Apple Tree

I feel like I am finding my way. Things are coming together, unfolding more or less how I hoped they would. I had a dream and a desire to localize my eating, and now that the growing season is underway, I am learning more and more about how it actually can be done.  I can play an active role in provisioning food for my family.  I started on this journey last year, wanting to make a difference for the environment, for climate change, for our future.  This has progressed into looking at the world differently, looking at nature differently, and looking at how we sustain ourselves with food differently.

I want to go and pick an apple tree. Last year, the idea of picking an apple tree that was not even mine, would have seemed ridiculous and even a waste of time. Why would I spend time in a tree, when I can buy as many apples as I want at the grocery store? Besides, what would I do with all those apples anyway? Where would I put them, how could they possibly not go to waste?

My neighbours have a beautiful old apple tree that they inherited when they bought their house, and it produces hundreds of small, sweet, crispy apples. Last year they picked a few but left the vast majority of them up on the tree to rot and shrivel. All winter I looked up at the dried fruit on the branches and wondered – could I pick their tree next time for them? Could I split the harvest?

In the spring my neighbours and I were chatting about gardening as I planted my vegetable seeds and seedlings. They mentioned their tree in passing, and that I could pick it this year if I wanted. I gladly agreed. This weekend I noticed that the apples were now turning red and that they should probably be picked soon. While I was watering my plants my neighbours came up to the fence and mentioned that I could pick the apples now, if I still wanted to. I did not even have to ask them about it again, something I was working up the courage to do… it’s like they read my mind or something! I thanked them and told them I would pick them a box as well. They did not seem that interested… Then I told them I was going to make apple sauce and apple butter – would they like some jars? They jumped at the suggestion and were really excited about the exchange.

So last night I looked up at the tree, with its big dark green leaves and rosy apples dripping down in clusters from every possible branch, and thought of the possibilities. This afternoon I hope to be up in that tree, with leaves in my face and the smell of live apples all around. I will come down from that tree with more apples than I can imagine – boxes and boxes of them. They will represent a good portion of my fruit stores for winter, when local fruit will be impossible to find.

I can see this tree from my bedroom; I watch it through all the seasons. I can stand in my garden in spring as the blossom petals flutter down over me and my yard. I look up at the limbs in the summer as I pick my own raspberries along the fence, and notice the little green globes growing bigger and bigger on the heavy boughs that droop down over. I see its bare branches for most of the year, reaching upward and out, in stark contrast to the snow all around and the bright blue sky. Now this tree is heavy with apples, ready to be picked, ready to be stored. How many boxes can I harvest? How long will it take? How many little red spheres will prove impossible to reach from my ladder? I have no idea.

The plan? Dole them out as crispy, sweet snacks to my children for as long as they will last fresh. Make apple crisp. Make apple butter – something I have never tasted but have heard amazing things about. Make apple juice perhaps? The vast majority though, will be converted into apple sauce. My kids love the stuff, and I hope to be eating homemade apple sauce in January, when the memory of this green tree bobbing with apples is all but a distant memory. I even bought a food mill last night to make the work easier and faster. Peeling and coring? Not required with a food mill, apparently.

I have never done any of this before, but plan to have fun trying. How many jars will I be able to put up? Time will tell.

In the meantime, if you will excuse me, I have a date with an apple tree.

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12 thoughts on “Apple Tree

  1. Sherry, what a wonderful post. Not only about your journey, but also about how your new way of seeing can even reach your neighbors (maybe they’ll start to think about their tree differently when you’ve made them yummy apple goodies!). Homemade applesauce is terrific. Every fall and winter (this being California), I spend entirely too much time leaning over the stove, inhaling the scent of apples and cinnamon. I’d love to hear how your apple butter turns out, too!

    I often hear about people who are getting burned out on the whole eco-friendly thing. It’s great to hear that you’ve found your way.

    • I just picked 110 lbs of apples, with half the tree to go! It was a warm night, and I watched the sun set and light up the sky while standing on my ladder up in that tree, leaves and apples all around. Bliss! The neighbours chatted as I picked, and they said they were so glad someone has a use for them, and then even started picking themselves! I reiterated my promises of apple sauce and apple butter, and they are still excited about that. Perhaps they will change their mind about their tree, after all.

  2. Wow. What an uplifting post. I like going apple picking, but I’m not blessed with apple trees in a neighbour’s yard! For me, apple picking is an expensive habit – a drive out of town and a not-inexpensive pick-your-own price. Because the farmers’ market closest to me stays open over the winter (they move indoors), I can buy local Ontario apples well into the new year, at which point I get tired of eating them just as they’re going soft! It’s incredible they can be stored that long anyway. Who is going to help you process hundreds of pounds of apples?

    • We have an organization here called “operation fruit rescue” where you can sign up to pick someones tree for free, 1/3 goes to the pickers, 1/3 to homeowner, 1/3 to the food bank. I have never tried it but maybe I will next year. Do you have something like that?

      • Yes, we do! It’s called Not Far From the Tree (http://www.notfarfromthetree.org/), and the demand for trees to be picked exceeds the supply – not of pickers, but of coordinating capacity. I’m pretty sure homeowners can sign up, but I suspect there’s a waiting list. And that’s with hundreds of volunteer pickers!!!

    • 18 jars and counting! I plan on giving my neighbours some, and eating a lot of it all winter~, my kids love the stuff. It turned a pretty pink colour when I made it. Thanks for visiting my blog, it is always great to meet other Edmonton bloggers!

  3. Sherry, I’ve just found you thru another blog – Kevin’s – I love Foodie & Craft blogs!! You mentioned that you would like to keep bees. In Vancouver & the Burbs, we’re being encouraged to get & look after stingless bees. They live in wood instead of hives. They can be bought thru the mail & all you need is to drill a bunch of holes in a couple of pieces of log mounted on a post or in a tree or on the side of your porch. They make a home in the holes & help pollinate all the plants in your yard. Who can complain about them???

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