Apple Season

birds, bees, and neighbor kids are all after the fruit of the fall

Connie J. Russell, photos by Conrad Leighton

The Cortland apples are turning red. Some will be wormy since I raise them without pesticides. My treatment is an empty gallon milk or water bottle with a small hole cut out near the top. I mix cider vinegar, brown sugar, water, and a banana peel and hang the bottles in the trees.  The mix is not a perfect solution. It goes on just before the blossoms evolve, and I hope the codling moth larvae will settle in the bottom of the bottles rather than in the apple blossoms where they flourish and then attack the apples. Once the apples begin to grow, I just have to watch to be sure there’s enough solution in the bottles. I poke a few fruit tree spikes in the ground around the trees to fertilize the apples, and then it’s time to watch the apples grow and turn color.

As the apples begin to ripen, competition exists. The pileated woodpecker comes to take a few bites, but I don’t mind; he’s majestic in spite of his raucous call. Asian beetles and small bees want their share of sweetness, too. But there are always enough apples to pick for the applesauce my grandchildren gobble up. They turn their noses up at applesauce from the grocery store since they’ve had the homemade kind.

Once the apples are ripe and the little girls next door see my husband and me get the ladder and wagon in place, they clamor to help. Armed with a ice cream pail, they climb the ladder while we hold it tight. They run home with their treasure, and later I reward them with an apple pie. My husband gets the high apples with an apple-picking apparatus on the end of a long pole.

Once I see the wagon and several pails full of apples to be prepared, I wonder about my sanity. We store them in the small garage where it’s cooler, and I begin my saga of cooking apples, running them through the Foley strainer, and storing the applesauce with only cinnamon added in containers in the freezer. Pies are made and frozen to be baked later, and apples appear in salads and other dishes.

The trees are old and gnarled and probably should be cut down, but they were a gift in honor of my mother. So they’ll stay a while to feed the woodpecker and grandchildren as well as the pleasure of the little girls next door.

Russell lives in rural Chippewa Falls.