Acres and acres of apple trees greeted me as I drove down the rocky old backroad to Homestead Farm. Every once in a while, a toddler would waddle out of the trees and wave at the passing cars, or an arm would make its way out of the branches, desperate to grasp at an apple high in the foliage. I found myself gawking at the sports cars that navigated the bumpy terrain as I slowly crept down the road, baffled that no one had bottomed out their cars on the potholes that speckled it. “I’m lucky to be driving a Jeep,” I mumbled to myself as I looked down at the GPS in my lap. “Where is this place?” Out of the lines of leaves, a fence popped into view, and I came to my destination, nestled into the apple orchard.
Homestead Farm is a local farm in Poolseville, Maryland, just before the state line to Virginia. Every year, they offer cherry picking, blueberry picking, peach picking, and blackberry picking, but this year I was going to their lands for apple and pumpkin picking. It is $3.00 to enter the farm, and $1.99 for every pound of apples you pick, of which they have Pink Lady and Fuji. For pumpkins, it is $0.75 per pound.
The farm was bustling that Sunday, as families walked hand in hand. My friend and I made note of the costumes we saw on the children running around, and quickly lost track as we joined the throng of visitors flocking to the front gates. After paying, we wandered inside the farm, passing pen after pen of farm animals on display. A large goat pen greeted us at the beginning of the orchard, and we made a point to quickly scurry under the goat trapeze that haloed the walkway, in fear of any wayward droppings. We both grabbed ourselves a basket for our apples and began the task of braving the acres in search of the perfect one.
I was worried I would miss the best apples this year, especially going to an orchard halfway through the season like I was. At Homestead, their season ends when the apples are gone, usually in late October, and so I must admit it was not the best choice to go in the middle of October rather than in September or August. As our adventure began between the branches, I couldn’t help but deflate a bit as we passed row after row of barren trees, plot after plot of fallen fruit. Some trees had already begun to lose their leaves, and some were entirely barren already, supporting only the smallest of crabapples. My mood wasn’t encouraged by the families who were walking back to the farm empty handed, their baskets barren of fruit. If it wasn’t for my friend’s constant persisting, I would have turned around and made for the pumpkin patch without a single apple in tow.
My friend, God bless her, was adamant to bring home an apple, let alone a whole orchard if she could. She wanted to make a pie as a present to her roommates, and God help anyone or any tree that stood in her way. While I was alright with chalking this one up to be a failure, and just happy to spend time with my friend, she had a quota to make, and looking back now, I was so glad she did.
Sometimes you need an outside source to push you along. All the motivational thoughts and rewards, at the end of the day, can’t keep you going forever. It is hard to find motivation when time after time, tree after tree, you are met with bad odds. It is hard to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, to pick back up your basket when your back is aching and your legs are sore from climbing hills and hills of apple trees, to keep going when there is no success in sight. And sometimes, without someone there to help you along, you might just turn around, back to the farm animals at the farm gates.
But my friend wasn’t having that. She had a plan, and nothing was going to shake it. And so, we went on, through the acres to find apples that just weren’t there. The sun was beating down on us, and both of us had stripped to our tank tops in the October heat. My backpack was digging into my shoulders, and I was desperately trying not to roll an ankle on the uneven ground. I was so busy watching the ground for squished apples in our path that I nearly didn’t hear her gasp “there!” But I certainly saw her run ahead.
I made my way back up to her as she leaned deep into one of the trees lining the field, and out she pulled a beautiful bright red Fuji. With a heavy thunk, it landed into her empty basket. She reached back in and pulled another, gently plopping it into mine. I looked down at my apple and up at her, recognizing how she had gotten me here in the first place. I wasn’t going home empty handed. I reached in myself and pulled at another bright stem, pulling out an apple of my own, and listened to it too plop into the soft plastic of my basket.