William is our newest farmhand, apprenticing in all things apples. He’ll be adding his thoughts, observations, and reports to this blog as he learns more. Stay tuned!
My first job was inspecting Winesaps. A guy called in to ask about them, about Winesaps specifically. Said he was driving in from Cleveland; said he wanted a peck; said his name was Bob Morris. “Name’s Bob Morris.” Only diehards give their full names. Only diehards ask about Winesaps, about if there were any russeting on them, and drive an hour each way to get them. These were my people.
By the time Bob Morris arrived, my toes had long gone numb, I was on my second coffee, third sweatshirt, fifth cider. It was cold. Downed apples burst into frosty fireworks when I kicked them. Satisfying, if worrisome not to feel it. The women wore pink or purple Carhartt overalls, matching hats; guys in camo, plaid, or both. Note to self: buy some insulated bibs. Underdressed and un-color-coordinated, I hunkered over cup after paper cup of cider at the pick-your-own signup table, passing out bags to the brave, bunched-together families who shivered up and out toward the nearest rows, back in ten or fifteen, bags full of Fujis, teetering to their cars. Most pawed through the bins out front, apples cool from the storage barn getting colder in the open air. “We’re getting a mix,” one told me. “I didn’t love the Suncrisp. I’ll give that one to mom.” I don’t blame her. Mutsus are better. “That’s the biggest apple I’ve ever seen!” said a kid, red-cheeked as a Jonathan back from a tractor ride with farmer Ben. It was a Melrose, Ohio’s state apple, and it’s true — you could carve that sucker like a pumpkin. A wet summer made bigger fruit. One would make a meal. Two would fill a pie. They’re good: Aromatic, nice cookers, great with roast chicken.
Apples in reds and golds and greens and yellows and striped and speckled all over. Bin after bin. This was peak harvest — only a few left on the trees, late-bloomers like Pink Ladys, the rubies of November. The rest were here, piled in the Market Barn. Our quirky Goldens blushed with red; Crimson Crisps, dark and shiny like wet fall leaves, Ben’s favorite, kind of spicy; Mutsus zesty, bright lime-fresh. “But they’re ornery. Ornery,” Ben says. They fall early, bruise.
Bob Morris got his peck. Parents filled and refilled cider mugs from the hot pot by the fritters as kiddos played with Walter and Hudson, the barn golden retrievers. The sun swung lower; air still cold. The crowds thinned, the sky decomposed into clumped knots of clouds, and I took a break to wander the empty rows, boot prints rough in frozen mud. Fujis, picked clean (crowdpleasers), Mutsus on the ground (ornery), Pink Ladys just coming ripe, bending the trees. Peach trees with their long cateye leaves green and stiff. Then way back toward the end of B Field, rows of trial trees. The Midwest Apple Improvement Guild sends us code-named samples of what they’re working on, trial trees we can grow and taste and test. I picked one at random and bit in as I walked back alone and quiet. Hard, thick red skin like an Arkansas black, pink streaked flesh, a creamy, middle range sweetness like a marshmallow, blooming into cinnamon. Give it a few decades and I’ll be calling the farm myself to ask for it. Name’s William Bostwick, I’d say. I want a peck.