along with the straw and hay a nephew grows for Lutz's 22 dairy cows.
As you walk in, it's likely that the twinkly-eyed Lutz will be standing behind an antique Rube-Goldbergian contraption that polishes and sorts apples by size. Lutz doesn't sell cider, but he does have already bagged and also U-Pick apples. Along with the standard Northern Spy and Delicious apples, Lutz's apples include several seldom seen antique varieties - like Snow Apple, Rhode Island Greening, Wolf River and a few other oddballs like Winter Banana, Spitzenburg (Thomas Jefferson's favorite), and Sheepnose (also known as Black Gilliflower, says Lutz).
Lutz mentioned he offers "tree rentals," starting at about $30 for something like the Rhode Island Greening, and up to about $50 for Northern Spy for a season. You pick your variety and your tree and those apples are reserved for you alone to come and pick that year. One couple chooses an early and a late ripening variety so they can spread out their apple enjoyment.
Lutz's father set out the 12 acre apple orchard, which is about a mile from the barn, between 1929 and 1931. Lutz says he's been working with apples ever since he was born; he's owned the orchard since 1983 after his dad passed away. He looks like he shouldn't, but Lutz still climbs a spindly 15 foot aluminum ladder to pick the apples in his orchard by hand. He can tell you everything, from green tip to apple fall, that you might want to know about being an orchardist in Michigan.
I asked Lutz if many people are interested in the heirloom apples. He replied, "Yes, people ask about heirloom apples but I don't know that I would plant any more. People don't seem to ever want to buy any significant number of them." Apart from Alber Orchard outside of Manchester which has dozens of heirloom varieties, I haven't seen other orchards in our area with the softball-sized Wolf River or tennis ball-sized (and colored) Rhode Island Greenings - both of which are supposed to be excellent for pies. Since I bought both kinds, I'll be finding out their pie-making potential for myself.
A half peck is $4 for the Greenings, $5 for the extra-large Wolf River. Already sorted and polished.