My grandparents’ house had four small apple trees running along its northeast side, each one larger than the next, and in the branches and on the ground underneath, was a world so complex and miraculous that it could engage the imagination of an 8 year old boy for hours.
The bees would flit on the ground hoping to find a fallen apple, bruised and weeping nectar. The birds would fly among the branches and when a spot of perfect ruby redness caught their eye, pause for a minute and take a taste. Who could resist? Tent caterpillars, perhaps some of nature’s most amazing architects, would spin elaborate gauzy civilizations in the nooks and crannies of the branches forever making me wonder what it must feel like to live inside a cloud.
Of course, I was never one to resist temptation, and at least once every fall would eat so many apples, that I would make myself sick. So much for keeping the doctor away.
My grandfather, always the disciplinarian, forbid me to climb those trees. But what did he know anyway? The tops of the trees called for me. There were whole other worlds up in the farthest reaches. Hidden worlds. Worlds never seen by any eight year old explorer.
So one day, while he was taken a nap after lunch, up I went. I was a rather cavalier tree climber. My small feet easily found crevices to propel me upward, and the branches of the young trees were perfectly sized for the tight-fisted grasp of my small hands. When I bent my neck back and looked up, the sun sparkled through the leaves like dazzling white and green sequins, and who wouldn’t want to sit amidst that?! No one, that’s who.
But as I’ve learned in my later years, all siren calls end with a disastrous note, and half way up the tree, this particular note sounded like “snap”. If going up had seemed easy, coming down was more so. I landed on the ground, flat on my back, one shoe left dangling in the tree. I could feel every ounce of breath exit from my lungs, and I lay there stunned, too paralyzed to cry or even breath.
Now, if anyone has ever had the wind knocked out of them, they know that it’s as close to a near death experience as one would ever want to have My grandfather, summoned by my tattle-tale sister, somehow knew that the equivalent to CPR was shaking and yelling, and as soon as I managed to inhale deeply, the tears followed. A quick full body survey revealed no broken bones and just a few minor scrapes which were promptly coated with something called Campho-Phenique (I literally bathed in the stuff during the summers)
Looking back, that row of apple trees taught me quite a bit about life. Finite worlds can be really quite large. Redder apples may be sweeter, but a little unexpected tartness can sometimes be better. For sure, the higher you climb, the more likely you are to fall, but don’t let anyone, even wise old men, tell you that you can’t keep reaching for the branches at the top. Keep climbing and stockpile Campho-Phenique.
“TO” TRAIN REPORT: (Each week I’ll give a quick status recap of the train trip to and from The Beekman)
I took a later train tonight. It will not get be into Albany until 10:50. Riding the rails surrounded by darkness is a much more introspective experience.
The train was on time, and Josh was at the train station waiting to take me home.
The weekend turned out to be all about the apple.
We awoke early on Saturday morning to a hard frost, After a fortifying breakfast of homemade sausage and fresh eggs, we bundled up and gathered all the bushel barrels we could find and headed out to the apple trees.
This year’s Beekman apple harvest
The Beekman apples were loaded up for a trip to Sharon Orchards. We had an appointment for an 11:00 pressing.
First, the apples take a bath
They then take a trip up the elevator and into the masher
The mash is then poured into wool-lined trays
And the 19th century hydraulic press is used to bring out the cider.
30 gallons of cider should be enough to last us through the winter. Five gallons will be used to make hard cider, and another 3 will be used to make apple cider vinegar.
With the help of our brilliant friend Tony we also managed to peel, slice and freeze nine gallons of apples for use in apple pies over the winter and to can 9 quarts of applesauce (seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice, lemon zest, black pepper, rosemary and a little splash of Cointreau to keep it interesting.)
We rewarded ourselves for all of this hard work by uncorking the first vintage of Beekman Hard Cider (2007). Very little work was done after that.
See the HowToo blog for a delicious Tarte Tatin, and be on the look out for the Month of October soap inspired by tart apples, sweet applewood, and fall cleaning.
“FROM” TRAIN REPORT:
On time. For the next two weeks, the train arrives into Grand Central Station rather than Penn. We get to save $12 on taxi fare.