In case any of my readers are looking for a seasonal second job or a good way to incorporate a strenuous exercise regimen into crisp autumn days, this is a tutorial on how to pick apples like a pro (and live through it).
- Consider the weather. You may need to wear a jacket or raincoat. Layer appropriately; you're sure to warm up while picking.
- Wear a hat or scarf to keep your hair from becoming entangled in branches. If you have very short hair, you may still want to wear a hat to protect your head from falling apples.
- Fingernails must be very short with no sharp edges to avoid creating unpleasant markings on the apples. If the weather is chilly, wear gloves.
- Rubber boots are ideal for dewy mornings or wet weather. Otherwise, tennis shoes are great.
Step 2: Pick gently and quickly.
- Some trees may need to be completely cleaned out; others will be picked for size and/or color.
- Treat the apples gently. Bruised apples don't sell; they have to be juiced. Use both hands; if two or more apples are bunched together they may fall if you pick just one.
- Due to federal regulation, once an apple touches the ground it is off-limits.
- Fill your sack and empty it carefully, lowering it into the bin and opening the bottom. Picking sacks carry about a bushel of apples (40-50 lbs) but are designed to distribute the weight comfortably.
- Remove any leaves from the bin.
- Don't take photos (at least for too long) while working. It will slow you down considerably.
Step 3: Beware of falling apples, mice, mosquitoes and gunshots
- You're bound to have an apple fall on your head every once in a while. It's not so bad.
- Last year I posted here about the dangers of mice in apples. You don't have to be meticulous, but at least give a cursory glance at the apples before picking. Some mice choose to make their homes in apple trees and even apples, and customers don't find mice in their apples appealing.
- Bring mosquito spray.
- When using a ladder, only fill your sack halfway. Do not overreach.
- "Shot while picking apples" may not be the epitaph you desire. If the orchard's next door neighbor happens to own a gun shop and use his backyard for a shooting range whenever a customer comes, be ready to get out of there fast. The orchard's owners were once picking when bullets started wizing past them. They had a good talk with their neighbor, but they warned us of him just in case.
Step 4: Enjoy the Perks
- If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, after a day of picking, I'm pretty well set to stay away from the doctor's office for a long time. Apple pickers can eat as many apples as they wish.
- If you can talk your family into picking with you, it can be a great family experience.
- There's plenty of fresh air and invigorating exercise!
- You get paid!
- And, if your employer is as nice as ours, there's also free apple cider and apples!