An Apple a Day

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It’s complicated.

If you want to sell something in Ipswich, you face a battery of permitting challenges. But if you want to give something away, forget about it.

We’re giving away apples.

And believe me, we need your help.

We have four utterly untended apple trees at the back of our property. They were there when we moved in, a testament to the forward thinking of a previous owner; or maybe it was a previous owner’s middle school-student kid’s science experiment. Anyway, someone planted four different types of apple trees, one of each variety, across the back of our taxable little rectangle of Ipswich, and we inherited this bounty. At first, there was no issue, because each summer, the apple trees just eyed us, with disdain, and shrugged. If they produced anything like apples, they were wretched, resentful little globules.

But this year, without warning or explanation, all four trees began producing apples by the thousands. One branch grew so heavy-laden with apples that it literally snapped, crackling like lightning through the neighborhood, and crashed to the ground.

My industrious wife and daughter flung themselves into the crisis. They picked apples by hand, then employed a ladder, and finally procured an apple-picking tool which I estimate to be about 400 feet long. They placed mountains of apples on a table by the road in front of our house, with a “free” sign scrawled on cardboard. They put out paper bags to encourage people to take apples not by the handful, but by the sackful. They posted our address on Facebook, inviting people to come take apples — without so much as an appointment, or even proper introductions. Ax-murderers, rapists, and Mafia hitmen were all apparently trusted to show up any time of the day or night, to lay hold of our 400-foot apple-picking tool, and haul off as many apples as they could fit into the back of their stationwagon, where they normally stash the bodies.

It should have been simple, giving away apples by the side of the road, in front of our own house. But no. This is Ipswich. In a place where permits are priorities, people are paranoid about permission. Excerpts from our roadside transcripts:

“Really?” (Yes. Really. Take as many as you like.)

“Free? Really?” (Yes, please. The back half of my property is sagging into the flood zone under the weight of the apples.)

“Free? What’s the catch?”

“Free? What’re ya sellin’?”

My daughter, a middle-schooler, heard a couple neighborhood kids riding their bicycles away from our mountain of free apples. “Probably a hoax,” one assured the other. Neither of them had touched a single piece of the forbidden fruit. Yes. Teach your children well.

A pretty middle-aged woman pulled her stationwagon into our driveway as I was replenishing the supply of apples on our roadside table. She rolled down her window. “Free? You’re sure? I can’t give you something?”

“No! Please! Take as many as you like.”

She started getting out of her car.

“I wish I’d brought a bag.”

“We have a supply of bags right here. Fill one up. Fill them all up.”

“I can’t believe this.”

“It’s true. No permit required.”

She filled a bag.

“Thank you so much,” she said, clambering back into her car. Then she shot me an uncertain glance. “May I turn around in your driveway?”

I confess, there was something in me that wanted to say, “No. For that: 12 dollars.”

Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, in the red house where his wife and daughter are giving away the free apples. Follow him — at least until the ax-murderers get him — by clicking the “Follow” button.

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