As several of you know, I have been wanting to go apple picking for a while because: (1) I have never been apple picking and hope not to be living in New England next year, so I'd better go this October; and (2) I want to make an apple wine. I was hoping to interest some of my friends into going with me on Columbus Day. Only Dan, Keya, volta, and bitty expressed any interest, but, alas, volta found out the day before that he had to be somewhere by 11 a.m. that day, and the orchard we chose to go to the night before was in the wrong part of the state (that is, northwest of Boston instead of South of Boston, and a 40 minute drive to boot) for bitty to join us. So, Dan, Keya, and I headed off to Shelburne Farm in Stow, Massachusetts, to pick some apples.
We agreed that Dan and Keya would pick me up at 10 a.m. After all, they had to drive in my direction anyhow to hop on Route 2. So in the morning I broke fast, showered, dressed in the ugliest shirt I could find, wrote down directions from the website, grabbed my camera and a couple of books, and climbed into the back of Keya's silver Civic.
Forty-five minutes later we drove past the farm, u-turned, and meandered into the half-full unpaved parking lot.
First order of business was buying bags for the apple picking and finding out where to pick. We could choose from two bag sizes, which we could then fill to our hearts' content. Dan and I each bought a 20-pound bag, the larger of the choices. I then inquired as to what apples are best for winemaking. We were directed to a couple of different possibilities, and so the three of us, thus informed, set off into the orchard.
At Shelburne Farm (and I imagine at other orchards as well, though I can't speak from experience) sampling is openly encouraged. So the three of us wandered down row after row of apples trees, plucking ripe fruit from the heavy branches, biting into Baldwins, Mutsus, Spencers, Cortlands, Macouns, McIntosh, Northern Spies, Empires.... There were many difficult choices to be made, and thus I had to sample and re-sample and re-re-sample. Ah, what better moment to show you the pictures I took!
Dan reaches for apples as Keya looks on, unaware that they are being photographed.
Now that I am closer, I attempt to get Dan to reach for an apple again. Dan has difficulty looking as if he's not posing.
Dan is relieved that the posing is over.
"What? You want me to help you choose? Crap, I need an excuse...hey! What's that ringing?"
Talking on your cell phone while apple-picking? For shame!
Keya is just as shocked as I am that Dan took a call from his mom while we are trying to choose apple varieties. How ever will she decide now?!
Keya samples various apple varieties, trying to decide which one she likes best.
I can sympathize with Keya. It's not an easy choice. There are many great varieties to choose from. Hmmm...it's down to these three. Which will make the best wine?
As we walk down the rows of apple trees, one can see the New England foliage in the hills beyond turning various colors.
Anyhow, back to the narrative. Keya and Dan were mainly picking apples for eating, and we agreed that the best eating apples were the Spencers, but they weren't going to limit themselves to just one variety. I, however, was picking for winemaking, and I wanted my wine to be all of one apple variety. The apples that work best for wines are the tart varieties; the sweet varieties reportedly do not work very well. The Northern Spy is an extremely tart apple and would probably make a very good wine. However, I found the Mutsu, while not quite as tart, to have a complexity and subtlety of flavors that I think will translate well into a wine. So I filled up my bag and more -- 24 pounds worth -- with the green Mutsu apples.
Our plan for the day, in addition to the apple picking, had to find some pumpkins for a pumpkin wine, buy some cider and cider donuts, maybe do a hayride, and drive around to see the foliage. We never got to do all that, though. We had scarcely finished gathering the apples when Keya's cell phone rang. It was her cousin, who had arrived at Logan airport a few minutes before. She was just calling to inform Keya that her kneecap popped out of place and slid over to the side of her knee and that she was on the floor of an airport bathroom writhing in pain waiting for the paramedics. We later ascertained that Sumona was being taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, so off to the MGH emergency room we went.
When we got there forty minutes later, Sumona was sitting in a wheelchair in the waiting room. The kneecap had popped back into place when the paramedics were assisting her, and she was now waiting to see a doctor to find out if any joint or ligament damage had occurred.
As can be expected, the wait was long. I was under no obligation to stay, Dan kept reminding me, but I wanted to hang around anyway, in case I could be of any assistance. After about an hour or so, I did step out to get a breath of fresh air for a little bit, since it was such a gorgeous autumn day. I found a little park with benches where I could read my book and sat down. When I wasn't reading I watched an eagle picking apart the remains of a small animal not more than 20 yards away from me. (I suppose it may have been a hawk, but based on its size I'm inclined to believe it was an eagle.)
Eventually Sumona was released into our care, wearing a leg brace and learning how to walk with crutches. She had dislocated her knee and but had done no further damage. We somehow all squeezed into Keya's car -- it's not easy to get four people into a Civic when two of the people are tall and one can't bend her leg -- and drove back to Sumona's place, where we ordered Thai food from Rod Dee and watched the Yankees beat the Red Sox.
And that was my Monday. I didn't get my pumpkins or cider donuts, but I did get my apples and I did finish reading my book. And now that I know how much fun apple picking can be, I have a hankering to get back there and sink my teeth into a nice Spencer or Mutsu.