Friday Fiction "Apple Time"

I've been busy editing my novel "A Home for Phoebe", so I thought I post another excerpt from it. It's apple time here in Maine and also on blind Granny's farm. Be sure to go to Joanne's Open Book for more great stories.

Apple Time

The sun danced through the maple leaves and into the kitchen, bathing the whole room in a red glow. After breakfast, Zeke scraped his chair back from the table and patted his belly. “Those hot cakes hit the spot, Granny! I think today would be a great day to harvest the apples.” While the girls made quick work of straightening the house, Zeke poked around in the barn for some bushel baskets.

In less than an hour, they paraded down to the sweet smelling orchard. Shadow ran ahead sniffing and chasing a squirrel up the nearest tree. Next, Zeke pulled Phoebe and the baskets on a low, flatbed wagon. Phoebe giggled as they bumped over rocks and roots. Granny followed next, with her cane and holding Maseppa’s arm for support. Last came Cinnamon, picking her way through the damp grass, not wanting to be left behind.

The morning passed quickly. The apples on the ground were placed in separate baskets for Granny to use for cooking. Zeke climbed a pointed ladder into the crooked branches and tossed the apples into the others’ open aprons. One apple fell and bonked Granny on the head.

“Hey! Watch where you’re aiming!”

Using a pole with a wire basket on the end, Zeke reached some from the very top branches. Phoebe begged to help Zeke pick the apples, and Maseppa let her climb the lower branches. Of course, no one could resist a bite into the red skin to taste the sweet juice beneath. Each apple was carefully nestled in straw to protect it for its journey.

“How many o’ these have t’ go for the Rensellaer rent tax?” The bitter words shot from Zeke’s clenched jaws.

“I’m not rightly sure. Henry always paid him five bushels along with corn and buckwheat. Since the Jensons started farming the land, they’ve been growing the required grains and gathering what was needed of the apples.”

“It’s not right, you being a widow and all.” He jumped from the lowest branch with a thud. “It should be all yours!”

“Now, Zeke, it doesn’t do any good to complain.”

“It’s not right!... but for your sake, I’ll keep my tongue.”

Granny gently brushed her fingers over the mounded baskets as she counted them. “Zeke, which basket is the fullest and the best?”

“I reckon the one on the end. Why?”

“Give that one to the Muggins family, out on Horse Heaven Road.”

“I recollect their place…kind of run-down with a passel of youngsters? Why there?”

“When you give unto the least, you give it to the Lord. It’s the tithe of my firstfruits to the Lord. I have some mittens for the wee ones and other things to add to it too.”

“But, Granny, if you sell and give them away, you won’t have ‘nough for yourself.”

“I haven’t gone hungry yet.”

Zeke shook his head and held his tongue. Who could help but be in awe of Granny's unwavering faith in her Lord?

When they couldn’t fit another apple in the baskets, Zeke loaded some in his peddler’s wagon to be sold in Albany. The others would be stored in the shed behind the kitchen.

Maseppa thumped a full basket on the flatbed wagon. “Martha show me to make apple cobbler.”

“Wonderful!” Granny smiled, noticing Maseppa was feeling more comfortable around her. “We’ll be needing to dry some and make the bruised ones into applesauce and apple butter in the next few weeks. Of course, there’ll be plenty for eating, too. Thank you all for helping. I didn’t think they would be more than a feast for the deer and other wild animals.”

“Wild animals?” Phoebe’s eyes grew big. “…like bears?”

“Probably not bears—but birds, rabbits, raccoons, and others of God’s critters. They’ll feed well on what’s left.” Granny staggered back and grasped a tree branch, almost losing her balance. “Zeke, there appears to be a considerable amount of ground apples. I reckon this would be good time to make them into cyder. I’m not exactly sure where the press is. Have you seen it around?”

“Yes, ma’am, I saw it in the back corner of the shed. I’ll haul it out for you in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

Phoebe watched as Zeke tugged the heavy mechanical device out into the dooryard and brushed away the cobwebs and dust. The sides of a wooden hopper slanted down to a grinder which rotated with each turn of a huge handle.

The bruised and damaged apples were chopped and sliced and ground into a pulpy mush, then dropped into a bottomless wooden cylinder. Zeke pulled and tugged on the large screw that squeezed the mush until the apple juice poured into a waiting pail.

Granny brought out some cheesecloth to strain any seeds or skins which escaped. Zeke tossed the left-over pulp behind the barn. Phoebe noticed it didn’t take long for bees and wasps to find the tasty treat. With Maseppa and Phoebe’s help, Zeke was able to fill six gallon jugs with the golden liquid. He put some in the cool cellar to drink right away, but most was stored in the cool cellar to turn into cyder vinegar for the next year or so.


Teresa Lee Rainey . . . said...

So glad I clicked on your story. What a sweet treat!

Hoomi said...

I wonder if we'd appreciate what we have more if we had to invest this much work into it?

Loved this chapter, and the tidbit of giving the best.

BethL said...

A wonderful chapter... perfect for the fallish weather that is approaching. This made me hunger for fresh apple cider. I don't think I can find any here. :( You are a talented and gifted writer!

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

This made me think of my grandmother, who lived by herself and was always gardening, canning, and baking. Yet, she always thought of others before herself, as this granny did. Lovely story, Yvonne!

Sherri Ward said...

Vonnie, I always learn something new when I visit your blog! Nice story, I can see it happening.


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