Compote de pommes et cultures

Hiking trail toward Dieppe summit at Gault Nature ReserveIt occurred to me this morning while I was sitting at breakfast enjoying the “compote de pommes” that I had just “confectionné” that the annual pilgrimage that Carol and I made to the Gault Nature Reserve in St. Hilaire on Tuesday this week really made a nice melding of our parents family culture / the Ted Carol family culture / and the Québec culture.  If you like a good hike I encourage you to plan an outing to the Gault Nature reserve.  “Plan” this year means buying your tickets online before you get in your car and go as they are limiting the number of people in this large park known for its hiking trails by only allowing entry by reservation.  We arrived on a Tuesday at about 12:45pm and learned of this new policy but, fortunately there were still openings in the online ticket availability at 2pm.  So, I suggested to Carol that we take a leisurely lunch (I packed one to eat at the Dieppe trail summit) and return to do our hike at 2pm.   Pulling out of the entry to Gault, I turned left (not the usual right) and was happy to re-find my favourite spot for a “cueillette des pommes” on the side of the road with the orchards and only an apple’s throw away from Gault.  There, lined up against the driving shed wall were a half-dozen crates (bushel-size) of apples that had fallen to the grass-carpeted ground in perfect ripeness and were ready to be sold to country boys like me for $8.  The owner was busy somewhere else so I laid out my 10 $ bill inside the shed and took to gathering my crate’s worth into bags. Before I had much more than a large bag’s worth socked away in the car trunk the “vergière ” showed up and verified that, yes these apples were almost all Macintosh, because they mature earliest and her orchard is made up mostly of Macs and, no, it isn’t the best apple-pie apple because, well, they rather melt down into a compote texture with very little cooking.  But two things in my philosophy kept me gathering my bushel into bags: $8 for a bushel is a very good deal and the maxim, when life gives you lemons… yes, in this case make compote de pommes (apple sauce).

We had an apple tree in our backyard that snuggled in close behind the garage and every second year produced rather early in the summer an abundance of apples that were only good for applesauce .  So, before much of anything but strawberries were ready for harvesting our household set to work making applesauce.  Mom had an applesauce colander which allowed her to just quarter the apples, boil them skin on, seeds, cores and all and then run them through this colander, reversing the direction of the crank when the waste matter had built up too thickly, throwing the waste away allowing the sauce to continue flowing unimpeded by the skins.  When I got home from the hike at St. Hilaire I looked for this colander but it had been stored elsewhere as I had last used it 20 years ago.  So I peeled the apples with bruises (the ones that will be first to go bad), removed cores and set the fruit to steaming.  As my vergière friend had suggested, it only takes 3 or 4 minutes of good steam to soften a Mac to optimum compote conditions.  Compotedepommes_fabriqueI dumped the steamer basket into a flat bottomed bowl and mashed the apples with my potato masher, sprinkling in a modicum of cinnamon.  Result: best applesauce that I have ever tasted!  The Macs are more tangy than my parent’s apples (which never pretended to be anything but an applesauce apple) and with the simplicity of making it, and the lack of hockey these days to make the first slice of apple pie special I may take my apple fix in a new way.

While I remember that my father had a sweet tooth that he indulged with candy in my childhood years, in his retirement years the candy dish was always ready to offer to the grandkids, but Dad’s nightly snack was nothing but an apple, and he took great pleasure in these.  My brother, Greg and I, when we had the occasion to be in Kitchener of a Saturday morning would encourage my father in his apple-love by going to market early, while the selection was at its best and choose a bushel of apples to split with Dad.  My father-in-law, in his Jamaica Mandeville home, was pleased that his daughter, Carol, had found a good-hearted, sensible man who knew that the only thing that Mr. Bernard really desired that his Jamaican soil could not produce for him was an apple pie made from good Canadian apples.  One of the only times I have ever fudged a customs declaration upon entry to Jamaica was when I imported a ready-made pie and the apples with which to make another.  In the days to come, when God brings forth a new heaven and a new earth I shall hike to the Dieppe summit at Gault with my two fathers and tell stories of the roads we have walked in this world.  As we sit down on the rock face overlooking a re-created Beloeil and watch the mist rise from the Richelieu river we will, the three of us – father, son and beau-père crunch down on a tangy Macintosh.  God is good!

Why Dad liked black walnut trees

these are the black walnut trees that dad planted

the green husked black walnut fruitI have a memory from my youth where my dad took a paper bag of black walnuts and we went down to the workbench in the basement and left the bag there for them to dry out. Later on (months?) we might have used the bench vise, though I’m not sure we had one of those in my childhood years, so, more likely we used a hammer, and cracked those hard nuts open to get at the nut meats. That was my first taste of a nut that my dad knew from his childhood.  The Isaiah Dettweiler house had a large, impressive specimen of a black walnut tree between the house and the road.

In the nut world, the walnut that most of us have tasted is known more specifically as a Persian walnut. An ordinary nutcracker like the ones we used in our house to crack open walnuts, brazil nuts and hazel nuts around Christmas time is an adequate tool with which to get at the nutmeats in these nuts. But don’t think for a moment of using that nutcracker on a black walnut (“you daresn’t do that” as Dad might say).  This is a nut that is so solidly encased in its shell that you will break your nutcracker very quickly rather than break into the nut.Black walnuts with the hammer

And yet my dad must have liked black walnuts for he knew the work involved to get at that nutmeats and he showed me how it was done. Later on, when I must have been a teenager, he planted at least two black walnut trees on his own property even though I have doubts that he ever came to enjoy the fruits of this labour.

To me now, in the 21st century, I pull out the hammer and crack into this hard-won treat every once-in-a-while as a remembrance of my dad. Unlike my dad, I can enjoy the unique taste that the black walnut holds without doing all the work involved. (This is a nut with an outer husk as well, and truth be told, I know nothing about how to get past this level except I think I remember dad (or mom) saying how these husks can stain your hands in the process of removing them). I have a sausage customer in Niagara-on-the-Lake that has a nut nursery and in the garage on their property they sell nuts that they grow, including the black walnut. I remember that when I broke into the plastic bag of pre-shelled black walnuts which I had just purchased ($14 per lb.) on the first delivery of sausage that I made to Ernie Grimo, the taste took me immediately back to my childhood when my dad had me share in this favourite nut of his.

If I come at this memory on a Sunday, it is not to say the obvious truth that everything is easier “nowadays”. There are some things that I think must be harder to accomplish today, like having families that give the children the sense of security in the world that my parents produced in their children. My grandfather, Isaiah, who I never really knew very much as he died when I was only a boy, was known, I’ve heard say, for his work ethic. Hardly a theoretical thing, to him, the farm demanded work. I’ve heard one of my aunts or uncles relating that when he sat at the table for lunch his one leg wasn’t with the other, in front of his chair or bench. He kept that one leg ready to pull off for a quick exit from the table as soon as he was done eating. Dad knew a somewhat easier life than this constant work and Dad’s favourite thing was to sit around the table with his family (after a hard day’s work) and to enjoy Mom’s cooking all together with his family.

Enhanced_dads_blackwalnut_treeDad liked black walnut trees and planted some on his own property because they were a symbol to him of something he wanted to pass on to his children. That was the tree that held prominence at the house where Dad grew up and I can only believe that Dad valued his upbringing and would want to remember it. The work involved to get at the nutmeats said that there is something very good at the end of working hard especially if it is something that you can share with the others in your family. Dad knew what he was doing when he put away that bag of walnuts for a future time and he wanted his children to know this valuable truth too.

Some excellent reading & music

Texture magazines

This morning, in my long run which effectively completes my training for the half marathon in Montreal on September 25, I ran with my Eers earbuds in playing this week’s Discover Weekly playlist put together by Spotify.  This is exceptional for me to run with music but since I needed to stretch my distance out and I would be running alone for two hours without a companion, I thought that doing this to jazz music would help “diminuer les ennuies”.  And so it did – I finished 16 km of running with 8 songs left still unplayed in the 30 song playlist.  If you use Spotify, clicking on the previous link will open up the playlist that I enjoyed this morning.

After returning home and being greeted as a hero by Carol for accomplishing such a distance (my training for this major run next Sunday has been, admittedly, spotty, I showered, brunched (oh, how I love running for the way that it makes everything taste better) and then rested my weary bones with some reading.  In a similar manner that I use Spotify to find any and all music that I want to listen to, just this week, I signed up for the magazine service put out by Rogers which gives me unlimited access to a whole panoply of magazines.  My iPad is the ideal device to read on.  I have these magazines listed as My Favourites: Bicycling; Canadian Business; Canadian Cycling; Canadian Running; Consumer Reports; L’actualité; National Geographic plus these from same publisher – History, & Traveller. Continuing: New York Magazine; Popular Mechanics; Québec Science; Popular Science; Rolling Stone; Smithsonian; The Atlantic; Travel & Leisure; Vanity Fair; Vélo Mag; Wired; The Official Program of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and, finally, Zoomer.  Missing from this list are weekly or bi-weekly magazines like Time, Newsweek, McLeans, The New Yorker, Billboard and People.  I opted for the Basic $9.99 per month subscription that includes only the monthly magazines.  From a point of view of costs, I simply cancelled my New York Times digital subscription (too much of the American election) which cost me $14.99 per month.  I am quite happy that the $10 per month gives me access to a fair slate of Canadian content including magazines en français that will help me expand my vocabulary.

Am I reading?  Yes!  Besides the reading from the library, much of this also coming across my iPad as e-books from the Montreal Library, the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Québec, and the Ontario Public Library system.  Thank you Baysville Library for access to the e-book wealth of an entire province.  My Goodreads links to my updated reading list with very short reviews for my completed books.

Now back to Québec Science magazine’s fascinating article on the history of the Saint Lawrence river.

saintlaurent

Mountain top reading

Mount Royal picnic site

Me voici dans les environs ou il me plait prendre mon petit-dejeuner-le-matin de temps en temps.  L’arbre dont son nom j’ignore (en francais je viens d’apprendre les noms des arbres et c’est un bouleau!) Je continue – cette arbre, le bouleau, est fixe dans une niche [ je pense c’est le bon mot] entre un plateau [??] de roche ou je me trouve assis.

[Hey, my incredibly awkward beginning to this blog – in the original version – seems to flow much better when I expressed it en francais.  Malheureusement, je suis assis devant le clavier chez mes parents et icitte, les accents, grave et aigu, les tres mignons cedilles sur les c, sont cachees qq-part et c’est pas ecrire en francais sans les accents. Pas de tout, pas de tout, pas de tout.  Et puis….. je retourne a mon originally-blogged language which is Capital E-nglish (with a little help from our German friends).]

[This is the original beginning to the mountain-top reading blog of Sunday, August 4 re-written when I saw that the original beginning had language that just-didn’t-flow, way-too many commas and well, it just didn’t please me in the way that this place that I sometimes eat breakfast at and linger and read at…not a great linguistic construct, that, but at least it’s a parallel construct…this place pleases me, but the description, not-at-all.  Here, I’ll bring my breakfast hot-from-home, and, when my schedule permits, I continue here and read books.  The birch tree which is rooted right in the middle in a small space between this large flat rock reminds me of a large rock along the Dickie Lake Road which has a similar birch growing, somehow, in a small space.  At first glance, both trees – the Dickie Lake birch and the one pictured here – seem to be growing right out of the rock.

The view from my picnic table looks down over a large picnic area which is situated just above (or behind) the chalet and the belvedere.   I can sometimes be distracted by others in the vicinity doing various martial arts, or throwing frisbees or playing catch with their kids.  But in the morning, at 8:30am,  it has the advantage of bird sounds and amazing light, and I climbed maybe 160 metres of elevation (with my bicycle) to get here, so I have an appetite and am already somewhat focused for my reading.  Not many users in this large area in the morning and the other users of this area, if any, are usually alone and into their own meditative pursuits.

What am I reading up here?  Well, if it’s in my Goodreads recently, I may have read parts of it here.  Last summer, which was before I discovered the advantages of this particular picnic site spot, I was bringing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek on my bike rides up the mountain.  But this summer and fall, I’m reading novels – literature, I hope.  Right now I’m reading a Michael Crummey novel set in the fictional outport of Paradise Deep in Newfoundland.  And then I have my regular 4 track Bible reading program which in September has me in Isaiah, Proverbs, Luke and Hebrews (some top notch Biblical writing, to be sure).  I’ve been reading a 1950’s Short History of Christianity by Martin Marty and “Credo” by Hans Kung.  Books like that I’m not reading in a hurry, but at a pace where I can contemplate what the author is really saying.  There is another book that is so complicated that I have to be in a spot where I can really concentrate before I can make any progress in aligning my thinking with that of the author.  This would be my best reading spot and probably the one where I am least likely to fall asleep mid-page.

And this is me re-establishing my Sunday blog on the Labour Day weekend, 2016.

Prepared for a cottage vacation

Hammock

 

The above view is a good summary of what I expect of my 10 or so days at the cottage this summer.  Taken from the hammock where I read, read, read, it looks over the water where I swim, swim, swim and when conditions are right – Windy, mais pas TROP venteuse – I set out on my Laser sailboat.

Today, I am all packed, as when I did the wash yesterday I assembled the appropriate clothes directly into my suitcase.  I kept telling myself that this year I will keep my expectations of what I am going to do at the cottage simple – besides the above, we’ll be eating, running or walking a lot (1/2 marathon to prepare for this fall) and after expending all that energy, sleeping so soundly, like only the cottage environment allows me to do.

Other years I may have included non-traditional cottage tasks, which strangely, I never accomplished.  Some of them:  Learning another language, making speakers – an alternative sound system for my truck, doing calling for an August market (this year it is Sept. 10); so many projects / so little time – the cottage is not conducive for THAT!

It is always a pleasure to make the 6-8 hour drive to the cottage.  Because of the anticipation.  Passing familiar places that you just see once a year.  Much of the route is itself cottage country.  Once past Ottawa we’ll be passing lakes on the left and the right, past Round Lake (Camp Mishewah – camp of my youth), through Algonquin Park, and stopping to provision along the way (but not over-doing the food purchases this year).

And arriving – unloading the trunk – it is all going to be in the car trunk this year – but for the canoe paddle which must go in the back seat. It will be such a quick unload; and then we’ll put clothes in a drawer and pull out one of three bathing suits and swim in the lake – just for fun – we’ll leave the laps of exercise up and down the shore for tomorrow.

To throw you off my trail a bit...
To throw you off my trail a bit…

Bees welcome here

Butterfly on salvia sauge flower

 

There are small things that make me disproportionately happy.  A bee, whether bumbly or the honey-making variety, checking out the flowers in my garden pollinates satisfaction in my soul, and it has come to be one of the goals of my gardening.

The bee magnet of my garden, without contest is the salvia sauge.  At the peak of its flowering, perhaps mid-June, the small violet flowers – last year more toward purple, this year closer to blue – are beautiful to look at.  It is a beauty whose glory lies in the collectivity.  Go to the Mandevilla flower if you want a solo star, but the bees and the butterflies won’t come for these more tropical blooms, they come to work on the small, grouped flowers of the salvia sauge.

Today, they are a month past their prime, but they are more than a fleeting attraction for these industrious insects, they are a regular stop on the bee tour of the neighbourhood.  I could run to get a camera, because at the moment that I am writing, past 4 pm, a honey bee works at the white flowers of my prolific genoa basil plants.  If this is not enough, a bumble bee now works the salvia sauge and makes passing acquaintance with the basil, as well.

God has ordained Sundays as my day of rest.  As an adult, I acknowledge my need for a day set apart unto the Lord.  God is not a man that he should slumber…

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever more.

Ps. 121: 4-8 ESV

Bright view

 A bright view to light the cold, rainy days to come…

…for where there is light, beauty will rise from the earth. Spring-hope, summer-fruition, will come again.

I have seen this light, tasted the fruit, thus I believe. Blessed are those who have this bright view faith in midst of dark days.