“Let me think…I wonder if an anvil will drop like an apple?”
– said to be the last words of Sir Isaac Newton, 1727
By JACKIE MOAD
Fall, as in autumn or, from grace? Or, without dignity or grace as, in the past when Laurie would sneakily trip me and then uproariously laugh, I would Fall and sometimes into mud. And more recently Fall has taken on the form, and relentless immediacy, that is the torrential Fall of apples from my heavenly-laden trees.
Ever so slowly, the good with the bad, the yin with the yang, the up with the down, the rise with the Fall — I learn. Case in point: apples. Was it an excellent idea, an opportunity we could not pass up, to buy, at a ridiculously low price, 100 young apple trees several years ago? Some days, yes, a good thing. In Sahara-like droughts of this summer however not so much.
Hose in hand, scrambling hither and thither to deliver a drop or two of blue gold, we at least managed to keep most of the wee spindly, trembling trunks alive through July’s heat spell. Then in August did the fruits of our labour appear — bountiful and oh, so early!
The motherlode of apples growing, growing … and gone where the deer got through the fence. Curiously however the pear tree, where the monster hornet’s nest appeared, remains to be nibbled … and the fruit will remain untouched until my handsome knight dons armour and prepares to do battle with the wee flying beasties. But that’s a farm dance for another beautiful day.
For now, September, clearly half of the fruit, about 400 pounds, has already dropped to the ground, a month early, tempting tiny little bees and huge honking waspies and all varieties of stinging, biting nasties, not to mention my six dog-hungry, I’ll-eat-anything fruitarian collies. Bad, bad, bad.
Misadventure’s elf, seemingly always upon my shoulder, likes to test my mettle at the absolute worst moment, biding time until an audience can be found, one who might never forget the moment and be able to remind me of my “grace.” Such was my early Fall.
There I was in the lush and plush of the orchard, groaning and laden with beatific, rosy aromatic fruit of the earth, a garden of Eden to mine eyes. Feeling quite Eve-ish, Laurie close by, I knelt down and from under the heavy bough didst pluck at the biggest reddest beauty from the most lovely, stately and transcendental tree of the garden.
Then wham, on the ground, without warning, the stars twinkled about me and a faint chorus of harped angels singing sweetly gradually evolved into the harsh chortle and devilish laughter of he who should be named. A ringing in my ears, my eye aflame where the five-pounder Mac had scored a direct hit, dazed and confused and not at all amused, I faintly heard my Adam ask, “Are you okay?” Funny how, even if one is not actually looking at the person, one can always tell when silly questions are accompanied by ear-to-ear grinning. Note to self #1: Don’t look up when picking apples from under your tree!
Isaac Newton’s profound revelations after being dinged with an apple were no less profound than my theory of relativity as I looked at my betrothed, and thought of that promise, “’till death do us part.” Note to self #2: Don’t throw bruised apples at grinning buffoons!
So I hoisted my britches and took a one-eyed look around: a wheelbarrow half full (or half empty depending on your bent) and my personal paradise with all the apples I might want and more.
Fall’s harvest before the Fall, I thought to myself, “What in heaven am I doing here? And what the he … am I going to do with all these apples?”
Apple sauce, dehydrated apples, stewed apples, baked apples, apple crumble and apple leather all came to mind. Then the thick Scots brogue of my sweet mother-in-law broke through the clouds, and for some strange reason the taste of her shortbread tickled my taste buds and brought me back to my senses. Apple pie! I could so clearly hear her, lovingly berating her wee Laurie, “Och Aye, ye wee scunner, git yer theivin’ hands off they fresh baked sweets.”
Eureka: Och Aye Apple Pie was born! Or, in my present twisted state, maybe Och Eye Apple Pie was more apt for this Isaac moment.
With much haste I wheeled the creaky, squeaky barrow past the grinning wee scunner and to our kitchen door. Mom’s handwritten ancient Scots shortbread recipe, forever stained and buttered, would be the basis of my new culinary delight! And my nursing buddies, the next day at work, my guinea pigs. Et voila, or och aye! A new (old) apple pie was born. And here’s the recipe for all to enjoy — the apple-in-your-eye: a completely discretionary prebaking ritual, depending on yer bent!
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup fruit sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
Mix all dry items together, melt butter in microwave and mix into dry ingredients. Put in a pie plate and mush down, forming the bottom and sides. Bake in oven 250°F for 15 minutes.
4 cups of 1 inch cut windfall apples — core and cut out bruises and the odd hornet-nibble bits, but leave the skin on.
Mix in two to three tablespoons of flour and empty into pie plate after ‘pastry’ baked.
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup granola
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
Mix together and put on the top of your pie. Bake at 300°F for 45 minutes. Serve alone or with ice cream (a la Moad?), whipping cream, and wash down with possibly a wee dram of drambuie!
Jackie Moad and Laurie Gourlay farm 20 acres organically, pick and eat a lot of apples and make a lot of pies, while seeking local solutions to global challenges, of course.