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February

2014

Culture Days: A New England Apple Orchard

Growing up Maine, United States

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Hello friends. Weeks ago (ok, months ago) I made a promise here to start doing culture based posted (through the eyes of our family as we travel). This is pretty much what I already do on a simplified scale, minus my Flashback Friday and A Mother’s Legacy (which I intend to keep). but I wanted to do something more informative with some of the following information:

  • A write up about our personal experience in the cultural situation.
  • Facts about what we learned.
  • Photos that you can print and hang around your home.
  • Recipes for different types of food associated with the cultural experience (if applicable)
  • Interviews with the locals we meet either written or a video.
  • An activity or craft.

Once I got working on this I realized that it was incredibly time consuming and in order to do it effectively I would need to post bimonthly or monthly. This will be the first teaser post in the series until I officially start posting “Culture Days” in the upcoming months. We are making some big changes over here in the GGG family and I really do not see this being a consistent part of the blog until the summer, but lets start dabbling in it. I would love to hear what you think of the idea. Apples anyone?

Most of you know by now that I grew up on an apple farm in rural Maine. If you want to read all about “Growing up Maine” you can start here. Instead of using what I currently have in my library for photos and experiences I decided to follow my dad and mom around this past fall to really get a current glimpse of what it is like to run an apple farm.

OUR EXPERIENCE:
The life of the apple farmer starts in January and ends the first week of December. It is less than a 40 hour a week commitment, except in the fall when it is a seven day, 120 hour a week job for three months.

Pruning the trees is the first step in preparing to grow a crop. As a child my sister and I would often accompany my dad out to the orchard for a day of pruning. Mom would pack us a yummy lunch, bundle us up (remember it was January in Maine), put us in our sleds and dad would drag us up into the orchard for a day of snow playing and tree climbing. I remember seeing pictures of Brandy and I sleeping in the sleds in the middle of the orchard. I loved watching dad climb to the top of the trees like a giant monkey and prune to the tippy top. I was surprised when I came home from college one year and saw him using clippers on a long extension. I questioned why he did not climb the trees anymore, “getting too old for that” was his response.

Next comes spring pruning, a repeat of the above but with warmer temps and lots of mud. Fun times. I remember how I loved to splash and jump in the mud and make mud pies. Did anyone else ever do this? Might be a New England thing.

Then, before you know it June is here and it is time to spray the apples. Throughout the entire summer it is necessary to spray them for different diseases that they can catch, to make sure they don’t drop off the trees when it is still warm and several other reasons. My parents spray as little as possible while still being able to bring the crop to fruition. Some years it is easier than others. Remember, mother nature plays a huge part in an apple farm. Hail is the big enemy for apples. When most kids were outside marveling at a hail storm I was watching my dad stand in the middle of it with the look of worry across his face. A 30 second hail storm can wipe out an entire apple crop. At this point in the game the apple farmer has taken out loans for the spray, spent hours pruning, repaired the machinery and prepared the facility for the harvest and they are destitute when hail hits.

Finally the promise land, harvest time. The fall requires an apple farmer to rise before the sun and turn in well after it is dark. The fall requires them to be able to physically withstand carrying 45 pound apple boxes, climb trees, manage employees, prepare the trucks for the apple stands, deal with the wholesalers and much, much, more, all while often freezing their butts off. The fall means harvesting and selling all of the apples (leftovers are money lost) in a three month window, ever-single-day. There is never a day off unless it is pouring rain and even then there is always something to be done in the barn. Then there is the business side of the apples, the workers, paychecks, the taxes, the bills and the list goes on. This is not a job for the faint of heart. These farmers (my parents included) work their tails off.

Yes, it is hard work and often very cold, so why would anyone do this? FOR THE LOVE OF IT! They have been doing it for 45 years and I can still see the sparkle in their eye.

RECIPES:

FOOD CRAFT:

HOW TO VIDEOS:

Culture: How to get an apple tree to produce earlier from Goodie Goodie Gumdrop on Vimeo.

Culture: How to pick an apple from Goodie Goodie Gumdrop on Vimeo.

xoxo,
Jessica

p.s. If you want to read more about the apples you can go here, here, here, here, here, here, here and my favorite here.

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