I took a moment to realize what a struggle it had become to wedge in the apple picking, the sorting and the distribution, between everything else I needed to do and before it got too hot and humid outside. I had to suspend pretty much all other garden maintenance work when I had only a limited window to work with in the early morning.
With the apple tree still dropping apples faster than we could collect them and everyone’s hands cramping from peeling the apples we gave them, I was feeling stressed.
With bags of apples accumulating quickly, getting progressively larger and waiting for the next “disposal”, we were attracting more than our fair share of insects and possibly fauna as I kept spotting partially eaten apples showing up in random parts of the property nowhere near the apple tree.
Funny enough, I realized that in the recent rush of apple activity, I was too busy to notice that my legs and glutes weren’t burning anymore. I guess the body adjusted to the intense activity… hello bright side!
When I took to the Internet to do some research, I discovered that yard work can burn about 300 calories per hour. That seemed to bring a whole new perspective and positive mindset about the time and effort I was devoting to the apples. When stretching, squatting and moving bags of heavy and wet apples was part of my daily morning routine, who needs a gym work out consisting of stretches, squats and weights?
With two to three hours of yard work per day, I could end up looking like a Peloton instructor by Thanksgiving! My resentment toward the apple tree started fading.
As the heavy rain hit my window, I checked our community’s Facebook group to see if surplus produce was a problem for anyone else. Interestingly enough, I found another apple tree owner dealing with an overabundance of yellow transparent apples, just like us. In the replies, a couple of individuals suggested a petting zoo in the community might be able to make good use of the excess produce. A quick Google Maps search revealed that they were only a few minutes away. Who knew?
When I reached out to the petting zoo, they happily accepted my offer and we set up a mutually convenient date and time when I could drop off apples a couple of days later. She reassured me that her pigs were not fussy over the quality of the apples, whether bruised or buggy. They would take them all.
Upon delivery of my first load of apples, the petting zoo owner thanked me and said that they will make a good treat for the goats, but the pigs will likely devour the whole lot in one day. An unimaginable sense of relief came over me.
This was a game changer in so many ways. It a great load off my mind that less than ideal quality apples can actually help feed local farm animals (rather than going to the land fill). On top of that, I didn’t have to be chained to the apple trees anymore. If I didn’t have time to pick them before they fell or to collect them before insects set in, the apples still served a purpose for the piggies. I didn’t have to stress about it anymore! Plus the petting zoo was so close, I could drop them off regularly which should help reduce the attraction for the flies and wasps.
On my second visit, the petting zoo owner sent me home with some sturdy feed bags that were the absolute perfect solution to my plastic garbage bags that were no match for the weight of the fully ripened apples. The heavy duty bags could withstand dragging across the lawn when they got heavy, and seemed pretty air tight, not attracting nearly as many bugs.
When we ran into a potential scheduling conflict, she mentioned another hobby farm (also just a few minutes away) that raised pigs and who would likely appreciate the donations. Who could ask for anything more? We now had a plan B for apple disposal with purpose.
A couple of weeks later, the day finally came when apples weren’t falling by the hundreds, or even dozens anymore. The tree was approaching the end of its giving season. I could see light at the end of the tunnel and a little breathing space before the Macintosh tree was ready.
Through it all, there were a lot of really interesting lessons learned. It was a bit overwhelming going through this torrential downpour of apples this first time, but I think I have established a set of procedures that will help in future seasons. Just the same, with practice, I am sure that I will find more short cuts and ways to streamline the process.
The first apple tree also precipitated our purchase of a freezer to store the many containers of apple sauce that we produced, which I am sure we will appreciate throughout the winter months.
The extra apple sauce nudged me to try an apple sauce cake recipe that turned out to be a winner. With a little apple sauce on the side and a dollop of ice cream, it became a quick favourite in our house.
The pile-up of apples also moved up my retirement project of learning to make gluten-free pie crust and make an apple pie. Fortunately, thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, my first attempt was a definite winner which will not only serve for fruit pies, but also for my fall and winter favourite, tourtière.
Also, through the apple tree adventures, I realized that I was enjoying an added bonus that I didn’t even know I was looking for: You know those picture-perfect days when it is not too hot, not too cold, just a beautiful sunny day and you think, “Gee, it’s too bad I can’t work outside”. As an office worker, I had more than a few of those days throughout my career.
Between the apple tree adventures as well as yard work, gardening and weeding, I got to spend a lot of time outside on really beautiful summer days, enjoying the tranquility, the fresh air, the sunshine and nature. I found it to be so soothing for the senses after years of working in a very fast-paced job.
Spending this much time outside was not deliberately on my retirement bucket list. But in retrospect, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful country property as much as I did, as well as the fruit of our labour… literally!
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Have a great day,