The Diversity of an Orchard

kingapple

 

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”
transparents
fallenapple

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.

orchardapples
appledew2
Apples11

Politics is Applesauce

applesauce

img_0270

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

Talking Apples

wormhole

applesauce

I liked how the starry blue lid
of that saucepan lifted and puffed,
then settled back on a thin
hotpad of steam, and the way
her kitchen filled with the warm,
wet breath of apples, as if all
the apples were talking at once,
as if they’d come cold and sour
from chores in the orchard,
and were trying to shoulder in
close to the fire. She was too busy
to put in her two cents’ worth
talking to apples. Squeezing
her dentures with wrinkly lips,
she had to jingle and stack
the bright brass coins of the lids
and thoughtfully count out
the red rubber rings, then hold
each jar, to see if it was clean,
to a window that looked out
through her back yard into Iowa.
And with every third or fourth jar
she wiped steam from her glasses,
using the hem of her apron,
printed with tiny red sailboats
that dipped along with leaf-green
banners snapping, under puffs
of pale applesauce clouds
scented with cinnamon and cloves,
the only boats under sail
for at least two thousand miles.
~Ted Kooser “Applesauce”

appleoctober

Shaking the Tree

First I shake the whole Apple tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.
~Martin Luther

Any election day in a free country can seem like a free-for-all, with the loudest citizens shouting their personal opinions far and wide.  Yet today every individual, even the smallest and meekest, has the opportunity to have their say, quietly and alone– a pas de deux between their ballot and them.

This particular free-for-all has lasted for months.  There is now nearly universal desire to just get it done, shaking the electoral apple tree so hard that ripe and bitter and green fall to the ground.  We then settle in and cope with whatever harvest we have reaped with our votes.  Sometimes we get near perfect fruit; other times we get rotten to the core.

Some citizens vote down party lines only; the quality of the candidate matters not as long as they have the right party affiliation.  Other citizens turn over every leaf in detailed scrutiny of each candidate’s history and qualifications.

I truly had to cover my eyes as I voted for some candidates.  Neither felt like a worthy choice to represent a country founded on the principles of religious freedom and escape from the tyranny of government in the lives of citizens.   We are indeed a confused and too angry people, divided and divisive, all shaking the tree for all its worth to see what’s in it for us, threatening the life of the tree itself.

May tomorrow be a day when we set the differences aside, working together to make applesauce, blending it together for the ultimate good of all.

That will be the day.

Plenty Messy and Mushy

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

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

Applesauce-making is one of my more satisfying domestic activities.  Peeling and coring apples can be tedious, there are always a few bad spots to cut out, and though rare with the organic transparents, there is the occasional wiggling worm to dispose of before cooking.  They make a tart sauce, need no sugar;  but 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 flyers flooding our mailbox, the automated telephone voter polls coming into our “unlisted” number, the radio, TV and internet ads that burden us all until we crack and break under the weight.  Actually most of the election fruit is already rotting on the tree, turning us to mush in the process.  I’m weary just thinking about the millions of dollars spent in advertising candidates that could be used for far greater good and benefit for the citizenry.

The process of selecting a president and members of Congress, a governor and voting on 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?

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 elections 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.

Becoming Sauce

2887826765_58b298da6c

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 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.

When “Eating Local” Means the Backyard

tomatojpg

Taking stock of what is  on the dinner table, I realize it almost all originated on our farm, from start to finish.  This surely doesn’t happen every night but when it does, it is cause to celebrate.  As good as farm raised food is, it is the antithesis of “fast” food; this is very very “slow” food when one considers the long process of getting it to the table.

Thanks to our family’s hard work over the years,  we have eaten home raised chicken and beef, potatoes from the potato patch, corn,  tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, brussels sprouts, salad greens and carrots from the garden, applesauce made from the windfalls of a Gravenstein tree, and sweet juicy plums for dessert.  Even the filbert nuts are drying and getting ready to eat for a night time snack along with the sweet dessert grapes from the arbor. The wild blackberries are hanging thick now and begging to be picked for cobbler tomorrow.   It can start sounding all Martha Stewart-y except the reality is far less glamorous and romantic than she portrays in her glossy magazines.  I’m not sure how many chickens she’s butchered and plucked at home.   She doesn’t look like someone who digs into manure piles for the most composted stuff to dress her artichoke plants.  I’ll bet she doesn’t milk her own goats either.   But I know she carves her own pumpkins and they are much more artistic than anything I could ever create from the monstrosities I have growing up the hill.

The “Eat Local” campaign happening all over the country is meant to decrease the distance food must travel to our tables, to prevent spending resources sometimes far greater than what the food took to grow to begin with.  Eating fresh grapes from Chile or apples from New Zealand in the middle of winter is amazing when you really think about it, but they don’t give us nearly the same satisfaction as the raisins and dried fruit we have made from our own arbor and orchard.  Hot house tomatoes from Holland just don’t measure up to the sun dried tomato slices we’ve preserved in the freezer. Our farm critters have not had to leave the farm; they were less stressed and so are we.

Not everyone has the space or climate to raise fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs and milk for their own consumption, so I realize we are truly blessed to steward this patch of earth. Support for the local growers and farmers’ markets brings healthy affordable foods to the table.  Maybe there are a few more blemishes and a little less polish, but the flavor is exquisite and the source is known rather than mysterious.

Celebrate the “slow” food that good farmers are growing right around the corner, and perhaps, in your own backyard.  It is well worth the wait.