We finished picking today. When I say “we”, I mean our crew. The last of our Granny Smith apples were loaded into bins like the one in this photo and are now in our cooler, waiting to be packed on Monday. The end of harvest is usually a quiet endeavor. When I first lived here and experienced my first harvest season, I thought that the last apple picked, last ladder put away, last bin stacked would come with fireworks, hoots of joy and maybe even uncorking a little bubbly. Instead, the last apple picked happens on a Saturday morning, or late on a Tuesday afternoon or hurriedly before a freezing cold night.
What I realize now, is that the end of harvest comes with a quiet solitude. With a cobalt blue sky, peach leaves turning green-gold, orchard grass matted underfoot and a few brave thistle weeds making their last presence known. The end of harvest means our crew will leave within 48 hours, packing their few belongings and looking for work where the nights and days stay warm. The end of harvest means giving the trees their last gulp of water before winter and draining the irrigation system. It means picking up, cleaning up and clearing out.
There are bills to pay, expenses to count, food safety logs to record. There are pallets to stack, cardboard to recycle and propane tanks to fill. But for two or three days, there is a quiet peace and fulfillment that comes with knowing that we’ve made it through another fruit season. It may not have been the best one, or the worst one but it’s another one for the books. Another season we can say, “Do you remember in 2013 when the apples were so short?” Or, “…yeah, that’s the year we built the new shed”, or “Remember when you went to the markets that weekend and you had pneumonia?”
It’s remarkable to look back at what happens during the course of a year on a farm. Time to breathe a sigh and look ahead to what needs to happen to put everything to rest for a short time before it all begins anew. And that time will be here before we know it.