Sunday, November 30, 2014

How About Those November Apples?

My imagination is caught when I see an apple tree in November with apples still hanging from its branches. The canopy has lost all of its leaves and yet the apples remain, looking like red Christmas bulbs on a makeshift tree. Usually, these trees with frozen apples on the branches are scrub apples that took root in ditches or fence rows. A few clever hard cider makers have learned to make a tart, premium cider from these distressed fruits. For the most part, the apples belong to no one and no one comes to pick them. As the snow base rises, deer nibble them off the tree, hungry animals that can't waste a single source of calories. I've never noticed a November Apple tree with apples remaining in April.

This November Apple tree startled me more than the ones growing in hedgerows. I had noticed this apple tree by the tasting room of Douglas Valley, a hard cider house and winery. The time was late August. The apples were bright red then, a Sunday, and the winemaker's family had set out a dinner for friends and family on long tables in shade from this tree. Under the shelter of a wraparound porch, I enjoyed a glass of hard cider and the performance of a man on a guitar, a man who had memorized thousands of songs, never stumped by requests.

The family of the winemaker had clearly enjoyed this apple tree. The orchards harvested for this year's cider pressing, a deliberate choice left these apples on the bough. They reminded me of that fine summer day and I was thankful. The family might like the hanging souvenirs for the same reason, evoking memory. The tree seemed full of fruit and yet the wan grass below had been littered with bruised, browning fruit. It was a matter of time before the deer hungered enough to make close approaches to the railroad barracks from the nineteenth century, restored and renovated into a tasting house. I'm betting the deer to come will make a charming site for tasters of cider looking out the windows.

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