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Whose idea was this orchard we started? It was 22 years ago.

I say it was my husband, Harold, who thought of fruit trees. He says it was me. He remembers when his brother, Aubrey, gave me the plum tree sprout at the edge of his yard. It came from his neighbor, Mrs. Kosta's old tree so that tree bears her name. The pear trees came from a pasture we rented close to Hannan Lake. I started them from seed in a flower bed so the three of them are Stolte's trees. Harold's mother gave us a peach tree that came up in her garden. The rest were purchased and planted by Harold. So it must have been a joint decision to have an orchard. We waited for what seemed forever to see fruit on our trees. The old fashion apple trees had grown tall before they bore apples. The dwarf trees didn't take as long. So after all these years and two spring freezes that took away the fruit, this year we have a bumper crop of apple, pears, plums and just a few peaches. Give it time. We have two young trees growing fast. We didn't miss a bumper crop of peaches off the old tree in the garden. Harold's mother gave us all we could pick at her house. I've canned since I was old enough to help my mother. It was just part of what I was brought up to do. We plant a garden that has a variety of vegetables so I can what we can't eat fresh and the extra fruit, too. What's different about this year? An over load of fruit on each tree. Some limbs leaned to the ground and others broke off. Harold climbed a ladder with his fruit picker with a determination to get every pear or apple. On the extension ladder he could reacher higher, but the wind blew the limb. The ladder slid. Harold landed on the ground. Thankfully, he wasn't hurt, and after that he used the step ladder. I managed to keep up with Harold's efforts and can all the pears. Then the first tree of apples were ready. Harold picks the downfalls up. He lined up buckets of apples on the small back porch leaving just enough walkway for us to get into the house. Then he started placing buckets on the front porch. After days of canning 5 or 6 hours a day, I suggested we take my 93 year old Aunt Liddie in Centerville, Iowa apples. She puts them in the freezer for winter. We needed the break anyway and had a fun visit with her and my cousin Lawrence. She said a bushel would be enough. I slipped her three bushels in the feed sacks. I mentioned to my aunt the amount of fruit I'd canned and had more to go. I may have sounded like I was complaining. She smiled at me. “I always loved to can. I thought it was fun.” Well, sure. I think I thought it was fun about 50 bushel of fruit ago. Someone else said canning always gave her a sense of accomplishment when she was done. I agreed with that. I felt like I had accomplished something about the time I had all the apples canned on the back porch. That feeling only lasted until Harold reminded me daily of the bucket count on the front porch which kept increasing. Still I'm plugging away at this fun endevor which is giving me a sense of accomplishment until I run out of jars or can lids. One thing is for sure, I can look at my filled shelves in the basement and know that we're going to eat well this winter. I wrote book seven in my Amazing Gracie series “Poor Defenseless Addie” last November in the Nanowrimo contest. I had six months to edit the book and publish it through Create Space. All I had to do was write 50,000 words in that month. I've done it successfully two years in a row, but a holiday in November makes it a little more difficult. The story is about an elderly woman in Locked Rock, Iowa. Her son comes to visit, and each time Gracie Evans and the other residents come to visit Addie she has bruises on her. They suspect elder abuse from Addie's son and worry about Addie. Here is an excerpt from that book. Gracie came to Addie's rescue. “Now seems to me, I remember my father

saying anyone can count the seeds in an apple. No one can count the apples in a seed until you plant it and grow the trees.” Addie put on a big smile as she nodded she agreed. Madeline and Melinda grew quiet, pondering the saying while Gracie changed the subject. “How long does your son plan on staying with you?” Addie shrugged her shoulders. “He didn't say.” “You know you would save us a lot of trouble coming here to visit you if you would just move into the mansion with us,” Gracie said bluntly. Addie stretched up to glare at Gracie. “Leave my home! I never want to do that. I was born here, and I figure to die here.” “Gracie!” Melinda scolded. “What a thing to say to her.” Madeline patted Addie's arm and tried to rephrase Gracie's suggestion. “What Gracie so crudely meant was you would like living with us. You can have all the tea you want and three good meals a day. You wouldn't have to work anymore.” “Or, wait on that good for nothing son,” mumbled Gracie. “I read lips, Gracie. That wasn't a nice thing to say about my kin,” Addie complained. “She's sorry if she hurt your feelings,” Melinda said and looked sharply at Gracie. “Tell her you're sorry, Gracie.” “I'm sorry. I know you cain't help what kind of kin you get,” Gracie said loudly. Addie made a clucking sound with her tongue. “I'm not sure that's much better of an apology,” Addie said, looking at Madeline. “But knowing Gracie Evans, I best take what I can get.” “I'm afraid we have all learned that about Gracie in so many ways. You do know that we all are worry about you, including Gracie,” Madeline said. “I thank you for that, but don't worry.” Addie paused then said in a strained voice, “Wonder where Homer went?” “He's picking apples. We saw him from the kitchen window when we fixed the tea,” Melinda said. “Perhaps, you better leave before he comes back in. When he's tired after he's been standing on that ladder, he can be really grouchy,” Addie said. “How does she tell the difference when he isn't grouchy?” Gracie mumbled. Melinda said, “Careful now. Don't make Addie mad again. Come over here and help me out of this chair.” “Addie, we'll go now. About the apple cake recipe, we can come back for it again some other time when you're feeling better,” Madeline said. “Sure. Any time,” Addie said. “Maybe next time you come back, like I said, I'll feel like baking another apple cake to share with you.” As soon as they were out of the house, Melinda gave a heavy sigh. “I hate to say it, but I am so glad to be out of there before Homer came back.” “So am I,” agreed Madeline. “What a difference in attitude Addie has now.” “How so?” Gracie asked. “Before she always hated to see us go, and today she was asking us to leave,” Madeline said. “What does that tell you?” “That she's trying to protect us from that man,” Gracie said in frustration. “We have to help poor defenseless Addie before something happens to her,” Melinda said woefully, looking over her shoulder at Homer on the ladder. Gracie stopped walking and turned to stare at Homer. “We should just march over there to that man and demand he get out of town right away before we turn him into the law for harming his mother.” “Oh, I don't know about that, Gracie,” Melinda said. “That sounds dangerous to me,” Madeline agreed. “Not so much if we all stick together. We have to act like we aren't afraid of him,” Gracie blustered. “Let's go do it before we lose our nerve.” She marched back across Addie's lawn toward the trees with

Melinda and Madeline behind her. Melinda whispered to Madeline, “This isn't a good idea. I'd lost my nerve the minute Gracie told us what she wanted to do.” “I did, too,” gulped Madeline. Gracie stopped abruptly not too far from Homer's ladder. Madeline and Melinda bumped into her, causing her to give them a stern look. The three of them put on their best I mean what I say faces as they looked up at the large man on the ladder. He was so busy he didn't have a clue they were around. Finally, Gracie said gruffly, “We want to talk to you, Mr. Homer.” He looked down. His face, outlined by his mop of greasy, black hair, turned fire engine red at the sight of them. “What do you want?” “Like I said, we want to talk to you. Come down off that ladder,” Gracie commanded, pointing a stiff finger at the ground. Homer tromped down the ladder faster than any fat man has the right to move and stalked toward them. When he came out of the shade of the apple tree, the west sun struck him in the face. His dark eyes turned an evil fiery red in the sun's reflection as he focused on the women. Behind Gracie, Melinda muffled a frightened eek. Madeline mumbled a quick prayer. Gracie looked straight ahead with her hands on her hips, but the closer the man came and the more threatening his size appeared, the weaker her resolve grew. Homer towered over all three of them huddled together like mice cornered by a mountain lion. “I thought I made it clear you aren't wanted around here.” “You did,” Gracie said. “Why don't you three old hags head back where you came from and leave us alone,” he stormed. “I said we had something to say to you,” Gracie allowed. “And we figure on saying it.” “Mr. Homer is busy now. We're interrupting him, Gracie. Maybe we better wait until another time when he isn't busy,” Melinda whispered in one ear. Madeline whispered in the other, “This isn't working. Please change the subject quick.” Gracie didn't take long to decide with Homer glowering down at her. “Spit it out so I can go back to work.” “We --- we were wondering if we could buy a pail of apples from you,” Gracie managed to get out. Homer snorted. “You were, were you? That's what this is all about? You got a quarter on you.” Gracie dug in her skirt pocket and pulled out a quarter. She held it out to him. Homer snatched it and turned to leave. “One more thing.” Homer twisted and gave Gracie a dangerous glare of exasperation. “What is it now?” “Gracie, no,” Melinda whimpered. Madeline elbowed Gracie in the ribs. “All right,” Gracie whispered out of the side of her mouth. She focused on Homer, paused a minute to think and asked, “Do you have to pick out the pail we take or can we do it?” “Just get a pail and get out of here. Don't even bother bringing the pail back. I don't want to see you again,” he stormed. Gracie grabbed a five gallon bucket of apples. As she lugged it to the end of the lawn, she groused, “You two each owe me eight cents. I'm not going to get stuck with the whole cost of this bucket, because you two don't have any backbone.” She set the pail down. “Another thing. You two are going to take turns carrying this bucket home, too. I can't get it all the way there as heavy as it is.” “Aunt Pearlbee isn't going to be happy with more apples,” Melinda said. “She hasn't cooked up the others Addie gave us.” “Now is a fine time to tell me that. What did you expect me to say?” Gracie asked. “I could tell the two of you weren't going to stand up to that man with me. Melinda, I'm sure Homer heard that weak screeching noise you made when he came at us.” “That was a sneeze,” Melinda defended. “I can't help it if I had to sneeze.”

“How about you, Madeline. Last thing that sounded like we could stand up to that man was you breaking into prayer,” Gracie said. “Lot of good that was going to do to protect us again a man without a religious bone in his body if he was going to beat us up.” “Oh, brother! I was scared. I knew right away we were in trouble if we said what you wanted to about him leaving,” Madeline said. “Are you going to tell me you weren't scared, Gracie?” “Nope, I cain't do that. To tell the truth, I darn near wet myself when that man got so close I could see his nose hairs.” Gracie conceded softly, “Reckon that plan was a bad idea.”