Last week, the Chili family went to our friendly local apple orchard to do some picking. It is autumn, after all, and that’s what New Englanders do in autumn.
We bought two half-peck bags and took a ride on the trailer pulled by a big ‘ole John Deere (properly pronounced Dee-yah, of course) and, for about half an hour, meandered our way through rows of Cortland and MacIntosh trees.
Once our bags (and our bellies) were full, we made our way back to the car to leave off our pickin’s and headed for the farm store (tha fahm stow-wah) to see if we could score some apple cider donuts and a little bit of fudge (yes on the first; sadly, no on the second). While we were there, I struck up a conversation with the lady who co-owns the farm with her husband. For all that I like Cortlands and Macs, what I really love are Granny Smiths, and I asked Mrs. D if they had any.
“We do,” she told me, “but I lose the crop every year.” She went on to explain that Grannies don’t mature until much later in the season than the other varieties she grows. While the bulk of her orchard is ready to pick in late September and early October, the Grannies aren’t ready until really late in October – sometimes not until nearly mid-November. “The problem,” she told me, “and I know this sounds awful to say it this way, but as soon as I let the public loose on the orchard, it doesn’t matter what we tell them or how many signs or barriers we put up; they pick the Grannies before they’re ready. I put up caution tape this year, and already the apples are nearly all gone; I don’t know if they think I’m lying to them, or what, but they go under the tape and take the apples, even though they’re rock hard and bitter as all get out. People don’t realize that the apples are just not ready; they think that just because you can get every variety in the grocery store all the time, you should be able to pick everything at once. They just don’t listen to me. I have had those trees producing for about 6 years now, and I’ve never once had a good harvest.”
I sympathized with her and expressed my disappointment at the cause of her frustration. When I told her that I’d much rather buy my Granny Smiths from her than from my grocery store, she told me to send her my email address; if she ever gets enough to put a bag together, she’d get in touch with me. We paid for our donuts and headed back to the car.
The whole way home, the girls raged against the arrogance, rudeness, and general stupidity of the people who would willfully disregard both the explicit instructions of the orchard owner and the barrier of caution tape to take what is not theirs. I think my children are starting to feel resentment toward people who choose not to play by the rules; they’re beginning to see that the idea of – pardon the pun – “one bad apple” ruining things for the rest of us really does play out in real life, and they don’t like it one bit.
Neither do I.