Apples & Writing

Lately, I’ve been embracing my identity as a writer.  I currently live at home and work on my family’s farm, so writing and agriculture have been on my mind.  I’ve been learning that writing and farming are more similar than one would think.

My family’s business is apples.  In the spring, apple trees bud and blossom.  Alone, these flowers are beautiful and fragrant, but fleeting.  It takes external forces, namely bees, to preserve their beauty.  Once the flowers are pollinated, fruit sets in.  But that’s not the end.  It takes months and months of growing and care for the fruit to grow.  Even then, it’s not always ready when you think.

This process reminds me of writing.  As a writer, I have universes in my mind.  Thoughts, feelings, ideas, entire novel length stories exist between my ears.  Sometimes when I sit down to put these sentiments to words, I find myself unable to speak.  Like apple blossoms, bursts of inspiration alone aren’t enough.  It takes external forces–life experiences–to give the inspiration the depth and meaning it needs to bear fruit.  Even then, sometimes the words aren’t ready.  It takes months and months of bouncing around in the back of my mind to grow and take shape.

We have field trips at our orchard and one of the things my mom tells the kids is actually really important: Just because an apple is red doesn’t mean it’s ripe.

It’s the same with words.  Recently, I’ve found the need to write bubbling up in my spirit and bursting forth at unexpected moments.  But just because words are building at the tip of my toungue does not mean they are ready yet.  It doesn’t mean they’re ripe.  I’ve got an ever-growing list of post ideas, but not all of them feel quite right yet.

So I wait.  I mull over the words and scribble drafts.  I put down my pen and let the world around me pollinate my ideas.  I wake up in the morning, go to work, read books, spend time with friends, and wait.

When the time comes for the words to burst forth, I’ll be ready.

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Deromanticizing apple orchards

When I tell people I grew up on an apple orchard, the first thing they always say to me is, “Wow, that sounds like such a Romantic childhood!”

For many people, one of Autumn’s biggest highlights is going to the apple orchard.  They flock in crowds, enjoying scenic views, colorful leaves, going on a hay ride, selecting a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, eating baked goods, and (of course) picking apples.  It really is an ideal way to spend a sunny October day.

Photo taken from Facebook, courtesy of my mother.

What people fail to realize, though, is all the work that goes into running an apple orchard.  All they think about is how fun it is to take photos of their child picking an apple and how delicious that pie is going to be once it’s baked.  When you peel back the commercialized experience and actually think about things, orchards are a lot less Romantic than they appear.

There’s nothing Romantic about watching your dad wake up before the crack of dawn to put in a solid day of physical labor (picking, hauling, washing apples; covering things up to protect them from frost; feeding and caring for the petting zoo animals; tending the trees; covering up our strawberry fields, the list can really go on forever) only to go to bed at two in the morning.  He’s the hardest working person I know.  And, all day, he deals with customers who have no idea how much work he does pestering him with stupid questions, telling him how to run his farm (as if they know more than he does).

There’s nothing Romantic about spending summers hoeing strawberry fields, hauling brush, trimming root suckers, spreading fertilizer, thinning the apple trees, etc. for 40 hours a week.

There’s nothing Romantic about the fact that my mom hasn’t travelled beyond 15 minutes of our house for a month.

There’s nothing Romantic about finding $100 worth of pick-your-own apples sitting under a random tree because some customer didn’t realize how much they picked, didn’t want to pay, so just left the now-unsellable fruit sitting there.

There’s nothing Romantic about working in the store all day long, then spending your Saturday night and time off making caramel apples in your pajamas till 10:30 PM to prevent running out in the store the next day.

There’s nothing Romantic about your highly anticipated Mother/Daughter shopping day in the city being cancelled because she was needed at the orchard to watch over the staff.

There’s also nothing Romantic about watching all the crowds flocking to your home, the place you grew up, the place you spend your summers tending to and caring for, only to tramp all over it and stare at you like you’re out-of-place when you go for a walk.

Apple orchards are wonderful places, and I will forever be grateful for my upbringing.  It’s given me a unique, special childhood that I will always cherish.

My brothers and I a few weeks ago.

But, sometimes, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.