Enjoying an E. B. White Essay Beneath an Apple Tree

Nothing says New England like the soft glow of apples, shining in the sun, the fascinating texture of tree trunks and branches, the spell that infuses the understory of an orchard. I’m missing my jaunts to the Northeast, but reading the works of authors whose words capture the classic spirit of the area sustain me.

Several years ago I received a book of E. B. White essays as a gift at Christmas. I haven’t had a chance to read them all, but it is fun to save them as a treat on days when I’m feeling down.

Although the essay I read on a recent afternoon was a lament for the disappearance of sleeper cars and passenger trains, it was heartening to hear the author’s echo from the past, of a mode of transportation I knew still existed, but I never experienced, in my early years. It sparked thoughts of things passed, that I myself mourn today.

Simple things, like neatly packed grocery bags pushed to our cars by polite bag boys or girls, people who pumped our gas and performed on-the-fly fixes; telephone operators who would assist us for free, no matter what type of problem we were experiencing.

Dial telephones without answering machines could actually be more efficient than smartphones. When I was a kid, we all felt secure in the fact someone would help us if we suffered a serious problem, without a long wait, though we weren’t connected 24/7.

Now we supposedly have unlimited access for our every need or desire, if we have a smartphone, but we must push buttons and wait for many minutes before we can reach a human voice. Everything is about company profits, not convenience as marketing propaganda would have us believe.

If E. B. White were alive today, he would certainly have material for essays memorializing conveniences that have been lost due to the need for company profits, as was the difficulty with passenger railways in less populated areas, once interstate highways were created.

Signs of Change – Cirrus and Browning Cornstalks

Invited or not, autumn is on its way. Cornstalks are drying up and leaves will be doing so soon. Cirrus in the sky signal coming weather changes.

picture of open field, drying cornstalks, trees, grass
There is nothing like a walk in an open field in autumn. Changes will come soon, but for now we savor each fair day.

A Lovely Little Late Season Bouquet

I didn’t grow many flowers this year, but here’s a cute though mismatched little bouqet I selected from my meager offerings. A few geraniums and lobelia are blooming in addition to this verbena, zinnia, and nasturtium arrangement.

Its not quantity, but quality that counts in many aspects of life. We just need eyes to appreciate beauty in whatever size or form it takes.

Childhood Memories: The Story of Chicken Little and the Apple

Recently, prompted by a need for nostalgia – the simplicity and comfort of earlier days, I dug my children’s books out of the closet.

One of my favorites was always the story of Chicken Little – and his mission – running to tell the King that the sky was falling, until at last the wise old owl told him it wasn’t the sky at all that fell, only a small apple.

I’m not sure why I enjoy the story so much, perhaps it makes me consider that I often panick at danger which isn’t nearly as threatening as it at first appears. Anyway, when I went for a walk and spotted this apple, I was once again reminded of the tale.

Autumn Gold from Alliance, Ohio

This Autumn Gold pattern china brought back memories when I spotted it a few weeks ago.

When I was little, we received some pieces as customer gifts from a local gas station. Several plates and bowls. My mom served my meals on one of the little plates.

I especially like the lovely cream and gold wheat patterned sugar and creamers and coffee cups. We didn’t have those.

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I never realized these dishes were made in Alliance, Ohio.

Apples and Autumn

No other fruit says autumn like apples, unless perhaps it’s the pumpkin. But apples are more versatile, combining well in so many sorts of dishes, blending easily with other, stronger flavors.

This year’s Yankee Magazine, and a page I saved from last year’s Vermont Country Store focused upon this traditional fruit. A walk in my own front yard triggered more memories.

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This Vermont Country Store article states there are over 7,500 apple varieties in the world, more than 2,500 in New England, alone. Every apple variety has its own special purpose. Some are best for sauces, others for pie, some are crisp, yet tender and flavorful, excellent for eating raw right off the tree.

Old time farmers were specialists in apple cultivation and culinary applications. Grafting is a procedure which can create a tree bearing several varieties of fruit. In addition to each home’s creation of sauce, pie, and other dishes, apple butter parties were thrown by neighbors. And someone local always had a cider press.

The article by Gardner Orton, one of The Vermont Country Store’s proprietors, mentions that there are now “apple hunters”- cider makers who comb the woods and fields for old abandoned farms, in search of unique apple varieties to flavor their product like special grape varieties are used to make signature wines. It’s great that the old varieties are being preserved.

My own personal favorite apple is the Northern Spy. But I’ve not found any in later years as huge, crisp, tart, and tasty as the ones a friend brought us from Michigan when I was a child. Empire is another favorite which can usually be had locally and is somewhat similar.

Apple is the easiest type of pie to make. I used to bake many each autumn, then switched to the easier to construct, though impressive in looks, galette.

Unfortunately, now that I’m writing regularly in addition to my other professional positions, I haven’t had much time to bake or even to make spiced applesauce which really isn’t difficult except for the peeling part.

I seem to be enjoying apples as an art form these days, reading about them in magazines, snapping photos of the ones that grow on my lawn. They have a good flavor, but it’s very labor intensive to cut the bad spots from them and salvage the white flesh. We don’t spray or treat them, so they’re a bit wormy and very petite.

We haven’t trimmed the tree in awhile, either, but don’t they look lovely, suspended in the autumn air on graceful drooping branches?

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Though this tree is in need of shaping to encourage proper production, I love the way the apples look, suspended in mid-air on dark wooden stems.

Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty – Awaits Vintage Lovers

Usually associated with autumn harvest, I recall a horn of plenty being the logo of a local supermarket when I was growing up.

I first learned about this symbolic uniquely shaped basket from my first grade teacher. Even as a child, I was a lover of tradition and relics from the past that carry meanings which are timeless.