Today Fellow Traveler and I decided to go scouting for apples, to eat fresh and to can as applesauce.
Our first stop was a regionally well-known apple emporium in Freeland that FT frequently passes and occasionally stops in on her way to doctors' appointments. The store is like a combination bakery/cider mill/Cracker Barrel gift shop. And today it was a madhouse of families with tiny children and senior citizens on a Sunday jaunt; pushing our way through the aisles I felt like a bovine headed up a chute into a cattle car. We spent maybe five minutes looking around at fall-themed household items and incredibly expensive apples and apple products...and decided to get the heck out of Dodge.
Plan B was an orchard that I blogged about last year, just outside Midland, that we loved; it sold a variety heirloom as well as contemporary apple varieties and delicious donuts, hot and cold cider and even cider slushies. We took the scenic route around the countryside to circle back to Midland, found our turn-off road, found the orchard...and found it closed. We couldn't believe it, this late in September.
We'd noticed roofers working on a barn next door to the orchard proper, so we drove there and asked when the orchard would open. We were receiving a clueless and rather surly response from one of the roofers when we noticed an older man in hunting camo and boots walking toward our Jeep from the orchard.
We waved hello, told him we were looking for applesauce apples and asked him if the orchard would be open this year.
"No," he sighed. He explained that his orchard was an "expensive hobby" that he'd had a hard time keeping up with this year while at work in his day job. He also said that the growing season had been so dry that the harvest wasn't up to par, and he had also battled with scab and other diseases; he and his wife had decided that it just wasn't worth opening the orchard store this fall. He paused -- I think scanning our crestfallen faces -- then said, "Tell you what -- why don't I just give you a couple of bags, and you can pick what you want."
He led us to a couple of trees, a variety called Sweet Sixteen, with a fairly large, healthy crop of apples, handed us large plastic bags and let us fill them. We wound up with, we reckon, almost a bushel of fruit.
"What do we owe you?" we asked.
"Nothing," he said. "Just take them."
We couldn't believe it. We asked him again. He just waved us off. "Enjoy them."
We told him we were really looking forward to the orchard opening next year, and wished him a good future harvest. He smiled.
Thank you, Apple Man, for making us smile.