I leant over the apple bin and grabbed hold of the box I’d been filling, heaving it over the edge and carrying it to another bin. I unhooked the cords on either side and the bottom swung open, allowing me to gently empty the contents. The apples that fell out weren’t a pretty sight. Many were small, deformed or pockmarked from hail, but it wasn’t these ailments that bothered me as we had been expecting those. The latest affliction was another matter altogether.
My celebratory mood when we had finally finished in the orchard had dissipated. In fact, it hadn’t lasted very long. Putting the apples into boxes and trays is always the next big job after picking, but examination of the last bins had revealed that many of the apples had been damaged. Beautiful golden apples the size of baseballs looked a lot like my daughter the last time she fell off her bike – bruised in several places and suffering from the equivalence of the abrupt collision of bicycle against garden fence.
Traces of what could only be finger marks stood out in livid brown against the yellow skin, and other apples had such large shiners that I wondered if they hadn’t been thrown into the bins from the foot of the tress. My mood darkened with every apple I transferred to the ‘juice’ bin.
I stretched. My back ached from bending over and I cursed the arrival of yet another problem and the extra work it entailed. I hoped that only a few bins would be affected and not the whole lot, but we wouldn’t know until next week when the apples came back from grading. I hauled the empty box back to the bin and leant over. Another 200 kilos to go I thought as I began sorting the good apples from the bad and wondering for the hundredth time which of the pickers was the culprit.