by Meg Corey (from Sheila Connolly's Orchard Mystery series)
I can't believe it's harvest time again. It's a wonderful time of year in New England, although I don't have a lot of time to wander the lanes admiring pretty trees. I have trees of my own to worry about—apple trees.
This has been a good year for apples—enough sun, enough rain, and no disasters (although there was a tornado that came uncomfortably close, over in Springfield, not far away). The same pickers are back this year. In theory I could sit back and just give orders, but that's not me. It's my harvest, and I'm going to be out there alongside them, doing my share of the work.
Maybe apple picking sounds romantic to you, but it is hard work. Still, after more than a year here, I'm in good shape. I even know what I'm doing, although I can't match my orchard manager Bree or the pickers in knowing when any one tree or variety is ready to pick. But I'm learning.
We've planted more trees this year. Luckily they won't bear fruit for a couple of years, and even then they'll be low and easy to harvest (that's because of the dwarf root stock that almost all apple varieties are grafted onto these days). I had to think long and hard about whether I wanted to stay, and then when I decided I did, expanding the orchard was another important decision. But some of my other trees are past their prime, so I need to think about the future.
Now I understand how important the harvest was to the people who settled this country. Farming in New England is never easy, so the harvest is hard-won. We celebrate with festivals and fairs once we know we've had a successful year. Thanksgiving makes a lot more sense to me, and this year I have a lot to be thankful for.
In fact, I'm even thinking about expanding the orchard. I would never have believed that a year ago. Things can change a lot in one year.