Remember what I said in last week’s posting, about a challenge for writers being one of making points or issues relevant to each other with relevant and perhaps even seamless segues? Obviously, I need to stick to the main theme of this blog – what we do here on the farm to live as self-sufficiently as possible… but one should still recognize special events or holidays, visitors, and make the postings personal at the same time.
This week is the last blog before Halloween is once more upon us. (If you didn’t read last year’s Halloween posting, have a look – I’m still rather proud of that one, the mix of ‘haunted’ photos of the farm, its residents, and valley, the ‘ghostly’ tales of the Danish settlers, and the silly verses ! Search my blog with the words “All Hallowed” or try the link: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/all-hallowed-anec-pics/ ) .
While last week’s theme encompassed all things “long” and “green”, this week will be RED – for blood, for crabapples, for smashed grapes and scarlet runner beans whose vines creep everywhere, and for the amazing red peat bogs out near the ocean iteself…There’ll be mention of your favourite crabby and creepy characters in fiction as well, so hunker down for a S P O O K Y as well as informative read!
When our guest, Leanne Goodfellow (an ironic surname, as this blog will mostly be about Badfellows!) from Aberdeenshire was here during September, she helped us pick and prepare many crabapples. Last year you read about some of the many things I did with these hardy and prolific little jewels, such as crabapple juice, sauce, and best of all – what turned out to be everyone’s favourite JELLY. But this year, besides those items, I remembered that as a child we always had pickled crabapples to brighten up our Christmas table, and I LOVED them.
Picking the crabapples didn’t take too long, once we finally decided to ‘get at it’…
“With all hands available”… we managed it in about two hours, using the pick-up box and some ladders.
The tree was full this year, and although we still had to be wearing blackfly nets/hats, we didn’t have any serious injuries. Above, Leanne demonstrates the huge bin we filled of them, stripping all the leaves first. Cammie and Chevy also helped strip the leaves and finish the tree off for the season. While Chevy stands grazing, Cammie now uses his flanks to ‘mount’ herself… and by mid-Sept. the bottom of the tree looked like this:
However, it’s the brambly branches of the crab apple tree that make it such an interesting and spooky enigma. I just took this photo of the VERY last crabapple I could see on it – less than a half-hour ago. Blue Bell Mountain in the distance, of course. Isn’t this a great Halloween shot? And did you know…There is an old custom of offering the last crab apple of the season to a mythical figure… The fruit is given as an offering to ensure a good crop next year. I guess I’d better go take this apple down and find me some mythical guy – FAST!
Crab apple trees have slightly thorny-looking branches and while they aren’t particularly sharp, we still advise wearing gloves when harvesting. Because of their appearance, the trees also fit well into All Hallow’s Eve folklore with a great spooky novella, and many paintings of witches and worlocks gathering around their base:
Here are some REALLY great folklore beliefs about crabapples themselves – perfect for this time of year:
Witches reportedly concealed their poisons in the fruits. Crabs appear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the roasted fruits were included in the wassail drink.
Because we live in a Danish community, I thought this next one was especially interesting: Crabs have been cultivated since the Neolithic Age. Signs of crab apple fruits were found in Danish coffins dating from the Early Bronze Age! Here is the famous Danish Edtved girl discovered some years ago:
Cultivated crab apple trees were brought to the American colony of Massachusetts in the 1600’s where they were grafted onto native crab rootstock. There are several from this time period in Salem, home of the famous witch trials. I actually, and by complete accident of timing, spent one Hallowe’en there in 1995. You couldn’t MOVE in that little village due to the busloads of people pouring in for Oct. 31st celebrations.
The term ‘crab’ is actually Norse/Scandinavian/Danish as well . There are two possible origins for the small apples being called ‘crab’. “Scrab” or “Scrabbe” meant crooked, knotted, complex, twisted, very much like the tree used to be. The other possibility is that it derives from “crabbed” which itself means, etymologically, “crooked or wayward/sideways (thus the name for the crustacean) — and then the several figurative senses that follow from that, ie: disagreeable, contrary, ill-tempered, or crooked, as in criminal.
And throughout spooky literature history, and the century of classic horror movies, who have been the ‘crabbiest characters’, voted in 3 different surveys? Number One, and long-time favourites of mine are the two theatre critics, Waldorf and Statler from Jim Henson’s Muppets. They were both hilarious AND crabby!
Two and Three on the list are also favourites of mine from literature: Eeyore and Scrooge. Talk about Grumpy and Crabby! Eeyore has long been a choice role model for me, as he’s also a cynical pessimist. Friends used to call me Eeyore, not just because I was grumpy and moody, but also, I suppose a stubborn ass… but speaking of, there are SOME grumpy old men who can really write the book on being ‘ornery’ :
And here’s another crabby old fart holding up a photo of a grumpy me, having to de-stem, cut in half and de-pit thousands of crabapples to prepare them for the sauce, juice and jelly… (see last year’s posting if you like: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/orchard-organics-holistic-harvest/ )
In fact, one of the reasons I remembered the pickled crabapples I so loved in my youth was that I was trying to think of a way to prepare the little buggers and NOT have to cut them in half and take the pits out! So, this is most delicious:
Like the witches of old who used to mix their herbs into poisons, and then put their poisons into their jars of pickled crabapples, here’s one of my attempts:
My mother will be glad to know that my degree in Theatre Arts and Literature isn’t COMPLETELY going to waste. Nor is my degree in Education, ’cause what am I doing here on this blog, after all?
Now…. …. that’s it for the ‘Crabby’ section, let’s do the ‘Creepy’ chapter, shall we?
I’ve mentioned several times that we LOVE the way Hawthorne Farm Organics (our seed company that’s in Ontario) offers the Scarlet Runner Bean, both for eating and for wonderful, quick vines. Being an Anglophile, any type of ivy or vine that crawls UP, or creeps OUT (Mom/Joy despises ‘Creeping Charlie’, but if it didn’t kill the other plants, I’d leave it be as well…. I don’t like BROWN spaces, I love GREEN!) Here’s Mom/Joy, waging her usual battle against all things that CREEP TOO MUCH:
As we tried planting the scarlet runner beans to EAT last year, and didn’t care for how huge they got, we DID discover that they are easy to dry and replant. We planted them everywhere around the house, for their quick ‘creeping’ as well as, later, their blood-red flowers which the bees love! (for this reason, because of encouraging cross-pollination, we did put a row of them in with our other peas and beans this year as well.)
There are two examples, above, of how they climb up the pillars, onto the front porch, and up the trellis and wagon wheel, all within about 3 weeks of their first planting. The red flowers come out later in August and stayed right through ’til mid-October this year!
The other creepy-crawlie I’ve always loved, though it isn’t so quick of course, is grapes. Our neighbour Pierrette (Zeb’s ‘witch-like’ mom) gave us some grape vine roots early in March, and they ‘came up like gangbusters’ (despite Cammie having a go at the ones on the side of the house). We even got a few bunches of grapes already!
We plan to let them grow right up the pillar and then put lattice work on the roof of the front porch and let the grapes be readily available (it’s just outside the kitchen’s Dutch door that Richard made). The grapes ARE red, and surprisingly sweet already but when we harvested them at the end of Sept., they were still pretty tiny – really only the size of a dime, or smaller. We ate them in one luncheon sitting!
Did you know there’s another kind of red grape called the Witch’s Fingers? I may have to try this variety!
And did you know that “Grapes that Grow as Eyeballs, be the BEST for Hallow’s Eve, Whilst their Vines that Wrap around Your Neck, As a Scarf they Do Deceive?
Funnily enough, although they were just planted this spring, our grapevines are the only thing still green enough to attract Cammie to nibble on this past week – we still have to guard the leaves from her wandering lips!
Linda, my cousin who visited with her fun sister Pat in September, introduced us to ‘ground cherries’, another creepy-crawly we will never be doing without again, now that we’ve discovered how great they taste! It is their little paper-thin pods that many crafters use for autumnal decor and I’ve already begun experimenting to see if I can do lampshades with them for Rustic Revivals’ oil-can lamps (using them like decoupage, but so they will be more natural, and throwing in some leaves as well…)
And while the most creepiest vines of all are in the squash/pumpkin patch, we didn’t score very well out there this year. The harvest of these vines was tiny, in both number and size (see the pumpkins in the creepy scarecrow pic below? Richard doesn’t think we’ll have Halloween trick or treaters this year, because he thinks “Blue” looks like a paedophile! )
But this doesn’t stop one having a bit of fun in the ole pumpkin patch anyway!
On our way to Moncton last week (for my one end-of-harvest treat, a Roger Hogdson (Supertramp) concert) we passed a gorgeous peat bog. I’ve never seen one at this time of year before, in all my travels, and I’ve always thought of peat bogs to be a Halloweenish type of spooky affair, but this is STUNNING, isn’t it?
Back to those Danes, though – this man was found in a Danish bog. Hanged with a leather cord and cast into the peat 2,300 years ago, Tollund Man was probably a sacrifice. This was meant to be another spooky photo for your Halloween enjoyment, but it’s so sad, and he looks so peaceful, it’s not really frightening at all, is it?
One of the shortest visits we had all year (in our season of 19 overnight guests) was a one-night stay from Richard’s eldest son Erich. (By the way, if you think I like word-play, what about naming your kid with exactly the same letters, first and last names both? (Erich Reich) )
Erich brought along a drone. I find them very frightening. They look like creepy spiders, but in a very freakish sci-fi way of Big Brother invasiveness…
Cammie and Chevy didn’t like it either. They kept HEARING something, but could never figure out where the sound was coming from!
At one point, the shadow of the drone fell over Cammie, and she launched an attack. I’ve seen dressage horses that didn’t have as nice an extended trot!
However, Erich and his dad did have a nice time on a beautiful autumnal day, playing with the ‘toy’, no matter HOW creepy the animals and I felt it to be…
Are you ready for the list, as voted on by readers of literature, of the CREEPIEST CLASSIC CHARACTERS? (of course most of these have been movies, and these characters were always well-portrayed by fine actors or actresses who managed to make them seem even MORE creepy!)
Miss Havisham, from Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is in the top ten: “She was jilted at the altar, and now she insists on wearing her rotting wedding dress for the rest of her life. The uneaten wedding cake is still sitting on the table, and all the clocks in her house have been set to the exact moment she was dumped, making her one of the creepiest characters ever. According to Dickens, she looks like a cross between a skeleton and a waxwork with sunken, moving eyes.” Here’s a Miss Havisham doll I particularly like – HOW CREEPY!
Alex, in A Clockwork Orange, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird and Dracula, in Dracula also made the top ten from classic literature. Now, to be fair, Boo was actually a bit of a hero, but apparently it didn’t stop him being considered classically ‘creepy’.
Another cousin of mine, who has shared both musical and theatrical stage performances with me throughout our youth played Wilhemina in our town’s musical version of Dracula. (I was one of the brides who came out of a coffin, then later, hilariously wiped off the ‘death’ make-up and danced the Can-Can in the intermission’s entertainment! Incidentally, this was the first, but not the ONLY time I emerged from a coffin, or was put INTO a coffin in my stage career. No wonder I decided not to continue as a professional!) Here’s cousin Joan in 1980:
Richard, Remy and I had 3 weeks of hard labour during harvest this year, but there was another autumn when the 3 of us left Remy’s house in West Yorkshire and traveled over to Whitby, in North Yorkshire, which is where Bram Stoker got much of his inspiration for the setting of the book. On another note, Jasper, the dog in the below photo- taken on the Whitby Wharf- is a Weimaraner, commonly called “Ghost Dog” for their spooky eyes. Remy had to put Jasper down a few months ago, so this is a little tribute to the good companion that kept him company for 13 years.
I lived near the Bronte’s Haworth for several years, and Remy and I took Richard to see the moors and the site on which they think Emily based her spooky “Wuthering Heights”. While we were walking on the moors, Richard went over to relieve himself behind a rock, and Jasper was off in the distance sniffing around. When Richard finished, he apparently felt frisky (or maybe the ghost of Cathy was chasing him?) and he started to run back toward us. Suddenly, as Remy and I watched, Jasper decided no one was going to run away from HIM. And so, unbeknownst to Richard, the Ghost Dog started to chase Richard, and when he reached him, he hurled his front legs around his waist and brought him down into the moorland grasses. It was nearly a decade ago, but I can still see this as vividly (and hilariously) as if it were yesterday. Here’s what we saw:
The first is Top Withens, the possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights (the house, not the novel). And while Jasper the Ghost Dog did appear rather hilarious with his floppy ears and goofy tongue lolling out the side of his jaws, had Richard turned around he would have seen another creepy dog – the Hound of the Baskervilles- tearing after him with enthusiastic determination.
And that, good readers, is the end to my mostly-red-themed, CRABBY AND CREEPY Halloween blog for this year. “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”
― Bram Stoker, DRACULA