Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Apple Lion

What a crummy year for tomatoes! This summer of 2015 has granted cool nights and drenching days: fabulous for flowers of begonias, not so conducive for blooms on tomatoes.  I bring in the harvest one handful at a time...enough to decorate either three BLTs or two iceberg wedge salads. I am disheartened when my photos from Septembers past feature buckets of juicy fruits, gold and striped, pink and scarlet.  There they are: in the garden, arrayed on the picnic table to ripen, on the countertop cored and cleaned ready to be cooked, and steaming out of the canner...meals for the cold season, just add beans or pasta. 

Well, that was then and this is now.  Thankfully, the Lord doth provide: 
9Out of the ground the LORD God
 caused to grow 
every tree that is pleasing to the sight
 and good for food; (Genesis 2:9).  
Ben with apple, circa 1987

Josh helps himself, circa 2011
If there be not tomatoes, or peppers, or other garden bounty as the calendar turns to September, we look to the trees.... where there will be apples. They may not be beautiful; they may not be bountiful.  But apples will be there for the picking....
We are apple people. I was raised on the Stark Brothers fruit tree catalog.  My grandfather tended his adopted orchard with diligence and brought fruit for tart sauce and fruit for sweet pies to my Granny; we kids pounded the tether ball he planted in the center of the orchard for our entertainment and assumed the long low hanging limbs were welcome mats to literal tree houses. 
My folks planted fruit trees on the terraced field south of their farm house.  The trees benefited from drip lines during dry spells and the careful cultivation and pruning of these meticulous growers.
 Visitors to the farm were treated to boxes of apples that exemplified the breed; regular customers called to see when their favorites would be ripe.  The litany of  Missouri apples and their place in the great march from summer to frost are markers in our family calendar: the great green Lodis, sour and saucy;  the lovely spreading Earliblaze, not much for keeping, but tart and almost crisp out of hand, first summer apple to pick and eat before they carpeted the ground. Rosy honey sweet Galas, moody and susceptible to all nature of disease, but as pretty as a blushing peach. Little Jonathans for pie. Beautiful big red and green Mackintosh for the tastiest, fruitiest, chunky applesauce.  
( A mere zephyr would drop a Mackintosh; after one fell came an avalanche.)  Ozark Golds, so versatile, perfect for lunches those first days of school and not half bad keepers for a hot weather summer apple.  Then, as the days shortened, it would be time for the All Stars of Missouri apples: the Golden Delicious, green and gold and juicy and crisp.

Lastly, the Blushing Goldens would be nestled carefully in boxes lined with newspaper and carried down into the fruit cellar to keep and use all winter.  At Christmas time, my father would fetch a box of Blushing Goldens for us to take home, their barely wrinkled skins giving notice to the concentrated sweetness underneath.  Blushing Goldens: without them, no Apple Breads for treats in January and February!

Lee and Ann and Ben learned proper apple picking etiquette: to use two hands to pick so the fruiting spur would not be damaged and to set, never drop, the apples in the basket or box. The kids were always eager to help if it meant a ride back to the shed in the wagon behind the four wheeler.  Grandpa always told them to stay in the mowed path or the Apple Lion might get them.....
I don't remember the origin of the Apple Lion; perhaps he was related to the BarkaBoos that we humans couldn't sense  but that would get the dogs all riled up.  Ann thought the Apple Lion looked like Aslan from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I assumed he was a merry prankster....kind of like his creator...with the enthusiasm and bright button eyes of Tigger in Winnie-the-Pooh.  Either way, the Apple Lion proved to be elusive and invisible, as such mythical creatures can be; he was a scapegoat for all kinds of unexplained phenomena, but served to keep the kids on the mowed paths and out of the reach of ticks and other unfriendlies.....
Like an up to date version of Johnny Appleseed, my folks brought me twenty little apple trees to civilize our homestead not long after we moved to the farm.
 Over the next few years, they came up to visit us early in the spring...and to give the apple trees a professional pruning and good start in life.  These same trees are well past middle age, apple tree wise, and have fallen prey to ice and drought, disease and wind, but we still fill boxes and bushels,  flower pots and ice cream buckets with our favorite fall fruit and have enough to share with friends and family and the resident bee hives. 

 Apple bread for breakfast?  Of course!  Apple pie a' la mode?  Why not?  A Dutch apple pancake some chilly evening?  Can't wait.....

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