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What do neighbors, gas stations, construction sites, churches, and nonprofit homeless shelters have in common?

No guess? Each has been the site of repeated visits from my husband this fall in his second year of apple picking. After a lot of non-farm activity in our eleven years of living in downtown Chicago, last fall, during our first year in Sioux Falls, the latent farm boy of the past got beckoned by trees laden with apples with no apple pickers in sight. So, this year, since we got home on September 11 from a few week trip, he has been picking apples.

Last year, he started his apple picking in our daughter’s yard. Soon apples from her neighbors’ trees started calling him. And this year those same trees stood waiting patiently for their early morning picker to arrive. Plus a recently widowed woman invited him to her yard to pick her pears and raspberries. So eight apple trees and three pear trees in all.

So what does one do with ten or more bags of apples and pears every day? See the list above.

In appreciation, neighbors shared tomatoes, zucchini bread, and rhubarb. A gas station owner gave him a thick stack of bags. Men on construction sites asked what days and time he’d be coming back. Churches called him the “Apple Man” when he showed up. Nonprofits sent folks out to help him unload, saying, “We so appreciate fresh fruit.” They were sorry yesterday to hear the fruit season is over.

By last estimation, my husband has filled about 175 quart bags and 75 sandwich bags with his homemade applesauce. He washes the apples, dices them, adds a bit of water to cook them down, and then adds a bit of cinnamon and honey to the cooked product. Then he gets creative–adding raisins, dried cranberries, grapes, pears, raspberries, and/or strawberries. Plus whole cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving gifts.

He has even mailed frozen packets as tokens of caring.

I, of course, remind him that his apple picking activity is rather expensive as I see the mailing costs and the boxes of ziplock bags, jars of honey, bags of raisins, and more, stacked on the bar. But, he rightfully reminds me, it’s not the money that counts. Apples are not being wasted.

As a life-long early riser, he’s home by nine each morning, having made his deliveries and ready to make the rest into applesauce. One morning he said, “This is the most fun hobby I’ve ever had.”

I believe it. And, as I was telling a friend today about my husband’s fall hobby, she said. “What a great ministry!”

I hadn’t thought of it that way. I just saw a farm boy getting in touch with his beloved earth again. But now I say a hearty amen.

A new freezer provides storage!