Friday, November 6, 2015

apple picking this year

When you have heritage apple trees in your yard that provide you with plenty of apples, so many that you cannot keep up with processing bushels of drops into applesauce before the fruit flies get to them in the kitchen, it is sometimes hard to motivate to travel to a paid for orchard, despite the frequent and numerous requests from the children to perform this family ritual at our favorite orchard, Ricker Hill.

But the kids and I made it. Just barely. On a day Jonathan had school but which was conference day for the kids. The colors well past peak on the mountains around. The parking lot completely empty that day, with one older gentleman arriving in the middle of our visit to walk amongst the lovely trees near us. Many trees picked clean, and many more having dropped most of their fruit to the ground awaiting collection to make cider.

But we were in time. The orchard only planned to pick for two more days. We filled our bags, and I am always amazed by just how quickly three children can fill bags or cartons or colanders at U-pick places, and I have to be careful we don't pick more than I have cash for in my wallet. And the silliness and the fun with tools and the tasting and finding of the perfectly flavored fruit still happened, despite the brown crispy leaves and the quiet and chill in the air. And the apples? They were still completely delicious.

And this time, this year's special event, was not the bouncy houses (deflated due to wind) or the apple slingshot (closed, or at least unstaffed and therefore not appropriate to be used by rule following children), or even the cider donuts (which we of course purchased and devoured on our way south again). But this year was the year of the dog. The sweet, friendly, and perhaps a bit lonely farm dog who approached our minivan as we drove into the orchard and led us right up to the parking lot and showed us where to park. And then frolicked and ran and played with us, pausing only to enjoy an apple drop snack from time to time. He was our constant orchard companion.

And it was the year of an empty orchard. When there is no one besides us around (at at least no one who could speak). So it also became the year of doing silly dances while singing at the top of your lungs on your way back to the car.

So after a stop at the farm stand for cider and donuts and a quick yearly check in with Long Ears.

We were off. Heading back home. We made it about one mile before our bags toppled in the back of the minivan and those apples began rolling around and intermingling varieties all the way home. Those bruises they may have acquired in the process just made them a better match for our home grown apples. And we know what to do with those.

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