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Apples – The American Fruit

Tim Smith of Apex Orchard with his Fuji apples

Tim Smith of Apex Orchard with his Fuji apples

Ralph Waldo Emerson called apples the American fruit. Certainly the legend of Leominster-born Johnny Appleseed, once an orchardist and later a traveler on the frontier planting apples, is one of our favorite American stories. However, archeologists have found European fossil evidence of apples growing in prehistoric times. Apples had a long history before they ever made it to America. These early apples were actually very tiny crab apples. Evolution carried on its slow work over the eons.

The Greek poet Homer, possibly born around 850 B.C., mentions apples in The Odyssey, and Plutarch wrote about a fictional banquet where the discussion turned to the apple. One of the characters said the apple was a perfect fruit because it was smooth to the touch, had a sweet flavor and fragrance, and appealing to all the senses.

More pragmatic reasons could be named for its perfections. It will grow in cold parts of the world, and it can be cooked, eaten fresh, or stored for long periods of time without any preservation. It can also be dried for later use, and it can be turned into hard cider, or applejack which is a distilled cider, a kind of brandy. It means that apples can be eaten, or drunk, during several months of the year. Of no other fruit is this true.

Long before Emerson came on the scene, cider, and I do mean hard cider, was a common drink for everyone in the country. Although those early settlers had good clean water in this country, they came from places where the water was not good. They knew that many diseases were caused by water even though they did know exactly why or how. In any event, they were cautious about water, and careful in their preservation methods when making hard cider.

The apples that made that cider were not eating apples as we know them. Apples are a fruit that rarely grows true from seed. We all know that Johnny Appleseed went around planting apple seeds, but he was not interested in eating apples. He wanted cider apples, and the best cider is made with many different kinds of apples. Since apples did not grow true from seed a seed planted orchard was by definition an orchard of many different types of apples.

Hard cider and applejack remained important alcoholic drinks right into the 20th century until Prohibition was declared. During those years whole orchards were cut down to prevent the making of cider. By the time Prohibition was repealed people had pretty much forgotten about cider, and the orchards were gone. Happily, today there is a resurgence of interest in hard cider, an interest we can see right in our own neighborhood with the success of farms like West County Cider.

Once in a while a seed apple would turn out to be a good eating apple. One of these is Northern Spy.

Other good eating apples that appeared by chance were then propagated by grafting. Small twigs, called scions, of the desired tree would be grafted onto another tree that grew well in that area. By the 1500s books explaining how to graft apples were written. It is through grafting that today we can even order up an apple tree that bears three different types of apples.

By the turn of the 20th century L.H. Bailey compiled a list of 878 apple varieties in cultivation. There may have been some duplicates in that list, but we all know that that only about a dozen varieties are available in the supermarket today. What happened?

There are many reasons from cities getting bigger, farms being located farther from the cities and the introduction of large controlled cold storage buildings. Since farmers could now transport their apples long distances they began to grow only the most dependable and heavy bearing apples.

Also over the years people’s tastes changed.  People wanted red apples and hence the development of Red Delicious. People wanted ever sweeter apples and so those apples with more complex flavors fell off the list.

In recent years there has been more and more interest in the old varieties. Tower Hill Botanical Garden has an heirloom apple orchard where 119 pre-20th century apple varieties grow. We are also fortunate that our local orchards sell the apples that have long been familiar in the supermarket, but they also grow and sell some of the antique varieties like Gravenstein, Jonathan, Rhode Island Greening, Roxbury Russet, Winesap and others.

Of course, new apples are being developed all the time. Honey Crisp certainly comes to mind and this sweet, crisp apple is much in demand.

Liberty apples

Liberty apples at the End of the Road

We planted the Liberty apple in Heath because it was hybridized for disease resistance and was introduced in 1978.  I didn’t want to have to worry about spraying and we have had good crops with very little work. The apples are clean, beautiful and with good flavor.

I love driving by orchards and this year the harvest is particularly good. I stopped to see Tim Smith at Apex Orchards where his trees are bent with thick set fruit. Even my Liberty tree is more heavily laden than usual. Pine Hill Orchard and Clarkdale are enjoying a similar happy harvest this year.

When I was growing up my father ended every dinner with an apple. I continue the tradition of eating a lot of apples over the course of the year, but I confess a number of them will be eaten in apple pan dowdy (makes your eyes light up and your stomach say howdy), apple crisp, apple pie and apple cake. Yes, indeed. The apple is a versatile fruit.

Between the Rows    October  17, 2015

Watch for CIDER DAYS November 7 & 8 at the various orchards and venues.

 

Apple Harvest – Disease Resistant Liberty Apple

Apples – ready for pie, sauce and cake

My apple harvest is at high tide. The whole neighborhood has been talking about what a great apple year this is, so I am not alone.

Right now I am harvesting Liberty apples. We planted this Liberty tree in 1983. I think. We chose it because of its disease resistance. We have taken very little care of it, except for some not very expert pruning. This self-fertile tree continues to bear, and the fruit is remarkably unblemished with no spraying of any sort. It is a beautiful red apple, a Mcintosh hybrid and is delicious in hand, or in pies, crisps, and cakes. I make a pretty pink applesauce by boiling up cored apples with the skins, and  then putting the cooked apples through a food mill to get rid of the skins.

 

Pink Liberty Apple sauce

September 1 Record Fruiting and Tangles

Thomas Affleck rose

This post is part of my twice a month record of bloom and doings in the garden, on the 1st of the month, and then on Bloom Day, the 15th. As we begin September it is clear that in spite of the hot and dry weather Thomas Affleck continues to thrive. One a very few other rose blossoms are to be seen.

Hips on Dart’s Dash rugosa

What the roses are doing instead of blooming is producing hips. The Rugosas have the biggest fattest hips, that are now red and ripe. A neighbor came over to harvest what she needed to make rose hip jelly.

Rosa glauca rose hips

I bought rosa glauca about 30 years ago because of the description of the rose hips. They are red at the moment but will ripen to nearly black. Very sophisticated.

Liberty apple

This is a good year for apples. Liberty apple, planted about 25 years ago is a disease resistant apple. I never noticed before that this apple requires two other types of apple for cross-pollination. There are other apples in our field, and a neighbor less than two miles away has a whole orchard. There are enough other apples to keep this one pollinated and fruitful.  Needless to say, we use no insecticides or herbicides that would hurt honey bees or any other pollinators.

Highbush cranberry

The blueberries and raspberries are  finished. This highbush cranberry (viburnam) is the only berry bush we have at this season. The birds will make quick work of the pretty red berries.

Wild hops and grapes

We are not the ones who planted these hops or grapes. We make noble annual efforts but we have not been able to keep them in control.  These tough vines crawl over  a section of roadside saplings and into  the cultivated area and onto the viburnam.  The hop vine produces these papery little lantern-like flowers. Brewers need hops. The only use I might have for hop flowers is to harvest and dry them and stuff a little pillow with them to encourage sleep. Hops are considered soporific.  We eat a few of the Concord grapes, but the birds get most of those too. You have to look close to see them in this tangle of green.

Zinnias, squash and Grandpa Ott

As a last minute planting I used a few leftover seeds to plant acorn squash and zinnias where I had put a more informal than usual compost pile. This little tangle was more complicated than expected because of some Grandpa Ott purple morning  glories that came from I know not where.

 

Acorn squash

There are a few squash in that tangle. The tomatoes are beginning to ripen and we are eating a second or third planting of lettuce and salad turnips.  The broccoli harvest is over, and the green bean harvest has yet to begin because it got off to such a slow start – partly the weather and partly the rabbits. Happily no more trouble  with rabbits after that bean shoot feast.

 

Tomatoes

The tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Nothing like a luscious tomato fresh from the garden.

 

Acidanthra plus

I almost forgot that I planted acidanthra (summer gladiola) bulbs because it doesn’t begin to bloom until so late in the season.  It is a beautiful, graceful and fragrant plant. It gets lots of attention from visitors to the Bridge of Flowers. Here it is squeezed in between pink phlox, northern sea oats, delicate artemesia lactiflora on the right with Echinacea on the other side of this border peeking through. Pink cosmos are  also in bloom behind the artemesia.

Yarrow, lobelia, cotinus

At this time of the year there are tangles everywhere. I like this silvery leaved yarrow with its sulphur yellow blossoms and the blue lobelia with the wine red cotinus. There are a couple of white snapdragons in the mix as well.

Aconite and hydrangea

I love blue and white and I got it in this tangle of hydrangea and aconite stretching to reach the sun.

We got  a happy bit of rain last night, although only about a half inch, added to the half inch the day before that. Wishing for more.

Life Under Our Feet – and Fruit Over Our Heads

There is life under our feet. I have talked about living soil from time to time, but in his New York Times essay yesterday  Jim Robbins says that “One-third of living organisims live in  soil. But we know littel about them.” Well, of course I know about worms and  bugs and the mycellium that I can see, and I know the soil is full of microbes, but to think that one-third of ALL living organisims live in the soil is mind boggling. Research is going on about all this life and some of it is going on in Central Park.

“A teaspoon of soil may have billions of microbes divided among 5,000 types, thousands of species of fungi  and protozoa, nematodes, mites and a couple of termite species. How these and other pieces fit together is still largely a mystery.” What a revelation! It makes it clearer to me that it is really important to garden organically, putting food, as in compost, into the soil to feed all those organisims., and helping to maintain a healthy system.

The Sunday New York Times  also included a story by Patricia Leigh Brown talked about ‘fruit activists’  who are “using fruit to reclaim public land and expand ideas of art.” It seem apprpropriate to me that both these articles appeared on Mother’s Day, when we should also celebrate Mother Earth and think about the riches she showers upon us, and what we owe to her in gratitude and responsibility to care for and share those gifts.

The life under our feet, and the fruit over our heads are all gifts! Celebrate every day.

A is for Apple – A to Z Blogger Challenge

Clarkdale prizewinning apples at the Franklin County Fair

A is for Apple and I found 36 varieties of Apples with names that begin with A right here.  I’ve known about the Arkansas Black and the Arlington Pippin but that was the end of it for me. But there is also the Ambrosia apple, a modern Canadian apple similar to the Golden Pelicious, the American Summer Pearmain Apple, very juicy, the Autumn Gold apple, better than Golden Delicious and obvously, many many more!

I became interested in old apple varieties when I became a regular at my local orchards, Clarkdale in Deerfield and Apex in Shelburne. They have Northern Spy, Gravensteins, Winesaps and many more. I like to buy a bag of ‘pie mix’, several varieties of apple because my applie pie guru, Susan Chadwick, told me the secret of her fabulous pies is different varieties in one pie.

Taste, Memory by David Buchanan

Of course, I am not the only one who is interested in old apples. David Buchanan wrote Taste, Memory about old apples, and other old fruit and vegetable varieties that have been forgotten – almost. Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors and Why They Matter takes us on David’s journey from the Slow Foods Movement to the farms and orchards of Maine where he now lives.

On this journey he met John Bunker in Maine, a man who really knows his apples. He goes hunting for old apples and has written his own book about apple hunting in the orchards of Maine Not Far From the Tree. He is a man of passion with a great sense of humor and great taste buds. I wrote about his visit to Apex Orchard with David Buchanan here

There’s a lot to know about apples like the reason Johnny Appleseed (born not far away in Leominster, Massachusetts, a town also known as the Plastic City) planted apples was because everyone drank cider in those days. And usually not sweet cider. Hard cider! And hard apple cider is another trend in our area. West County Cider in our neighborhood is a great outfit and make wonderful cider including varietals (just like wine) like Baldwin and Redfield, a pink cider made from Redfield apples that have red flesh.

Yes, there is a lot to know about apples. And a blog post is simply not long enough. Think of all the apples that begin with letters besides A.  As part of the A to Z challenge I will be posting everyday this month because although there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, I will be adding/publishing Between the Rows every Sunday so there will be 30 posts in a row.

A big  shout out and thank you to Arlee Bird who  invented A to Z Challenge.

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John Bunker and His Wanted Posters

 

‘WANTED’ poster for Pickman apple

John Bunker, heritage apple expert, and author, distributes WANTED posters for the old apples he is searching for. He gives a pretty full description of the apple’s appearance from size, shape, color of skin, color of flesh, stem size, and seeds. I’ve learned some new words like Acuminate which refers to the tapering shape of the seed cavity. I don’t know what the ‘eye’ of the apple is. I know the opposite of the stem end is called the ‘basin,’ and has its own characteristic: shallow, deep, wide, wrinkled. So many things to  consider.

John Bunker writes the FEDCO TREES catalog and the 2013 edition is ready. It is full of information and ordering directions for hardy fruit trees, small fruits and berries, other tress, shrubs, roots(like asparagus) and vines. There is even a small selection of tender bulbs and perennials and heraceous medicinals.  Needless to say I was happy to see the availability of hardy roses like Morden Fireglow that blooms into October and is hardy to Zone 2. “Information suitable for browsing and entertainment.” I can attest to that.

Apple seed cavities

In his book, Not Far From the Tree, John Bunker has drawings that illustrate the different formations of the seed cavity. I cut three of my apples in half to see what differences the Hudson Gem Russet, Northern Spy and Macoun had. Not much. The Tolman Sweet has a very tiny seed cavity. These differences can also be used to help identify and apple variety. When I was a young child my father would cut apples in half around the ‘equator’ so that we could see that all the stars were not in the sky.

 

John Bunker and David Buchanan on Cider Day

John Bunker and David Buchanan at Apex Orchard

John Bunker and David Buchanan gave a couple of talks on Cider Day all  about their experiences with finding and planting heritage apples. They also got to sell their books. I knew about David’s book, Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter,  but I didn’t know that John had also written, and illustrated, a book about the apples and orchards of Palermo where he lives in Maine.

Not Far From the Tree: The apples of Palermo 1804-2004

Not Far From the Tree: A Bried History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo Maine 1804-2004. After his wonderful and engaging talk I was delighted to find that he had written this book (he hadn’t mentioned it during his talk) and it was being sold at the Buckland-Shelburne Community Hall Cider Day site. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really read the book but I did get past the Acknowdedgements page, where among other things, he siad that he had finally and with  the help of “the Apple Professor Tom Burford, idenitfied the ‘Blake’ apple as a Grimes Golden. This will be a good update to David’s book in which he describes some outings searching for the Blake apple.  As John said in his talk ‘exploring for apples is a project in process. It is something you are Doing all the time.” He said those who are exploring have to act like Sherlock Holmes, and that there are two different sorts of exploring. “Sometimes you are poking around to find a particular apples, and sometimes you are trying to find a name for an apple. Related, but two different processes.”

He also  talked about the Preservation Orchard that MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners) is planting, concentrating on apples that originated in Maine. Like David, John is interested in finding locally adapted crops. One of my neighbors also attended the talk and by the time we left the Apex Orchard Farm Store where the talk was held, we had determined to talk to our own Heath Historical Society about exploring our own apple history (Heath used to have a  number of orchards) and planting a selection of those apples on the Common or on Historical Society land.

You can learn more about John Bunker and his apple CSA by clicking here.

More about John Bunker and David Buchanan to come this week.  I have to read a little more of Not Far From the Tree.

Taste, Memory by David Buchanan

David Buchanan

 

David Buchanan and I met at the Conway School of Landscape Design (CSLD)  reunion in September where he gave a six minute talk about what he had been doing since he graduated in 2000. He talked as fast as he could, and I listened as fast as I could, but I was glad I could slow the journey when I received a copy of his new book Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter.

Buchanan’s book chronicles the last 20 years of his wanderings from Pullman,  Washington state with its USDA Western Regional Plant Introduction Station and its genebank, to Maine where he met characters like John Bunker who has an orchard with over 300 varieties of antique/heritage apples and an apple CSA. Even all those years ago in Washington he was interested in ‘preserving disappearing agricultural traditions” and Taste, Memory relates the questions he asked himself about whether agricultural diversity is relevant in “our modern world of supermarkets, giant tractors, and irrigated megafarms? What role can the individual play? . . . How do we summon the energy and will to keep this bounty alive?” As his journey has led him across the country he has found some answers.

As suggested by the title of his book it is taste and flavor that have guided him He became involved with the Slow Food Movement and helped found the Portland, Maine chapter of Slow Food. He now serves on its national Ark of Taste Biodiversity Committee, which evaluates and helps preserve endangered heritage foods from around the country. Slow Food is about more than cooking from scratch, which is what I thought it was. Briefly, Slow Food is a formal organization whose aim begins with encouraging the enjoyment of locally and sustainably grown food, maintaining biodiversity, and caring for the land that food grows on so it will be healthy for future generations. There is more, of course, and much more than simply roasting my own chicken and making my own blueberry muffins without a mix.

The book is filled with personal connections to other individuals and organizations like the Seed Savers Exchange .  In fact, in the mid nineties he spent a year working with the Austrian counterpart to the Seed Savers Exchange, where he produced seeds to maintain the thousands of vegetables and grains in their collection.

Taste, Memory by David Buchanan

 

Taste, Memory is the kind of book that I end up reading to my husband while he is trying to read the newspaper at breakfast, or in the evening when he is trying to read the paper he never got through in the morning. I can’t stop myself from reading sections like that about Turkey winter wheat, an old wheat that grows to six feet tall – just like the heritage wheats I have seen Eli Rogosa grow in Colrain. Both Rogosa and Buchanan see the importance of grains that require less irrigation and petroleum based fertilizers.

This book, with its tales of exciting searches for heritage apples, Buchanan’s own inventiveness, and cooperation between various groups of people and organizations, presents a wonderful vision of how our food system can shift. It is possible for us to eat better, for biodiversity to be protected, and for farmers and market gardeners to make a reasonable living.

Buchanan did put his CSLD experiences to good use including landscape design with a focus on urban parks, native habitat restoration, agricultural sites, community gardens, and multi-use trails. Past projects include lead designs for redevelopment of the 25 city parks of Lawrence, Massachusetts, and a master plan for multi-use trails on the 4000-acre former Fort Devens in Devens, Massachusetts.

He has finally ended his wanderings and bought a small farm in Pownal, Maine, about 20 miles from Portland. “I’m planning expanded orchards there and a cider house, to produce small batches of hard cider. I’ll run it as a conservation center, a permanent place to collect and experiment with rare foods.

“I love Maine, and particularly the Portland area, for its vibrant and creative food scene. This is the best place to eat, and work in a specialty food business, that I’ve ever found,” Buchanan said.

His book is beautiful and compelling, inspiring all of us to think about our meals, and our gardening from a slightly different angle, that can be fun and delicious while doing good work. He quotes his friend Polly Tooker who often says, “You’ve got to eat it to save it.”

David Buchanan is coming our way to celebrate Cider Days, November 4-5, with John Bunker, the heritage apple man who was featured in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Buchanan and Bunker will be talking about identifying and conserving heritage apples at the Deerfield Community Center on Saturday, November 4 from 10 am – noon. On Sunday they will have a heritage apple tasting and discussion which requires a ticket.

Lots of other events, most free. There is an amateur hard cider making competition, The Bittersharps, the Heirlooms, and the Macs – Learning How to Taste the Apples in your Hard Cider with author/educator Robert J. Heiss, given twice on Saturday (once before each session of the Cider Salon) at the PVMA Teachers’ Center (10 Memorial St) in Old Deerfield, tasting dried apple varieties at Apex Orchards, food and apples at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center, cooking and tasting apples at Clarkdale Fruit Farm and much more. For full information about all programs go to http://www.ciderday.org

Between the Rows  October 27, 2012

 

The ABCs of Heritage Apples, and Others

Apex Farm Store

A is for Apple, but if we look at heritage apples we can march right through the alphabet. Baldwin, Cox’s Orange Pippin, (Old) Delicious, Esopus Spitzenberg, Golden Russet, and on through to Northern Spy, Roxbury Russet, Stayman Winesap and Westfield Seek-No-Farther.

The Roxbury Russet and Westfield Seek-No-Farther remind us that some apples had a very local fame and audience before they spread to wider fields. In fact, Roxbury Russet was the first named apple in Massachusetts.

Even though we think of apples as a quintessential American fruit, apples originated in southeastern Asia, Kazakhstan and Turkey thousands of years ago. There are over 7000 cultivars, but you don’t usually get any sense of how many apples are grown, even now, if your only experience with apples is from the supermarket.

Fortunately we live in an area where apples thrive, and where we have a number of small orchards selling a much wider variety of apples – and cider. Last week I visited Apex in Shelburne, Barkley’s in Heath and Clarkdale in Deerfield and my husband is looking forward to apples cooked sweet and savory as well as the healthful apple a day eaten out of hand. I never get tired of apples and my father said no meal was complete without his apple for dessert.

Fuji apples

Tom Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farm said there are still Baldwin and Northern Spy trees on his farm that his grandfather planted. He said that Baldwins were an important New England apple. At the turn of the 20th century Colrain had more Baldwin apple trees than any other town in the state. The apples came out of Colrain on the trolley, then to the train in Shelburne Falls, and then to Boston where they were shipped to England. It was the Baldwin’s keeping qualities that made this possible. “Of course, this might just be a local legend,” Clark said. But it does seem possible.

In the 1930s there were winters so severe that most of the Baldwin trees were killed. It was the new Macintosh apple that took its place. This apple has a tender skin and doesn’t keep as well, but refrigerated transportation was becoming available so keeping quality wasn’t as important.

Clark grows a range of heritage apples along with the newer varieties like Honey Crisp, but he said that he liked Baldwins, and that a “ripe russet is nice.” He did say that Americans in general liked pretty red apples but that the Jonagold apple, a cross between the Jonathan and Golden Delicious is the most planted apple in Germany and France. He has heard “that Americans buy with their eyes, and Europeans buy with their mouths.”

There is a new interest among foodies for cider, soft and hard, but Clarkdale Fruit Farm has been making cider for 50 years. Many of these old apple varieties make especially good cider. My friend Alan Nichols planted a cider orchard quite a number of years ago and those apples are in demand again as the new owner of the orchard is making his own cider,

Alan Nichols’ brother Lew wrote a book, Cider: Making, Using and Enjoying Sweet and Hard Cider, with Annie Proulx back in 1980 which is still available. Nichols and Proulx suggest a long list of cider apples for New England that includes Baldwin, Cortland, Esopus Spitzenberg (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple), Gravenstein, Jonathan, Fameuse, Roxbury Russet and Stayman Winesap among others.

Cider is such a fashionable drink right now that we celebrate locally with Cider Days, scheduled this year for November 3 and 4. This event will take place at a number of locations in Greenfield, Deerfield, and Shelburne. You can find a full schedule of tastings, apple butter making, a locavore harvest supper and more on the website www.ciderday.org.

Apex Orchard in Shelburne also grows a wide range from Baldwins, Spitzenbergs, Macouns and Fuji as well as Reine de Pomme and Ashmead Kernel that they grow for West County Cider.

I cannot say I was surprised to see that West County Cider’s Redfield was a featured recommendation in the November issue of Martha Stewart’s Living. West County Cider makes several varietal hard ciders, which only use a single apple variety, like Redfield as well as a Heritage Blend Cider. Many chefs are now thinking about pairing a cider with a particular dish, the way wines have been paired in the past.

Apex Orchard cooler

I was talking to Sarah Davenport at Apex Orchard and she said she liked Macoun and Fuji apples, but it was hard to choose a favorite.

Tim Smith of Apex refused to limit himself to one favorite apple. He said he liked them all, but he said his grandfather, Lyndon Peck had a favorite – the large Pound Sweet. “He had a baked Pound Sweet with his breakfast every morning from late September until March,” Smith said.

I am so happy to have all these apply choices. Sue Chadwick, who had a huge collection of heritage apples in Buckland when I was librarian there, told me the secret to her famous apple pies was using several apple varieties. I start with Northern Spy because there is an old saying “For the best pie, use Northern Spy.” Other good pie apples are Roxbury Russet, Baldwin, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Golden Delicious and the new Honeycrisp.

I also just learned that Cornell University sells apples from their experimental orchards in vending machines on campus. Those smart university people appreciate the importance of an apple a day!

Between the Rows   October 20, 2012

Wishing for Warm April Showers

Daffodil

The weather remains cool and breezy or windy.  And dry. I wish we had some of that early warm weather, and rain.This morning there was spitting rain – and snow flurries. There is very little sense of seasonal progression in the garden. This is the single daffodil in bloom, besides the very early Van Sions, but you can see (if you look closely) that buds are showing some color.

Apple tree - radically pruned

Over the weekend my husband got all the little motors checked out and operational. The only one he put into use was the chain saw. He did a radical pruning of this semi dwarf apple tree to make room for a serious, high fence  we are building to keep out the deer. With some luck we’ll keep out the rabbits, too.

ScillasUnderneath that apple tree I noticed that the scillas are starting to bloom. They seem to have scattered themselves rather widely this year.  A few Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) are also beginning to bloom down here in what we used to consider the orchard. Now only two trees are left, the nameless tree just pruned, and Liberty, disease resistant apple that gave us a good crop last year. Over the past few years we have gradually taken down the other trees that limped along after being severely damaged by horses the year we rented our house while we were in Beijing.

Coldframe

Yesterday it dawned on me that instead of moving my little flats of greens in and out of the house every day, I could move them into my makeshift coldframe. It is not very lovely, but it is functional. I checked the plants this morning and they came through the night in good shape. Then I closed them up again. Lots of wind this morning.