Reflections from Fran: Apples, Bees, Mother Nature & Youth

As a kid growing up on a 50-acre fruit orchard, I had no idea that that was something unique or special. I spent my childhood running up and down rows and rows of fruit trees…McIntosh Apples, Bartlett Pears, Red Haven Peaches, and Stanley Plums. All the while, I simply assumed that’s what every other kid was doing too. If I had only known! I look back on those simpler days of youth with a newfound appreciation of what was…
May 1973 Panorama of our orchard during apple blossom season. (In the background, Williamson Trade school {smokestack} can seen to the right, Riddle Memorial Hospital in the distance to the left).
One thing I learned from my dad, Ken Wolff (1920-2016), that he learned from his dad, Frank Wolff (1892-1972) is that farming is as much art as it is science. It is an art form to start with nothing more than an apple sapling and eventually transform that into a basket of crisp red apples on the shelf of your market. And even though a farmer is part artist and part scientist, you still definitely need and want Mother Nature on your side!
 
An important (and also beautiful) time of each year’s apple crop was always “Apple blossom season.” This is an important time of year because it’s when all the fruit blossoms get pollinated to become fruit (apples, peaches, pears, plums, etc.) And this is where Mother Nature comes in… You don’t want too much rain, or the honey bees can’t fly to pollinate. And any talk of a frost or freeze in the forecast sends shivers down your spine.  You want it warm, but not hot, and rain is good, but of course, not too much. (To me, it has always come as no surprise that the majority of farmers have historically been very “God-fearing people”…their livelihood is entirely intertwined with a higher power.) But, on the farm, we still did all we could to help Mother Nature. We had honey bees boxes around the orchard, and those bees were always willing to play their part. Plus they don’t need any job training; they always knew just what to do! Better still, having fresh, local honey for sale is a delightful byproduct of those hardworking pollinators!
 
1930 Frank Wolff holding a honey rack with the whole swarm of bees on his hand and arm. 
And if all goes well, which thankfully it usually does, apple blossom season is a truly magical time of the year. Each and every tree looks look a beautiful giant cotton ball, and viewed from above, the whole orchard looks like a field of freshly fallen snow. But the real magic by far is the aroma. Being out in an apple orchard when the trees are in blossom is blissfully captivating. All around you the air is filled with an intoxicating floral scent with the unmistakable hint of sweet apple.  It’s almost incomprehensible that nature can smell so good!
 
Now, as I’m nearing 50, I look back with longing at that 6 year old boy running through fields of clover and apple trees!

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