Monday, August 30

Picking: Day One

Warm and hazy this morning.  If the last days of August were a competition between Summer and Autumn, summer definitly had the upper hand today.  The small crew of only ten or so met not so promptly at eight this morning.  I was given the choice of several unclaimed picking bags to choose from, no doubt the cream of the crop.  Choosing the right picking bag can be the difference between a good season and a bad one.  Shoulder straps can be too narrow, twisted or not padded.  Also there are several different mechanisms for latching the bottom to the bucket; my favorite are two side ropes with knots that fit in a small "hook" on the side of the bucket.  Several different knots along the rope allow the depth of the bucket to be adjustable. 

We color picked the Galas today; a beautiful apple with a stunning blush that almost looks neon when very ripe.  The thinning, which had been done by spraying, had been only mildly successful, which left lots of clumps of apples and entire apple "columns" jutting from the tops of some of the trees.  The day was  a hot one, with plenty of brakes in the shade.  I have learned that the early season is not the time to push yourself.  I took lunch under an old standard McIntosh tree grown from seedling rootstock nearly a hundred years ago.  The shade was welcome.  It felt really good to be out in the orchard, again at home.  My day ended with an unexpected, yet predictable sunburn and a cold beer on the porch.

Saturday, August 28

A New Season

The air is brisk this morning; fifty-seven degrees, and the angle of the light seems a little more acute.  The first leaves on the maples across the road have started to show an orange tint, although the tree still hangs proudly onto its leaves, as I onto the last days of summer.  The apple harvest is here again.  Yesterday I put on the picking bag for the first time this season, harvesting Galas and Honeycrisp up at West Haven Farm. The last of the peaches are still clinging to the threes, but the tops of the Galas are awash in a full blush.  We are doing the first color pick on the Galas, taking most of the tops and skimming an outer layer of the trees.  The Honeycrisp are a little slower to come on and less uniform.  With ninety degree days predicted for the first part of this coming week, the Galas will probably be off the trees by Labor Day. 
On Monday I will start working five days a week at Cornell Orchards.  I am ready to be out in the orchard and my excitement is almost uncontainable at times.  A good friend and fellow picker from Moose Hill has come to stay in our home and has already begun to pick.  In this past week I have lived vicariously through the little snippets of her day that she shares.  I look forward to having my own stories to tell.  Happy picking!

Friday, August 20

Picking Peaches

Peaches are the nectar that drips from the thick rich days of late summer.  As I write this I am swimming in that nectar.  I have spent several mornings this past week picking peaches up at West Haven Farm.  The experience has been gastronomically rewarding and serene.  Picking peaches for the first time I have discovered the act is much different from that of harvesting apples.  Due to the delicate nature of the fruit, peaches must be picked slowly with a more gentle touch that allows the process to feel almost meditative.  I started out picking some very ripe peaches, the flesh of which felt as if it could give in to the slightest pressure.  Not sure of my skill in handling the fruit I only picked two or three before placing them into a plastic flat lined with paper bags.  As I became more sure of myself I took small handfuls, balancing them in my open palm.
 I found that stepping on a fallen peach was a much different experience from stepping on a carpet of overripe apples.  The squish one feels when stepping on a peach feels almost sacrilegious, even if the flesh is half rotten.  Although some of the fallen fruit had been on the ground long enough to be discovered by the bees, many of the drops were fresh.  Having not the heart to tread on such perfectly ripe fruit, I ventured onto my hands and knees before picking a tree searching for the orange and golden orbs hidden in the tall grass.  Returning home with more ripe peaches than I knew what to do with I spent all of an evening cutting, skinning and freezing bags of peaches.  And when all the work was done, I sat down with a bowl of peaches and heavy cream drizzled with local honey.  Although I have to say that I still prefer picking apples, picking peaches does have it's own charm. There are few things that compare to sitting on the back of a flatbed truck, watching the sun sink low as the inevitable excess juice from a freshly fallen peach drips down your chin. 

Wednesday, August 11

Apples in Literature

This is a quote for a book I am currently reading, I believe I will let it speak for itself. 

life will break you. nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearnings. you have to love. you have to feel. it is the reason you are here on earth. you are here to risk your heart. you are here to be swallowed up. and when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could."   
                         --Louise Erdrich "The Painted Drum"