Farm

Bad Apples

In 2009 Martin and I carefully selected certain species of apples trees that would thrive in our soil. Then we nurtured our saplings. We watered, weeded and sprayed them. Warded off pests. We treated them with love. Like our kids.

Yea, right.

Enough fiction. We plugged the plants into the ground and cordoned them off with a roll of sagging chicken wire — a vague effort to stagger the deer. Then we left the apple trees alone to cope. To wilt despairingly in summer drought, and serve as snacks for insects and deer — the latter of whom deftly bent over the chicken wire.

Through it all the apple trees survived and this summer we glimpsed at bits of red weighing down the limp young branches.

Last week Brynn and I ventured into the sheep field, pried back a corner of wire and harvested the crop.

And all of our efforts were rewarded with…

….the ugliest apples to ever sprout from a tree.

They are blighted, spotted from insect infestation and pocked with peculiar, human-like warts. Not to mention, they are stunted and hopelessly deformed.

“They look like a bunch of butts,” our friend Mike remarked.

Which is why we call them the “butt apples.”

What a lovely centerpiece…

Much to my surprise, no one wanted to sample these home-grown, organic gems.

I felt obligated. And guess what?

They taste great! They are sweet and crunchy — as good as any store-bought fuji…

…if you can get past the deformed, warty, insect damage.

See? Yum… and I’m still alive.

Coincidentally, shortly after we harvested our fruit, Hadley showed me her homework assignment which read as follows:

Send one apple with your child….their favorite type to eat…in a bag labeled with their name. We will be tasting different varieties as well as graphing them in different ways.”

I’m tempted to send Hadley to school with a butt apple; I imagine the teacher’s horrified expression as she fishes one of these beauties from the bag.

But I will spare Hadley the embarrassment.

I’ve got plenty of other opportunities to humiliate her in the future.

Them Mayans Ain’t So Smart

Most storms roll over us from the north-west and nine times out of 10, we can gauge their approach… down to the minute.

But every so often Mother Nature throws a gutter ball: a stretch of thunderheads hugs the northern mountain ridge… and hugs it a little too tight. The storm runs its violent course in a straight line, west to east, just out of reach.

This is not current but an angry sky, nonetheless.

That’s what happened Wednesday. Mid-afternoon I had to retrieve the kids from camp, about 12 miles north-east. En route, I clipped the edge of the storm. For a few miles the trees turned inside-out and the sky pelted me in fat, clattering drops.

On the return trip I weighed my options. I could retrace my journey along the bustling two-laned road to the north, or I could possibly skirt the storm along a winding, unpaved road straggling south. A longer route.

I chose the longer, gravel road. We crunched along, buffered by a canopy of trees, and eventually we emerged under clear sky. Sure enough, that little road fell short of the storm’s tail.

When I got home I told Martin — somewhat proudly — how I’d read the weather. Back in the suburbs, I added, I hadn’t the foggiest idea which way the weather ran.

Martin looked unimpressed. “Of course you know where the storm’s going.” He gestured to the horizon. “You’ve got this huge sky to look at.”

“I used to think that the Mayan people were so smart,” Martin went on. “You know, they developed the calendar and made all these astronomical observations. But hell, anyone who sits outside long enough and stares at the sky–”

“–anyone could figure it out?” I ventured.

“Yea.”

“So basically, the Mayans were idiots like everyone else?”

“Pretty much, yea.”

And that dampened my pride. Because any fool can stand out here, stare at the clouds and say that rain’s coming…

For fun: a neat, rainless cloud formation. Summer 2011

Swelter Weight

How else can I describe the relentless sunshine topped with a thick frosting of humidity? (Add dew point to the mix, too).

It’s miserably hot. A swelter weight.

Tomorrow’s supposed to be hotter.

Let’s take a moment to thank our lucky stars for Willis Haviland Carrier and his 1911 “Rational Psychrometric Formulae”… an undoubtedly loquacious document that helped birth the modern air conditioning system.

If you’re suffering the heat, hunker over your AC vent (or window unit) and take solace in the fact that it could be worse: check out this video of Richmond, Va.

Suddenly 103 degrees sounds downright balmy.