FRUITY WEATHER: Apple-picking, a cherished autumn tradition, is off to an early start in the Northeast and Upper Midwest as growers deal with aftershocks from wacky spring weather that hammered fruit crops.

GREAT LAKES GROAN: Across the Great Lakes region, which includes four of the nation's top 10 apple-growing states — New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio — fruit that survived is ripening weeks earlier than usual.

NOT SO DELICIOUS: The Department of Agriculture says the nationwide yield will be about 14 percent below last year's and the smallest since 1986.