Tag Archives: apples

Apples – An Addendum

One of the joys of writing this blog is hearing from readers who share their stories with me.

After my post about apples on September 17th, I heard from two cousins with more apple tales. Cousin Sue heard an NPR piece about a man in Vermont who raises heirloom apples at his orchard. This orchardist, who dislikes Honeycrisp apples (he calls them a “one note apple”), tried to feed them to his pigs. They ate them the first time, but after that when he tried to give them Honeycrisps for dinner they tipped over their trough.

Cousin Patti and her husband Tom, who were on a trip to Northern Michigan, visited “Christmas Cove,” an orchard in Northport, Michigan that grows two hundred and fifty antique varieties of apple. They were excited to find some of the apple names our great grandfather William E. Hall had listed in his journal. When they showed the list to the orchard owner she said they raise seven or eight of the apples on William’s list. So in honor of our great-grandfather, Patti bought some Blue Pearmain apples. William’s list calls them “Black” Pearmain, but that seems close enough for me.

Blue Pearmain apples - photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

Blue Pearmain apples – photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

Tom also shared this quote from Henry David Thoreau’s book “Wild Apples.”

I know a Blue Pearmain tree, growing on the edge of a swamp, almost as good as wild. You would not suppose that there was any fruit left there, on the first survey, but you must look according to system. Those which lie exposed are quite brown and rotten now, or perchance a few still show one blooming cheek here and there amid the wet leaves. Nevertheless, with experienced eyes, I explore amid the bare alders and the huckleberry-bushes and the withered sedge, and in the crevices of the rocks, which are full of leaves, and pry under the fallen and decaying ferns, which, with apple and alder leaves, thickly strewn the ground. For I know that they lie concealed, fallen into hollows long since and covered up by the leaves of the tree itself, – a proper kind of packing. From these lurking places, anywhere within the circumference of the tree, I draw forth the fruit, all wet and glossy, maybe nibbled out by rabbits and hollowed out by crickets and perhaps with a leaf or two cemented to it…but still with a rich bloom on it, and at least as ripe and well kept, if not better than those in barrels, more crisp and lively than they.”

Blue Pearmain apple - photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

Blue Pearmain apple – photo curtesy of Tom and Patti Burkett

On Monday:  Barns – Part I

Money and Apples

I always liked the idea that earning money on the farm was a last resort – that a farm should be able to sustain itself without cash. But after reading my great-grandfather William E. Hall’s journals, I can see he thought often about making, having, and spending money.

He filled the back pages of his diaries with columns of figures and notes about what he spent and what he earned. The last page of his 1861 journal looks like a daydream about dollars.

Page from journal of William E. Hall, 1861

Page from journal of William E. Hall, 1861

His notes record that he sold a load of wood for $10 and spent $10 on his new teeth. His 1864 diary cost 25 cents, a postage stamp 6 cents, and a telegraph 30 cents. The sale of a cow earned $12.50 and a load of hay $28.75. There was the purchase of the mysterious “dog candy” for 45 cents. Some cotton cloth cost $16.20, and a new buggy relieved him of a whopping $45.00.

The record of farm goods and produce he sold for cash includes cows, oxen, hogs, horses, hay, buckwheat, wood, milk, butter, eggs, hard cider (my great-grandfather also had a still), peaches, and apples. The list of purchased items is much, much longer.

"Modern Apple," Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting

“Modern Apple,” Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting

For years apples were a major source of revenue because, unlike peaches, they could be stored in a root cellar and sold throughout the winter.

Monday, October 5, 1914 – “Men busy picking apples, selling them. The trees are many of them loaded. Not very large, but seem to be good and sound.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Wednesday, October 7, 1914 – “Ellsworth sold his apples for 35 cents a bushel, to be carried off by the seventh of December.” – Lydia Jane Hall

My great-grandfather William’s 1873 diary includes names of apples he may have grown or thought about growing. (There are about thirty varieties on his list, but I’ve had to leave out some and guess at others because his writing is hard to decipher.)

  • Pown Sweets
  • Peck’s Pleasants
  • Stripe Pippins
  • Gilliflower
  • Maiden Blush
  • Wine Apple
  • New Town Pippin
  • Bell Flower
  • Roxbury Russets
  • Fair Maine
  • English Sweets
  • Hall’s Seedlings
  • James Linds
  • Citron Apples
  • Lord Thorntons
  • Baxter Greenings
  • Rome Apple
  • Black Pearmain
  • Fall Pippins
  • Roderick Greening
  • Red Stripe
  • Balmunds
  • Ruck Apples

I have no idea what kind of apples my mother is eating in this photo, or whether they were grown on the farm. In 1943 when my dad took this portrait of my mom in the fields below the farmhouse, there were probably still apple trees around, but I have a feeling the apples in the photo came from Young’s Apple Orchard, which was at the top of Whirlwind Hill. The orchard was still in business when I started living in Alaska in 1969, and I remember going there to buy apples one fall when I was visiting my parents. Mr. Young packed them up for me and shipped them all the way to the 49th State. What would my great-grandfather have thought of that!

Janet Hall Crump, 1943

Janet Hall Crump, 1943

On Monday:  The Room with Nine Doors