Bildens’ Apple Orchard to provide a taste of Autumn


CUTLINE: Erling and Mary Bilden are excited to welcome the piblic to the opening of their apple orchard on Sept. 22 and the Barn Board Factory on Oct. 5 & 6



Bildens’ Apple Orchard to
provide a taste of Autumn

By Shalee Hanson
Contributing Writer


What began as a simple retirement project for Erling Bilden has become a tasty treasure the entire community can enjoy.  After nearly 10 years of investing in their backyard, on Sept. 22 Erling and Mary Bilden will be opening their apple orchard to the public for the very first time.

“We’ve been taking the apples to the farmers’ market and selling them to Valley Schools for the past few years, but we’ve never opened it up like this before, said Bilden.” 

Erling began the project nearly a decade ago, jumping in with no prior experience, very little education about how to produce an apple orchard, and with no expectations for how his little apple orchard may one day enhance the community. 

After struggling in the beginning, Erling took a class through Iowa State University on how to care for the trees.  

“If I had to do it again— not that I would try again at my age— I would learn a little more before I jumped in,” he chuckled. 

Since taking the class, the trees have produced an abundance of apples.  As we walked through the orchard, branches filled with juicy ripe apples sagging toward the ground  surrounded  us.

The apples, however, aren’t the only project the Bildens have been working on.  As we toured the rural Elgin farm, Mary offered to show me what she referred to as the “Barn Board Factory”.  Inside the various sheds and trailors on the farm there were mountains of crafts made out of refurbished barn boards.  

“I’ve always wanted to live in an old barn, that’s my dream,” Mary admitted.  The couple laughed as they told me Mary’s dream barn house isn’t in the cards for them.  

It is Ron McCartney that Mary blames for her new favorite hobby.  

“Well, I found out he was tearing down an old barn on his land and told him not to do it, and then he called me the day before and said if I wanted to come pick through the barn before it came down, I had better get over there.”

Mary Bilden and Lisa Schneider picked through the barn and began to build items to take to craft shows.

  “It really was a domino effect; we went to one craft show, where we were invited to another and so on and so on,” Mary explained.

People from across the state now call the Bildens to come collect pieces of old barns that are about to be torn down.  As we walked through the buildings I saw anything from in-home decorations to lawn ornaments to birdhouses made by Erling, Mary and Lisa.  

After perfecting their craft and cultivating their orchard, Erling and Mary are happy to welcome the community to their open house on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5 and 6, to see the Barn Board Factory crafts, as well as come and enjoy their apple orchard.  

The Bilden Orchard is home to eight kinds of apples, including Wolf River, Red Delicious, Macintosh, Honey Crisp, Courtland, Haralson, Empire, and Gala, as well as two pear trees.  The orchard itself will open to the public on Sunday, Sept. 22, to the public and the Barn Board Factory open house will be held on Oct. 5 and 6. 

Mary and Erling Bilden live at 18203 Bixby Road outside of Elgin.  Head towards Gunder from Elgin on Agate Road for approximately four miles and Bixby Road will be on your left.  Keep an eye out for the blue address sign and the house will be on your left. If you need more information regarding the crafts or the orchard, please call Erling or Mary at 563-423-7197.

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