Tag Archives: apples

I love a tree — and the earth.

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The most exciting thing that happened this week was the delivery of trees, and the most beautiful one that came was the pineapple guava. I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautifGL P1020536ul specimen of tree. And so big already, stretching its arms wide, eager to grow on a trellis in the corner of my yard, behind a sitting area.

The trellis will provide support for a generous eight feet in each direction, sideways and up, and the tree will be one part of the design that blocks out things like the neighbors’ big boat across the fence; it will be one of the many plants that help to turn my yard into a sheltered and cozy oasis.GL P1020588

 

 

Early in the week workers drove noisy machines into the hard soil and clay to make trenches for irrigation pipes, and for electric wires to the spot where a fountain will play water music.

Landscape Lady brought more plants in the back of her car and we carried them together to the back, succulents and yarrow and salvia; lavender, phlomis and kangaroo paws, some still in bloom or with fruit, like this darling dwarf pomegranate.

GL P1020590Now when I look out the window I can see so much more than the sea of dirt. In addition to the many pots of colorful plants, huddled in the spot reserved for the play house, I see orange or hot pink paint, drawing out the lines for paths and planting beds, so the edging will go in the right place, after the dirt goes in the right place. Landscape Lady has had to draw these lines several times because the workers tend to smudge them into oblivion.

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Huge trucks have dumped three kindsGL IMG_0866 dirt of dirt/rock into my driveway: base rock to form a good foundation for the gravel utility yard, compost to mix into the unknown stuff that was packed into the pool cavity, and vegetable planting mix to fill the boxes.

This is what it looked like before it all was carted to the proper places. Tomorrow another truck will roar slowly down the street and back into my driveway to dump three times this much, 20 yards of soil ! that Andres and Juan will push in wheelbarrows to the back yard and mound up in the planting areas. Waterlogue 1.1.4 (1.1.4) Preset Style = Natural Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = Normal Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

In the front yard my chard and collards and kale are growing; they liked the recent rain. The late sunflowers are pretty still, waving at the people walking by; I let the Waterlogue app paint one for me. I weeded and trimmed salvias and roses and more things out front, and staked the heavy mums again, on one of these gorgeous fall days that make a person fall in love with the eGL P1020602arth.

This afternoon I made my first-ever solitary trip to the apple farm that has supplied our family for at least 25 autumns now. It’s a little late, so they only had four of their 27 varieties for sale: Arkansas Black, Granny Smith, Pink Lady and Rome Beauty. Even their names are delicious! I brought home Ladies and Beauties, and ate one as soon as I got back in the car.

I stopped to get some supplies for yet another koliva, the ceremonial dish we Orthodox make for memorial services. Tomorrow we will have prayers before Vespers, in memory of a parishioner who helped me learn to bake communion bread many years ago. As she doesn’t have any family in the parish who might want to do it, I offered to make the koliva. GL P1020608In this town I can’t get single colors of Jordan almonds, which are very traditional to include, so I sorted out the colors I wanted from an assortment. The bright chocolate-covered sunflower seeds looked appealing, too, so I picked over and separated some of those. I don’t know yet which I will use for decorating the dish of boiled wheat — except for the chocolate pastilles; they will go on top for sure.

Some recipes say that pomegranate seeds are essential, to mix in with the wheat and nuts, etc., but of course they aren’t always in season, and they weren’t when I made my first batches. Now I guess you can often find them frozen in upscale markets, but certainly in centuries past not all memorials were held in late summer or fall. So I didn’t worry about not having them. GL P1020612

Now that Pearl has moved back to California, she has a giant pomegranate tree right near her front door! And this time I have the seeds to add to my recipe. A pomegranate is a wondrous thing; I remember an orchard of them near my house as a child, and the first time I broke into a fruit and discovered the honeycGL P1020587omb of juicy red seeds. My grandson Liam eats each seed carefully, biting it and sucking out the juice, discarding the (mostly) pithy part.

One pomegranate yielded just over a cup of seeds. I boiled my wheat tonight, and ate another apple, and now that I have told you some of the story of my week, I will go to bed happy and in love.

Feelin’ good in the fall.

P1110683It feels good to have our favorite baseball team playing in the World Series, and as I type the San Francisco Giants are playing the third game against the Kansas City Royals. I come over to the computer during the commercials and sometimes also when I am too nervous watching the Royals at bat.

We went to one of our favorite nurseries today, driving through vineyards and brown fields and clumps of oak trees, under a blue sky. As soon as I heard that we were headed out into the country, I was so excited, anticipating strolling around in the pleasant air. It felt good to wash all the dishes that had piled up – then we were off.

P1110677 verbena sidewalk

At the big nursery we were the only customers for a while as we browsed the perennials for a few drought-tolerant plants to use as ground cover in the front yard. One of the plants that was suggested to us was this verbena that we knew was already blooming all over the sidewalk at home, where I later took this shot.

At the garden center I had to keep reminding myself that we don’t have space for this or that beautiful or interesting plant, but I did remember to buy a little bay tree, inspired by some of you who mentioned that you grow them in pots. It’s a Grecian bay, bearing the type of leaf one buys in the spice section of the market, and not the California Bay Laurel that is native around here, which would outgrow a pot too fast, I think.

P1110668contest

On the way home we stopped at our favorite fruit stand where they had a contest going to guess the weight of this pumpkin. We tried to recall the size of that ton+ pumpkin in my recent post, and put in our guesses for this one at about 1300 and 1400 pounds.

Last week I found some of my all-time favorite Pippin apples in a store and made some killer apple crisp to share with friends, and my love for apples was rekindled. Cooking and eating apples when they are in season, coming off the trees in our local orchards, is the way to go. Too many times in the last year or two I have tried to make something appley with apples from across the world, or fruit that had been languishing in cold storage. I hope I have learned my lesson now. Today I bought some more Pippins at the fruit stand and once again have a stockpile of substantial, useful, and of course tasty emblems of the harvest season.

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Here are the plants we came home with. Left to right: Australian Astroturf, Scleranthus biflorus; Lawn (flowerless) Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile; Pink Chintz Thyme; the bay tree. P1110689 osmanthus & project

Our project is to put some steppingstones and ground cover into an area of our dead lawn not far from the front door, in the lower right-hand corner of this picture that is mostly taken up by just half of the sweet olive (osmanthus) bush. It’s a pleasure to work close to the osmanthus, because it’s so often bearing its tiny perfumed blossoms that I have gushed about in this space more than once. They are doing that right now. P1110684 osmanthus flower
A couple of weeks ago I dug big clumps of orchard grass out of this lawn area, and this afternoon I got a little more done removing the grass thatch that is embedded in adobe clay. Eventually I will add some compost and the new plants.

P1110671 zinnias

Meanwhile the trailing zinnias are thriving in the slightly cooler weather. They are my autumn decorations and I don’t at all mind not having a pumpkin or a gourd out front. Anyway, I already have a box of plants taking up space on the front step and who knows how long the will have to hang out there.

And look at this darling portulaca blossom. It is so little that I didn’t notice the much tinier insect inside until I had enlarged its picture. Since I planted it the cistus nearby has grown by leaps and bounds and overshadowed the  portulaca, so I have to poke my camera underneath to catch a flower.

P1110691 portulaca & insect

I’m sorry to say that between the time I started writing and now when I am finishing this post, Kansas City won the game. But tomorrow is another chance, and Sunday, too. We will watch one of those games with some friends, and maybe eat apple crisp together. I’m feeling good about it already.

Irish Apple Cake with Custard

apple cake 3Sue posted this recipe for Irish Apple Cake on her blog The View from Great Island, and I put one together tonight as I was making dinner and ducking out of the kitchen every few minutes to watch our San Francisco Giants win the first game of the National League playoffs – yay! It’s a wonder I didn’t burn something; as it was, it took me until bedtime to get the last pot, bowl and springform pan washed.

< (After you spreaapple cake 1d the cake batter in the bottom of the pan, you make a layer of the sliced apples.)

The only thing I changed was the custard sauce, for which I cut the sugar by a third, and it was very nice. The whole cake is rich and very appley without being overly sweet, so that the streusel topping, for example, can be enjoyed in all its buttery crunchiness and you don’t feel that you are eating a caapple cake 2ndy bar.

(A streusel topping covers the apples as the final layer.) >

I used some Gala apples because I find the recommended Granny Smith to have a one-note sour taste; but the Galas were kind of blah so I added the juice of a lemon to brighten them up. I wouldn’t cut back on the amount of apple – in fact, I’d like to experiment and add one more apple, but next time I will go out of my way to find more flavorful fruit. Other than the barest hint of cinnamon there is not a lot of intense flavor to the cake, so the taste of the fruit is important.

My springform pan was 10″ in diameter instead of the 9″ that was called for, but the cake turned out lovely. It was ready about the time the baseball game was over, and we were in a good mood then and felt celebratory. Mr. Glad liked the cake very well.

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Ántonia’s apple orchard

Willa Cather’s novel My Ántonia holds a special place in the hearts of both Mr. Glad and me, perhaps in our conjugal heart ? by reason of our sharing the story together more than once, and reading it on our own as well. When I’ve read it aloud it’s not uncommon for me to start sobbing at places in the narrative where the pathos hits home.

I was surprised to read recently a review in which the reader did not enjoy Cather’s writing, saying it was dry and lacking emotion. Those qualities might be why I appreciate her skill at capturing the story and drawing us in. Cather gives us the perspective of Jim, and we experience with him as narrator the various levels on which he is in love with our heroine and all that she represents, and he makes us fall in love with her, too.

Our differing response from the reviewer above probably has something to do with what we bring to the story. Though we haven’t lived in Nebraska or known any Bohemians, perhaps we are like Jim (and Willa Cather) in our grieving for the past, for the lifestyle of the pioneers and their farm life, for the good hardworking people we have lost; as I understand it, that was a theme that reappears in many of her works, but she accomplishes it without what might be called “emotional” prose. Mr. Glad and I both have farming in our roots, and our love for nature and the outdoors (and for people) is only encouraged and expanded by reading books like this.

I thought to transcribe some passages from the book on my blog, representative snatches for my own enjoyment and yours, as a way to savor again some moments from my reading experience, and perhaps introduce people who haven’t yet made friends with these characters and their world.

In the novel, there is no question but that Jim must leave the country life and go away to school and to city life. The passage below is from the last part of the book when he returns many years later for a visit, and I appreciate the way it conveys something of Ántonia’s character and also the mood of this season of the year.

At some distance behind the house were an ash grove and two orchards: a cherry orchard, with gooseberry and currant bushes between the rows, and an apple orchard, sheltered by a high hedge from the hot winds. The older children turned back when we reached the hedge, but Jan and Nina and Lucie crept through it by a hole known only to themselves and hid under the low-branching mulberry bushes.

“As we walked through the apple orchard, grown up in tall bluegrass, Ántonia kept stopping to tell me about one tree and another. ‘I love them as if they were people,’ she said, rubbing her hand over the bark. ‘There wasn’t a tree here when we first came. We planted every one, and used to carry water for them, too — after we’d been working in the fields all day. Anton, he was a city man, and he used to get discouraged. But I couldn’t feel so tired that I wouldn’t fret about these trees when there was a dry time. They were on my mind like children. Many a night after he was asleep I’ve got up and come out and carried water to the poor things. And now, you see, we have the good of them. My man worked in the orange groves in Florida, and he knows all about grafting. There ain’t one of our neighbors has an orchard that bears like ours.’

“…The afternoon sun poured down on us through the drying grape leaves. The orchard seemed full of sun, like a cup, and we could smell the ripe apples on the trees. The crabs hung on the branches as thick as beads on a string, purple-red, with a thin silvery glaze over them. Some hens and ducks had crept through the hedge and were pecking at the fallen apples.”

–Willa Cather