Michael worked well into the night in his barn He was a passionate craftsman and more of an artist, but he was not a fan of titles and pretension and insisted that his craft was merely a hobby.
On his hikes he would locate and collect burls to make into fine bowls, and tabletops to sell in town and in the city when he needed money.
Michael hated the idea of hiring help to harvest the apple crop every year. He dreaded any task that required too much organization and detail. So, in place of hiring a crew to pick his apples and sell them in the city, he simply put a sign out in the front of his driveway that said:
“APPLES. YOU PICK. CHEAP!”
The method seemed to attract plenty of folks who were passing through. Though he made a considerable amount less than he would have had he run his orchard like any other farmer, it was less nonsense and therefore good enough for him.
Most of the money he made from the apples came from the cider he brewed on his property. It wasn’t nearly as strong as the hard stuff most people in the city liked to drink, but it was good for a buzz and most of his customers were his friends and neighbors there on the island. They would stop in for a visit, share a meal and have a walk. Michael always shared a sample of the brew. Finally they would load a barrel onto their truck, pay him, and bid their host a good day.
He had also opened his property to folks who needed a place to camp, for a small fee of course.
He didn’t like charging folks to stay but he found that if he didn’t, they would never leave. He also didn’t want to play host to any less than savory characters. He was keen on welcoming other families to stay. He and Christina had five children of their own, and the company of other children was good for them.
He liked hard working folks who enjoyed evenings around the fire playing music and telling stories and fixing good things to eat together.
Usually during the day folks would pick together and share the chores around the property according to their abilities. Families fixed their own meals each day and fed their own families. Those who had food, shared with those who didn’t. Things were simple.
On Sunday’s the families would pool the goods that they had and cook a feast that would be shared by all. By sundown the children would drift off to sleep. The men would gather around the fire, crack-open a jug and pass it around.
In the past year, men began the tradition of sharing tales of their prosperity before the crash just one year ago. They would generally nod in silent understanding when a newcomer told of his recent misfortunes, shaking his head as he spoke like he was still trying to make heads or tales of the tragedies his family was being made to endure.
Because of this, Michael Studdemn’s apple orchard had accidentally become a place of healing for some and hope for others.
There was brightness about the place that made a person feel at home and grateful all at the same time.