20 September 2013

When Russians Covet Their Neighbors’ Apples

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The grey days of a St Petersburg autumn have arrived early.  The parakeets are back from their summer place too and respond to the weather by being unusually silent for spells.  It seems more than three weeks since we left summer in Zaloze where....

something unexpected happened.  Our apple trees grew the most abundant and beautiful fruit anyone has ever seen in our little village.  One of the trees had apples of a surprising soft red color which seemed new this year.

Our yellow-green apples, Antonovka, are called ‘The Peoples’ Apple’ as they have been popular at dachas for many years.  I couldn’t identify our special red hued apples.  Russian apple trees survive cold winters, and are used as tough root stock on which other types of apples can be grafted.

Other people have an apple tree or two, but we have the remains of an orchard which with little trimming and care usually gives an adequate amount of fruit for us, our neighbors, and the cows.  Cows run free in the village, and humans must have secure fences to keep them out of their gardens. Each year we collect our fallen apples and deliver them to the cows for their nutrition and enjoyment.

It’s the custom in Zaloze that when we leave for St Petersburg in early September people walk onto our property and help themselves to apples and plums.  Most people are considerate, but sometimes we see some damaged branches from the activity of the occasional lout. 

This year the striking colors of the apples... and so many... seemed to bend peoples’ minds.  Many didn’t want to wait, so asked permission to get some before we left. 

We harvest apples still on the trees until shortly before we leave.  Before then we gathered those on the ground, the drops, to dry, use for  applesauce, or eat the original Garden of Eden way  (The apples naked but we are clothed.)  Some say apples fall from the trees because of a Worm-In-Residence.  With practice, it’s easy to spot where the worm probably is ... so neither you or the critter is surprised.  

Larissa agrees with those neighbors who say they don’t like walking on property when the owners aren’t present.  But I felt one neighbor used this argument as a way to jump the gun - three weeks before we left – to take the best apples right off the trees.  I had just settled in to read by my favorite tree, and here he came with wheel barrow and bag to denude part of the scenery I thought I would be able to enjoy for a while longer.

Others had a knowing light in their eyes.  I was strolling around and one lady said, “Taking your last walk?”  I said we were leaving September 1.  She said, “We know!” with enthusiasm.  A couple strolling by stopped and stared at our trees, leaving the impression they would be back the first of the month.

This summer our beautiful and tasty apples made us feel special.  It was good to share them with most of those who asked first, and even with the lurking anonymous mob of ladder and bag toting people ready to invade our property.  Now that we have your appetite stimulated, how about a trip to the fridge for a crisp red apple?

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1 comment:

  1. Wouldn't you rather be coveting your neighbor's wife instead of apples?


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