Friday, October 30, 2009

Apples Up On Top

... and below... and all around.

We went to the apple houses up in Ellijay, GA yesterday. The apple houses are a place where the local orchards send their apples to be cleaned and packaged. Some apples get turned into pies, sauces, jellies and other delectable treats. Some get bagged up for purchase. These apples are so delicious and so fresh because they are local and not shipped from out of town.

Well, upstairs there is a wall of windows where you can look down into the warehouse area and watch the workers washing and sorting the apples. It's a very neat process that involves forklifts, cranes and heavy machinery.

The first step is to set a large crate of apples into the water bath. The crate is very big and has to be lifted and maneuvered by machinery. The machinery gently lowers the entire crate into the water bath so that the apples can slowly float to the surface. The apples are rinsed off here and moved by a gentle current to the conveyor belt that will take them through an air drying process.

After the apples are rinsed, they move through an air dryer and then onto a sorting table where they are turned continually so the sorter can easily see any bad spots or bruises. The bad apples (and the leaves) are removed at this point. The good apples get to continue on up the conveyor to be packaged in boxes and bags (unless they are surreptitiously retrieved to be tossed to cute little blond bystanders).

You may already realize from previous posts that I am not afraid to ask for special privileges when I see something I want to get involved in. Well, I wanted to get up close and personal with those machines. This was a rare opportunity for the girls to get a look at what happens to our food before we buy it. I waited patiently by the glass paneled door for somebody - anybody - to walk by. My moment arrived and I tapped on the glass then motioned the young man to the door. He obliged me with curiosity. When he opened the door, I sweetly explained that I had a home schooled child who wanted to see what was going on with the apples. He disappeared for a moment to consult with his manager and returned with golden words. We could enter the inner sanctum as long as we remained behind the white line (or rather, the row of pallets that were a considerably safe distance away from the heavy machinery that posed a safety risk).

Woo Hoo!!!

I retrieved Kira from the tables where she sat with Grandma Janet and whisked her away behind the closed door that marked the barrier for those normal customers without permission to enter. (Let me gloat for a moment. I almost didn't ask because I was quite certain that my request would be denied due to safety regulations.) Kira stood on the wooden pallet a few short feet away from the machinery and watched the apples roll and tumble over the table made of spinning metal rods. I leaned down close to her ear and talked to her about what was happening at each stage of the process. We stood there and watched as the apples rolled by. We yelled out questions to the worker who was sorting the apples and he quickly and happily answered. Then, to my startled amazement, he pulled out the most perfect green apple I think I have ever seen. It was the perfect size for little hands. He motioned for me to step closer so he could gently toss the apple my way. Upon receiving his offering, I noticed that there was not a speck or bruise anywhere to be seen. Kira quickly snatched the apple from my hands and began munching happily away upon her gift. She has since declared that the green apple from the apple house was the most delicious apple she has eaten to date.

After we stood and watched for a few more minutes, I took Kira back to the tables and back to Grandma Janet. Risa noticed right away that Kira had a fresh, shiny apple. There was no doubt that I would need to venture back out to the machines with one more cute little blond headed girl in hopes for receiving one more shiny green apple. I would probably have to beg for another free offering, but beg I would if necessary. (It wasn't necessary, of course. Nobody can resist these baby blues...)

Risa was much less interested in the apples rolling along the belt and far more entertained by the movements of the machines. No doubt she would have loved to climb up inside those machines and dissect the inner workings until she understood what it was that made the belts move and the apples roll. That's just how her mind works. She's mechanical in nature. She was quite pleased, however, when her own shiny green apple was gently tossed our way. She smiled and waved and yelled "Thank you." as loud as she could in hopes that he might hear her over the noise.

To add to the wonder of our day, I do believe we made that man's whole week. He seemed genuinely thrilled to be the center of attention and to be able to do something so small as offering an apple to a young child. I hope he spent the rest of the day with that big grin on his face. I know how boring and tedious that kind of work can be. Perhaps our impromptu visit brightened his entire day and not just a few short minutes.

What we learned:

How apples are cleaned and packaged
That there are many different types of apples and each one tastes and feels different
Forklifts can pick up very heavy things with very little effort at all
Honey combs look really neat when you can see them cut up and placed in jars of honey
There are different types of honey
What old washing machines looked like
To be thankful for our modern day machines so laundry is not the chore it used to be
That the bruised apples are not thrown away - they are used to make ciders and sauces and other goodies


Petula said...

That is so super cool! Sounds like an interesting, fun day.

Chiara said...

Sounds like a good day! :)

Mom said...

Yes, this was a good day.