“And now comes the sweet of the year,” John Falstaff might have said, pondering the bounty of autumn to his pals in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II.
Grapes and apples are falling off the vines and trees. Their branches and clusters are groaning with weight, they need propping up from early May until ripe October.
And the “frosty asters, like a smoke upon the hill” 1 or the smouldering hues in the maple tree, the damp smells of Fall in the forest after a day of rain.
Delightful in shape and hue and colour
It’s the time of apples, globes of fruit delightful in shape and hue and colour. They hang from leafy branches, warmed all summer by the sun nourished by the rain. The apples are buffeted by winds, lulled by moon-glow, neighboured by nests of robins or ruby-throated hummingbirds.
And now they present themselves, their flesh, bursting with sweet juices, the thump of fruit on grassy loam. In May, we could only dream of this bounty. Now, here we are with confirmation that the harvest of apples is one dream that comes true.
Talk to our own Twin Island Cider friends here on Pender, who work so hard year-round for the apple harvest. But it also happens in the most abandoned orchards, where we see that the apple harvest is even better than we deserve.
The work those Twin Islands people do! Scrambling up trees, their long “two-pointed ladders” sticking through trees, “toward heaven still.” Reaching, risking, balancing, lifting! And their result is cases of bottles brimming with cider that tastes exactly of summer, memories now, forever preserved.
For I have had too much Of apple-picking: I am overtired Of the great harvest I myself desired. There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let Fall.
The work is never done! We feel the imperative to fill every bin, pull every apple-treasure off the tree …
Essence of winter sleep is on the night, The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
Essence of winter sleep
Is this not how we feel when confronted with the cooler temperatures of Fall after the heat and exertions of summer, the approach of winter soon to follow? The hibernation imperative? The desire to let go of the harvest as we near the end. To curl under blankets, instead, to sleep, the evening feasts of roast potatoes, parsnips, apple crisps and betties, red wines? Slow, slow, slower and sleep.
But unlike Robert Frost, I can’t rest until I’ve filled breads with Pender Island’s great harvest. Such as the regal Kings, the noble Golden Russets, the aromatic Cox Pippins with striking orange-red colouring. Whatever apples I can find, I’m still looking.
Pender Island’s great harvest
This week, it will be Liberty apples from Black Rabbit Farms off Pirates Road, blended into a loaf of earthy rye bread. Maybe some later Happy Monk loaf will be joined by Golden Russets or Northern Spies or Oaken Pins. And, together, they’ll toast the season with a beaker of Twin Island Cider — a rustic monument to Pender Island apples and autumn
I visited Black Rabbit Farms today and spoke with Andy Nowak. He and his partner Mary Rehrer, have cultivated a beautiful suite of apple trees.
They’re alongside rows of carrots and sunflowers, tomatoes, herbs and flowers of all kinds. We carried boxes of Liberty apples down from the shed and piled them into the trunk of our car.
The apple trees were on hiatus this year, said Andy. Not quite as productive as past years. But the Liberties were as abundant as ever, and he was pleased to part with a good portion of them to the Happy Monk Baking Company.
The rich autumn smells
We stood and chatted in the orchard, taking in the rich autumn smells, the yellowing light of afternoon. Andy told stories about the orchard, how he and Mary chose the trees. They have their favourites and few that haven’t worked out so well. A Turkey Vulture drifted overhead. A Barred Owl settled on a branch across the road.
Woodpeckers and flickers are rude intruders who land on branches and peck deep holes into the apples. We didn’t see any this afternoon, however.
The sky was bright and blue, the air was pleasant and cool. It was a perfect autumn day on Pender Island — the season of apples!
Cinnamon-Raisin bread, an enduring Happy Monk favourite. And here’s proof of Mildrith’s (the wood-fired oven) recent health check, as she just baked 41 loaves of this (and another 40 of Seed Feast) with lots of heat left to spare. Long live Mildrith and long live Cinnamon-Raisin bread!
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It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly....
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