Saturday, September 26, 2015


We've been planting apples since we first moved to the farm. We tag each tree, but as years pass, tags fade or are blown away, trees die and are replanted with different varieties. Now, most of our apples are unidentifiable.

 We periodically pick an apple on each tree to determine when to pick the rest. Are the seeds brown? Is the apple sweet?  The Haraldsons ripen the latest and are best after a light frost. Only the apples on one tree ripen early, most years so early that we don't even notice until most of the apples are lying on the ground - a feast for the wasps.

This year that tress was covered in big, beautiful apples, no worm holes or hail dents or bird pecks. I vowed to enjoy them before the wasps did. I picked the first apple in mid-August. Bland taste, hard texture, white seeds. Not ripe yet.

By the first of September, the seeds were brown, the texture was mealy and the taste was still bland. Wonder why we chose to plant a bland mealy apple? Oh well, I thought, they'll make good apple sauce. However, in spite of the blandness, they didn't fall apart when I cooked them unless I completely covered them with water and boiled for an hour. This made runny, applesauce completely lacking in heat labile nutrients like vitamin C.

Then the apples began falling - fast. We gathered them by the bucket, quartered them and cooked them in the pressure cooker. A quick trip through the Squeezo strainer made nicely textured applesauce with no flavor. Alice, Dave's mom , was visiting and we cooked up a pan of her honey crisp apples. They made wonderful apple sauce - sweet and tangy.

Then Dave, the winemaker in the family, had a brilliant idea. He looked up the concentration of malic acid in honey crisp apples and figured out how much powdered malic acid we would need to add to our bland apples. (Malic acid just happens to be one of the useful chemicals that wine makers keep in stock). The newly adulterated apple sauce was delicious and all we had done was to add a little bit of what makes apples taste like apples.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


                                             photo by Jesse Walker

Everything changes all the time, but we seldom notice. Weeds bud, bloom and spread their seeds. Socks develop holes in their heels. Lambs grow to be ewes. Our friends'  faces wrinkle and their hair grays. Most changes are so subtle that we don't notice them day to day.

Last month my fourth grandson, Caius, was born and suddenly our lives changed. Such a tiny focus for that change - a little over eight pounds, he hardly had any weight in my arms, but the space he occupies in my heart is huge. As a parent, I had no idea of the emotional impact my children had on their grandparents. In the instant when I first held each one of my grandsons in my arms, I realized that each little boy would grab my heart in his tiny hands and I would be changed forever.