So where are the 107 pictures of this fabulous scene? There aren't any. Not one. See, I wasn't just standing in the apple orchard, I was working there. My friend and neighbour (friendly neighbour? Neighbourly friend?) A and her husband have 3 apple plots. I'm not sure how many trees that is, maybe 300 odd? Probably more. Anyway, a lot of apples. And even after all that culling of flowers, preemie apples, baby apples, toddler apples, wayward teenage apples and then blemished or misshapen adult apples, each tree has close to 200 apples that need harvesting. But, as I'm sure you can imagine, Japan being Japan, it's not just a matter of taking the apples off the tree and flinging them in a box. Oh, no no no. Today there were four of us working. A and I were walking around picking all the apples we could reach (pulling carefully upwards so as to preserve the apple stalk, and easing ourselves in and out and around the oh so delicate apple branches- it's the itty bitty small branches that will produce next seasons apples. Lose them and you lose apples before you even had them!) A's other friend N was up and down a ladder all morning getting the ones we couldn't reach standing, and A's husband T was sorting. Sorting is the king of apple harvest jobs. T's name is the one on the apple crates so he's the one doing the checking. He sorts the apples into seven types: 1st class to go in those extravagantly priced gift boxes, 2nd class to go in the slightly less expensive gift boxes, 3rd class to be sold as kateiyou- for home use, 4th class to be sold as henkei- misshapen, 5th class apples that look to be underripe and will be kept by the family to eat later in the season- these make great pies as they're tart, 6th class apples with bird pecks, brown spots or that were dropped during harvesting to be sold to the juice factory and 7th class, rubbish. It's a pretty intense job and he worked silently and constantly all morning. That said, he's not really a talkative guy to start with so he probably wasn't suffering that much. ;P We girls sure made up for it though. We talked nonstop the whole time and had a blast. It was my first time picking apples seriously. I've done it with the girls, just picking apples for our own consumption but this was the first time I've done it for someone else. The weather hasn't been terribly kind to apple farmers this year (either too cold in the day, not enough frost, too warm at night, not enough temperature variation or some such. Don't ask me, I'm all confused!) and the apples aren't as big and juicy as would be perfect. So JA extended the apple delivery deadline from the 25th until the 30th. Everyone is waiting as long as possible to maximise their earnings, but the fact remains that they have to be picked. So, out of curiosity and indebtedness for the constant apple deliveries that last 6 months a year, I volunteered to pick today. Anyway, we talked and picked and talked and picked and talked some more and we filled all the blue picking baskets and then all the spare yellow sorting crates and when we'd done that T realised we'd filled every available container he was shocked. 'Ehhhhh? You've done all that? All I heard was jabber, jabber, jabber, I didn't think you were doing any work at all.' Ha ha ha don't underestimate our multitasking skills when it comes to talking, hey? ;P
It was a great morning but it was only three hours. And remember that fabulous blue sky? It was pretty perfect picking conditions. I don't know how I'd go doing it 10 hours a day, day after day, whatever the weather, week in week out, while fretting about frosts and warm patches and market prices, and knowing that this was my year's earnings on the line. Uh uh. No wonder the local women call it the apple diet- lose 7 kilos in two intense months and the funny thing? You probably won't want to eat even one apple!