Freestyle Friday: apples!

As you’ll know from her blog post, Sharon Ashwood and I got earthy at a wassail celebration–a blessing of the trees–at a local cider orchard last weekend.

That was a first for me, but for several years I’ve been cozying up to apples in other ways.

At the annual Salt Spring Apple Festival, on the Canadian side of the border just north of Corsair’s Cove, I always find some ancient treasure or new-to-me recipe.

I’ve acquired the cookbook An Apple a Day by islander Mary Mollet that starts with Three-Grain Apple Pancakes and wraps up, 300 pages later, with Apple Cocktail Pizzas.

I’ve bought one orchard’s entire crop of Cornish Gillyflowers (about eight apples) out of a sentimental attachment to my great-grandfather’s homeland.

So when we Corsettes decided that our next Corsair’s Cove adventure would be the Orchard Series, I was delighted. What a fantastic excuse to delve into the history, the botany, and of course the recipes of all things apples.

It’s a good thing Knobbed Russets are delicious!

One of my recent researches was reading Helen Humphreys’s fascinating The Ghost Orchard: The Hidden History of the Apple in North America.

“…in the nineteenth-century heyday of apples,” she writes, “there were upwards of seventeen thousand different varieties in North American orchards. Today there are fewer than a hundred varieties grown commercially.”

Those astonishing figures make me appreciate even more the work of orchardists of Salt Spring Island and elsewhere who nurture and graft and prune and preserve hundreds of historic varieties of this most useful fruit.

And I’m inspired to find a new variety of my own–even if I have to make it up!(Rubbing hands gleefully) 

Happy Friday,


Towns with ghosts

Port Townsend, Washington
Photo and Waterlogue by Shelley Adina

One of my favorite places in the world (okay, that list is pretty long, but still in the top five) is Port Townsend, WA, home of the Brass Screw Confederacy, Sirens pub, Pygmy Boats, Fort Worden State Park, and the Old Consulate Inn, among many other delights. It’s also the home of a startling number of ghosts.

This isn’t surprising, when you consider the scandalous reputation the town possessed in the nineteenth century. Between its founding in 1851 and its heyday in the 1880s, Port Townsend had the worst reputation on the west coast for brawling, crime, and murder. Worse even than the Barbary Coast (San Francisco). Divided into two parts—Downtown on the waterfront and Uptown on the cliff—the well-heeled residents in their Victorian mansions Uptown could ignore or at the very least pray for what was going on down there, literally under their noses.

A room at the Palace Hotel, photo by Shelley Adina
A room at the Palace Hotel, photo by Shelley Adina

By the 1890s, it was clear that the railroad was not going to come to this busy port, and it faded into obscurity just as rapidly as it had risen. But the one advantage to being out of the way was that the Victorian buildings were left alone. So were the ghosts. Two of the most famous are the Manresa Castle Hotel Uptown, which has two spirits (don’t stay in room 306), and the Palace Hotel Downtown, which used to be a brothel and has ten.

Ten ghosts! I went for a walk through the Palace Hotel and didn’t see a single one, but it was broad daylight, so that may have had something to do with it. I did see a lot of lovely quilts and Victorian architecture, however. Nowadays Port Townsend is a destination that for me, still holds its old moniker, City of Dreams. I can walk on the waterfront, squint just a certain way, and see Corsair’s Cove, hovering out there just beyond reality.

A little like a ghost.