Joe Lerew lives for the warm May days when the work starts early and the sun stays late, making the apple blossoms glisten like a layer of snow on newly greened trees.
It's days like these when he rides his old, steady red International tractor down row after row of a gentle sloping hillside, slowly tilling the earth. He will easily plant 2,400 apple and cherry saplings on a day like that.
There's really nothing like the spring time for an orchard farmer, the beauty of another beginning.
And it turns out that Lerew, one of the top athletes in Bermudian Springs High history, never really had to go very far at all to find his dream.
He lives in an old white-siding house just across the road from another old white-siding house
The thing is, there was a time when Lerew didn't want any part of this life along these Adams County rolling roads, a couple of miles north of York Springs.
Back then he was a 6-foot-4, three-sport star in high school. The quarterback of the football team, who was recruited by the University of South Carolina. The baseball pitcher the Baltimore Orioles wanted to sign, even offering to pay for his college. The basketball player that nearly reached the magical 1,000-point milestone -- before freshmen were eligible to even play.
But Lerew wanted his college education first, so he went away to Ivy League Cornell University to study business and play football and baseball more than three decades ago.
Back then, he thought he wanted the corporate world. Before long, too much time in an office suffocated.
So he came home to work the family farm.
"I like being outside even when it's cold. ... It's tranquil," said Lerew, 52. "And you're watching a crop every year from beginning to end. Watching the fruit develop, the satisfaction of the harvest."
Joe is the youngest of the Lerew brothers who run the 600-plus acres of apple and cherry trees. He works with Jim and John, who also was a standout athlete at Bermudian, having scored more than 1,000 career basketball points.
Together they push through the tough times. Like when the plum pox mysteriously showed up in their orchards and the ones surrounding them -- the first time the disease was recorded in this country. It wiped out their peach and nectarine trees and forced the brothers almost exclusively to apples, which aren't affected by the disease.
Mostly, the times are good enough, rewarding.
Take that day back in May, much of it spent with Joe riding the tractor, another worker sitting low on the back, slowly, methodically, sticking honey crisp apple saplings into the just-tilled, milk
Tree after tree, row after row.
The tractor hummed, the sound drifting off across the hills. A car passed quietly on the road below.
Lerew was left to his thoughts, to the orchard and the next job, to his daughter who was graduating from college, to talks with his brother Jim.
The afternoon warmed, and the white apple blossoms dazzled against the blue sky.
The farmer couldn't think of anywhere else he'd rather be.