I remember how annoying I used to find it, as a child, when I would complain about being cold (we often lived under the redwoods, where things never really dried out or warmed up in the winter) and my mother would say, in an unnecessarily cheerful voice, "There's plenty of work to be done that will keep you warm." As is so often the case in my current life, I find myself adopting the same absurdly cheerful voice as I suggest to Lorenzo that if he is truly cold, there is always work to be done that will warm him. I recognize the look on his face from my own at his age. I hope that someday he will recognize my voice in his as he says the same thing to his children, should he have any, simply because, as annoying as it is to be told as much when you are five, it is true -- there is always work to be done that will keep you warm, and doing so is part of an elegant natural cycle.
This year, we discovered an exciting source of warmth -- collecting fallen apples, chopping them into bits and shoveling them into the compost pile. Running around under the trees gathering the apples is the warm up. It's surprising how much moving and stretching is required, especially since our apple trees are not on flat ground. It also includes the fun of observing the varying states of decay, and trying to guess which type of animal left the bite marks in the apples. Sometimes we park the wheelbarrow in a central location and become super star basketball players, tossing the apples in from wherever we find them -- a feat made more challenging by their tendency to bounce back out, and the fact that the dog, Trudy, loves apples and will grab them as they bounce and run them off even further away -- but usually we place a few 5 gallon plastic nursery containers around, fill them and carry them to be dumped in the wheelbarrow.
Then the real workout begins. Once the wheelbarrow has a few layers of apples in it, we each grab a flat head shovel and begin chopping. The air is cold, but soon we are removing our hats and jackets. The smell of the apples permeates the whole field, and soon we can hear the turkeys down in the woods, clicking and chirping to each other as they try to locate the source of this manna. Lorenzo, who is often reluctant to get to work, quickly becomes absorbed, and is soon pretending to be a machine that chops apples. Occasionally, after doing it for awhile, I find myself fantasizing about having a machine that would do this job, but upon reflection recognize that eliminating this work would eliminate this time spent together in the garden, laughing and talking and just quietly working side by side.
Once they are chopped, we roll the wheelbarrow over to the compost pile, which we constructed a few days before out of free pallets we collected in town, and layer them with chicken manure and dry leaves and straw. A few days later, the interior of the pile is too hot to comfortably put a hand into. By spring, it will be gold for the garden. For now, it is gold for our spirits, which soar with the knowledge that we can do this thing, this making what we need without even leaving our land.
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Apple House Blog
In the winter of 2009 we purchased 11 neglected acres in lower Bonny Doon. These are the stories of our unfolding lives as we attempt to create what we need, where we are.