Thursday, December 3

Picker Lingo

I have been thinking lately about the different phrases and terms that are thrown around in the orchard.  There seem to be a number of idioms and expressions that are innate to a pickers and orchardists (that itself may be my own term).  Much of this lingo seems to have implanted itself in my brain without me even being aware, as if the act of picking apples was some how an unconscious course in linguistics.
Realizing this, I thought it would be fun to start a glossary of these words and phrases.   I have only started with those that readily popped into my head, I hope to continue to add to this list and if there are other pickers out there reading this I welcome additions or revisions.  If you are not a picker or familiar with terms I hope you will still find it entertaining. 

  • Bottoms - all apples that can be picked without using a ladder.
  • Color Picking - selective picking of only rip apples, leaving green ones for a later pick or for cider.  Usually apples taken during a color pick must be fifty to seventy-five percent red or blushed.   
  • Drive Row - the space in between rows of apple trees where the tractor driver places bins for picking into.
  • Drops - apples that have fallen from the tree before an apple picker got to them.  Ideally this is a very small percentage of apples, however especially among apples that hang loosely to the tree such as McIntosh, this can be quite a few.  Traditionally drops were picked up and pressed for cider, however with the E. coli scare and the advent of more stringent standards, most orchards no longer practice this. 
  • Escaladder - my favorite spanglish word from the orchard, a combination between the English and Spanish word for ladder. 

  • Gourd Ass Green - this a phrase I have to include, it was coined by the crew leader back in Wisconsin.  I hope I am remembering it correctly.  It was used to describe apples that should not have been picked during color picking.  I am not sure if the phrase made sense to me at the time, but it seemed to roll of the tongue nicely.     
  • Gravy - incredibly good picking.  Usually gravy is characterized by large apples on small trees that do not require any ladder work.  Gravy however can also consists of more normal sized apples if they are easy to pick (don't spur) and do not bruise easily (so they can be picked faster).  Good "gravy" varieties are often Cortland, Empires, Mutsu and Jonagolds among others.  Note: Many seasoned pickers I have spoken to say they prefer lager trees rather than smaller ones when there is a good crop cause there is less bending over and a good ladder set can often yield a full bucket without moving from one spot.
  •  Gravy Grabber - a picker who always seems to gravitate towards the best picking when given the opportunity. 
  • Ladder Set - all the apples that can be reached from your ladder.  Smaller trees often only have one ladder set, whereas larger trees often require four or five to reach all the apples.  Knowing where to place your ladder is important for stability sake, but knowing where to place a ladder to maximize picking can also mean the difference between two ladder sets or five in a larger tree.
  • Marbles - unusually small apples, usually found on trees that are sickly or were not thinned properly during the summer.  Picking marbles is highly undesirable because it takes much longer to pick a bushel and small apples are much heavier in the picking bucket.  
  • Spurring - occurs when the "spur" comes off the tree along with the apple.  This is undesirable both because it causes the picker to slow down and remove the spur (ideally) before putting it in the picking bucket and because the spur is the source of next years flower and subsequently fruit.  If too many spurs come off the tree during picking the next years crop will be greatly reduced.   
  • Stem Pull - a big no-no for pickers, especially when it comes to Red Delicious, stem pulls occur when the stem stays on the tree instead of coming off with the apple.  Unlike spurring, stems pulls do not affect the tree, but with out their stems apples will not keep in storage as long.
  • Stripping - one of a picker's favorite words to hear.  When you strip a tree you take all the apples, as opposed to size or color picking when you only take those apples that are suitable to be sold for eating and leave those that are too small or green for cider. 
  • Tops - all the apples that can not be reached easily (key word) by standing on the ground.   
  • Walking on Marbles - picking in trees where the majority of apples have already fallen prior to your arrival.  In the worst cases so many apples have fallen that they form a solid layer under the tree, but have maintained enough structural integrity that they do not crush under your weight, but rather roll like marbles.  I would venture to guess that every long-time apple picker has lost at least one bucket while walking on marbles.  

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