Sunday, November 14

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

                                                                                            -Robert Frost

Monday, November 8

Post Harvest Clean-up

Henry David Thoreau wrote in his book Wild Apples a simple yet bold sentence: "All apples are good in November."  In the past week I have had many opportunities to test this assertion.  We are in the midst of the post-harvest clean-up of the orchard, raking apples, cutting suckers and mowing weeds and high grasses.  This tidying of the orchard has allowed me to glean those hidden apples of all varieties and after a great deal of sampling I would have to say I respectfully disagree with Mr. Thoreau.  Perhaps Thoreau was not graced with the pleasure of biting into a McIntosh that has defied the laws of gravity since mid-September.  Some varieties, those picked only a few weeks prior, give to the pallet a sensation very similiar to the flavor and texture they had the day I picked them.  Others seem only to worsen with age, becoming soft, mealy and in some cases overly sweet.  There are those however that when bitten into have a taste that seems only possible this time of year.  For this apple, I must wholeheartedly agree with Thoreau when he says the November air "is the sauce it is to be eaten with.' 
The days are colder, but still of an enjoyable temperature to work in.  The key I have found is to dress in layers, which can be peeled off as the body and the day begin to warm.  Many of the apple trees have begun to turn in color, most to various shades of yellow and gold, a few to orange or even a deep crimson. 
Putting the orchard to bed is hard but satisfying work.  In some ways raking the apples out from under the trees feels much more physically strenuous than picking the fruit.  The job is messy with apples being crushed under foot and the sent of fermenting fruit in the nostrils.  As a crew we slowly make our way up and down each row.  Some varieties leave little work to be done, with only an apple here or there to be found, others have yellow and red carpets under them.  This is a part of the harvest season I have never been a part of before, but I am greatful to learn what goes into preparing the orchard for winter.  It is a good reminder that the work does not end when the apples are off the trees. 
Raked apples