Okay, faithful reader, I know that our journey is intended to focus on one place, and one place only, but my last post sparked in me some important memories from my childhood wherein I felt the most connected with nature, on top of the world, and free to eat whatever I could reach.
Last night, as I was on the phone with my Mother, asking her if she had any good photos of our family farm, our chickens, or our veggie garden and its bounty, I came across some memories that I had forgotten. Shocking to me, I had no thoughts about the apple orchard when I was choosing what place I wanted to focus on; this was especially surprising considering we have gone apple picking as a family since I was about 2. Last year, my sophomore year of college, was the first year I was unable to go.
So, in light of these memories, I wanted to do some reflection on what it was like to grow up in a major metropolitan area, yet still spend so much of my youth eating hand-picked, farm fresh, homegrown foods, whether that meant they were coming from my backyard or someone else’s, before my next (and final) post, which is my final reflection on the Uwharrie project I have undertaken. Essentially, I wanted you to know a little bit more of my personal history and connection to the natural world before I sign off of this particular blog forever.
These trips to the apple orchard happened once every fall, usually in late September or early October since my Mom’s favorite type of apples are at their peak during that time of the season. Our favorite orchard, once a small, family owned operation with hardly any notoriety, is now a popular weekend vacation destination for families from all over the Southeast U.S..
The way we usually went about our visits was to first, take a photo with the wooden scarecrow height board, so I could see “How tall this fall” I was. Then, we would choose the perfect pumpkin to be our jack-o-lantern for the upcoming Halloween festivities, and then, it was onto the vast expanse of the orchard itself. I remember as a small child, the rolling hills of apple trees and footpaths seemed undeniably endless; the apple trees and their fruit were as vast and as plentiful as the ocean on the opposite side of North Carolina’s borders. I was continually and blissfully awestruck.
We would spend the entire, beautiful early fall day wandering, exploring, rolling down hills, and eating our hearts desire of apples along the way. Of course, we filled our baskets to the brim along the way, much of the apples later going toward apple pies at Thanksgiving, or home-made, home-jarred applesauce that stewed all day long and made our little house smell how a warm blanket feels on a cool morning. Nonetheless, they were all enjoyed in their own right, eventually.
Ultimately, this practice has spoiled me. I can hardly stomach a slightly mealy tomato, or an apple that is too soft to really crunch into, or salsa that isn’t home-made and jarred in our tiny kitchen. However, this lifestyle, although highly privileged and inaccessible to many city-dwellers, has made me so much more of the world around me and how we interact with it.
I understand first hand the amount of sweat, blood, tears, and more sweat that it takes to harvest a small batch of veggies, and so can only faintly fathom the physical and emotional toll that 14 hours of underpaid harvesting work may take on those who are contracted to harvest commercial produce. I understand the joy of fresh, delicious, clean, untampered-with food, and therefore can scarcely imagine what it may be like to live a life wherein neither I nor my family has access to fresh produce, let alone farm-to-table, organic, freshly harvested produce at that.
I think that my exposure to spaces that combined the natural world and the human one so seamlessly and respectfully, especially from a very young age, has really cultivated my experiences of the natural world outside of farms and orchards and other food-producing spaces. I believe that this exposure has also foregrounded my curiosity for what the natural world holds sans-humans, harvests, and sometimes even hostility.
It is likely, in my opinion, that this element of my upbringing has led me to be the person I am today – someone who cares about the environment, and the people working in it; someone who enjoys spending time outside; someone who wants to continue cultivating that sense of childlike wonder and infinite smallness for as long as I can, which means doing whatever work I can to save our earth from the seemingly inevitable climate-death.