The Diversity of an Orchard

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applesauce

 

I’ve come to give you fruit from out my orchard,
Of wide report.
I have trees there that bear me many apples.
Of every sort:

Clear, streaked; red and russet; green and golden;
Sour and sweet.
This apple’s from a tree yet unbeholden,
Where two kinds meet, –

So that this side is red without a dapple,
And this side’s hue
Is clear and snowy. It’s a lovely apple.
It is for you.

Within are five black pips as big as peas,
As you will find,
Potent to breed you five great apple trees
Of varying kind:

To breed you wood for fire, leaves for shade,
Apples for sauce.
Oh, this is a good apple for a maid,
It is a cross,

Fine on the finer, so the flesh is tight,
And grained like silk.
Sweet Burning gave the red side, and the white
Is Meadow Milk.

Eat it, and you will taste more than the fruit:
The blossom, too,
The sun, the air, the darkness at the root,
The rain, the dew,

The earth we came to, and the time we flee,
The fire and the breast.
I claim the white part, maiden, that’s for me.
You take the rest.

 ~Louise Bogan “The Crossed Apple”
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Today will be applesauce-making day on our farm. The number of windfall apples lying on the ground is exponentially increasing, so I could put off the task no longer. The apple trees in our orchard are primarily antique varieties rarely grown any longer. I selected Spitzenburgs, a favorite apple of Thomas Jefferson, a Baldwin or two, some Newton Pippins, a few Kings, but mostly I picked Dutch Mignons, a russet apple undistinguished in appearance, not at all pretty, and easy to pass by for something more showy.

It took no time at all to fill several large buckets. Sadly, some apples were beyond hope; they lay rotting, half consumed by slugs and other critters. Those I left behind.

The task of washing, peeling and coring organic apples is time consuming. They require a fair amount of preparation: the bruised spots must be cut out, as well as the worm holes and tracks. The apples are cut to the core and sliced into the simmering pot to be stirred and slowly cooked down to sauce. Before long, before my eyes, together they become a pale yellow mash, blending their varied flavors together. However the smooth sweetness of this wonderful sauce is owed to the Dutch Mignon. It is a sublime sauce apple despite its humble unassuming appearance. Used alone, it would lack the “stand out” flavors of the other apple varieties, but as it cooks down, it becomes a foundation allowing the other apples to blend their unique qualities.

So it should be with the fellowship of diverse people. We are bruised, wormy, but salvageable. We are far better together than we are separate. And we are transformed into something far better than how we began.

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Apples11

Politics is Applesauce

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Politics is applesauce.
~Will Rogers
Our transparent apple trees are heavily burdened with fruit this year, to the point of breaking branches crashing to the ground with the weight. There have been plenty of windfalls, just perfect for making applesauce.

The transparent apple variety has a short window between fruit too green and sour before  becoming too soft and mealy.  With the hot weather, these thin-skinned apples will start to crack and turn to mush right on the tree without even letting go first.  So the time for applesauce is now, this week, ready or not.

Applesauce-making is one of my more satisfying domestic activities.  Peeling and coring apples is tedious, there are always a few bad spots to cut out, and there is the occasional wiggling worm to dispose of before cooking.  They make a tart sauce and need no sugar;  with all the careful preparation before the cooking, the result is smooth to the tongue and a lovely creamy light color, with all blemishes removed, extra unwanted wormy protein deposited in the compost bucket along with mountains of peel, cores and seeds.

Would that I could similarly pare out, peel off, dispose in the compost all the political opinions flooding my real and virtual mailboxes, the robo-calls coming into our unlisted phone number, the radio, TV and internet ads that burden us all until we crack and break under the weight.  Actually most of this year’s election fruit is already rotting on the tree, turning us all to mush in the process.  I’m weary just thinking about the millions, no billions, of dollars spent in advertising that could be used for far greater good and benefit for the citizenry.

The interminable process of selecting a president and members of Congress, as well as a governor and controversial initiatives can be so vile and mean-spirited that the whole kettle of sauce is spoiled.   I could cook it all day long and there still will be worms waving in the air, rotten cores festering, scabby peels floating on top, the bottom scalding with the heat of the cook stove.  How does a reasonable person decide what is best for the country when nothing is transparent at all in what politicians say versus what they do versus what the media says they do?

And how palatable will the political flavors be when all is said and done?   I guess we’ll need to wait until November to know how the messy mush of politics will taste.

Thankfully I will have stored up plenty of the real stuff in the freezer so we can drown our misery in the creaminess of summer apples prepared and cooked to perfection: no blemishes, no scabs, no rot, and no worms waving back.

What a world.

applesauce

Orchard Mowing

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The rain eases long enough
to allow blades of grass to stand back up
expectant, refreshed
yet unsuspecting,
primed for the mower’s cutting swath.

Clusters of pink tinged blossoms
sway in response to my mower’s pass,
apple buds bulge on ancient branches
in promise of fruit
stroked by the honeybees’ tickling legs.

Bowing low beneath the swollen blooms,
caught by snagging branches
that shower from hidden raindrop reservoirs
held in the clasp of blushing petal cups,
my face anointed in perfumed apple tears.

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appleblossom9

October Quivering

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photo by Josh Scholten

 

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

 

photos by Josh Scholten
photos by Josh Scholten

 

I remember it
as October days are always remembered,

cloudless,
maple-flavored,
the air gold and so clean
it quivers.
~Leif Enger, Peace Like a River 

 

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Even If

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Martin Luther

As a child I was fascinated by the story of John Chapman aka Johnny Appleseed who traveled on foot around the young United States creating nurseries of apple trees.  When our family traveled in Ohio and Pennsylvania in the 1960s, we visited places that claimed to have apple trees planted by John Chapman.  I marveled at how one little seed had the potential to produce decades of fruit (and hope) for generations of folk.

My two childhood farms had old apple trees–gravensteins and transparent varieties–good for climbing in and always great as scratching branches and shady snoozing spots for the horses and cows.  One had a platform fort where I spent hours sitting munching on apple cores, surveying the fields and enjoying watching the animals standing beneath me, relaxed, napping, chewing cud and swatting flies.

When we bought our farm here in Whatcom County over twenty years ago, there were left a few antique variety apple trees of a once vital orchard.  They were aging, with bent and broken branches and hollowed trunks, but still continued to produce fruit, great for baking, sauce, cider and winter storage. We’ve lost a few of the old trees over the years to the wind and elements,  though now nearly a century old, the survivors keep providing.

It seems I have followed an appleseed trail myself, a journey of knowing, no matter what may happen, if a seed is planted today, there will be fruit and hope for the future.

I’m determined to keep planting seeds and words in the midst of a world going to pieces.  It just might mean a kid sitting high up in the branches,  contemplating life and its meaning,  has an apple to munch on and words to chew on fifty years from now.

“O the Lord is good to me
and so I thank the Lord
for giving me the things I need-
the sun, the rain, and my appleseeds-
the Lord is good to me!”