We made an unexpected trip to see family this past weekend. While we were there, we decided to pick up about half of the apples we plan to turn into applesauce this year. A little while back, I mentioned that we weren't sure we'd get our favorite variety for saucing this year (Red Cortlands), but thanks to family keeping their eyes and ears open, it looks like we won't have to find a substitute this year.
Sam and Sadie stayed back at the house while Jamey, Miriam and I made the 10 minute drive to an Old Order (Mennonite) farm. We pulled in between the farmhouse and the barn. Attached to the barn (on the house side) was the add-on of a store/farm stand of sorts. The sign read "self-serve" and instructed folks to pay at the house. The "store" smelled amazing. Inside there were about 10 large bins each holding a different variety of apple. Jamey filled up baskets while I showed Miriam all the different kinds of apples. In addition to apples, they had potatoes, concord grapes and apple cider for sale.
Outside, pullets free-ranged among the flower beds. The family's buggy was parked outside the barn. Their orchard sprawled over the hill beyond the barn. Flower beds overflowed with blooms. Tree branches held swings. The smell of manure filled the air.
While we were there, a hand-full of others came to make purchases as well. Most came via horse and buggy. They conversed with the man of the house (who came out to the store with the increase in activity) in Pennsylvania Dutch. I wished I could speak it and ask about their favorite varieties and how their gardens fared this year. They didn't ignore us. They made polite conversation in English and one older woman noticed the dealer tags on our van and recognized the town we're from.
Miriam and I were back in the van while Jamey finished loading our purchases. Out from the house, being followed by two small children, came the woman of the house. Her hair was in a bun, her dress and apron plain. On her legs, even in the heat of the day, she wore white stockings. On her feet were black, clunky-looking sneakers. Those sneakers said it all. They were worn, dirty and dusty. Them were working shoes. And, I imagine, with a house, a farm, an orchard and who knows how many children, those shoes on those feet do a lot of work.
In those moments while I watched her I felt awe. I felt inspired. And, I felt tired.
We drove away with five baskets of Cortlands, one of Galas (for eating out of hand), one of Winter Banana (for drying) and a gallon of apple cider.