Saturday, October 3, 2009


Every year I buy more apples than I have space for, or time and energy to get processed so I don't have to worry about storing them.  I keep saying I'm going to get better, and last year I did buy fewer apples but still too many.  I tell myself that the grocery store sells good apples and I don't need to have a supply for the whole winter, but I'm not sure I believe it.  Hackett's and the UVM Hort farm have better varieties I tell myself, but I noticed Cortlands in Hannaford's last week too.  But when my friend Mary wrote her poem Gathering, reprinted here, which captures this feeling so well that I try to gather it over and over again too, I realized why I need to buy too many apples.  More of Mary's very worthy poems are to be found on her poetry blog, Poems for Free.

One of my two favorite places to get apples is the UVM Horticulture farm, (pictured above) open for sales only on Fridays in apple season, 10-4.  The prices are reasonable ($1/pound for everything this year) and there are experimental as well as old favorite varieties (If you go, don't miss Speckles. It will do anything).  The link will take you to their site and a listing of apple varieties and approximate dates of availability.  Directions, too. (Green Mountain Drive off Shelburne Road).

My other favorite orchard is Hackett's, (pictured above) 86 South Street in South Hero.  Ron and Celia are great people, and they've slowly turned their orchard into a little destination with pick your own.  They've long done tours for school children, and have only recently stopped making pies (after 59,500 of them).  They have their own cider and the best cider donuts.  pumpkins.  Just feels good to be there.

Growing up we got our apples up the road from Hackett's, at an orchard with a unique barn that kept the apples from freezing all winter, and kept them cool into the spring and early summer.  When my folks moved to Vermont from Massachusetts in 1940 they had lived over the General Store that Helen Kinney's parents, Archie and Mae Kirby, owned in Underhill Center.   We kept the connection up until the orchard closed early this century.  My enduring memory from that orchard (besides the bushels of Northern Spies) is the banana apples - still available in catalogs, but I don't know of any available here in Northwestern Vermont (please let me know if you do).  The banana apple was yellow with a lovely pink blush on one side, and it had both a faint aroma and taste of bananas, or maybe a banana apple smoothie.  It was also known as a winter banana because of its great keeping qualities.  A way to have the taste of a banana in a Northern winter.  I miss the apples and miss the farmers. We gather memories up like apples, and those we can keep through the winter too.


“Enough!” they said, but we said “No!”
There were more elderberries on the bushes,
the bags we brought were not full,
so we picked and picked, stripping the thin branches
of their burden of shiny blueblack fruit,
while our husbands leaned against the car and talked of life.

Our sons remind us every year
that two flats of strawberries are enough,
that two buckets of blueberries are enough,
and we never listen. How could we listen
with the fruit singing its scent over those fields?

Now there are apples. All of them.
We pick until our fingers are swollen,
until we see apples in our dreams:
enormous pink spheres hanging
from the misty trees of that primeval orchard,
apples like the breasts of God.

Our barns are full, our freezers are full,
our shelves are full, our attics are full,
our basements are full, and it is not yet
enough. From somewhere down inside
the grandmothers are poking at us:
Pick them, they hiss, pick everything you can.
Winter is on the way. You never know; you can never
have enough. And we will never have enough,
not until all the apple trees of Earth are bare
and all the hoarding places of Earth are filled.
Not until all the bellies are filled
and the children dance laughing
down the clean-picked rows.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Nice to see the poem in another context. And good work.