After an 11-hour drive from our home town, we arrived in Maine at 1 a.m. last week on a Monday morning. We startled a huge deer in our driveway that looked like it was coming from the apple orchard I planted this Spring. “Oh, no!” I thought, imagining the orchard’s decimation at the muzzle of a voracious deer. I certainly couldn’t do a thing about it at that hour of the morning in the pitch darkness. We quickly unpacked our overloaded car and collapsed into bed for a few hours’ sleep until sunrise.
Early that morning I was pleasantly surprised to see that the homemade deer fence I had designed and constructed had worked, and the apple trees were not only not worse for the wear, they were growing vigorously and untouched by the deer. After I purveyed my property, I walked over to my neighbor’s cabin. He had planted 50 apple saplings the year before me but failed to remove the beech, oak and maple stumps when he cleared the land. Not only had those trees reestablished themselves, they had overtaken many of the apple trees. Additionally, he neglected to stake the apple saplings’ spindly trunks, and many had been irreparably damaged due to high winds. Finally, he had chosen not to fence in the orchard – – and signs of moose and deer were apparent everywhere. Those creatures had done a very extensive job of pruning his trees. Only about 15 healthy trees of his original 50 remained.
During the week I decided to take advantage of the many nearby farms that were selling produce from the Fall harvest. The first day I traveled west 6 miles to the New Hampshire border, but there was nothing to be had. Their crops had been flooded during Hurricane Irene and ruined. The next day I traveled 10 miles in the other direction on the Maine side, which had been spared the effects of Irene. I bought a bushel of Delicata squash, which is the sweetest, most wonderful squash you can ever hope to eat (even more tender and sweet than butternut squash), some kale and rainbow-, red-, and Swiss chard, pie pumpkins (a smaller variety that is great for baking and cooking), and many bushels of apples from two different orchards.
At Pie Tree Orchards, I bought Cortland “utility” apples, which are slightly less than perfect, but are great for pies and sauce. I also bought a peck of Macoun, which is a local Maine favorite and a great eating apple; a bushel of organic Northern Spy and a bushel of organic Macintosh. At Five Fields Farm, I was lucky to score some “drops.” These are apples that dropped off the tree before they could be hand-picked. These are a grade below “utility” apples and usually they are bruised or have soft spots, but for some reason this year’s crop was nearly perfect and many had no faults whatsoever. I selected 4 bagfuls which came to 70 lbs of apples, for only $21 – – they were selling for only $.30 a pound! The owner told me that local Mennonites, who have large families, buy the drops due to their attractive price and I was lucky that there were still some available as they had visited Five Fields Farm only the previous day. (Five Fields Farm was the site of last January’s Musher’s Bowl, where we watched dog sled races in 6 degree weather!)
You are probably wondering what I could possibly do with 150+ lbs of apples from two different orchards. Recently I bought a Breville juicer from Bed Bath and Beyond, and I’m having lots of fun making juices from apples, carrots, and all sorts of root and leafy vegetables. The owner of Five Fields Farm answered my question, “What is the difference in the way cider and apple juice are made?” Cider is made by crushing and extracting the juice from the entire apple, including the skin and core, which gives it its darker color and richer flavor. With apple juice, the apples are peeled and cored, and usually filtered, so the final product is lighter and less opaque than cider. The Breville juicer allows me to make cider, and *wow* is it delicious, especially when drunk moments after juicing. I will never go back to store-bought apple juice again!
This past Shabbos we had some lovely guests from Portland, Maine. We weren’t sure how long past Shabbat they’d end up staying, since weather reports indicated a major winter storm was headed our way, and the man who plows our driveway had recently suffered a grievous injury. Despite a prediction of 14″ of snow, we got only 3″ on Saturday night, so our guests left on Sunday, on schedule. That said, it was quite unusual to get 3″ of snow in October, even in Maine. Today I had fun taking pictures around our property and across the street at the bog/pond. Typically the autumn leaves are long gone off the trees before the first snowfall, and the combination of gold leaves against the snow was quite a pretty and unusual sight.