The Old Apple Tree

Apple

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This photograph is of an old apple tree growing on the edge of my brother’s field near Rockport Harbor. A week or so ago, one of its main branches broke in an ice storm and now lies twisted, touching the ground. My brother’s wife will probably get him to cut the tree down this summer as there isn’t much left of it anymore.

The old apple tree doesn’t mind being cut down now. It’s had a long life and even in the day when there was a commercial orchard on the land, the apples it gave the farmer to sell weren’t what made it happy. Making money was fine but what the tree really liked were the times when all the busy chores were done and it stood alone by the edge of the water in the warm sun and listened to the waves rustle the little stones that covered the beach below it.

The tree’s place in the orchard, when there had been one, was at the very bottom of the row nearest the sea and in the fall and spring when the migrating geese were passing through,  a flock of them would sometimes cluster nearby burbling softly to each other as they ate the grass under its branches. When the birds had finished eating, they would settle down in the soft grass and sleep with their heads under a wing. The guard birds stayed awake of course and if all was quiet and no foxes or people were near, they would tell the tree stories of flying all night above storm clouds in the dull silver light of a crescent moon.

In the mid 1800s the farm had been sold to a rich man from Philadelphia as a summer vacation place, then sold again to someone else and finally cut into smaller pieces for yet more summer houses. The tree no longer was expected to make money for anyone and since it wasn’t commercially valuable, it wasn’t fertilized or pruned or sprayed to keep the worms from digging into its wood or fruit. That was OK because the geese still passed through and told stories of their travels and children of the summer people would occasionally come by to try to climb it or even bite into the small wormy bitter apples it still produced. 

I’ve known this tree since I first came to Maine in the early 1950s. I was one of those children of summer and I will miss it. 

On Baking Bread (By one who can’t)

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I’ve always thought of baking as a fussy, magical, messy kind of enterprise. Part math, part Merlin and part “how did all that stuff get on the floor”.

I’ve occasionally tried baking myself with mixed results. (That assessment is a little generous.) When my boys were young I went on a sourdough bread baking jag and was OK at it for a while. But the problem with sourdough is that you need what the pros call a “starter”. Simply put it is a bunch of bacteria (lactobacilli) that live in a bowl of warm flour and water and multiply like crazy as they feed on it. One needs to replenish the bubbling stuff regularly and use it as a leavener for whatever you’re baking or the little bugs get nasty, smelly and die. This leaves a stinky mass of stuff that needs to be thrown out and making the “starter” has to be started all over again. I didn’t use my “starter” often enough and attend too many disgusting funerals.

My enthusiasm for baking lessened with each baking failure. The coup de grace, while not exactly technically a baking failure, was when my attempt at making pasta resulted in numerous clumps of damp, limp and very sticky extruded flour and water lying all over the kitchen floor. 

The loaf that headlines this article is apple bread. Sarah baked it quickly and professionally to use up some of the applesauce she had put up this summer in our freezer. That temperamental beast died of electrical failure a couple of days ago and we needed to find some creative uses for an overabundance of applesauce. The loaf pictured is still warm and the chunk out of it was my doing. It was delicious! (The fact that Sarah served it with vanilla ice cream didn’t hurt a bit.)

Bon Appetit! May you bake better than I.

Dennis Rodman does North Korea

This kind of thing is, I guess, is occasionally to be expected in a democratic society where free speech is valued but, Rodman is a total nutcase and what he is doing is absolutely terrible. Craving publicity is a sickness of the ego and boy is this lad ill.

Dennis Rodman apologizes for North Korea outburst – CNN.com.

Icicles And John Travolta

Corner Ice

A hundred years ago when I lived in Massachusetts, some winters were so mild that icicles on buildings were a relative rarity. Little dinky ones would form one day and the next it would be in the mid-30s and they would melt away.

When we moved to Maine all that changed and icicles became a dime a dozen. Huge ones, MANY huge ones would hang from the eaves of all the houses and barns and nobody gave them a second thought. This winter in particular has been great for icicles. It has been so damn cold that they just keep growing.

This pretty cluster is hanging from a little coffee shop near Lincolnville Beach. They only serve filtered coffee in there. Each cup is made special. They have a blend called Dark Harbor probably named for the little town that is right offshore from here on the Island of Islesboro. It is terrific. The coffee that is.

The town probably is too. Why else would John Travolta have a summer home there?

This Country Mouse Is Not Staying Very Long

New York Crowd

Going from my home town of Camden, Maine to New York is easy. Amtrak, Jet Blue, Concord Trailways and Route 95 all provide convenient ways to do it in a day. However, for me, while getting there isn’t much of a problem, once there, the difference between where I just came from and where I now find myself hits pretty hard.

 Simply stated, the thousands upon thousands of anonymous faces jostling for the space to move along sidewalks or walk around in stores makes me quite claustrophobic.

Then there’s the noise, a constant background brain buzz punctuated regularly by the wail of a siren or the blast of a car horn from some pissed-off driver.

 It’s fun to see things in the city. New York has marvelous cultural attractions and world-class shopping. The place is really fun in small doses.

But at the end of the day I want to take a walk along some quiet dirt road through the woods and Central Park just does not really cut it.