Snow Saved Apples from Frost, November 2011
When the weather service starts predicting overnight lows around 20-25 degrees F, harvest gets crazy. A few hours at around 22 degrees will destroy the cell walls within an apple. Most years, not much of the crop still hangs in the open air when hard-freeze scares begin. But in late October 2011, hundreds of bushels of cider apples were still sunning themselves on the trees. (A bushel weighs about 40lbs, makes about 3 gallons of juice.) Overnight lows around 20 were predicted for Friday, Saturday & Sunday before Halloween. What to do?
FIRST: Pick as many as possible in the time available.
SECOND: Shake trees to bring down the rest. Earth cools more slowly than air. (Shaking down ruins fresh-market varieties, but dropped cider fruit is just fine, if it’s picked up soon enough.)
THIRD: Thank Fates for freak snows that made life so trying elsewhere. Down came a nice blanket for the little assets lying in the soft grass. Deeper, damaging snows fell south of here.
FOURTH: Pick up apples, haul to safety.
Sounds simple, yes? Yes and no. Up here, a dash of snow fell Thursday night, ahead of the Friday night freeze, & a day earlier than most places. So Friday Oct. 28th, a long long day of shaking, featured snow in the face, wet clothes, grumpy moods, no escape.
Then different slopes thawed at different times during Saturday, Sunday & Monday. Normally-cheerful people rushed to one field, stooped and scooped, filled bins (big 15-bushel stackable crates) rushed to the next. (Bins hold about 600 lbs of apples.) Also un-fun in snow: driving tractor to collect bins.
Hence the photos at left show no smiley faces ‘midst the sparkling sunshine & bright colors. Even work clothes look smashing here, but the models didn’t feel beautiful at the time. (Two and a half weeks later, the apples are all pressed, juice fermenting, job well done.) 11.17.11