In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking at apples

We have over forty apple trees and they are very old.  We think William Perry planted them in the late nineteenth century.  We are slowly identifying the trees and learning about apple characteristics in the process.  We have old heritage varieties such as Golden Russet, Alexander, Ashmead's Kernel, Cox's Orange Pippin, Bishop's Pippin and Gravenstein.  Some varieties we know are of a general type, such as Greening or Newtown Pippin or some of the early golden varieties like August Apple, a local name.  My favorite apple name is Transcendent Crab.  If you have to be a crabapple you might as well be transcendent.  We took pictures of each variety and began to build an apple library, so we can add to our knowledge about each kind as we go along.   

One of the great lessons of the island is that the more closely you observe something the more beautiful it becomes.  Most of these apples would not fare well in a market.  They are small and oddly shaped and their colors are subtle rather than bright. But the more I looked at their peculiarities -- their russeting, blush, streaking, the little pin point dots called lenticels which can be so many different colors themselves -- the more I recognized their beauty.  And the differences in taste are just amazing.  

Greg climbed up into the trees and picked most of the harvest, brave soul.  We put all the apples in big old wooden crates, and borrowed more from Skipper.  Then we washed them thoroughly and fed them into the hopper of the new cider press.  

After the chopped-up apples are pressed into juice, there's a mash left over, which we dumped in the yard for the sheep and deer.  We have a picture of the sheep gathered around the mash at the end of one day.  They must have thought they'd gone to heaven since they didn't even need to chew, something they can't do very well.