As I turn into the driveway of Apple Annie’s, I hear the crunch of the gravel underneath the tires of my car, usually a sound associated with a venture off the beaten path, but in this case the path is one that I’ve walked up and down every fall for as long as I can remember. Apple Annie’s is a small family-owned orchard that is well-known in the Exeter community. Because it sits only a mile away from my house, I spent many gold-tinted fall afternoons running through the orchard with my family and dog, when I was more interested in eating every apple I picked off a tree than actually putting any in the bag. I remember being being so short that my dad would hold me on his shoulders to help me be able to reach the apples. More recently, specifically the year the new owners bought a donut machine, I remember my brother and I grabbing our bikes every day after school for a quick bike ride that would end with a half-dozen fresh donuts. I remember that we somehow convinced ourselves that the mile bike ride there and back would burn off about three donuts worth of calories.
The early morning air is sweet with barely blossoming buds, as Mr. and Mrs. Loosigian introduce themselves to us and Mrs. Loosigian begins to give us a tour of the place, after kindly ordering Mr. Loosigian to go take muffins out of the oven. The mention of muffins certainly catches my attention, but this is quickly forgotten as I realize the degree to which I am entirely ignorant of the inner workings of an apple orchard, especially one in which I spent so many hours of my childhood. With expertise Mrs. Loosigian searches out and finds the green pugs (apparently not actual small green dogs) that are nestled in and eating through the flowering buds on the trees. She displays one in her palm as she explains to us her predicament concerning the use of pesticide. I was under the impression that lightly-sprayed apples would be better than no apples, but as she outlines the pros and cons of each choice, I realize the profound impact small choices like this can make on our local environment. Mrs. Loosigian’s explanation embodies one theme emerging from this term: the importance of careful and painstaking consideration of one’s role in natural processes acting around us.
As we walk down the sloping hill of the orchard towards the back line of the woods, Mrs. Loosigian brings up the recent year in which they lost the entire crop. I remember this year as well, however mostly due to the nearly inhumane lack of fresh apple treats and beverages that I had to endure that fall. This too seems to be an example of a larger issue that has been echoed on a few different field trips, most prominently in our recent visit to Brad and Amy Robinson’s bee farm. Both Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Loosigian referenced the irregularity in the patterns of the seasons as a serious issue affecting their farms. Of course it could always be chalked up to just a few unusual seasons, but with the increase of natural disasters and years in which the seasons are becoming exceptions to the norm, the ways in which global warming is affecting the environment are becoming more and more painfully clear.
After the interesting albeit somewhat depressing tour of the orchard, the trip culminates in a visit to the nineteenth-century farmhouse. I get lost a little as Mrs. Loosigian winds her way deftly through the tiny old staircase to the upper guestrooms, across the house, and back down a modern staircase. This red house looks fairly small on the outside, but the row of guest bedrooms on the top floor seems to be endless. The house perfectly combines the charm of an old farmhouse with the coziness of modern amenities. With the slightly mind-boggling tour of the house finished, we make our way to a loft area over the main storeroom of the orchard, in which muffins and poetry by the previous owner, Charlie Pratt, are waiting. As our voices uniquely bring to life Charlie’s poetry, I realize the irony of getting to know this place, a fundamental piece of my childhood and neighborhood, three weeks before I leave and knowing that I won’t be here in the fall to once again ride my bike with my brother for more cider donuts.