“The powerful wind swept his hair away from his face; he leaned his chest into the wind, as if he stood on the deck of a ship heading into the wind, slicing through the waves of an ocean he’d not yet seen.”
― John Irving, The Cider House Rules
One of my favourite books, that. The Cider House Rules. Not really about apples or cider. Not too much, even, about our neighbouring state of Maine. But very deep, very philosophical and very beautiful. If you haven’t read or seen it, do so. The parts that DO take place in the orchards are both romantic and dramatic.
Apple orchards ARE a place of romance for many. Through the ages they have been lovely settings – L.M. Montgomery’s Anne was ALWAYS mentioning “The White Way of Delight”, even when it wasn’t June and the blossoms weren’t exploding on tree limbs. Vintage postcards and greeting cards romanticize the entire system of keeping up an orchard.
While my brother-in-law proposed to my sister in his grandparents’ old-farm orchard on the west coast of Newfoundland and although Richard’s niece is to get married here next summer under our own lovely apple trees with the Appalachians as the backdrop,
we are actually finding our little orchard of apple trees to be a primary source of frustration (2nd to the constant blackfly problem for me, I’d say).
Our apple trees seem to be a focal point for our amazing views, no matter what the season. They are dainty and pretty in spring, laden with big red apples in late summer, dramatically ‘spiky’ in fall as they lose their leaves, and always holding sparkling layers of clean snow in winter. Even more so, they are often ‘at the end of the rainbow’, or part of the footlights of the setting sun’s reflections:
And both last year and this we had a heavy crop of apples. Here’s just a branch from one, taken at the wildflower garden we are slowly working on (and beside which the bride will glide next July!)
I’ve long been a fan of apple fests, apples-for-the-teacher, apple-blossom themes, and my work as Rustic Revivals proves this:
In fact, for their Christmas gift last year I made my sister and brother-in-law a hat hook for their summer cottage/old farm’s entranceway, romanticizing their engagement and reminding them of other things in their lives they love to share:
However, it is not the quantity of apples here that is a worry, NOR even the quality, though 80 percent do have some kind of wormhole. But I’ve taught Richard not to worry so much about those, as I just cut them out and go on with whatever I planned to do that particular day with that harvest. The problem is, for two years in a row, and trying all the recommended options, we have been unable to KEEP our apples for longer than 2 weeks! We divide them into three categories when we pick – “kitchen”, “animal treats” and “compost”. I do try to get as many into some kind of production in the kitchen that day or the next, but with so much else to be harvested at the same time, it would make life easier if the apples could be put off say, until after Thanksgiving (Can. one, in early Oct., not the American one near end of Nov.). But no such luck!
Part of the problem with having an Olde Homestead is that the pioneers didn’t have the selection of various apples we have today, and thus many didn’t plant some of the more rugged thick-skinned apples that were made for winter storage. Although we learned last year that one is supposed to wrap each apple separately in paper BEFORE putting into cold storage, that didn’t work any better this year than NOT wrapping them did last year. So there went about 6 hours of my time wasted, over the course of several days of wrapping! (Those ones were primarily the ones we’d deemed for the animals, so admittedly they had more bruises, but according to all my reading they still should have kept better/longer!)
If you’ve seen 3 more goofier-looking adults, it could only be with the addition of Richard in the frame. We weren’t even TRYING to look silly, we were just smiling! (my skirt courtesy of cousin Linda’s family, some of our visitors this summer)
After completing losing about two bushels of apples we’d picked and I’d wrapped and put in the coldest part of our basement (they went to compost, but it still hurts!) we were invited to our Honey Man’s farm. He allowed us to pick a plethora of his own apples, less blighted than ours. But he still warned us they wouldn’t last long, even if wrapped. Stubbornly, and as I was so busy preparing beans, peas, tomatoes, etc. I wrapped all of them late one night and had them put in the basement. Within a few days, thanks to blackflies and fruitflies, we noticed they were starting to get mushy, so Richard went to buy a solid metal apple-peeler, and he went to work on them!
Mom and I did what we could by hand to keep up:
(Mom’s apron – and ours hanging in background just above her head – courtesy of Shirley Robinson, yet another of our many guests this past year).
The nice thing about the apple-slicer was that I was at least able to freeze several buckets of just slices, so at least in a way we have preserved ‘apples’ that we could eat ‘fresh’ or also feed as treats to the animals when it gets cold and they are very bored. However, a bit of lemon juice or my homemade apple cider vinegar on them before they start to thaw is necessary so they don’t turn brown, which Richard hates. The slices are also great to put into pies or loaves, but I also, as last year, immediately made apple sauce, juice, cider and apple cider vinegar. (The many health, baking and cleaning uses for this latter were mentioned in my blog post on our apple harvest last year). Here are the many processes we had to do over the course of only about 5 days:
The apple sauce isn’t just eaten as apple sauce, but we reheat to pour over ice-cream, frozen yogurt (hopefully next year made with goats’ milk!), we CAN use it in my soda-cracker quick-pies, and a few table spoons can be put in bran mash for Chevy or Cammie on really cold days. (One thing I didn’t make this year, and we shall miss, is the delectable apple BUTTER!) The last photo is all the scraps we save from the peelings, which is then corked and allowed to sit for a month before we pour and strain to get the proper type of ACV, with the all-important ‘mother’. I try and drink a spoonful of this in water every day (sweetened with honey or Stevia).
So, while the apple harvest WAS a bit disappointing again this year, and there are no big red globes in our basement for easy access, there’s nothing like knowing that, thanks to our neighbour’s offer of a 2nd harvest of HIS apples, our freezer and pantry are at least full of pails and jars of the innerds! And there’s nothing like heating up that applesauce to have with a bit of custard, either! Hmmmm…
(that apron is courtesy of my grandmother McKenzie, from the old Sparta Mercantile circa about 1982, and the bonnet is from an etsy seller. I have to put on this “Little House on the Prairie” get-up because many of our u.k. visitors seem to think we’re a cross between the Ingalls and the Waltons!)
Sadly, however, Richard came home from town yesterday with something that upset me, and I mean to fix this issue once and for all next year. There HAS to be a way! He wanted us to have a few fresh apple slices in our salads, and he wanted to feed Chevy ‘treats’ because he spoils him rotten. Like a rotten apple!
Everything about this upsets me, the plastic bag, the unnecessary money spent, the fact that these apples aren’t local and certainly have been chemically sprayed, and the fact that we don’t seem one step closer to living self-sufficiently with these on our table, and two huge apple trees outside our bedroom window!
One thing we didn’t do was wrap them AND put them on single layers on racks downstairs. We do have these racks built into the basement, so I shall try a few of them next year. But anyone that’s found any other ideas for making them last at least to November, I’d very much like to hear your experiences!
Of course around here, the old farm orchards are being terribly wasted. Although this is a pretty sight this week – I still HATE seeing it, as there’s so much we could have done with all of those if I could but learn how!
I even saw someone with spotlights on their apple trees like this, lit up for Christmas! While it was lovely – I STILL wanted to go pick those apples!
When we first moved here Jane Hansen gave me a Victoria County recipe book from the local ladies of 60 or 70 years ago. There are many ideas for baking with apples, so the slices in our freezer WILL come in handy for these, and it’s nice to know I’m using recipes handed down by our neighbours:
Still, to add insult to injury (in my head at least) is the fact that I’ve been looking for more blue stoneware plates and bowls to replace the ones Richard breaks on a regular basis. I once had a collection of 6 of each, with red hearts, and I’ve looked everywhere to find the red hearts again. They aren’t on etsy,ebay, or anywhere that I can find, but I did luck out and find these a few weeks ago in Value Village in Fredericton:
Would you BELIEVE I have to look at apples now at every meal, just to remind me there’s no whole ones for us OR the livestock? Ah, well — I bet you thought this whole blog was going to be about apples, though, didn’t you?
But we spend our days slicing through life in other ways. Whether the bread I make every 2nd or 3rd day is in a traditional loaf pan, or like this one, we get better and better at slicing just the right thickness for toast, sandwiches or chunky warm delights with stews or soups:
And Richard always has to have a ‘sweet loaf’ to slice up, in addition to the cookies/scones in the cookie jar:
(Fingerless mitts: an early Christmas gift knitted by our dear friend, the lovely Hudson, Quebec artist Jane Wright, and made with the alpaca wool purchased at the last pioneer show the Wrights helped me organize in Ontario, from Alpaca Avenue near Toronto: http://www.alpacaavenue.com/ See Jane’s artwork at:
And we don’t have much snow yet. Jennifer Clarvoe writes, in “Invisible Tender” that while they had been slicing through the snow, it can’t have been very thick because greeny grass tufted through it and it was gravelly, dimpled, pocked.” But nonetheless, Richard and Chevy have already been hard at the “Slicing Through” process, bringing in logs from our own woods for next years heat source.
Not bad for a guy who’d never really handled a horse prior to May of this year, is it?
The next few weeks’ blogs will not be about harvesting/processing food anymore, you’ll likely be happy to read. I promised I’d write about the big 100th anniversary of our church, the entertainment for which I was asked to organize, as well as more details about the New Denmark filming with t.v. star Jonny Harris and the crew from CBC’s Still Standing. Those 2 events encompassed just 10 days at the beginning of September of which I’ve only hinted at in a prior ‘tease’. And all this past week and next Richard and I are involved again with the Perth/Andover Community Choir and the 2nd Wind Music Centre Choir from Bristol. Not only have we teamed up with them for the big July 1st 150 Voices concert, but we’ve sung with them for the fall concerts with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and are now joining them for the Christmas season. In fact, this weekend we are dressing as angels (I know, imagine Richard as an angel – it’s nearly impossible, isn’t it?) and going to “Bethlehem” to sing for two rustic days, as Victoria County is invited to walk or drive-thru to see the merchants and travellers, nasty inn-keeper and new-born babe from 2000 years ago. And then on two big days following we sing a tricky Vivaldi, bellowing from two different church choir lofts, down upon the Bristol choristers who answer us from below. Glor-i-a, Glor-i-a Forevermore! Just another Slice of Rural Life here at Blue Belldon Farm!