It arrived at the party early, when, it seemed, there was still still so much to do. Autumn settled into the chaise longue out on the prow and regaled us with fog and rain and even a few mild windstorms while it was still summer. And we were still out gathering fruit and thinking of jams and pies, and we started to consider soups and stews instead.
Those lines of John Keats came to mind:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core ...
-- "Ode to Autumn" by John Keats
One morning, the fog was so dense, we could not even see Stuart Island from the living room window. The freighters passed by, unseen in the grey shroud, and sounded their searching horns, tentative sounding, a little worried. One even jolted me awake in the middle of the night.
I pulled up the cantilevered stairs at the bottom of cliff, where I go swimming, knowing that the storm season is around the corner. The stairs had stayed down since late April.
I looked across at the neighbour’s house one morning and saw smoke curling out of the chimney, and I realized I was cold, too, so lit a fire of our own. ‘First fire of the season,’ I thought.
Little by little we were saying farewell to Summer. And, at first reluctantly, accepting the boisterous party-crasher, Autumn, who came to the party too early.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue ...
Wait a minute: Autumn has its charms!
But Autumn has its charms, too! The season of sweaters and misty mornings, the delicious sense of decay, of yellows, oranges and browns, the leaves falling, returning to the earth. Time to put the garden away, maybe a last mow of the lawn. It’s time to bring the apples in and put them to good use: apple sauces and pies or drying slices in the oven to be savoured as sweet snacks through the winter.
The island is quieter, too, the vacationers have left, the kayak-laden cars have loaded onto the ferries and won’t be back in numbers for many months. Pender is ours again!
We will listen to Autumn, invite that early visitor inside and make it welcome in our homes. And light the fires, and bring out the sweaters
Really, it’s a time to celebrate! We extend our welcome to the new visitor. Come inside, friend, and accept this glass of apple cider, these slices of Pender Island apples!
You could call Pender an island of apple trees! They’re everywhere! Thanks to some early pioneers, who brought their favourite apple trees from abroad. The Gravenstein, the noble King, the Cox’s Orange Pippin, and the Golden Russets and Galas.
It has been a pleasure, these past few weeks, driving around Pender seeing the trees loaded with fruit. We’ve picked up armfuls of wind-fallen apples or bought brown bags of them at the farm stands. Some of them, we don’t even know the names of. We just recognize the tartness and the right amount of sweetness for baking.
And we have sliced them thin, dried them in the oven and loaded the sweetened pieces into Pender Island Apple Bread! And we offer it to our customers as this week’s Baker’s Choice!
Pender Island Bread!
Pender Island Apple Bread is like a raisin bread. The nuggets of golden flavour scattered throughout the sourdough crumb, like raisins, are apple bits instead. Bits of sweet Pender apples.
The bread is also a celebration of our very own Twin Islands Cider, the community-centred cidery just off Razor Point Road. We’ve added a few bottles of their Harvest Cider, a blend of modern and heirloom apple varieties harvested from Pender, as well as Mayne and Saturna Islands.
The addition of cider to apple bread is a tradition from Normandy, in France, a region widely known for its apples and fine ciders. It adds a pleasing acidity and accentuates the apple essence in the sourdough bread.
Pender Island Apple Bread is our celebration of Pender Island and of Autumn. We think it is a worthy Autumn gift to all!
So we raise our glasses, brimming with Twin Islands Cider, in a toast to Autumn in all its glory! And we savour the taste of Pender Island Bread, locally crafted apple cider, and give thanks to the autumn bounty of our Island!