Cauldron to Kitchen

Paganism, food and spirituality

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The Apple Tree

b2ap3_thumbnail_appleblossoms2_sm.jpgThere is an apple tree on our family homestead that is about as old as my mom (80-90 years). The apples are thin skinned and yellow, but pleasantly tart and flavorful, and are perfect apple for sauce or baking. I’ve made more than one trip up to Maine specifically to catch the apples for sauce. Wasting them seems like sacrilege.

The tree grows out of the center of the stone wall the borders the property and has been becoming more and more top heavy while the trunk rots. Apple trees are very tough. As long as one thin strip of bark remains intact, the tree will continue to bare fruit. It needs only sun. Unlike annual vegetables, one cannot grow an identical apple tree from apple seeds. Apple DNA in the seed is diverse, and every new tree grown from apple seeds will be different.

There was a storm on Thanksgiving, and the wet snow finally took down my top-heavy friend. The snow plow had crushed some of the upper branches where they reached into the driveway, and my heart felt heavy in my chest. But looking at the base of the tree, I could see that it was not broken, only bent. The bark was intact.

Maine has a thriving food community. MOFGA, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, has put on the Common Ground Fair in Unity Maine since 1977. Permaculture is a relatively well-known concept, at least among those growing the food. It’s easy to find pastured eggs and meat, either in stores or directly from a farmer, and raw milk is sold retail. One of MOFGA’s projects is an orchard of apple varieties that thrive in Maine or originated there. And our tree did. Three years ago one of our neighbors spent a great deal of time perusing the town for such trees. Apples are ubiquitous in Maine. The state is at the same latitude as the place of their origin in the mountains of Kazakhstan and they came with the first fishermen, even before the settlers. Our tree was chosen as worthy of propagation, and 50 or so scions, the new growth at the end of a branch were taken and grafted to root stock. This is the only way to grow an identical apple, and it must be done at the right time of year, after Candlemas, when the back of winter is broken and the days are starting to lengthen.

Knowing this gave me some solace as I hoped it would be possible to acquire a cutting. But indeed, all is not lost. The same man who found our tree for the orchard project thinks it might be possible to save it and we are going to try. I’ll have to prune it back to half of it’s current mass. That’s a lot. And then we will try to prop it up. But even if that doesn’t work, if it can last until Candlemas, I can take some scions of my own and graft them to root stock. My friend lives on.

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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


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