Last year, at least in our locale, there were not any cherries to pick during the spring. When warmer weather rolled around, the apple trees were barren of fruit as well. It was just a lean year for such things, for intricate reasons that Mother Nature has woven in her tapestry of the seasons.
This spring, the cherry trees produced an adequate crop to have a few cherry cobblers and make some cherry jelly. I was quite happy. Now, the apples are present in overabundance. I don’t know when I’ve witnessed so many apples bowing the limbs of the apple trees over. My word, I’ve even had to saw a few broken limbs off my mother’s apple trees which just couldn’t support the bounty.
It’s been hard to even mow through my mother’s apple orchard. The riding lawn mower feels like it’s on marbles on the hillside. That’s after picking up bucketfuls of scrappy apples to feed to the horses, and more bucketfuls of prime apples for human usage. There are simply that many apples this season.
Wife Yvonne and I have been cutting up five-gallon bucket after bushel of apples to dry outside in the hot sun. One thing about it, with the heck hot summer we’ve had, the bounty of apples, and the drying thereof have gone hand-in-hand. We have several gallons of dried apples neatly tucked away for enjoyment this coming winter. I can almost taste the fried apple pies, and merciful heavens, the Old-Fashioned-Dried-Apple-Stack-Cakes (OFDASC) now.
Our hands are stained from the endeavor, but that will be a small price to have been paid when tearing into an OFDASC on a coming cold snowy winter day. The horses are to the contrary having their apple enjoyment in the present. Have you ever watched a horse tear into a big bowl of fresh apple peelings, or a bucket of scrappy apples? That’s put a few pounds on the beasts too. The other day daughter Rebekah got real tickled when were saddling up her horse Sugar. The rotund mare maxed out the line of punched holes in the girth strap. We were barely able to get it fastened in the last available hole. Of course, plenty of sweet feed and hay haven’t helped in that regards either.
My mother Wilma also had some dandy pods of grapes hanging in her little vineyard as well. I had been noticing a few deer hanging around when I’d be up there bush-hogging or mowing. I thought they were mostly feasting on the apples though. I asked “Maw” the other day if I could have those glistening pods of grapes. They’d sure make some fine jelly I thought, just a couple of more days and they’ll be at their peak.
Well, I waited those two days and headed into the vines with my clippers and pan. I’m here to tell ya’ that those deer must have heard me tell mother about my plans. There wasn’t a ripe grape left, only some green ones that the rascals couldn’t palate yet. I sure must have looked sad standing there with an empty pan, looking down at the deer tracks and………..um……..you know excrement. Anyway, the Lord led my mother to write a song about “Working In The Vineyard” many years ago. I thought of that song when I saw how those bucks and does and yearlings had truly been working in the vineyard. Ah well, we have grocery stores and box marts to go to. Nature’s critters don’t have that option, so I can’t begrudge them filling their bellies. Sure would have made some fine jelly though.
We did successfully beat all critters to the elderberry patch. I had carefully bush-hogged around the patch with my tractor for easy access and picking. Only one small hornet’s nest offered any barrier to the harvest, but they didn’t bother us, nor did I bother them. The big heads on the elderberry bushes were heavy and thick. What superb jelly Yvonne rendered from them! I bet the beasts of the fields are sorry I was quicker on the draw than them on that deal.