No. 40 – The Horrors of Organic Apple Picking

Each fall our family goes apple picking at an actual apple orchard with actual trees.  We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. Possibly from even before we had kids. I remember we used to go to this one place in Oregon that was magical. There were these nice old archetypal farmer folks, you’d seem them ambling around the farm, riding tractors, herding chickens, making apple pie.


Then one year we went there and found that they had sold the place or died or something and there were these new old people running the show.  They were all scowly and cold, not at all like the previous owners. This sparked a migration where we became orchard-nomads, no permanent home, trying new places each year, but never finding one that truly had that same feel.  I think eventually this was all solved by moving to Canada.

Moving to Canada solves lots of life’s problems.

I can’t remember if the transition to ‘Organic’ apple-picking happened before or after the move to Canada, but ever since we moved here it’s been all about getting them Organic. This shift has had two significant implications:

1. Price

2. Natural Worm Repellant Systems

Yes, the price of anything organic is usually more than the non-organic variety, a fact that has been drummed over and over again by folks who don’t know the difference and suspect the whole thing is a new method of price-gouging, like designer clothes. No real difference in quality, but twice the price, etc.

Obviously organic certification does represent some significant differences, one key item being that it’s one of the only ways to be sure that something is non-GMO, a factor that seems to be all the more important in not eventually becoming allergic to every edible substance on the surface of the planet.

That’s a post for another day.

Also being organic means not allowing for traditional pesticides, which aren’t just bad for bugs but are pretty bad for people too. You can wash them off the outside, but you can’t take the poison out of the flesh of the apple. Those little roots just suck it up like straws.

However if you don’t spray your fruit with SOMETHING then worms will get in there and destroy your crop.  No one wants to eat worm & apple pie, however much worms might represent an ethical and renewable source of protein.  We’re just not there yet.

Not even crunchy people.

Usually non-pesticide worm defense systems amount to this sort of clay / dirt stuff that they spray on the apples.  They look all dusty when you get them but it washes off and seems to work pretty well in keeping worms away.  Let it be shown on the record that I am VERY COMFORTABLE with the clay-spraying system.

What I am NOT comfortable with is what we encountered this year as we tried out a brand new orchard that had just gotten its certification. In addition to the clay method, it seemed that each and every apple had also been assigned a little spider to guard it against worms. You will think I am making this up but we went with friends, there are witnesses, every single apple had a spider on it. They sat on top, like little guardians, each to their own apple. And you wouldn’t even notice them right away because most of them are super small, but when you picked their apple they’d throw out a line and drop off like a Navy Seal repelling out of a helicopter. I foolishly went under the branches to get my apples and they were repelling all around me, onto my shirt and arms.

Also some were not so small.

I’m not arachnophobic but seriously, who likes spiders? No one. Not on your apples, not on your clothes, not on your bare skin, not under your clothes, not in your hair, not in your beard. Have you ever had spiders in your beard? Not a place you want to find yourself.

I like apple pie. I like apple sauce. I like getting these things from our annual apple orchard trip. But I do not like spiders.

We picked several plastic bags worth of apples, took them home, and put them in the kitchen. I then stared at the bags with my wife. We both knew there were spiders in those bags.

Potentially. Hundreds. Of. Spiders.

We contemplated what the house might look like in the morning if we did not first do something before the spiders got out. If you’ve seen that movie about spiders, you know what I’m talking about. Even if that’s unrealistic, pretty much anything like that would be hard to erase with therapy.

Assuming you got out of the house alive, which would be dubious.

Assuming you ever woke again.

Which assumes that you could even fall asleep, after imagining all of these horrifying web-encased scenarios.

No, something must be done it was decided. We thought about putting them outside so that the spiders might leave, like you’d do with a Christmas tree you just chopped down. But we didn’t want any animals eating our apples, so in the end I found myself (alone) in the bathroom with a laundry bin and a shower stall.  Not being sure how this was going to work, I emptied the first of the five bags into the laundry bin, and began spraying the apples with the hand-held shower head.

If my goal was to use water to drive the spiders out of the apples, let’s say that it worked.

I ended up having to use the shower head to spray armies of escaping spiders towards the drain, killing the ones that got away individually by hand. It was stressful. I started to rock the laundry bin violently as I sprayed, hoping to kill or at least maim spiders before they were washed out into the open.

WIFE (later on): “WHY are all of the apples so BRUISED?”

ME (vacant, war-torn stare): “It was us or them.”

Finally I was pretty sure that I’d gotten them all.  One bag down.  Four more to go.

The next three went down pretty much the same as the first. But then I got down do the last bag. And suddenly I realized I potentially had a problem. The last one was mine. I could tell because I had tied the top differently. And by mine I mean that I picked those apples myself.

From the trees.

I guess I forgot to mention this before but once my wife realized that the trees were filled with spiders that would drop onto you the moment you ‘attacked’ their precious apples, she pivoted from ‘harvesting’ apples from trees to ‘scavenging’ apples from the ground that had already fallen and / or had been picked by other people and rejected.

And that were mostly spider-free.

I however had come to pick some dang apples, so I picked them off the trees, spiders and all. Staring now at my unopened apple bag, I realized with horror that the potential number of spiders within were of a totally different factor than the ones I had already processed. And there had already been a serious amount of spiders in those.

A very serious amount.

Fearfully I opened the top of the final bag, dumped them in the bin, and then immediately began spraying. I angled the bin this way and that to get the water deep into the apples.  Spiders were everywhere. It was much as I had suspected. None were very large, but there were so many of them.

But then it I saw it. Not all of it, most of it was hidden under an apple near the bottom, but I just caught of glimpse of its unnaturally long hairy legs. It was a big one.

I think I blacked out the rest of that bag from my memory as I don’t remember much else, except for dragging myself out of the bathroom exhausted, job finished, to find my wife at the computer (reading about some new crunchy joy) and explaining to her the horrors of what I had just had to endure to keep us all safe.

This would have been an ideal moment for her to do her EFT thing on me (SPIDER! SPIDER! SPIDER!) but she had mercy.

The next morning I went in to inspect the apple bin (I had dumped them all into one Rubbermaid bin) and STILL there were three little guardian spiders that had survived and had climbed to the top of the pile to guard all those apples.

I killed them.

I killed them all.


Yes, yes, the soups that she makes with this broth are to die for, or even kill for.  Guests regularly demand that some be given to them to take home. No one has ever held a gun up to our heads on this, but then we’ve never pushed them that far by refusing. I can only assume that the gun was present, but deemed an unnecessary escalation of an otherwise simple soup requisition.



*Not about apples…