Gary Stonemetz and his Pink Ladies

Last week, we paid a surprise visit to Gary in his orchard late in the day. He had just finished spraying and we found him cleaning his tanks on a cloudy evening.

This time of year, his days are long. Production manager at Johnson Foods in Sunnyside by day, Gary makes a bee line to his orchard in the afternoon and works into the night. His pink ladies are the best I’ve eaten and true connoisseur that he is, Gary’s never gotten tired of them himself.

He pointed out hail damage from a couple weeks ago. A direct hit and a sideswipe left its marks.

The weather’s been especially wild this year, with a late cold spring shouldering well into summer and a very late freak frost; another week or two of heat wouldn’t hurt to sweeten things up. Gary holds off picking as late as he can, hoping to harvest by the beginning of November. But when the first big freeze threatens, he calls in the pickers and it’s a race to the finish.

Howard is a big fan and unabashedly grabs an armful of these beauties whenever he drops by.

The two of us head to Seattle with a load of goathorn peppers and a couple dozen apples, and Gary’s back on his tractor.

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