Today was apple picking day at my friends’ place, the Tangled Fig Farm. We had fewer people than last year, or at least it seemed that way. The four adults had been burning the candle at both ends and were exhausted before we even started. Our sons were way short on sleep after a video game binge.
So we didn’t exactly attack the chore at hand with any exuberance, eschewing the tractor with its bucket lift and the pole picker, for nice firm footing on the ground. If we couldn’t reach it with an outstretched hand, we didn’t pick it. There weren’t as many apples on the trees as the year before and this year’s apples were much buggier. Strange.
2012 was a nasty drought year start to finish. 2013 was cool and very wet. (Well, it WAS wet until about 6 weeks ago. Then it absolutely dried up. The soybean fields in the county that were so beautiful and lush a month ago are now shriveled and brown. What didn’t get planted to soybeans, was sown in sorghum this year and the sorghum doesn’t seem to mind the droughty conditions.) The mostly cool and wet fostered a boom in the insect population and I can’t tell you how many new creepy crawlies I’ve encountered this year. The wet also brought horrific outbreaks of fire blight and cedar apple rust and other pathogens for which I don’t have the precise names. It’s been a hard year to be a no-spray fruit tree in central Virginia.
We did test out a new gizmo. It was a Wells and Wade Long Cordura Picking Bag. The specs on the things says it will hold 1 1/3 bushel of apples. (According to the Wells and Wade website, a bushel of apples weighs 42 pounds. I can heft 50 pound feed sacks pretty easily. Bushel baskets of apples? Not so much.) The top of the bag is firmly attached to a steel frame. The bottom of the bag is open. During picking, the bottom of the bag is folded up and held in place on the frame with knotted rope.
It worked really well and was comfortable to wear – up to a point. There is no way I can carry a bushel of apples, and today, even a half bushel was beyond the carrying capacity of my shoulders. But the picking bag kept both hands free for picking and that’s the point, isn’t it?
After picking all the apples we could reach, and chomping on a few, we moved on to the grapes. The muscadines at Tangled Fig did very well this year, much better than the table and wine grapes I planted this spring. Muscadines are native to the Americas and don’t suffer from the fungal diseases so prevalent in European varieties. Nor apparently, do they suffer from aphid farming ants, which is what set my table grapes back a lot this summer.
We washed the apples and the grapes and then ran them through the chopper and the press. My friends have added a motor to the chopper – new since last year. That gave us a better chop on the apples and allowed us to get a lot more juice out of the apples. Or maybe it was all the rain that made for such juicy apples. Either way, we didn’t have to hand crank those apples through the chopper and that was a good thing on a weary, dreary day.
The grape juice came out looking and tasting pretty much like Kool-aid. Go figure. The apple juice, now that was excellent stuff!
We didn’t set any records. Six people working for six hours yielded 8 gallons of apple juice and something more than a gallon of grape juice. As soon as we finished with the clean-up, the rain began. A much needed, nice, long soaking rain. The sort that makes it easy to nap.
I shared this post at http://thehomesteadinghippy.com/homesteaders-blog-hop-2/ and