Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apple-gleaning on an Autumn Evening

Some people are just so incredibly generous it's enough to make a gal smile from ear to ear. Yesterday, armed with bushel baskets, a pole harvester, my brother and my friend Andi, I drove out to a local farm where one of my students lives with her parents, dogs and three gorgeous grey horses (Trust me, I see a lot of horses... these three are exceptional!) Their place is set back from the road a bit and it's a beautiful home horse farm, just far enough off the road to feel secluded and peaceful, and not so far from town as to be a hassle. On part of the front acre of their property lies an old orchard, planted by the original owner in the 1970's, with eight remaining apple trees, three pear trees and a very gnarly (mildly unhappy looking) apricot tree. 

The trees are perfectly spaced, and while they are incredibly overgrown, they are unsprayed and they produce apples with minimal sooty blotch, scab and pests. Every organically grown apple is bound to have some spots, and these wear their spots beautifully and with pride! 

My student and her mother had offered to let me pick their apples (and I made sure to repeatedly say "Are you sure you don't mind if I pick LOTS of apples?") since they don't do a whole lot with them and have to rake them up at the end of the year to keep the pasture healthy for the horses' rotational grazing.

So we started the afternoon off with some lively irish jigs and reels played on someone's iPhone and skillfully amplified by placing said phone in a galvanized bucket (it works, guys!) and picking was easy. 

This year's bumper crop of apples has provided people with such an overabundance of apples that it would be impossible to keep up with even the smallest of home orchards. I'm not even sure we made a dent in the trees' ample boughs. 

The sun was shining and the air was breezy and everyone was smiling for hours as we picked from the trees. Of course I had envisioned it a lot like this, with everyone happy and singing songs, but I never expected it to turn out like that! Generally it starts out like that and after an hour everyone is bored and looking for other things to do. 

Except for a quick game of apple-baseball (played to the tunes of the Andrews Sisters and the Glenn Miller Orchestra), we worked diligently for over three hours, finishing with a bit of an exhausted flop back into the gator (which my student's father graciously offered to let us use to transport apples from the orchard). 

Our haul? Over five bushels of a variety of different mystery apples (which I am currently working on identifying). They range from large, juicy and sweet dessert apples to cider apples, and some are definitely winter storage apples, similar to Winesap! 

My favorite was definitely the yellow russeted variety that I suspect is a cider apple. It has incredibly complex flavor and there were so many of them we couldn't help but pick almost a bushel and a half of them, alone!

Did I mention we got a little slap happy toward the end? What a great day!


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