HAMILTON, Mont. - A cold spring had apple producers crossing their fingers and setting up wind machines to ward off a late freeze. A January warm spell threatened trees too.
One of the state's premier producers weathered dipping temperatures, and has orchards filled with thick, white blossoms.
Charlie Swanson and his family have 6,000 trees. They've been in the apple business since 1910.
Scores of trees on his lush farm are covered this year with what they call "snowball blooms."
"Which is an ideal situation," said Swanson. "They have more bloom on than what they will produce fruit on, so we have to thin those off."
Swanson uses wind machines to keep warm air on the apple trees when it gets really cold.
About 5 or 6 percent of Charlie's total crop was damaged by 27 degree temperatures about a week ago. It killed some blossoms in one area of an orchard.
"Where the wind shifted with cold air," he said, "and the wind machines were not able to push that cold air out."
The producer thinks the coldest nights are behind him. But he's still taking stock.
"We won't know until after we do our thinning what the actual crop will be," said Swanson, "but my expectation's it will be a better than average crop."
Swanson's trees are of varying ages, from those in 2013 to a mature orchard planted in 1975, and even a tree that dates back 104 years.