Apples Make Their Own Heat

Here’s my Spigold opening up last week. Note how the sun drew the leaves out quickly, but the flowers take their time, drawn out more slowly by the heat their fur traps close to their skins and the heat the red spectrum of their first show of petals gathers from the sun. What tiny worlds. What tiny energy effects!

This isn’t global warming. It’s local warming!

In the end, 500 gram apples are the result. It takes time. We have that.

Sustaining the Okanagan 10: 24 Apple Pies

We know who makes the best summer apple pies. Here she is, the summer pie maker.P1180166

She was born in Russia 220 years ago. Look how young she looks in my garden.

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Here in Vernon, she usually ripens in late July. This year, three weeks early (two weeks before my apricots). Here she is, hanging out with marigolds, tomatoes, garlic, spinach (for seed) and marjoram.

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These are amazing pie and sauce apples. We could have a massive industry here, supporting a large processing and food industry. Instead, we have sweet fall apples to compete with industrial-scale production from Washington, while the warmer contours of the food industry are left to wine: a luxury product, exuberantly priced. People want pie. Don’t you? And tart apple sauce for those pork roasts in October? Of course you do!

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The sustainable beauty of transparents is their sweet tartness, their earliness and their processing suitability: no cosmetic pesticides necessary, and a very short season for other pests. What’s more, they respond well to climate, so we could pick them continuously for a month, from the bottom of the valley to the top, using water in the cool zone, where water consuming fruits like this belong. Besides, they’re even better when grown to be picked in September, just before mountain frost. And they are a remarkably easy tree to grow, incredibly resistant to bacterial disease. Look how clean they are!

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As another bonus, there’s a variety called Lodi, which ripens five days later, and stores longer. We could further extend our production. The trick of surviving in the Okanagan is about using water cleverly. These apples which take up water in our wettest month, June, and then are done, are a good start. We could exceed the employment of the grape industry, easily, which is a darned good use of our water, too. Think transparents. Think pie. If you’re in the Canadian Okanagan, there were some at Quality Greens last week. They’re probably all gone, but you might like to check.

 

Little Green Apple Ghosts

When flowering plants came on the earth they raised their blossoms into the air, and coloured them brightly with light, so that insects, the creatures of air and light, would find them. Together, these two groups developed in potential together, yet no matter how far they have gone on this joint journey the original gesture of lifting the point of renewal into the light remains and is one of the strongest, abiding characteristics of (for example) the rose and all her daughters. Even the apples (a very robust rose) below retain the gesture of the flower as their stems swell around the growing seeds in the ovaries, fertilized by the bees that came to the flower’s light.
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Humans, too, contain these ghosts, or spirits, of the original gestures out of which we have grown, and of the environments we have grown with, which includes the world of apples, for whom all of history has been no time at all but is still opening, beautifully, into the light.

The Most Beautiful Apple of Them All

Joy! Here she is… the Benvoulin apple. Lost, and then re-found. I left this apple in 1992, when I moved north, hoping that other people would care for her, but things being the way they are in this world, she was almost lost. I got some grafts, from a hunch, from an unidentifiable old tree, with twenty years of wobbly memory to guide me. (Three months later, the tree was cut down… call it fate.)

P1520895 And after two years of hoping that I had guessed right, I tasted her again, for the first time in 20 years.

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She is still the queen. She tastes like a fine glass of riesling, and look at how white her flesh is! I promise, I won’t lose her again. Here’s the story of her discovery, from my book Tom Thomson’s Shack (2000).

WILD APPLES

I worked for Hugh one year. Late one October day after picking apples I found an apple tree in a ditch beside Benvoulin road in Kelowna. The tree was fifteen years old, rising out of a tangle of overgrown wild roses. In the brambles was a carpet of yellow windfalls. Wasps were feeding on them, clustering, golden, around puncture holes in the skins. The apples were marvelously distorted, the flesh of each one cut by five deep lines, paralleling the five sections of the ovary. Never had I tasted an apple like that! With cars swishing past me, I clambered excitedly through a break in the brambles, over a rusted barbed wire fence, and into the field behind. There were two more old trees. One was broken down, overgrown with wild plums and the long, trailing vines of wild clematis. Its apples were shrivelled red husks. The other tree stood alone, surrounded by a thorny ring of her seedling daughters. As I walked towards her, a horse looked up at the far end of the field, then started walking, then running, towards me. We reached the tree together. There were still a few apples in this tree. I picked up an old ten-foot-long prop that was lying in the grass Ñ once used to support branches heavy with fruit Ñ and knocked an apple off. Before I could get to it, the horse had bent down and was eating it. Horses are big! I kept my distance! I knocked another apple off, and another, and another. In the end, of all the apples on the tree the horse ate half and I kept the other half in my pocket. It seemed a fair trade. The horse pushed roughly against my pockets as I left the field. As I climbed over the fence, and then up onto the shoulder of the road, he whinnied softly. I walked back down the road to my car. The cars that swished by me sounded like huge animals, roaring.

That night, as the room licked golden and orange in the firelight, we sat on chairs in front of Hugh’s fire. Hugh lit his pipe with a long sliver of wood he pulled from the flames, lifting it slowly to his mouth and drawing it in. His father slit each apple open from blossom end to stem end with a planter’s knife. As we bit into the apples, six different flavours burst on the tongue, slowly, one after the other, in a slow wash bursting farther and farther back in the mouth and cresting up over the palette like spray from a wave, until the whole mouth was as tender as a blossom.

“This is a great apple!” said Hugh, after biting into one of the apples the wasps had been eating in the ditch. “Maybe it’s related to Maiden’s Blush. There used to be apples in that whole area down there in the Benvoulin. And pears. It was the best pear land on earth. Once! Pear land makes good shopping mall land, too. They brought a lot of old apples here and tried them. Everyone almost went bust at first.”

The next morning snow lay two inches deep over the ground. I drove down to Benvoulin Road, cut some grafting wood off the tree and buried it behind my cabin. The next spring the Highways Department cleared the ditch. The tree was gone. I got there just in time! I’ve kept that wet walk beside the dark road in the rain, the cars pouring past me like salmon fighting up a spawning river, driven, and the feel of the apples in my pocket: the golden apples of the Hesperides, the apple that Paris gave to Helen when the three goddesses lined up and said, “Who is the most beautiful!” and he chose.

Accidental Art

A lot of art takes place out of doors. Here, for example, is a lovely spring ritual that can colour up even the windiest day:

Springtime Apple Heave Ho

Spartans and Granny Smiths make it to the compost bin at last. 

In these spontaneously combusting art works, colour and balance bloom musically. Time is another ingredient of the palette. It shows up in the various degrees of rot and the story of one year’s dreams leading eventually back to the sioil. Time also shows up like this:

Gate, Swing Set, Abandoned Road and Deer Trail

 Note the new road cut into the hillside in the background. The gate doesn’t open. Deer go under it. Humans go over. The swing doesn’t swing.

It really does look like art is a part of this planet. Maybe what we’re doing in our galleries is a human way of being part of that.

Orchard in Bloom by  Ingrid Winkler at Kelowna’s Hambleton Galleries

This, too, is a conversation with time — just with a particularly mammalian look to it. In this case, textures quote textures and the distance between the image and the valley brings the valley close. For humans.

The same time gap exists in natural images. Cats hunt by memorizing two acres of ground, then paying attention to the disturbance of even a single blade of grass, where a mouse passed by. Could it be that humans do much the same by reacting to very tiny changes in time signatures or rates of time flow? Maybe. Here’s an image from Iceland:

House in the East Fjords

 Winter flowing right through the summer. Or is that summer blowing over winter like the wind? At any rate, humans live at the intersections of these time flows.

Is it that the world reacts to these changes, too, and perhaps with great clarity?

Barbed Wire in Noble Canyon

Sifting hoarfrost out of the air.

Speaking of the sun blowing over us in fire…

The Winds off the Sun Lifting the Snow Away Coldstream Ranch

Notice the mixed palette of the human artwork in the foreground.

Could it be that we are standing absolutely still?

Tomorrow: What that might mean for creating a sustainable human culture, right here, right now.