The Best Apple Pie in the World: a Very Slow Recipe

Here’s how to bake the best apple pie ever.

1. Go for a drive on the far side of the lake towards Fintry. Be curious. Stop.

First Growth Apple Orchard Gone to Roses and Elders…

and mud. Don’t forget the mud. This is Ewing in early October 2012.

2. Wander around. Taste a few seedling apples growing here and there. Let the rain run down your neck. Find this:

Apples Just Out of Reach

I jumped up and down. I worked my fingers along the branches, and eventually I got a taste. It tasted like … a bottle of apple cider in my hand. You know, the kind of stuff made by people who chisel a hole out of the mountain and keep it there in the dark and check on it once in awhile when the snow blows.

3. Dream. Remember this:

Cider Tree Smelling So Sweet

Darling of the Sun, Taste of the Earth, Beloved of the Sky, Elixir of… well, you get the idea.

4. Go back mid-March to get some grafting wood. Find this:

Bear Attack!

Black bears like apple cider, too. Good to know! Our brothers and sisters have taste and class, because this one left the other trees alone. So did I. Bah. But I think the bear who did this might do well to learn to climb a ladder.

5. Dream some more.


6. Graft it at home.


Spring, 2013. The Fintry Apple Grafted onto a Transparent.

Note: the transparents from those blossoms were great.

7. Grow a tree. Tend it carefully. Bend the branches down and tip the ends to encourage early fruiting. Dream.

8. It grows, winter comes, you wait. You dream of apple cider.

9. Spring comes, with blossoms. You get a couple dozen apples. Amazing! Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

10. Finally, it’s late September, 2014, you pick an apple, and … it tastes exquisite, but it’s way too soft for cider. It’s an old, soft variety, not a juice-laden marvel.

11. Make apple sauce. Aha! It’s just as good as Transparent apple sauce, which is high praise indeed.

12. Make an apple pie for friends. (Shortening, flour, salt, water, apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, you know the drill. Easy does it.) It’s tart, it’s rich, it’s sweet, it’s really grand. Everyone is pleased. If we want a processing industry, and the best apple pie in the world, this is our baby.

P1500847Welcome, Fintry!

These darlings are about 2 inches in diameter, and oh-so-fine.

So far, four people and one bear have enjoyed the Fintry apple. Oh my, that just won’t do.


Putting a Face to Nature

This is not nature.


It is a shrub. This is not nature.

P1500096 It is another shrub. This is not nature.


You got it. Another shrub. This is not nature.P1500160It’s grass. This is not nature:

It’s choke cherries at the end of the season. Yeah. Another shrub. This is not nature.P1500653It’s wire weed, reclaiming a road shoulder, with a beautiful disrespect for gravity. What then is nature? It’s a human concept. These things aren’t. But, you see, there’s a trick here. Look again. This is human.

P1500105This is human.

P1500096 This is human.

P1500083 This is human, too.

cc And this. It’s you.



Yes, you. And even this.


By nature, a specific kind of human attention must be meant. Otherwise the term is just no use at all. Unless, of course, you believe that you are not of this planet. If that’s the case, then you can use it. If you do, however, this is not human…

P1500105 This is not human…P1500096 Nor this… P1500083 Nope, not this, either…,cc… nor this…P1500653

… but this is, perhaps…


Grassland Artifice

This grass was humanly sown to stabilize a slope after road construction. It has replaced a rich, living landscape with a single species.

This is how profit is drawn from the earth and turned into human economies. The life of a thousand species is concentrated down to one (humans). How could it be otherwise. It’s the mirror of human economic organization under the current world economic model. All discussions of the earth are ethical discussions.


Rain is Fun!

After three weeks of hot, hot weather, stretching the summer deep into the fall, gloriously, rain! Here are the first drops…P1490976 It’s like the moon!

P1490977 Why not. The moon came from here.


And the scent that the rain and earth give to the air on impact!P1490988 Oh my! There’s just nothing like it.

P1490989 It’s like Proust and his madelaines, it is.P1490990 Now, here’s a cool effect: a tiny drop hits a rock and expands. I mean, really expands!P1490995 Oh, a bigger view (yes, I’m getting wet and hiding my camera under my shirt in between snaps)… P1500016 Neat, huh. Pshaw, that’s nothing. Look closely:P1500034Look how the earth just embraces that water, eh! That’s the way things are done on this planet. And from the other direction, so see how the light handles it:P1500033It handles it well! And pulling back again (because we can)…P1500022 Ah, we could delight in this moment all day, but it’s just that, you know, a moment. It passes. You have to enjoy it when it comes.P1500039 What a party it is!



Whoo-hooo! That moment billions of years ago when the comets first struck the hot earth, well, it lives on! How cool is that!

Light and Shadow in the Grass

I promised I would show you some images of a tension I’ve noticed in Western culture. It’s a living tension, that comes in variable forms. First…


 Shadows of Grass on Stone

… and second …


Lit Grass Within Shadow

… and a third variation of the same effect …

P1500604Light Glowing Within Shadow and Outside of It

… and a fourth …


Leaf Shading a Leaf

We could go on all day playing with such interwoven images of light and dark. That they are easily viewed as light and shadow is cultural, however. They could as easily be named as two separate forms of light, the light, for example, on the brighter cottonwood leaves below, and the dark on the others …


… but, really, they are all lit. There is a kind of light cast by the mind (call it naming, if you like), which consolidates understandings of energy by mapping out their recurrence. You can use it, for example, to map the same patterns as seen above in the image below…


Light and Shade in a Chinese Elm

You could go on to map the variations in this pattern in many different plants, and then make classifications of the effect. If you follow this path long enough, you can see the same pattern, extended across a season, and even across maps of evolutionary time, here…


 Fall Garden

That is largely the science of nomenclature, but it’s also the basic way in which culture operates in the West: it consolidates discoveries by mapping out all possible instances of their recurrence in the world. Heck, you can even find it here…


Red Dogwood’s Time Map

But, of course, if we’re going that far, we’re into the territory of naming as a power of extending patterns. That’s a second kind of naming. Here’s a big leap within it from light to hormonal patterns laid down by light.



Chinese Elm Sapling

On the one hand, there is a leap of understanding here, that the chemical map of the plant is the same as its interaction with light. On the other hand, the intellectual tools for mapping that effect were laid down long ago in different contexts. To view it here is to classify their existence in a new instance. There is no gap between these two forms of naming. They lie on a continuum. A further extension of the energy of naming as extension …

P1500206 … is found in the grasses that evolved to harvest this energy of extension. Each blade is a shadow of carbon in the light, and yet each blade dying in the fall holds a little more light than strikes it in any moment…P1500172

… in a complex pattern determined by the interaction of each blade and stalk with each other one around it, in a pattern continually transformed by the wind. The form of naming I mean here is the one that can see this pattern and add it to the realm of knowledge, so that it can be extended by the other, classifying energy. The two work together, like shade and light. When they don’t work together, effects like the wind-blown patterns of rain-weighted grass below (without the weight of rain, the wind would not have laid it down in its own shape, or at all) are seen as random.


They aren’t. They are a measure of grass health, sun, nutrients, rain and wind. In the grassland, such effects make the difference between productivity and drought. In other words, they make the difference between the continued survival of species in this landscape, including but by no means limited to humans. The tension between these two forms of naming powers Western culture, and it is through it that all who live within that culture view the physical world. In fact, this tension is the physical world, for people in this particular culture. This, for example, is an image of the tension between these two forces.


That these are late-season wild cherries is a part of the classification energy. That the fruits are laid down as concentrations of darkness is a part of the power of extension. Anyone who might suggest that these two energies are separate is likely to think that the world they see is not an image of their culture. It is dangerous to think like that too often.

Oh, Grass, My Beautiful One!

Grasses are the children of a warming earth, and this is their season. I’ve been talking of science lately, but a science based in poetry and in ancient earth knowledge, so I thought today, walking out in the grass, hey, why not show you the magic of the grass? Have a look!

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Beauty: Measuring Device

Autumn is upon us. A time of fruitfulness.flybigLook closer.


What a beautiful one! It’s fair to say that what I, a human, observe as beauty is not necessarily aesthetic, yet is attractive, in the sense that it completes patterns and completes me as an observer. The ways in which it does so, through colour, shape, form or just presence, are gifted by Western culture to art. Don’t be fooled by that. Art and science are not distinct pursuits.



The human body is a measuring device. What does it measure? Why, that other thing that has been excluded from science: spirit. There is no way to define spirit. That’s kind of the point. Nonetheless, it can be measured, through artfulness and the aesthetic sense of humans, birds, insects, fish and much more.

P1500085Perfection is not required. In fact, perfection gets in the way.



Beauty and Science

Science is a cultural product, no less so than this:



Canadian Garden Decoration, Orchard Hill

Not only has the lion lain down with the lamb but it looks like one, too!

That it is taken to be an expression of a thing called “reality” is as much a cultural product as this:


Sometimes, this cultural reality looks like this:

P1490963Young Ponderosa Pine, Suffering. Bella Vista

In this case, it is called beauty, or at least “nature”, if it is expressed in a category called “Art” and “drought” (and “nature” too) if expressed in the cultural category called “science”. So it is, and so it will remain until the gap between these categories and experience becomes so great that people can’t bear the strain any longer. If you have been following me in this blog, I think you know that I am suggesting that this time is now.


The Strain (Apple Harvest), Bella Vista

Workers from the Caribbean are doing this work in Canada because Canadians…well, they don’t want to. When I was young, I looked at work like this as the pinnacle of human activities. I talked to the workers here. They look at it as better than sitting at home on the couch.

Over the last few days, I have been talking about phenomenological science, or the science of experience, the science in which the things of the earth are expressed in the language of the earth, and I promised to show you what has been done so far to make practical things out of this science. Here’s one. See these choke cherries, before their blossoms have opened in the spring?
p1180329Very green, huh! Well, take a look at them four months later!


See how the green has transform itself into concentrations of red. Those are fruitfulness. They are attractive, in the way magnets are. Now, take a look two months later yet (this evening, just before dark, in the rain)…

P1490984Now the green leaves are red, and the power of attraction attributed to the fruit has concentrated in the leaves. This is the science of the emotional effects of colour on humans. It has been well studied. Goethe’s studies of these effects led as well to the entire science of colour, and all of its artistic, health and industrial applications. This vast industry was created not because of Newtonian science and its ability to split light but because of a more poetic form of science, which used the observations of poetry to suggest completely alternate uses for colour, which traditional science, or at least the technologies rising from its methods, exploited. That is part of our inheritance. Now, take a look at this:


Asparagus, Bella Vista

The patterns of redness tell a story. Reading it accurately can lead to new applications. Traditional science would do a good job of this. It would observe the variation in the plant’s ripeness, and the contrast between the variably reddening fruits and the variably yellowing ferns, and would set up a series of tests to determine what is causing the variability. Phenomenological science would not rush into that procedure, but would spend more time observing the patterning, and would relate it to the other patterns of the plant. Different observers will make differing observations. Mine might be to see these effects as part of a story of water, which included the other plants surrounding this one, and the set up of a series of observations to explore the relationships inherent in that. Other observers would, no doubt, come up with other points, but they would all extend the boundaries of scientific exploration and understanding, and give it new material to work with, rather than merely the working out of already known patterns. Throughout history, these two tensions, the drive for codification and the drive for extension, have been in continually regenerating dynamic relationships. Tomorrow, I will show you some of those.



Gaia and Gravity

These rowan berries are catching the light from the air.P1490627These spider webs are using a similar plant framework to catch other particles moving on the air. Flies, moths, and so on.P1490701

You could say that with their webs they are creating artificial gravity. It can be quite complex.


These cottonwood catkins are harvesting pollen from the air. They are using gravity as part of the process.


You could say they are using gravity to harvest the air. The apple tree below is a creature of gravity. It uses gravity to transform vertical branches into productive horizontal ones, and to deliver its fruits to the ground.

P1490729Its fruits are creatures of the earth, born in the air. The tree is a creature of the air, anchored to earth. Gravity is also expressed through these cottonwood leaves, even in their colour, even in their twigs.

P1490177Can all this be explained by genetics? Yes. Can it all be portrayed equally as gravity? Yes. There are many examples of how to live within gravity and how to harvest it. Weightlessness is not the point.