I have recently returned from some quality time in the wilds of northeastern Vermont. The air smells so fresh, the trees are a vivid green, and the loon calls are still haunting. I love living out here in Cali, but I must say there really is nothing like New England in the late summer. It is gorgeous.
My family has a little house on a lake in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods. As a kid, I used to point out all the crab apple trees around the place and lament that they were inedible. However, I don't know where I got the idea that they are crab apples. In fact, I am pretty sure I just made it up one day after looking at the trees and deciding they didn't look big enough to be proper apples. It turns out I was completely wrong.
We often refer to the house on the lake as "the farmhouse." I think I used to assume that was because it's barn red. But nope. It's because it actually was a farmhouse before my grandparents bought it fifty-odd years ago, complete with a wooden barn that finally succumbed to the harsh New England winter a few years back. But do you know what else that farmhouse has?
Apple trees. Lots and lots and lots of apple trees.
Those were not crab apples, they were just immature apples growing on wily, untended trees! For the last several years, my Dad has been out there trying to prune those things into some semblance of order and he seems to be succeeding (despite his mother's admonitions that "you don't prune apple trees in the summer for heaven's sake!"). There's only so much time you can spend in an uninsulated farmhouse during proper apple-pruning season, Gramma.
When I was up there in August, the fruits looked so good that I lamented the fact that I couldn't return during harvest season to have a grand applesauce-making party. That's when my Dad laid this little bombshell on me: "You know there's an apple orchard out there in the woods, don't you?" To which I said, "No, I most certainly do not know there is an apple orchard out there in the woods!" An apple orchard! We have an apple orchard! At the house in Vermont I have visited every year of my life! Apparently, tucked back in the woods, between the farmhouse and the state road behind it, lies an orchard of about 80 apple trees. It is so enclosed by native forest (which has this thing about remaining wild and reclaiming land) that you can't see the trees from the road or the house and I went thirty years with no inkling of their existence.
So next year, there is a clear goal for the annual summer trek to the woods. There will be some serious apple orchard investigating. We will need to carve a path through the woods and mow/chop/cut/trim all the brush around the trees. There will be pruning and cutting and more pruning. But maybe, just maybe, we can bring this apple orchard back from the mists of time and those apples can once again find their way onto the table.