Story for the Day: Apple Picking
One of my autumn highlights is apple picking. I never went when I was young, but that only allows me to enjoy it all the more now.
|From the orchard near my house|
It was not long before they reached the edge of Aiden and Adaoire’s plot that the children began racing toward the farmhouse. The twins, their dutiful wives, and their sons all hurried forth from the house the moment the party was descried from the window, and while they laid out warm teas and steaming pies to replenish and enliven the party, the prospect of spiced mead and family togetherness furnished them with all the jovial spirits that the beginning of the holidays could supply. All embraces and exchanged due pleasantries, and there was will more to discuss when Lochan and the MacDaedes arrived. All were exuberant to see one another under the sanguine prospect of a kingdom restored to its agrarian glory, and the king and queen gave their fervent commendation to the farmers for never giving up on their land despite what horrors the spring and summer had wrought. Everyone was convivial, eager to be talking and delighting in the brisk weather, but once Rautu had said his hellos, made his polite bows, and had said everything that his dislike of the revived cold could govern, he was content to take up his office of inspector. His eye caught the sight of many a good thing: his senses captured the wafting scent of smoked fish, and he regaled in all the mellifluous scents of meat pies and exquisite stews, championing under the curling steam billowing up from every dish. A few words of approbation were afforded to Triskillien and Dealenna for their efforts, which was all their indulgence, and once every item had been sniffed, assessed, and tasted, he filled his plate and declared himself unable to assist the party being too cold to move, claiming that their cookery would be his cure, as it was infinitely superior to whatever Martje’s hand could produce and almost as good as what Calleen and his mate could contrive. He picked through the stews and pies, making certain not to eat the carrots and radishes, but the potatoes were more than acceptable, and there must be all his succour.
“I think we’ve won him,” said Dealenna, eyeing the giant complacently.
“You haven’t won anything,” the commander said, with smiling eyes. “Your cookery has done all the work. My mate enjoys pretending that you have never won him over before when really you have conquered him a hundred times at least. Holidays, family gatherings—anything that warrants rabbit stews and chocolate tarts is all his delight. The chief of your triumph lies in having him sit at the table in quiet reflection rather in roaring disapprobation, as many of Martje’s dishes have done.”
They glanced over at Martje, who was gloating about Maggie’s latest accomplishments to her mother, and who, though out of hearing, must have heard the commander, for the moment her name was mentioned, she glanced over at her sisters-in-law with narrowed eyes and a firm pout.
“All right, boys,” Adaoire suddenly declared, “those apples won’t pick ‘emselves.” He thrust a firkin into each of their hands and pointed toward the blooming orchards. “Gotta earn that keep.”
“But, Da,” said Little Aiden, in a complaining voice, “you said we could have caramel apples.”
Adaoire looked stout. “Aye, and where you think those apples gonna come from?” He whirled his sons about, and with a light tap on their bottoms pushed them toward the line of apple trees ahead. “Better get pickin’,” he declared, pointing toward the trees. “That caramel’s only gettin’ melted when you got a full load there.”
The children were instantly off, racing across the cut grasses and past the cow shed as quickly as their desire for sweets would allow. The notion of salted brick toffee heated and drizzled over a fresh, succulent apple furnished them with animation enough to hasten toward the lowest of the boughs and leap with hands high, grabbing the branch by the tip and using their weight to shake down the heaviest of the apples.
“I think they might need a wiser head to manage them,” said Alasdair, watching his son dangle off the end of a branch.
“Sure, they’ll be fine, Majesty,” Aiden chuffed, but at that moment, a loud crack and the sound of rustling leaves as they tumbled to the ground resounded throughout the fields. Aiden winced. “Aye, a bruisin’ is good for ‘em,” he said without turning around.
“Sure,” Adaoire agreed, “builds character.”
Dealenna raised a brow. “Falling out of trees also breaks bones.”
“And ruins clothes,” was Alasdair’s grumbling sigh as he spied Dorrin lifting from the ground, his embroidered vest caked in fresh mud.
“He is laughing about it, Alasdair,” said the commander.
He gave her a flat look. “That isn’t helpful.”
“Very well, I shall be the head to manage though I cannot promise to be very wise.”
She marched over to the children, leaving Alasdair to divest the subject with the twins and their wives, deliberating over how to build character without the possibility of injury or death in the business.