Apple harvest is a gift as well as a marker of time

Sheena's bumper apple harvest. Picture: ARCHANT

Sheena's bumper apple harvest. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

There are not many things I look forward to about autumn but I do relish the annual harvest of cooking apples from a tree at the bottom of my garden, writes Sheena Grant.

This year’s crop seems to be earlier - and more substantial - than usual.

For days now I have been looking at the branches, stooped under the weight of their bounty, and hoping for a few spare hours to gather it in.

The opportunity came this weekend.

In what has become an annual ritual during the decade since I ‘inherited’ the tree when we moved house, I extracted a step ladder from the garage debris and set about my task, assisted by my now 12-year-old son.

There are not many things he finds to be enthusiastic about these days as far as the natural world is concerned, but apple harvesting is one of them.

I scaled the ladder until my head was deep among the lichen-covered branches.

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Breathing in the leaves and bark you see the world a little differently once you’ve broken free of the ground.

It’s almost as if you become part of the tree and the life that inhabits it.

I am always surprised by the sheer number of insects and spiders that make the branches their home, which you get no sense of from the ground.

As I twist the apples free from the tree that nurtured them, I say a silent thank you.

The tree provides us with free food, shade from the hot sun and beauty through the seasons, from the blossom of spring to the sculptural sparseness of winter.

It is also a marker of time. My son was little more than a baby when he first sat in its branches.

Now he is on the cusp of teenage years. It has happened so fast it is as if someone hit the fast forward button on the reel of life’s film.

We never got round to building the tree house he once craved amongst its branches but, fine though the tree is, it never really leant itself to such a project.

I don’t think he holds it against me now he no longer seems to care for treehouses.

Later, he made the topping as I peeled the apples for our first crumble of late summer.

There will be many more crumbles as autumn wears on, thanks to our tree’s generosity, along with chutneys, pies, cakes and more.

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