Sunday, October 31

Apple picking day 43: The Last Apple

As I near the end of a picking season I always find myself experiencing a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness that the season and work I love is coming to an end and relief that my body will soon get some much needed time to rest and heal from the strenuous days of picking. 
As the final day nears, I often think about the last apple of the season.  What variety will it be?  What part of the orchard will it be in?  Will I know it is the last apple of the season?  I suppose I never really remember my last apple after the fact.  There is no ceremony to it, but somehow the last day of picking does take on a special meaning.
The first part of the past week we spent in the Fuji, some of the longest rows in the orchard that seemed to stretch on and on, compelling you to glance down to the end of the row each time you dumped your bucket, past the empty bins waiting to be filled.  Although there were only three rows, the crop was heavy and it took three of us several days to pick the trees clean.  By Wednesday all that was left in the orchard was the Goldrush and a few cider apples.
Bins lined-up in the Fuji
The day was warm, in the high seventies and in many ways it felt much more like the first day of picking rather than the last.  It was not the cold windy November day that I envisioned picking the Goldrush in.  It was, none the less, very pleasant and the bare trees of the surrounding forest, the honking of the geese overhead and the golden leaves of the Goldrush trees were a sufficient reminder of the season. 
The pace of the day felt slower than most.  We worked steadily, but it felt as though there was no rush to reach the inevitable.  Instead I felt a desire to savor the final moments of a long season.  Taking the time to sit under the trees and share a lunch with fellow pickers or pause at the top of a ladder to take in the view of the lake and the maples as they let loose their final leaves, leaving the stage to the red and russet oaks. 
Although the crew was spread out for most of the day in different parts of the orchard picking a few remaining cider apples and beginning clean-up, we all converged in the last of the Goldrush by the end of the day.  Call me sentimental, but it felt rather symbolic to have the entire crew share in the last of the harvest.  As I walked away from the trees I felt many things, but mostly a sense of gratitude for the harvest and for the opportunity to partake in such noble work.  As the last of the bins were loaded onto the truck to be hauled back to the orchard, I took comfort in knowing there will always be another season.
The last load of apples for the season
Although the picking is over there is still a lot to do in the orchard to prepare it for winter.  The apples have to be raked out from under the trees, all the suckers cut and the isles between the trees mowed.  This work should take another few weeks, time I will be happy to spend among the trees.
Goldrush on the last morning of picking

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