The cost of pickin' apples ...

... great fun, really good apples, but, ah ...

from Don Norris

My wife Lorry and I went apple pickin' in late September, visiting that favorite orchard, "Doe's" in Harvard, Massachusetts. It is a traditional good time for us, for it means getting out of the house, taking a lovely 40-mile ride through Concord, Lexington and all those quaint historic towns just west of Boston.

We never thought about the cost of this expedition, for in the past the cost hasn't been significant. But today is different. First, the cost of gasoline is $4 a gallon, which figures out to be 16 dollars for our round trip.

Another side issue: the cost of lunch. We chose a little roadside restaurant outside the town of Ayer (yesterday, in Spanish), and spent another 20 bucks on really only fair fare. So now we're up to $36.

Doe's is a favorite place. It is a beautiful hilly orchard that features a zillion different kinds of apples. Take your choice, the signs to here and there are plentiful and decorous. The place is as close to heaven as you can get, here on earth.

We are used to over-loading on apples in years past, for we had children and grand-children to consider. We had pies to cook and distribute, and Lorry's out-of-this-world apple brown betty. To say notthing of an apple-a-day. And so we took a two-peck bag, provided by Doe's, which, when full, weighs something like 25 pounds, and takes two of us to lug our loot back to the check-out booth.

On that particular weekday, there were only half a dozen other parties picking apples -- we spotted them in the distance, between the neat rows of trees. So we pretty much had the place to ourselves. At one point, I grew tired of pickin', and laid down on the soft grass and shut my eyes. I woke minutes later with my lovely wife, hands on her hips, wondering why I had flaked out. It was embarrassing.

Some other pickers wandered by, lugging their heavy loot; they stopped to see if the old guy in the grass was okay, then continued their walk back to HQ.

Note: At September's end, the thousands of apple trees at Doe's have been totally picked -- up to a point where the tallest person in the picking party can reach. Therefore, Doe's gives their clients a pole onto which is fastened a bright colored plastic cup, meant to snare the fruit from the higher elevations.

It's not exactly hard work, but it takes some little skill to snare a nice big apple, the twist, shake or slam it so that it comes loose of its high branches. The procedure is slower than being able to hand pick from lower altitudes, but it is still fun. It's the law: NO climbing trees. Use the pole.

Nevertheless, it is a fun time, and it takes only about an hour to fill up our half-bushel plastic bag. When full, Lorry grabs one end of our pole, I get the other, and we dangle our loot from the center. It makes for less work.

Now, back to the point: Expenses.

Apples in the supermarket go for about $1.29 (on sale) a pound, perhaps up to three bucks for specialties. And while I didn't weigh our half-bushel bag, it must have been about 30 pounds -- and at $1.29 a pound, that's about $38 worth of fresh, large, juicy, just-off-the-tree apples. So fresh the juice runs off your chin.

Adding the $38 to the cost of lunch and transportation, we come up with a total of $74. That's not the real cost, for our half-bushel bag cost us $22 at the check-out shed -- which had a two-dollar discount on account of we are on Doe's mailing list and handed in their post-card mailer. Total actually spent during that five-hour escapade was sixty bucks.

I can't help thinking about those days when that same trip would have set us back a mere ten bucks -- and the kids had been there to join the fun. Oh, well. Times flies and inflation is rediculous.

October 5, 2012

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