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Ed’s Corner

Bang! Clunk!

When I hear these sporadic and loud sounds on  my outside deck I know, 1. that the oak trees are beginning to drop their acorns, and, 2. It’s time to get the apple press out because the apples are ready now just as the acorns are. The apple and the acorn are both fruits, that is, they developed from flowers and contain a seed or seeds that can grow into new trees. But it’s the fruit from the apple tree that I will seek – the apple.

As I lug the press out of storage in the barn it feels good that cider making marks for me the changing seasons and allows me to connect with and participate in the year’s movement. I want to be more than a bystander as the earth revolves around the sun. I feel as if it is a celebration of sorts, a ritual, an anchor to fall, something dependable that also ties me to the past. Why do I do it? Because a year of seasons has passed and now its fall, again, and time for cidering.

Ed Pressing Cider

Ed pressing cider – photo by Fernando Lopez

And the cider is delicious! I like to use a variety of apples and press them all together. The amber liquid that gushes from the bottom of the press into our waiting pot seems happy to have been released from it’s former apple homes. Do you know that if you sip your cider slowly you’ll be able to taste fall, winter, spring and summer, for it takes 4 seasons to make an apple. You might even taste the rain from the storm that fell on the orchard last July.


This amber liquid is called apple cider. If I filter this cider then it is called apple juice. You can think of cider as apple juice with the pulp.

There are many stories and sayings about apples: the tempting fruit in the Garden of Eden; the fruit that conked Sir Issac Newton on the head and started him thinking seriously about gravity; the poisoned one that caused Snow White to take a long chill until a handsome prince came along; ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ (you know, this could be much cheaper than the current Obama plan.)

And there was, of course, Johnny Appleseed. Supposedly, according to legend, he was friends and talked with the wild animals; wore no shoes; wore a pot on his head; preached the good words of the Bible to whomever would listen. He walked and walked all around the mid-west, handing out apple seeds and trees. The Native Americans were known to be kind to him, and to leave him alone. They stayed clear of people who seemed a little ‘off’. I’m not saying that he was, but …

We will learn about Johnny and apples and cidering during our apple cider pressing programs we have scheduled this fall. You’ll even get a chance to meet Johnny!

I hope to see you at one of our upcoming events.

Turning the press

Turning the press

Here’s a bushel of nifty apple information:

  • The early Native Americans had only crab apple trees to pick from, the apples probably being small, hard and not sweet.
  • European settlers, as early as 1630, brought seeds and small trees to this country that provided the first sweet, juicy, flavorful apples we know today.
  • So, when we say “As American as apple pie”, there is really, in the bigger picture, not a long history to that statement. We could say instead, “As American as maple sugar and syrup”, for the Native Americans were making maple sugar well before the first Europeans set foot on the continent.
  • Those first European apple trees were probably not too productive for there were no honeybees in this country to serve as pollinators. Later immigrants brought over with them the first honeybees.
  • The Native Americans called these first honeybees ‘English flies’.
  • In colonial times apples were known as ‘winter bananas’ and ‘melt-in-the-mouth’.
  • There are over 10,000 kinds of apples in the world.
  • The birthplace of the modern apple is Kazakhstan in Central Asia.
  • Charred apple remains were found in a stone-age village in Switzerland.
  • In 1796 a farmer in Ontario, while walking the “back 40″ of his property, came upon a kind of apple tree he had not seen before. He decided, because the apples had such a special flavor, to propagate the tree and to plant more. His name – John McIntosh.
  • Each year, China grows half or more of the world’s apples. The U.S. is second.
  • In the U.S. Washington State grows most (60%) of our country’s apples.
  • Apple ‘cider’ is what we call the juice that comes directly from pressing the apples, without doing anything to it. Apple ‘juice’ is that same juice, only filtered.
  • ‘Hard’ cider is cider that has been fermented and contains alcohol.
  • The most common drink during colonial times was one that was plentiful and could keep/not spoil: hard cider – morning, noon and night, adults and children!
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Ed’s Corner

At the beginning of each camp day we – campers and counselors –  might share a special or unusual natural happening or event that we experienced the day before. We call these sharings and the actual event or thing, Natural Moments. As we are out and about in our world, which is also the world of nature, there are many opportunities to see, hear, smell or touch something ‘cool’. It’s a moment that might make us just whisper inside ourselves, WOW, which I contend is the acronym for ‘With-Out-Words’. A Natural Moment takes us out of ourselves and makes us feel part of a bigger something.

To increase the chances of Natural Moments, two things have to happen: A) be outdoors and B) pay attention.

A Natural Moment that I recently experienced:

I took my youngest, Nathaniel, to a local mall for a bit of Mother’s Day shopping. When we got out of the car we saw, no, we were in the middle of, waves, close-to-the-ground, of delicate white petals being blown first in one direction and then in another. We just watched for two minutes as the waves of petals scooted across the strip mall parking lot, around cars, some being ‘caught’ in puddles. Nathaniel said it was like snowflakes that never melt. We wondered where the final resting places would be for the petals. Or even it there is such a thing as a ‘final place’.

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There is no ‘right’ place for nature, for Natural Moments, for the chance to say WOW. Every place, even the mall parking lot, can be a nature place.

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Ed’s Corner – They’re Coming…

Sometimes it feels that opportunities for earth art present themselves everywhere. One of these moments will soon be on your lawn or at least somewhere close to your home. You just may go out one day soon, look down, and feel like you have run smack dab into a wall, a sea, an avalanche (you get the point) of yellow! You will see hundreds of golden dandelions just starting to grow, and without much of a stem yet. There will be so many that you won’t feel guilty picking as many as you want. It might feel like you’re holding hands-full of sunlight, or tiny, bite-sized suns.

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What to do with them:

You can lay them on the lawn, next to and touching each other, and make a long, meandering yellow chain, or snake, or just a beautiful meandering line of yellow, over hill and dale and rocks. Watch what happens to your art over the next few days.

Make a spiral with them, starting at the base of a tree and spiraling outward.

Rub them on a piece of white paper against a hard surface such as the sidewalk and see why they can be called ‘yellow crayons’.

Wait to pick them until they have a long stem. Peel the stem into 3 or so long pieces, all still attached to the flower end. Dunk the stem pieces into water (submerge them) for a quick one or two second dunk, pull quickly out and hold them in front of you and just watch. If they could shout we would call what they are doing ‘twist and shout’. Or better still, ‘curl and shout’.

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Different parts of the dandelion can be used for food, medicine and dye. Read about these usages here, in Paul Tappenden’s dandelion article.

A long time ago people used to pull grass from their lawns to make room for dandelions!

The name ‘dandelion’ comes from the French ‘dent de lion’, which means lion’s tooth. Look at the leaves on the ground directly at the bottom of the stem and you’ll see why. Growl.

Dandelions are not native to this country but came to us from Asia.

The little dandelion seeds on their little white ‘parachutes’ have been known to travel up to five miles!

Look at dandelion plants growing in mostly sunlight and then at those growing mostly in shade. What do you notice that’s different about their leaves?

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Ed’s Corner – Spring!

You may be feeling (as we ourselves have been) that the snow will never melt. Well it is melting, but it’s been a long, cold winter, which definitely makes this spring so much sweeter!

Heralds of springtime

Get outside to celebrate the arrival of warm sunlight, budding flowers, springtime, and all the good nature that comes with it:

  • Plan an outdoor lunch or dinner
  • Make a small outdoor fire (safely, of course) to help celebrate the sun’s return.
  • Look for any flowers that may be blooming or green leaves pushing through the soil.
  • Make bets (using acorns as currency) on when any left over patches of snow will melt.
  • Check some branches to see if any buds are getting fatter or even beginning to open.
  • Take an outdoor walk and be aware of any small, flying insects that may be out and about. Now where were they this winter?!
  • If it’s sunny, stand still and tilt one cheek toward the sun, close your eyes, and feel the warmth. Now turn the other cheek.

  • Lie down in a woodland or forested area, look up at the sky, its beauty, how it changes, and know that this view will not be possible once the leaves are on the tree again. Take it in while you can.
  • Walk across lawn and other areas and feel how soft and spongy they are, not like the frozen solid, cement feel of winter ground.
  • Look at the tiny creatures that may have spent this winter in the holes and crevasses of tree bark. Look at the bark carefully, up and down and all around. Look up close, and use a magnifier if you have one. Wish them all a happy spring!
  • Blow bubbles outside and watch how they make the paths of the winds visible.

The Vernal Equinox

The first day of spring is this coming Thursday, March 20th, at precisely 12:57 pm. It is a time when day and night are close to equal, and something that all people in the northern hemisphere experience, though most may be unaware.

Seasons occur because the earth is tilted 23.5 degrees. When the top, or northern hemisphere, is tilted toward the sun, it is summer. When the top is tilted away, it is winter. Most people would say that the earth is closest to the sun in the summer, and farther from the sun in the winter. Just the opposite, which might at first seem a little strange. In summer the earth is farthest from the sun, but our northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, making our summer. During winter the earth is closest to the sun, but winter occurs for us because our ‘top of the earth’ is tilted away from the sun.

Poking out toward the sun

Can you really balance an egg on its end during an equinox? Yes, you can! But, you can also balance an egg on its end any day of the year if you really try. An equal amount of daytime and night does not in fact make it any easy to balance an egg, and there aren’t any invisible equinox waves that give your egg extra stability. But it’s not surprising to us that folks think of eggs and the spring equinox together, as eggs are an old and reliable symbol for the new season of growth, sunlight, and rebirth.

This year especially we’ve been waiting for the day when we can say, “Ah, it’s the first day of spring.”

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Ed’s Corner

Fitting in with the name of our newsletter, have you noticed more dust lately due to the lack of rainfall? In the house but also outside. Raking leaves will will stir up little swirls of dust, but if you really want to see mini-dust storms, watch what happens when the leaf blowers come to town, or to your own house or a neighbor’s.

So for a little ‘Ode to Dust’, we share with you the following:

The Us in Dust

right there in the middle
of the little word ‘dust’
we see the ‘u’ and ‘s’
and together they are ‘us’

we’ve heard from Joni Mitchell
that a good part of what we are
is dust that landed on the earth
from distant exploding stars

so while ‘us’ is in dust
there’s more to the word
the dust is also in us -
the other way, absurd

but wait just a minute
‘us’ in dust is true, too
for every time you sweep the floor
you are sweeping you

our skin is made of cells that shed
science tells us thousands per day
so every time you sweep the floor
you’re sweeping yourself away

so being ‘swept away’
or even ‘off your feet’
may now mean something different
that doesn’t feel so sweet

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