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[Sweet Apple Acres]...The More Zap Apples Stay the Same. [PM for invite/Apple family welcome]

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Dazzle nodded her head and quickly shucked her bunny suit making sure to place it neatly in the used basket. She was sure that Apple Bloom and her would have to wash them all later. Without question Dazzle followed in tow of Apple Bloom not wanting to waste any time and not wanting to let her out of her sight.

[colour=#00ffff]"Well I sure hope it is, I don't think I could have kept up all that bouncing, singing, and at that pace none the less." [/colour]Dazzle giggled as she remembered the older Apple who had helped them out, Apple Bumpkin her name was. [colour=#00ffff]"Is that common practice for older Apples to squeeze into bunny suits and join in the hopping?"[/colour] Dazzle was so confused as what was 'normal' and what wasn't here on the farm during the Zap Apple times. With much less else to talk about Dazzle kept as close to Apple Bloom as she could trying to learn what all they were supposed to be doing so she didn't somehow mess this up too.

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Apple Pie stuck close to Braeburn, making sure she was helping to peak performance as they did the dance that they so many times did on the Buffalo Run Orchard. Braeburn was busy throwing out the baskets and Apple Pie spent her time aligning them as best she could and making sure that the maximum amount of apples would land into them on each kicking out with hind-legs of the tree.

[colour=#008000]"Braeburn, do we plan to do the whole orchard of Zap Apples? Or are we just going to do most of it and leave some for those who have already grabbed their own baskets?"[/colour] Wiping her brow Apple Pie climbed up on Braeburns back put her hoof up to her brow so as to block the sun letting her look out over their work to make sure it was spotless.

[colour=#008000]"Perfect..."[/colour] She giggled softly as she admired their job, every basket in precise location as always.

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Apple Bumpkin had been hopping at a record pace making sure that every single can got to hear every single letter of the alphabet. She also made sure that she held her pose as long as she could so that she didn't shred the suit that she was using. Cheerilee had said something about helping with the jars, if there was one thing that Bumpkin knew about Zap Apple Harvests was that the buddy system was key to survival of them. Bounding around the corner of the barn Bumpkin looked quickly to observe Cheerilee on her back muzzle to muzzle with Ingrid, a teacher from Canterlot.

[colour=#a52a2a]"I, wasn't interrupting was I?"[/colour] Bumpkin asked with a wink to Cheerilee before she quickly trotted over and offered a hoof to help her up. [colour=#a52a2a]"So nice that you could make it Ingrid!"[/colour] Bumpkin cheered loudly, Bumpkin was always happy, that was a given. With a few glances about hoping that she didn't hurt anyponies hearing she turned towards Sugar Apple.[colour=#a52a2a] "And nice of you to make it too Sugar Apple! Hopefully it wasn't hard for you to take time away from your job in Cloudsdale."[/colour] Bumpkin smiled wide and adjusted her hoofkerchief trying to not hog the spotlight but also wanting to help with whatever mission these mares were on.

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[colour=#daa520]Braeburn[/colour]

Braeburn stood right up in front of his pink maned cousin and her unicorn coltfriend, and gave a big ol' smile as if nothing had happened, [colour=#daa520]"howdy cuzin' Pink Lady, howdy thar Pink Lady's sweetheart, good to see y'all both! Now if y'all 'cuse me, I have a basket placin' contest to win!"[/colour]

Well at least a contest in Braeburn's mind, one that had a new challenger, his cousin Applejack! Of course she wasn't alone; instead she had a small gang of foals there to assist her in getting the most baskets out! That sneaky mare! Well two can play at that game…

Braeburn hooked his foreleg around his little cousin, Appie Pie, and drew her close. [colour=#daa520]"Alright, here's what were gonna do to get the most basket outs. When AJ isn't paying attention to her cart, ah'll look mahself up to it wi' you on top and then we'll have ah whole bunch ah baskets that we'll be able toss out faster than a cat inna hot tin roof!" [/colour] Braeburn winked and turned to watch his blonde maned cousin, [colour=#daa520]"gotta time this juuuuuust right…"[/colour]

Just as hoped, Applejack turned her back to the cart and trotted away with one of the baskets. Braeburn grabbed his little bonnet wearing cousin and tossed her up on the top of the cart with the pile of baskets and quickly hooked himself up to the front of the cart. Braeburn reared up and whinnied loudly and then took off, [colour=#daa520]"yeeeehaw, lil' Pie!!! Get those baskets a-flyin'!"[/colour]

[colour=#800080]Cheerilee[/colour]

Cheerilee stood back up with a smile and a blush, [colour=#800080]"well no worries ladies, this was no worse than what I go through on a weekly basis at the schoolhouse. Why just last week I ended up on my haunches in the classroom because one of the students spilled marbles all over the classroom floor."[/colour] Cheerilee laughed, she was used to the awkward and to the occasional accident, the only real difference this time is that she had adults to talk to.

As embarrassing as the situation was, it looked to Cheerilee's relief that everypony was taking it all in stride. She walked up beside Apple Bumpkin and gave a close, intimate hug as she smiled warmly, [colour=#800080]"so finished with the bunny suit part of the day? I suppose that means those cans are ready to use to water the trees, if I remember all your family traditions correctly." [/colour]

Determined to show that she can get the job done, Cheerilee winked in Bumpkin's direction and picked up a nearby unbroken bottle and skillfully flipped it onto her back with no hesitation, all those years of carrying school supplies making the task simple. [colour=#800080]"We need to pick up the pace ladies, don't want to fall behind everypony else now; so let's get these bottles ready to be yelled at! We can all catch up while we carry! Tell me, what have you all been up to?"[/colour]

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As soon as Ingrid Marie lifted herself onto her hooves, another earth pony rushed up to the disaster scene. Judging by her yellow coat, red wavy mane, and seeming familiarity with Cheerilee, the middle-aged unicorn figured who she was. [colour=#008080]“You must be uhhh, Apple Bumpkin, is it?”[/colour] Ingrid guessed in a somewhat quiet voice; [colour=#008080]“I’ve heard a lot about you.”[/colour]

[colour=#800080]“Nice t’see ya’ again, Bumpkin!”[/colour] interjected Sugar Apple, her voice briefly muffled by a dustbin before she dropped it and a broom in her hooves on the ground; [colour=#800080]“Hah, nothin’ will ever stand between me and mah family... not even mah job eff need be!”[/colour] As much as the purple pegasus loved her job, she’ll always love her family more... such was the creed of the Apple family.

While Sugar Apple set foot on the ground herself to clean up her mess, Ingrid Marie joined Cheerilee in flipping the jars back to their correct position. The magic counselor still couldn’t understand how her Ponyville counterpart seemed to have the bad luck of constantly suffering from on-the-job accidents. Not only that, but to take all of it in stride too... Cheerilee must really be dedicated to her job and those she teaches.

Inevitably, the subject of how everypony was doing came up, and Ms. Marie elatedly replied as such; [colour=#008080]“I’ve been busy as ever, mmkay. Since I came down for Apple Bloom’s birthday, I’ve been occasionally teaching magic over at the local orphanage. Oh, I’ve also helped establish a... sort of magic guild in Canterlot too. Quite exciting, I must say!”[/colour]

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Elsewhere on the orchard, Babs Seed was among the foals watching Applejack drag her wagon around the trees. As the goldenrod filly had never witnessed the art of picking apples in-depth, she was quite at a loss concerning what they’d actually be doing. Leaning towards Valen Orange, she harshly whispered; [colour=#daa520]“So Valen... what exactly will we be doin’? What's with all 'da buckets?”[/colour]

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As Granny Smith took one of the filled watering cans and began to water a nearby Zap Apple tree, the elderly mare keep her eyes on Flam. She still didn't fully trust the lanky unicorn stallion, but so far, he seemed to be following orders well enough. After the foals who were joining Granny on 'watering duty' grabbed their cans and set out towards the trees, Flam used his horn magic to levitate all the other cans, floating them over into positions above selected trees and tilted them up to water them.

[colour=#00FF00]"Well, so fer, so good," [/colour]the gray maned mare thought to herself, [colour=#00FF00]"that scallawag best not cause no trouble, er I'll kick'm so hard his brother'll scream out in pain!"[/colour]

Meanwhile, now that order had been restored to the Zap Apple Jar room, Uncle Apple Strudel, still wearing his spiked Germane helmet, approached the front of the room.

[colour=#006400]"Danka frauliens for setting up dee jars und cleaning up dee mess," [/colour]the bearded elderly stallion said before he stared fiercely at all of the empty jars now setting in rows in front of him.

[colour=#006400]"Achton! You call yourselves glass jars? I say you VILL either shape up, or ship OUT! You vill hold dee jam vee place inside you und you vill LIKE IT! Vee have vays of making you hold jam! Dere vill be no loafing, no back talk und no cracking under pressure! Dis is vertboden! Is dat clear? I said, is DAT CLEAR?!" [/colour]Strudel yelled, striking his hoof on the front table. [colour=#006400]"Good! Now, you are dismissed!"[/colour]

As he turned to walk away, the green stallion rushed over to a jar on the far end of the table.

[colour=#006400]"I saw dat! Dere vill be no visecracks in MEIN platoon! ROUSE! SNELL! AVAY VITH YOU!" [/colour]Strudel screamed, tossing the wayward jar into the trash before he turned to the rest of the jars. [colour=#006400]"Und dee same ting vill happen to any of dee rest of ya dat shows me any cracks! Javol?"[/colour]

Glancing over through a window as he finished watering the trees, Flam was stunned to see and hear the elderly stallion in the weird looking helmet's speech.

[colour=#FF0000]"I think that stallion's gone mad, he is believing oh so bad, screaming at those jars so loud, as if they were a living crowd!" [/colour]the lanky unicorn laughed so loudly, other ponies could hear him. Meanwhile, Ms. Harshwhinney followed Big Mac everywhere he went. She couldn't take her eyes off the dashing young stallion.

[colour=#FF8C00]"So, Big Mac, may I call you Big Mac? After putting all these lovely baskets out, what shall we do next? Will you give me personal instruction on the fine art of apple buc-king? I am yours to command, sweet Prince!" [/colour]

Suddenly aware of what she just said, the orange well dressed mare nervously tried to correct herself.

[colour=#FF8C00]"Er, I didn't mean to say, Prince, Big Mac. That was a slip of the tongue, I know you're not royalty even though I believe you'd make a grand royal Prince. So sorry..."[/colour]

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[colour=#000000]Applejack turned around after setting a basket down to see all of the ponies who decided to help with the basket hauling. The only problem was, they all shared about the size of the baskets themselves. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Oh, heh, you guys really want to help lift these heavy baskets? This is mostly just a big pony job."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Applejack went back to the cart to see that it wasn't there, but instead a cloud of dust and a hyper Braeburn pulling the wagon with Apple Pie inside. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"What in tarnation?"[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack looked around and saw another wagon full of baskets near the orchard path. She hesitated slightly, and then smiled wryly. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"So its a competition he wants?"[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Applejack raced over to the wagon and pulled it as fast as she could over to the foals. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Alright gang, this is the plan. We need to get this wagon of baskets unloaded and placed before them desert dwellers place theirs."[/colour][colour=#000000] Applejack pointed towards the wagon which was disappearing into the orchard. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Here goes!"[/colour][colour=#000000] Immediately, she tossed baskets at the foals, in hopes that they would be excited and ready to catch it, and as soon as the basket was burdened on them, she shouted, [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Alright, lets go! Move! Move! Move!"[/colour]

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[colour=#800080]Cheerilee[/colour]

As Cheerilee took the empty jars in her mouth one at a time and placed them on the table, she listened in fascination as the elder Germane stallion yelled at the glass jars like some kind of R.E.A drill sergeant. As if wasn't enough of a bizarre scene to witness as Strudel stood there and roar at the glass bottles but actually reacted in such a way as if they somehow communicated back in some insubordinate fashion. Cheerilee wasn't sure if this was all just a strange tradition or if the old pony just had dementia.

Still, the purple schoolmare though didn't like the idea of not having an explanation to why for this or any part of the Zap Apple ritual. How would she explain it to her students without understanding it herself? After all the first question any of the foals would ask upon hearing about any of this would be "why"? Cheerilee turned and smiled awkwardly at the three Apple mares in hopes one or more of them could make sense of what was happening for her, [colour=#800080]"so umm.. I never thought to ask earlier ladies but I hope you all can educate me, being ignorant to the Apple ways... Why do the jars need yelling at? Is it an old superstition? Tradition? I just want to know so I can explain it to students some day."[/colour] There; direct, polite, and respectful. There had to be a logical reason for it all, right?

[colour=#daa520]Braeburn[/colour]

Braeburn was feeling pretty good, he and his little cousin, Apple Pie definitely had the lead in getting the baskets under the zap apple trees. Better yet it appeared both Big Mac, and especially Applejack, were joining in his little competition to see who would get the most baskets done! He loved competing with his kin. It was part of being in such a large, hardworking, closely knitted family, and it was all in the spirit of having fun!

Well that and that sweet moment where he gets to rib his cousins on how he beat them!

[colour=#daa520]"C'mon Applejack! That wagon too heavy for y'all? Yer sure are slow!" [/colour] Braeburn knew his taunt was only going to motivate his blonde maned cousin, but it wouldn't be as exciting if she wasn't giving her all.

The goldenrod stallion just had to make sure that little Apple Pie was able to hold on and do her part as he swerved around each of the trees. He had confidence though, she was just as much of a hooves in the soil farmer he was, not some prissy filly! [colour=#daa520] "Doin' alright getting' dem baskets out Apple Pie!? Cuz' we're about to go faster! Gotta show everypony that usAAAAAAAPLELOOSAIANS are number one!! Yeehaw!!"[/colour] Braeburn reared his forelegs and galloped even faster.

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Bramble Rose had barely started, when he was being told they were almost done! Oh, goodness, he was falling behind in his schedule. He was tempted to start hurrying, but instead he made his way through the alphabet in a calm, even manner, reaching out with his magical senses to try to determine if it was truly having any effect upon the water. There seemed, to his mind, to be a faint tremor ... but he couldn't tell if it was a very, very subtle effect, or just his imagination, or even just some unicorn nearby who might be picking something up, that he was feeling.

Finishing up the ritual, he followed instructions and gathered up one of the cans in his mouth, then a second can with his magic, the lean bunny-suit-clad stallion heading over towards the trees along with the rest. As he went by one of his detectors, he made another time mark on the scrolling sheet of paper. He didn't have time to actually read the results, he was too busy! He'd just have to look well afterwards.

He followed along after, feeling a little surprised that the one apple-themed unicorn had the fine control to lift so many cans on his very own. He stepped up to a nearby tree, and smiled up to Flam as the slight unicorn started to use his own magic to water a tree. He let out a sigh, feeling a bit harried ... [colour=#808080]"A lot of work to do!"[/colour] he said in his gentle voice. [colour=#808080]"Pleasure to meet you, I'm Bramble Rose, I'm a friend of the family."[/colour] Well, that was stretching it a lot, but the apples did seem to be friends with just about everyone by default. [colour=#808080] "I didn't know the Apple Family had unicorns among them! How wonderful! I'm a plant-themed unicorn, too! Though you can't see my cutie mark just now."[/colour] He wriggled his cotton-covered flank to show how he was wearing the snug bunny suit just now.

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Mac was finding himself in a rather unusual situation with this rather odd mare - her growing interest in him was starting to creep the stallion out just a little, since he was almost certain she was likely just a little bit too old for his personal liking - however, she was eager and she was seemingly a keen listener...well, keen on him, perhaps, but it was workable for his favour.

" [colour=#b22222]Ah guess if ya'all are really up to doin' this, miss... [/colour]" he starts, demonstrating what needed doing by placing a dozen baskets under the tree, before pointing a hoof at a tree close to harshwhinney and giving her instructions as to the best places to put the baskets - ideally, under large clusters of the delicious fruits - it was really all about sensing and figuring out just where the most likely places apples would fall, and using that 'apple sense' to make sure the baskets would catch all of the apples possible. Zap Apples were a weird, unpredictable fruit sometimes...and sometimes they would bounce all over the place if one were to fall directly to the ground...and catching bouncing electrified apples was no easy feat for anypony!

" [colour=#b22222]Jus' remember what ah showed ya an' keep the baskets under places bearin' the most fruit[/colour]! " Mac repeats, making sure that she was completely clear on the task...before getting right to it as he starts out setting out the baskets in locations that, as far as he could tell, were just the way he felt worked according to their needs....but he could only hope that things would work out now that harshwinney was doing her best to help...although with the way she was looking at him more than she was likely thinking about the end goal.

The way things were looking right now, Mac was starting to feel like he was going to end up having quite an embarrassing chat with Braeburn and everypony else once this was over!

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Bumpkin giggled as she found her way to the side of her special somepony.

[colour=#a52a2a]"Its just something that we Apples do, its not really superposition its more that Granny Smith has spent many a year working on figuring out how to make it so that the Zap Apples find their way into the perfect jam that we sell and give it the perfect taste."[/colour] Bumpkin let out a sigh as she fell in line behind Uncle Strudel as she followed behind him giving a stern look to the jars that were lined up in straight nice neat lines on the fence. It was hard for Bumpkin to keep the stern face on when all she wanted to do was smile and giggle at the Jars and tell them how silly they were for needing to get yelled at. But she felt now wasn't the time or place to doubt Apple Family traditions.

[colour=#a52a2a]"Cheerilee we could always go see if the trees are ready to be bucked, the girls can come too! It looks like Uncle Strudel has this well under control."[/colour] She said with a huge grin as she darted from following behind the elderly Uncle Strudel to standing beside Cheerilee, Marie, and the other family that seemed to gather around the event.

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Apple Pie nodded her head as Braeburn looked back at her. Why was he so worried about her, it was as if he didn't think they could beat Apple Jack with the help of the fillies Apple Bloom and Winter Dazzle. Firstly Winter Dazzle had no training on a farm before hand. This meant they were already ahead, all they had to do was keep ahead of Breaburn and throw out as many baskets as they could and line them up in perfect place. Apple Pie looked back over to Braeburn as she kicked more and more baskets off the cart. With nothing but a wink and a nod she spoke softly.

[colour=#00ff00]"Under control."[/colour] Her hooves connecting with another basket that she had thrown in the air shooting straight to her target with a resounding thud as it landed on the grass next to the tree waiting for a pony to come kick out with hind-legs apples into it.

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Dazzle knew that she wasn't worth much but it meant a lot to her to stand next to her Apple Bloom in these trials and tribulations.

[colour=#00ffff]"Hurry Apple Bloom we have to start working faster. Apple Pie and Braeburn seem to have a plan down to the second. Its like they've done something like this before."[/colour] Dazzle sighed as she threw basket after basket out of the cart trying to not weigh it down too much that Apple Jack couldn't pull it as fast as Braeburn was trotting about. Dazzle slipped on one of the baskets and ended up tumbling head over hooves as she rolled slowly off the cart only hanging on by one hoof and fearing for further incident if she were to hit the ground at this blazing speed.

[colour=#00ffff]"Consarnit!" [/colour]Dazzle yelled out before she literally stuffed her free hoof into her mouth. She didn't even know what that word MEANT and she just YELLED it. She would be lucky if Cheerilee didn't hear her and make her stay after class AGAIN! She removed the hoof just long enough to yell to Apple Bloom and beg her Apple for some help.

[colour=#00ffff]"Abby! Please help me back up into the cart! We've already lost so much time. I am very sorry." [/colour]Dazzle started to tear up noting now that Braeburn was a full row ahead of Apple Jack and the crew now.

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There were many activities that the Apple Family would work together on, and it was the hallmark of theirs that through thick and thin they always stuck together. But that didn't stop them from being like every other family in Equestria and when they all came together for a family reunion, inevitably there would be a contest. It was just cool that their family fight for bragging rights also doubled as zap apple harvesting, even in the middle of such an engagement the family couldn't help but farm Sweet Apple Acres. Maybe there was some strange compulsion in their noble blood to do it, maybe not, but she didn't really care as long as everypony was having fun and the zap apples were being harvested.

For all of Braeburn and his team's energy, Apple Bloom and Applejack had experience in this orchard. They were saddled by a non-farmer and her so far clean hooves, but she was willing to place the Sweet Apple Sisters against any duo in the whole world when it came to farming. Apple Bloom used her little filly speed, Sweet Apple Strength, and just her vast experience to dart to and fro, getting the baskets under zap apple trees post-haste. Her cousins had the early advantage, but the early advantage didn't mean squat. This was a big orchard, and nopony knew it better than the Sweet Apple Sisters. After the trees in the immediate area were finished, Apple Bloom tossed Winter Dazzle onto her back and leapt into the cart with hitherto uncommon strength.

[colour=#ff0000]"Alright Applejack, Big Mac, we should..."[/colour] She started whispering,[colour=#ff0000] "north orchard, that's where they come in the thickest 'round this time,"[/colour] She nodded lightly in the direction, encouraging Applejack and her big brother to get in motion. With that taken care of, Apple Bloom turned to Dazzle.

[colour=#ff0000]"Dazzle, whatcher complainin' about? Why, we got mah cousins from Appleloosa licked better than ice cream!"[/colour]

They had a Big Mac. How could they lose?

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Valen watched the proceedings with Babs Seed, observing his cousins throw themselves into a tizzy. So far removed from the Orange family gatherings in high towers where personal lives were well embellished, the Apples were more prone to competitions and destroying any concept of personal space. It was fun to watch, and having lived there for the short while and while Babs had done it as well, it appeared as though her time was spent on things other than learning the family craft. he nodded to the competition.

[colour=#3333cc]"It's zap apple season, so they're placing the baskets under all the zap apple trees so they can save time later, since the zap apples can only be harvest for such a short time. It might seem silly, but it's really smart of them to use all the extra muscle. Speaking of muscle, you should help,"[/colour] Valen offered Bab's services, but not his own.

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Lady just nodded, before being pulled to the side by AppleJack and nodded "Understood AppleJack don't worry about it" She said gently, glancing at her Mustached Romeo and chuckled "Just help Granny dear" She said softly and waved as the poor Mustached stallion got whisked away, and she followed after AppleJack to help with the baskets! Once they were there Lady didn't focus much on competition or games, just on doing her job, grabbing the basket in her teeth and dragged it over to the tree, only to go back and get another one! Fixing her mane in between each basket!

Such a prissy looking pony probably had no business hauling baskets! But Lady was a strong farm pony and she could handle that "AppleJack I'd be happy to pull the wagon back after this" Lady wanted to show that she could be an asset, and she also partially wanted to make it up to AppleJack for bringing apparently such a disliked stallion to the gathering...

She knew how her family felt about the stallion but in her heart of hearts she saw a smart, kind, and good pony that just needed someone to believe in him.

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Ingrid Marie simply nodded to affirm Apple Bumpkin’s explanation to Cheerilee about the need for the Apple family’s Zap Apple rituals. [colour=#008080]“It is possible to explain all of this in greater detail,”[/colour] mused the beige unicorn to the schoolteacher; [colour=#008080]“But... it’s pretty complicated, mmkay. It’s not something your students will understand all that easily.”[/colour] And with that, Ingrid followed her younger cousin as she headed on over to the apple trees; the Sugar Apple meanwhile hovered by her grandfather in case he required further assistance.....

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[colour=#daa520]“Ah, I see,”[/colour] Babs Seed acknowledged cousin Valen’s clarification on what to do. In theory, setting the baskets under the Zap Apple trees didn’t sound so hard to do, even if she saw one of the other fillies fumbling around with the task. The goldenrod filly stepped forward and was just about to take a basket for herself when she remembered Valen. [colour=#daa520]“Hey cuz!”[/colour] Babs gestured towards the colt; [colour=#daa520]“Aren’t yaw comin’ to help out too?”[/colour] Valen didn't plan on sitting this activity out, did he.....?

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[colour=#000000]Applejack helped her team unload some baskets around the trees they were at. She was in double time mode, whereas everypony else seemed to want to take their time. Big Mac seemed a little occupied with one of the visitors. [/colour][colour=#ff0000] "Um."[/colour][colour=#000000] Pink Lady was carefully setting each basket down carefully, and walking slowly to each spot. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Uh..." [/colour][colour=#000000] Valen seemed reluctant about something Bab's was wanting him to do. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Oh for pony's sake! Come on! We're not going to be able to beat Braeburn and Pie."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Applejack started hustling the others, pushing some of them towards the cart to get in and ride, and taking some of the baskets from them to place them correctly herself. She then grabbed a rope from the cart, tied it quickly into a lasso and threw it at Valen, who looked like he was about to walk away. She gripped the rope tightly with her mouth, pulling Valen towards her, and tossed him into the cart with the others. She spit the rope out. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"No-can-do, Sugarcube. We're going to need all the help we can get to beat mah cousins. Ahheh, ah mean, our cousins."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]Applejack strapped herself to the cart's harness, waited not a second to pass, and burst into speed towards the north field. As she ran, she huffed, [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Yeah, Sis, we'll be behind to start with trying to get over there, but as soon as we get there, we should have way more productivity then they do."[/colour]

[colour=#000000]At the corner of her eye, she started to see massive amounts of light shining through the shadows of the trees and a horizontal level. The day had somehow already grown a little long, but the evening was starting to set in. Applejack looked back while running. [/colour][colour=#ff0000]"Come on, youngins! Throw some baskets out by the trees we're passing while we're movin'!"[/colour]

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[colour=#006400]"Dunka frauliens for setting up dee jar for me!" [/colour]a grateful Uncle Apple Strudel neighed as he prepared to give another lecture to a new set of lined up glass jars. [colour=#006400]"Since vee vill be making more Zap Apple jam den ever before vee vill need much more jars."[/colour]

Granny Smith happened to be in earshot of Flam when the lanky unicorn belittle Apple Strudel. Furious, the elderly mare moved with uncharacteristic speed, rushing up behind the giggling Flam before landing a hard, perfect kick with her rear legs to his posterier. sending the stunned straw hat wearing unicorn into the air before he crashed into a nearby fence.

[colour=#00FF00]"You quit back mouthin' mah baby brother, ya horn wearin' skunk!" [/colour]Granny yelled out.

[colour=#FF0000]"You mean that crazy old stallion, er, I mean, that fine distiguished bearded stallion is your brother?" [/colour]a stunned Flam said as he pulled himself free from the fence

[colour=#00FF00]"He sure is! I'd kick ya off'n duh property but since yur sweet on one of mah kinfolk, I won't do that... YET! But if'n ya bad mouth any more of mah family, yor gonna git kicked a LOT harder!"[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]"By YOU, dear sweet lady?"[/colour]

[colour=#00FF00]"Nope! I'll turn AppleJack 'n Big MacIntosh loose on ya!"[/colour]

[colour=#FF0000]"Oh my," [/colour]Flam said nervously as he took off his hat and lowered his head, [colour=#FF0000]"dear Granny, I sincerely apologize for.."[/colour]

[colour=#00FF00]"Save that fer later, bean pole! GIT BACK TA WORK!" [/colour]Granny shouted, prompting the still shaken uincorn stallion to levitate more water cans to use on the Zap Apple trees. Meanwhile, Ms. Harshwhinney was enjoying her 'personal instruction' from Big MacIntosh.

[colour=#FFA500]"Oh yes, Mr. Big Mac, I will remember everything you told me," [/colour]the orange Earth mare said dreamily as she daydreamed about being on a date in an elegant restaurant with her handsome stallion lover. But even in her dreams, all Big Mac would say to her was 'Eeyup!" or "Enope!" to every question. In her mind, she was so happy, imagining Big Mac reaching across their table to kiss her. That's when Ms. Harshwhinney extended her neck as well and their 'lips met.' But when she felt roughness on her lips, she snapped back to reality, instantly realizing that she had been kissing a tree. [colour=#ffa500]"Oh my, I hope no pony saw that...."[/colour]

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Bramble Rose blinked in surprise as not only was he completely ignored, but Granny Smith herself raced across half an orchard to deliver a blistering retort about a comment he'd only half heard, himself... He'd never have attributed such a fine ear or athletic ability to a pony that was usually so half-deaf and arthritic.

Still. It seemed that Flam had no interest in talking to him, and he certainly didn't want to chat to Flam in front of the angry Granny Smith, so he just hunched a bit in nervousness and hurried to finish pouring these cans of water, before racing back to get some more, pausing only to check on several of his readouts and make more time-marks so he could be sure of studying the data more closely later.

And it seemed that it was a good thing he did, because all the ponies who had been helping with the water, earlier, had all scattered off for other jobs when they'd been told to start watering trees, leaving himself and Flam as solely responsible for them! Applejack herself seemed to have seized upon most of the foals who had been supposed to water trees, recruiting them to instead help her with some sort of basket-placing contest - he supposed she knew best ...

So Bramble just steeled himself and kept about his work quietly, racing past the knots of ponies clustered around other jobs, and hoping that he wasn't letting the Apple Family down! Sweat started seeping out of his forehead and flanks, the petite little unicorn unused to racing around with so much relying on him, or using his magic for such an extended period, as he was having to do in order to carry enough of the watering cans. Using magic was just as tiring as carrying it with his teeth!

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[colour=#800080]Cheerilee[/colour]

Cheerilee stepped outside with Apple Bumpkin and Ingrid Marie, listening intently as they went over their explanations and thoughts on the zap apple traditions. Outside, the lawn seemed littered with watering cans, all sitting full and waiting to be delivered to the trees, but only a small stack of empty ones sat off to the side.

As she watched, a purple unicorn mare came trotting out of the zap apple orchard, still wearing a pink bunny suit, sweating and looking worn out as she carried three empties to the pile. Cheerilee trotted up to Bramble Rose, concerned by the overheating pony. [colour=#800080] "Hello! Are you doing all right? You look beat! Are you trying to deliver all these cans yourself? That must be really hot in that bunny suit! Do you really still need to be wearing it?"[/colour] She glanced over at Apple Bumpkin. [colour=#800080]"Maybe we should help?"[/colour] Then she turned to Ingrid, looking cheerful. [colour=#800080] "I didn't know you had another unicorn in the apple family! Is this a cousin of yours? Or a sister?"[/colour] Then, as Flam came out, with the apple cutie mark plain on his flank, Cheerilee chirped up, [colour=#800080]"Oh, and there's another apple family unicorn!"[/colour]

[colour=#DAA520]Braeburn[/colour]

Braeburn glanced back over his shoulder to see the basket thump solidly into place, nice and tight. He felt a swell of pride for his little cousin - she was a hard worker and a good Apple! [colour=#daa520]"Good kick! Right y'all are, lil' cuz! show 'em th' pride of AAAAAAPPLELOOSA!"[/colour] he cried out, then bent his head to keep his breath - those exclamations stole his speed.

But all the same, even with Applejack recruiting Apple Bloom, Winter Dazzle, and a number of other little foals, she was still falling behind. The extra foals were actually slowing down her wagon! And Big Mac's team seemed even further behind, as the big stallion was spending his time flirting instead of working! [colour=#daa520] "Yeehaw! Y'all are too used t'havin' lots a' help, Cousin Applejack! Not like us hard-workin' AAAAAPLELOOSAIAN sorts!"[/colour] He'd have shouted something to Big Macintosh, too - but the stallion was too far behind, and Braeburn was running out of breath. He'd just have to tease his big cousin something fierce, later on!

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Apple Bumpkin's eyes widened a bit in fright as she saw Flam with her own eyes. There was no Apple Family member that didn't know about them, and surely they all felt the same way. But it seemed that Flam had an Apple Family special somepony.

[colour=#a52a2a]"Flam...What are you doing here, going to try and beat us in Zap Apple Harvesting or something?"[/colour] Bumpkin grinned as she tried to not set a bad example in front of her Cheerilee and at least tried to make her words pointed with kindness and a bit of a friendly jab rather then ill intent.

[colour=#a52a2a]"Cheerilee, this is Flam, from the Flim-Flam brothers. They once tried to take over the Sweet Apple Acres but failed when their machine couldn't keep up with the raw hoof power of the Apple Family."[/colour] Bumpkin grinned even larger, sure she wasn't there when it happened but she knew that Applejack and her friend Twilight Sparkle had done something extraordinary when the Flim-Flam brothers had scurried out of town. But they had spent enough time just standing around and needed to find the next activity to be done!

[colour=#a52a2a]"Hmm, what would you like to help with next Cheerilee? It seems that there sure is a lot of ponies out in the fields putting baskets down for the actual collection, perhaps we should go paint the kitchen?"[/colour] Or was that already done, Bumpkin honestly hadn't paid too much attention to the list of events that were already completed since everything seemed to just be scrambling in her head right now.

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Apple Pie's hooves connected with basket after basket, her kicks now sounding like thunder as they cracked on the baskets which landed in perfect place with little effort. She was starting to work up a moist figure, trying to keep herself cool she wipes her brow with one hoof and uses the other to take her bonnet of and stuff it away safely into her saddlebags. She would prefer to keep at least one thing clean today as she tosses up another basket and kicks it away.

[colour=#00ff00]"Braeburn, slow up a bit. We are running on almost empty now and should think about finishing these rows then going for refreshments."[/colour] She spoke quickly and loud enough to make sure that her words would be heard over the thundering of the baskets and the cart. She was in fact getting a tad bit sleepy since she had taken a cart ride from Appleloosa to Ponyville and didn't even sleep on the ride here. She wasn't going to stop until she passed out though, that was the Appleossan way!

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Dazzle quickly righted herself on the cart noticing that it in fact had not even been moving as she fell out of it for some reason. With huge blush on her face and a silly grin she sneaks a tight hug on Apple Bloom.

[colour=#00ffff]"Oh thank you for saving me, you are such a brave filly! Now where were we?"[/colour] Dazzle was all sorts of confused, she was sure that the cart had been moving before but it seemed that she was wrong and in fact Applejack was having problems moving the cart since they were weighing it down so much.

[colour=#00ffff]"Applejack is there anyway else we can help? Maybe we could just run besides you and throw the baskets out instead of riding in the back and weighing you down." [/colour]Dazzle suggested just trying to make Applejack's life a bit easier.

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Valen was more than happy to help, but first he had to change out of his good horseshoes. You had to be prepared to work with what you had on of course, but he wanted to kick out with hind-legs the trend of being quite unprepared for Sweet Apple shenanigans any more! He had prepared some superb work boots, stylish but functional and in them he felt like the greatest worker in all of the legends of the Apples and the Oranges. He nodded confirmation at Babs and started to trot away when his hooves were snatched up below him in a sudden and violent outburst of Applejack, stealing his body and pulling him towards the cart like a monster pulled the little pony victim into it's maw in those rare and incredibly scary moving pictures. His captor stopped him and sent him through the air like a chew toy and he landed in the cart with an audible oomph, eyes boggled for a few seconds.

Once again, Valen Orange was trapped by Sweet Apple Acres and the slight insane mare who ran it like a sweatshop mixed with a bakery and homestead.

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The cart was too heavy, that much was for sure. Why, if they went at this pace even the shortcut they had wouldn't make a lick of difference! The cart bounced around making it hard to retain her position, but more importantly Applejack was already huffing and puffing. If she couldn't do it, the whole thing was moot. And moot was a word she had just learned.

[colour=#ff0000]"Yeah, we need ta hightail it offa this cart!" [/colour]She bellowed, nodding emphatically at Winter Dazzle and slapping her on the back before leaping towards the front of court- and avoiding Valen by an inch or two.

[colour=#ff0000]"Applejack, we're gettin' off tha cart! We'll lead ya ta tha orchard!" [/colour]She gave her sister a half hug, squeezing tight to give her some of her UNSTOPPABLE FILLY ENERGY. Failing that, a hug was always just very nice.

Apple Bloom then promptly trotted towards Dazzle and in one fluid, swift motion, got close, put her hooves on Dazzle's upper body- and then pushed her off the cart. She then untied Valen, giggling a little as she did so. Then Apple Bloom leapt off, hitting the ground hard but regaining her hooves beneath her and started galloping slightly ahead of the cart.

[colour=#ff0000]"Come with me, Dazzle!"[/colour]

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Meanwhile, Valen was struggling. Struggling for any sort of pride he once had. Struggling to escape the hard-wrought chains around him, in a metaphysical sense as well as the ropes which bound him. Struggling to get over the curse of Sweet Apple Acres, struggling and failing mightily in that regard mind you. He should have known that coming here would end up with him being tied up by Applejack in a surprise attack and somehow being transported against his will while he tried to help. Of course he should have known that the only way for this not to turn out the way it did was for him to approach Applejack beforehoof and supplicate himself at her honor. Well, he wasn't going to stand for it- being tied up at least. He kept on struggling to no avail until Apple Bloom made the save, untying him in the reverse of the damsel in distress. She then went off and did her thing while Valen regained his footing with energy and pulled himself towards the front.

[colour=#3300ff]"Applejack, how rude!" [/colour]He began, regaining his breath before shooting two hooves out in front of her face, [colour=#3300ff]"these are my good shoes. I was going to switch out to my awesome work boots that you would have simply loved Uggh!"[/colour] He finished, sighing, [colour=#3300ff]"Oh well, I suppose this'll have to do...HIYA!"[/colour] He shouted, straddling hr back like a rider and pulling on the strap. It was nice to have some power!

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The fillies on the ground pounded the ground with as much energy as possible, galloping in line with the mare who now had less weight to deal with than before. All as one, the Applejack group was making good time down the shortcut, through a 'dead' area of the orchard this time of year that would block from view a solid core of trees that were reliably zap apple'd and, more importantly, in an area that those Appleloosians wouldn't have two licks of a lollipop about! Apple Bloom burst out of the foliage into the area, a smile cracking along her face like a fault line of fun.

[colour=#ff0000]"Let's do it!"[/colour]

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Curious about a purple unicorn, Cheerilee asked Ingrid Marie whether the other pony was also a member of the Apple family. The middle-aged mare could only shrug in response however as Ingrid wasn’t sure about who many of the ponies here were. [colour=#008080]“I’ll be honest,”[/colour] confessed Ms. Marie; [colour=#008080]“This is the first time I’m meeting my extended family in full, even though this quite isn’t an official reunion. If it wasn’t for our prior correspondence, I wouldn’t even have recognized Apple Bumpkin, heh...”[/colour] As for that... Flam, Bumpkin did an adequate explaining to the school teacher who he was.....

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Babs Seed despite how much she felt like a fish out of water laughed out loud as her big cousin lassoed Valen and dragged him onto the wagon. The goldenrod filly should have known better, having been victimized by Applejack’s unrelenting drive during the previous Apple Family Reunion... but obeying her childlike instincts, she giggled anyway.

Miss Seed couldn’t keep it up after a few seconds however; like the other kids, she had to toss out baskets as fast as she could. The little earth pony may not have had the best accuracy in the world, but Babs did her best not to beat herself mentally over the various goofs she made during the race. Some of her baskets didn't land anywhere near the trees, while others landed upside down, and so on. Of course, Babs did always have the excuse of having never been trained to throw baskets under trees from a speeding wagon before.....

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Bramble gave a somewhat proud grin that someone had recognized all the hard work he'd been doing! He'd gotten the impression that the Apple Family wouldn't think much of his labor, and he needed to show that the Agave family worked hard, too! He'd helped with the Agave harvest every year, by the stars, and he -

[colour=#808080]"Sister?!"[/colour] he exclaimed indignantly. [colour=#808080]"Wha... you... I... I am NOT a MARE!"[/colour] he cried in exasperation, his forehoof giving a solid stomp on the ground for emphasis. He bit down any further response, his eyes squeezing shut as he very deliberately counted slowly to ten before saying anything more. He opened his eyes again, and gave a smile ... if his teeth were a bit gritted, well ...

[colour=#808080]"Hello, Miss Cheerilee. I don't believe we've been properly introduced. I am Bramble Rose, not one of the Apple Family, here today to do a proper study of the Zap Apple trees, and to help out."[/colour] He gestured towards one of the measuring devices spewing paper out into a waiting box. [colour=#808080] "And as for the costume ... no one told me to take it off yet? Can I? But everyone else who had been jumping over watering cans and were supposed to be watering trees with us all went scarpering off except for ... ah ... Flam, here? I don't know anything about what you were just saying, but he's at least helping out. Some more help than just he and I would certainly be appreciated."[/colour]

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[colour=#800080]Cheerilee[/colour]

Cheerilee felt a rush of blood to her face and placed her forhoof to her mouth as Bramble Rose explained the faux pas the purple schoolmare had made. Not only were the two other unicorns not Apples, a minor mistake, but the bunnysuit clad purple unicorn was a stallion! Cheerilee could have sworn otherwise… [colour=#800080]“Oh! I ... I’m sorry about that, Mr. Rose, I don’t know what I was thinking to call you a mare, please accept my apology!”[/colour]

Cheerilee rubbed the back of her neck and gave an awkward smile, [colour=#800080]“I should have known there likely would have been other ponies here visiting for the harvest outside of the Apple family - after all, I’m not an Apple, although I am seeing one.”[/colour] Cheerilee wrapped her forehoof around Apple Bumpkin in an affectionate hug. [colour=#800080] “Although there does appear to be unicorns in the family, like Ingrid here, but I’ll let her tell you all about herself.”[/colour]

The purple school mare’s eyes darted back and forth between Bramble and her Apple companions, unsure if her apology and friendliness did the trick to defuse the awkward situation she stumbled into with her assumptions. [colour=#800080]“Soooo… Yeah, the bunny suit, I’m pretty sure you don’t have to wear it after the whole ritual with the alphabet and the hopping over the watering cans. My students, I mean the foals, took theirs off, so I am sure it is safe.” [/colour] Then it suddenly dawned on Cheerilee what she could both help with the harvest and show Bramble she meant no disrespect! [colour=#800080]“Hey I know! We’ll help you get the cans to the trees!“ [/colour]Cheerilee turned back to Bumpkin and Ingrid with a bright smile, [colour=#800080]“how about it girls? We’ll all have a nice chat while doing it, just us ladies!” [/colour] Cheerilee cringed for a moment, remembering her mistake from earlier, [colour=#800080]“I mean just us ladies and the fine gentlestallion here! I mean stallions! Two of you!”[/colour] She groaned and hid her flaming face in her forehooves.

[colour=#daa520]Braeburn[/colour]

Braeburn’s ears perked up as he heard his little cousin’s concerns. Stop and get refreshments? Normally that sounded great, but Braeburn was in the zone! He wasn’t going to stop until he had at least half the baskets out among the zap apple trees, therefore guaranteeing a win! However, little Apple Pie was right in one regard, they shouldn’t exhaust themselves by being too fast; could do more at a reasonable clip, and they had a pretty good lead. [colour=#daa520]“Well, let’s finish up this batch first before we take a break, after all we still gotta win an’ all lil’ cuz! Ah’ll slow it up a bit though, ‘kay?[/colour]”

Braeburn reduced his speed to a slowly but steady gallop, confident in his lead and his skills - he did the work of Applejack and Big Mac together on his own orchard, Buffalo Run, so this should be a piece of pie! Mmmm, pie! First things first, though, a little friendly jab! [colour=#daa520]“C’mon Mac! Y’all hardly done any baskets at all! Don’t wanna look bad in front of yer new lady friend if'n y'all wanna ask her out later!”[/colour]

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[colour=#000000]Applejack smiled as the fillies seemed to get in spirit. They were even able to run along side her. They were quicker than she had thought. A cart full of baskets was apparently enough to slow her down to a foal's scamper. Applejack still knew they would prevail though, having the north section of the farm being most dense in terms of trees per square kilohooves. And Valen's riding on her back was strange at first, but the smirk made it obvious that this was just plain fun. As they cantered their way to the north trees, Applejack planned to start the disbursement in a hurry. So she tried to execute her cart flip maneuver in which she tilts the cart she's pulling just enough while she makes a sharp turn, that all of the baskets unload themselves evenly onto the grass. When she arrived, she angled her hooves against her moment, and swung her harness to her right side, letting the weight tilt the cart. She did it! However, she had forgotten that Babs was riding inside it.[/colour]

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Valen was a beast, a basket tossing beast as he rode atop Applejack. He took the basket in hoof and tossed it like a frisbee under a tree. Then another. Then another and another and another, with contemptuous ease but excitedly he engaged in foalish fun. Not so often he cut loose, and when he cut loose he was quite capable of some feats. More baskets were tossed, more baskets were tossed, more and more, accurately and swiftly. Like a machine. An awkward machine of basket tossing intensity that was making a mockery of this competition! Nothing could throw him off. But that wasn't the same for those who had the misfortune of laying about in the cart behind him, as Babs was, though when Applejack tossed the cart about Valen didn't notice as caught up in the moment as he was. And he was caught up in the moment entirely!

The only time he felt this way when he was dealing with his Apple cousins was that one time where he had been pumped full of medicine after dental surgery an hour after meeting them. It was a rather apt analogy for their whole friendship, their kinship: they hurt him and he took it and tried to smile about it so as to please them, despite secretly wanting to have his mind wiped of the majority of the all-too painful experience. Though this time his smile was wide and genuine as pulled absentmindedly on her reins.

[colour=#3366ff]"Haha Applejack, this is a lot of fun!"[/colour]

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Well, with everything that was going on, Mac found himself getting mildly mixed with slight annoyance and a small amount of flusterment at the bewildering affections of the mare who was working alongside him to make sure the baskets were being laid out correctly - this was starting to feel like a losing uphill battle, and Mac was almost sure that for the first time in the longest while, his younger cousin was gettin' mighty overcocky about his current lead. This was gonna make talking to applejack later on awkward, as she knew she'd also make some serious fun of his being somewhat slowed down by an overly affectionate mare.

Well, macintosh wasn't about to have any of that - he made to double his efforts, throwing as many baskets as he could under as many trees as he could muster, determined now to catch up to the leading apple and show Brae a thing or two about how the apple family took care of business down this way...grit, determination, and some ol' fashioned elbow grease.

"[colour=#b22222] Missy, ya'all better stop the daydreamin' back there[/colour]! " he calls back at Harshwhinney, after throwing 5 baskets under the closest tree and not even stopping, having already prepped himself up for the next delivery to the tree nearest their location, not about to just let this situation grow any further beyond his control. "[colour=#b22222] We ain't gonna let that l'il upstartin' pip of an apple get the better of us t'day, not if ah got anythin' to say about it[/colour]! " - Of course, this was said with a teasing glance up towards Braeburn...a jab for a jab!

He might have been caught unawares before, but now it was time to get applebuckin' serious...!

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Apple Pie kept working her little flank off as she kicked basket after basket near the trees.

"Breaburn we have a problem! We are almost out of baskets!" She shouted loudly readying herself to kick the next three baskets away before they would be out. She wipes her brow of all her work and starts to breathe heavily the work finally setting in on her small filly body. She starts to huff and puff as she tried to eep out that she was starting to feel that she would need a break here soon if they kept this speed up.

"Need, a, drink." She got out with the last thundering roar of her hooves connecting with the basket sending it flying to the tree.

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Bumpkin kept up with Cheerilee as she spoke nodding her head and blushing as she was hugged by the gorgeous mare.

[colour=#a52a2a]"Well 'Ah count you as an Apple, but 'Ah might just be a tad bit biased."[/colour] She said giggling like a little school filly for a moment before she shook her head and blinked a few times looking at Bramble. That was a stallion? Well, that changes everything then. Bumpkin slowly and casually hugged back Cheerilee and grins largely at Bramble.

[colour=#a52a2a]"Either way, welcome to tha farm!"[/colour] She beams loudly before blowing her bangs from her face. There would be time for chatter as they worked on getting the jars in position. [colour=#a52a2a]"Well it seems that a lot of ponies are working on getting the baskets out under the trees so maybe we could go help paint the kitchen? It would be better to not get everyone all in the same area so that don't start bumping into more and more ponies."[/colour] She giggles again softly winking at Cheerilee remembering what happened before.

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Dazzle nods her head as she listens to Apple Bloom speak. She was busy living in her own little fantasy world for a moment and her vision was seemingly clouded by images of Apple Bloom in a french maid outfit doing dishes for some reason.

[colour=#00ffff]"Yea! Lets get to it!"[/colour] She cheers loudly and stands on her hind hooves for a small moment before she starts to follow closely behind Apple Bloom as they ran ahead of the cart not knowing what they would do but was sure glad to have something to clear her mind, running that was. She was hoping that at the end of the line was a nice salad or maybe even some apple juice.

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