Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Long, long ago, before wrinkles, and before I added another last name, I was in graduate school.  And we used to have these working lunches.  When a faculty member would present a research project and we graduate students were to listen and learn, and at the same time, eat fast, swallow hard, and try to be brilliant.  

I did not offer much for the first few years of my attending these meetings.  I did not feel I had much to add, and so I kept quiet and listened to the wiser souls around me.  My program director caught on.  And began asking me what I thought.  I began to have a nervous stomach as a side dish for my lunches, attempting to chew and digest all the while waiting for that moment when the attention in the room would turn to me.  There was one lunch time during which I was asked if I could compare what I was working on research-wise to what the faculty member had just presented.  I swallowed hard.  Swigged from my water bottle.  And emitted my brilliance.

It's the same, but different, I offered.  Stalling.  My friend sitting next to me giggled.  Or rather, snorted, releasing a bit of her lunch onto her notebook.  That was informative, she whispered to me through her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

And, so, apple growing.  It's kind of like children growing.  It's the same.  But different.  Wait.  I will explain further, once I swallow this bite of apple crisp.


pomology:  the science that deals with fruits and fruit growing

apple picking, 2008

Apple picking.  I am going to tell you about the apples.  But first.  How did this happen?  How did they get so big?

The children.  Not the apples.  

We have been returning to the same apple orchard for a number of years now, Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner, Maine.  High on a hill (sans the lonely goat herd) looking out over the foothills of the western mountains of Maine. This farm has been tended by ten generations of the same family.  During those years, the farm houses and barns have been maintained and repaired, much remaining the same, while other buildings have been modified and constructed to meet modern needs; some practices have been rethought, others remain unchanged.  Bouncey houses were added down the hill at the farm store where one can indulge in that entertainment if one chooses, or one can drive quickly by and head up the hill to the orchard itself.  Where it is stunningly gorgeous.  And old.  I admit like it up there much better.

Organic farming, a simultaneous innovation yet a return to past practices, has flourished in this orchard.

Small crops of different fruit have been added.  A small peach grove, for example.

A pumpkin patch appeared.  But our years of wisdom and maturity don't allow us to be fooled by the field of grass with pumpkins plopped out in them.  No vines to be seen.  But still.  A patch of pumpkins.

The grass is magical.  It grows many things.

Despite these changes, and the changes in my children's interests and their belief in the imaginative, and how well they do or do not fit into the wagons we pull around behind us, there is much that remains the same.  It is a beautiful mountainside orchard.

And we have a wonderful time there.  Doing the same things each time.  Yet also discovering new areas that shorter legs and attention spans and emotional fuses have not allowed us to explore in the past.

Like the vineyard.  

Wait.  There are grapes here?

Oh.  Well, yes.  There are.

There is still a bit of the mystical, the magical, the otherworldy feeling here.  Even now.

And here, first meetings.  And first tastings.  Remind us that not much has changed.  Julia.  Sensitive to anything pokey, rough...or tart.

Still has the same face.

Even if her choice of clothing now leans toward fleece instead of the lovely fabrics and flowie dresses of yesteryear.

I found myself noticing the other plants growing wild and untended, but still just as important a part of the farm.  The Aster.  

And Milkweed.

My still fledgling but expanding knowledge of insects, pollination and forage plants, and migration also helps me focus on different aspects of the farm. But ones that were likely always here.

Nicholas and my Dad used to spend hours quietly walking amongst the trees, finding the perfect high up apples.  And used the apple pickers to bring down apple by apple.  Gently.  Without dropping a single one.  No bruising from them.

But now, our bags fill almost too quickly.  We have to be careful not to pick too much, to stay within the budget of the cash in our wallets.

And the pickers take on other purposes.  Such as being used to scoop apples like some kind of BFG lacrosse stick.

And cradled.

I walked out from between a Cortland tree and a Macintosh tree to find Nicholas doing this.


Oh, and my children?  They love the rotten apple sling shot.  Though not necessarily the rotten apples.

The horror.

Some are more bothered than others.

I used to fight it.  But it really is kind of fun.

The smacking squishing splatting sound of rotten apples on plywood is so distinctive that I can actually conjure it up right now.  Along with the vinegary smell.

We may no longer wear overall shorts. Sniff. I do miss those thighs. Such delicious chub.

Ours is not the orchard behavior of yore. But it is still quiet. And funny. And just as challenging as it used to be when shorter legs were attempting to navigate the uneven terrain of the long grasses and unexpected roots and groundhog holes. They challenge themselves with new activities.

I love the views. And the walk amongst the memories of us there in years before.  Moving in the air of the rows between the trees with us.

We are all unfolding.  And growing.  Trying to master new skills.

Bursting into bloom.

And so, our trips each year to the orchard.  And all the growing that happens in between.  There is a cool mountain breeze that rustles the leaves and our current selves and those of previous years.

Floating around between the rows.

There is always change in the air when we are here.  Seasonal.  Developmental.  Maturational.  It is a beautiful place to notice these changes.

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