The Best Apples!

For many of us in the upper Midwest, making the annual autumn pilgrimage to an apple orchard has become a favorite family outing. Orchards have caught on to the trend and added quite an array of activities to attract guests—mostly those with young children. I can appreciate that. It’s good to get the kids outside, and a visit to the orchard is time well spent, even if some of that time is spent in a bouncy house.

For my part, they could just keep it simple. Give me a bag, point me to the apple variety I’m looking for, and off we’ll go to pick. I must admit, though, that ever since we lived in Vermont where we discovered cider donuts, I do have a particular weakness for those soft, sweet delicacies. So when we return from the orchard, I’m looking in the makeshift store to add a dozen to our fresh-picked stock of apples.

Last Saturday, we ventured to the Fairhaven Apple Orchard in Thomson with our daughter and grandson so he could discover the experience of picking an apple off the tree, biting into it, and tasting the difference from the store-bought variety (probably picked last year and sitting for months in a storage facility somewhere). Once we arrived and got a bit of direction from the orchard owner, daughter and grandson took off right away to pick from the tree. Meanwhile, bride and I sifted through boxes of already picked varieties especially good for pies. Once the bag was filled, we set it aside to go join the pickers. I noticed an interesting distinction in the price structure, though. The four boxes of pie apples we chose from were marked $1.25 per pound. But when the orchard owner gave our daughter a bag to fill from the orchard, he told her to pick what she wanted and it’d be $2 per pound. That seemed counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t the already picked apples be more expensive? After all, there’s labor cost to consider, isn’t there?

Well, off we went to join the pickers. Along the way, several children sat together on a bench, moms nearby, all enjoying the freshly picked fruit. Up ahead we found our party among the winecrisps (a firm, sweet apple, good for eating and stores well for a long time, the owner informed us). They each had in hand a partially eaten, just-picked apple. I had an “Aha!” moment (yes, a bit slow, I know). The $2-per-pound u-pick price covers all the samples enjoyed out in the orchard! Well justified, I thought. I know I ate a couple myself out there. Grandson had all or parts of at least three or four. A couple for my wife, two or three for my daughter. The 75-cent difference makes perfect sense.

A couple things stood out while picking. Before yanking an apple off the tree, we looked it over pretty well to see if there were any worm holes or rotten spots. If so, didn’t bother with it. We wanted to pick the best ones we could find. And if we accidentally picked one with holes, it went on the ground (per the owner’s instructions, by the way).

I also noticed that we could be fooled by initial appearances. More than once I saw a beauty hanging there, just waiting to be picked. But it was pressed hard against another. In separating them, I discovered a mushy rotten spot where the two met. Neither made it in our bag.

Walking down a row of fujis, I spied up ahead a tree full of ripe, red ones just begging to be picked. Seemed odd to be so full. The other trees around it didn’t have many left at all. Why was this one laden with such an abundant supply? Upon closer inspection the answer became clear. Every apple on that tree had some kind of serious “blemish” – rotten spot, worm holes, etc. The tree itself didn’t look very healthy, either.

Reflecting on the orchard outing brought to mind some parallels in the Bible. One of them occurred to me in the middle of my sermon Sunday evening. I was preaching from Nehemiah 10, discussing the commitments God’s people made as they rededicated themselves to obeying God’s Law. “We promise to give to God the firstfruits of our crops,” they vowed. In an effort to explain the concept of “firstfruits,” I remembered our outing the day before. “The firstfruits,” I explained, “are the apples we wanted for ourselves: the nicest ones, with no worm holes or bruises or rotten spots.” In other words, God’s people promised to give to God’s work the best of their crops, even if that meant they’d get the blemished apples for their pies. In essence, this reflects an attitude of honor toward God and His place of worship. Leads me to do some self-examination, asking about my attitude. Does God get the good stuff, or my throwaways? When I’m planning my day, does He get any time? In planning my week, what’s my priority for Sundays? And so on.

There are other parallels from our excursion but will save them for another time. Can you think of any?