My Apple Stocks
Sure, you could go to the grocery store and buy exactly the right quantity of apples for a totally reasonable price. Or, you could plant two trees, wait fifteen years, and, after a decade and a half of nothing, suddenly get more apples at once than you could eat in a lifetime that you now have to use in two weeks before they dissolve into toxic apple sludge. I went with option two since I like to make my life as difficult as possible. The final boss in all of my struggles is me.
I’m currently drowning in apples. Not literally, but almost. If you were to pick them all and put them in a big pit, I have no doubt I could sink below the surface, never to be seen again. If you’ve been following this newsletter for a while, you’ll know this is actually the second time we’ve had a bumper crop. The first was two years ago, when, out of nowhere, our lazy and unproductive apple trees suddenly spewed forth enough apples to choke a horse. Although now that I think about it, even one apple would be enough to choke a horse if the horse didn’t chew it right. Also, how did choking horses become such a common thing that it’s now an idiom? If it does happen that often, how come no one is going around teaching people the horse Heimlich maneuver? The U.S. education system has failed us all again. However, I now have a billion apples and zero horses, so I should focus on the one that’s currently ruining my life. I’ll write about the other topic the next time my wife Lola lets me make an ill-advised livestock deal. Anyone want to trade a tweet for a horse?
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My apples aren’t like the store-bought kind. For one thing, mine are completely organic, which just means I was too unmotivated to spray them with pesticide. Most years, I get zero apples. There’s no point in protecting what I don’t have. Typically, our trees start out the season with thousands of blossoms. Then they all die. Sometimes, they’re wiped out by a spring frost or an especially strong thunderstorm. Other times, they’re killed off by the Granny Smith Cartel, a brutal gang of apple vigilantes out to eliminate all fruit tree competition. The apple wars make the drug trade look like a Sunday swap meet. Even if a few apples do make it through all that, they usually fall to the ground, where they’re devoured by the mass of pigs circling below. Fun fact: A group of pigs is called a mistake. Just ask Lola. She’s going to be so mad when I get that horse.
Because my apples aren’t treated with chemicals, they’re safe to eat right off the tree, as long as you don’t mind ingesting worms and other bugs. Think of it as bonus protein. Actually, don’t think of it at all or you’re going to throw up. I bit into one apple only to see a worm wiggling around in the section I exposed. I’ve been carefully cutting up all my apples ever since. You don’t get that experience with store-bought apples. My way is so much better. The one thing the Kroger fruit experience is missing is terror.
I don’t know why bugs love my apples so much. Even the most perfect looking pieces of tree candy have a few bite marks out of them. They’re ugly on the outside, and often ugly on the inside, too. These apples lie to no one. If you take the time to cut away the bad sections, though, you’re left with half to two-thirds of an apple that’s pretty damn good. In my house, apples are like crack, and my kids eat them by the bag full. It’s been that way ever since I banned actual candy. The girls have to feed their sugar addictions somehow. The fact that my kids need to cut up the apples first before they eat them just adds to the fun. They’ll take any excuse to use a knife. Apples are good for nutrition but bad for making it through childhood with all ten fingers. An apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away if you need to have a digit reattached.
Going full-Fruit Ninja on the apples isn’t the only thing we have to do to get them ready for human consumption. We also have to wash them. That’s Lola’s rule. She might be a chemist, but her policy is based on pseudoscientific ritual instead of fact. Lightly rinsing fruit with room temperature water doesn’t clean or sanitize anything. Any bacteria that gives up that easily wasn’t going to be a threat in the first place. I’m not afraid of microscopic quitters. The same goes for pesticides on store-bought fruit. If a light sprinkling of water removes all harmful chemicals, the rain would have taken care of it long before the produce made it to the grocery store. With my apples, any grime from the outside world is definitely still there when we eat them. That’s why I don’t mind eating stuff that falls on the ground. I follow the five, ten, and sometimes seventy-five second rule. I’ll pick it up eventually. I’m sure the fact that Lola is going to outlive me by twenty years is completely unrelated.
For all my ranting about how my apples are healthy, the way we use them actually isn’t. We only eat a fraction of those lumpy circles raw. We might not have candy in the house, but we‘ve now turned our kitchen into an industrial scale pie factory. Life is all about balance. Lola, like me, is frugal, and she can’t bring herself to waste apples on the rare occasions we get them. This weekend, she picked some, amassing two five gallon buckets full in less than an hour. There are three times more than that still on the trees. Even if my kids did nothing but eat apples all day, every day (which is a plausible scenario on weekends), they wouldn’t make a dent in our supply. The only way to use them all before they go bad is to bake them into dessert, then give them away. Not only does turning them into baked goods eliminate any potential health benefits, but it also wipes out any savings from having our own mini orchard. I bought both trees in 2007, I’m guessing for around $100. I had to buy them at a nursery instead of getting them for free because Johnny Appleseed had the nerve to be dead. With such cheap trees, and factoring in the zero dollars I spend on chemicals and pesticides, it seems like it wouldn’t take many apples to break even and basically have fruit for free. Unfortunately, pre-made pie crusts cost money. So do sugar and the four hundred other ingredients that go into pie. Full disclosure, I have no idea how to make a pie, but based on how good they taste, I assume one of the main components is black magic. Always tip the witch doctor.
Lola and the kids made six pies on the first day without lowering the apple level in either bucket. We might be in a loaves and fishes scenario. Two years ago, Lola made over twenty pies. This year, I expect it to be triple that. We can’t eat that many. Scratch that. We shouldn’t eat that many. “Can” is a dangerous word around here because it denotes the start of a challenge that will end in great digestive distress. Instead, Lola is giving away pies to friends, family members, and random strangers on the street. If you invite us over, she’ll bring three pies. If you don’t know us but leave your door unlocked, she’ll bring four. Look under your bed. There’s Lola with a pie. Run.
The girls like making the pies more than they like eating them. For our twelve-year-old, Betsy, and ten-year-old, Mae, it’s an assertion of independence. Lola lets them make pies by themselves. They’re a hair’s breadth away from being able to live independently of us. All they’re lacking is money. I pray they never learn how my life insurance works. Usually, though, Lola and the girls make pies together. They each have their own role in the process. They put the desserts together assembly-line style and then toss them in the oven two at a time. Our house smells like a bakery, a nice change from the usual scent, which is guinea pigs and fear. Now it’s guinea pigs, fear, and apple goodness. I have a new idea for the Yankee Candle company.
In the coming weeks, we’ll need to pick the rest of the apples. They get harder to procure as we go. The worst thing about trees is that they’re tall. If we wanted easier picking, we should have planted an apple bush. We have an apple picking tool, which is just a basket on the end of a really long stick. Even stretched out to its full fifteen-foot length, Lola couldn’t reach the apples at the top since she’s only two feet tall. It will be up to me to take it from here. I also bought a second apple picker, which won’t help now that the low apples are gone unless I learn to use two apple pickers at once. Either that or I could give the second stick to my kids and put them on a really tall ladder. The children are down for any idea as long as it’s sufficiently dangerous. If the apple picking sticks can’t get the job done, there aren’t many other options. We could rent a cherry picker, which sounds expensive, or I could shoot them down. I have a compound bow I haven’t used much lately. I said earlier that Lola would outlive me by twenty years, but it’s more like thirty.
The other option is to leave the apples unpicked until they fall off on their own. That would make the pigs happy. They can eat an infinite number of apples. A few people have warned me that apple seeds have cyanide, but I’m not worried about it. First of all, pigs eat literal garbage. Poison will just make them stronger. Second, you have to crush up apple seeds to release the poison, and the pigs basically swallow their food whole. The apple seeds should pass through them harmlessly. Remember, not chewing your food saves lives. Unless you’re a horse. Then you’ll probably choke.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Lock your doors so Lola doesn’t pie you.