Second-hand apple trees

30 Aug

While not front page news, I imagine mention was made elsewhere in today’s paper of the new attraction planned for Dunvegan’s upcoming Harvest Fall Festival: apple cider pressing. I know that whenever Velma Franklin, the museum’s curator back in the 80s, organized similar demonstrations they were very popular. And I predict that Steve Merritt’s cider making will be a crowd pleaser as well.

Steve first tried his hand at this age-old process back in 1969. While deconstructing a hundred year-old stable across the road from where Pleasant Corners public school stands today (a story in itself, but one for another day), he noticed some lovely apple trees that were heavy with ripened fruit. “So I picked several bushels for eating and making cider,” Steve wrote me in an email. As a brand new member of the Glengarry Historical Society, Steve had become interested in the Dunvegan museum, which was just down the hill from the house he and his wife had bought across from the church. Mora MacLeod from MacCrimmon was curator at the time. “I sometimes sat on the porch bench with Miss MacLeod,” Steve continued, “and she would tell me of her life in Glengarry County.”

And so it came to pass that, with Mora’s blessing, Steve used the museum’s old press to extract his first batch of apple cider. After cleaning the apparatus, Steve put the ‘must’ (the leftover pulp, skins and seeds) on his compost pile back home. In the spring, he noticed that several of the apple seeds had sprouted, so he moved the seedlings to his back yard with the hope of starting his own orchard. When the house was sold five years later, he transplanted three of the young trees to his new property across the 417. Steve proudly reports that, “Forty-eight years later, the trees have grown into 25-foot beauties that produce fine heritage Gala apples.”

Mum Sunday’s upon us

This coming Sunday, September 3rd at 11:00 am, Kenyon Presbyterian Church in Dunvegan will hold its annual Memorial Day Service. Originally intended as a way of raising funds for the maintenance of the church’s graveyard, the service has evolved into a bit of a ‘homecoming weekend’ event.

The special day is a time when people with families and friends buried in Dunvegan gather to celebrate their loved ones’ memories, experience the tranquility of the graveyard and, more often than not, leave a floral tribute. I’ve always thought of the day as ‘Mum Sunday’ — the flower, not the parent — for the churchyard is awash with pots of colourful mums.

A fellowship luncheon will be served in the church hall following the service. The cost is $10 per person. Children under five dine for free. It’s a truly memorable day and Rev. Jim Ferrier asked me to extend a warm invitation for readers of this column to join them. His message for one and all was a hearty, “You will be welcome.”

More timely kirk news

Commencing Sunday, September 10th through to the end of 2023, worship services in Dunvegan will commence at 9:30 am.

Bare tables call out

Since the previous item has no doubt put you in a FallFest frame of mind, I wanted to relay the good news that the ‘Harvest Sale’ tables will be returning to where they’ve been located at the Pioneer Museum for almost every Fall Festival… under a big canvas tent to the south of the Star Inn.

I asked Barb Newman, the Harvest Tent’s team leader which items were most in demand and, without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, “Jams, jellies and pickles.” She then went on to say that pies are another favourite, as is fudge, “It’s hard to find homemade fudge anymore,” she told me, “It goes like hotcakes.”

However, to be frank, Barb is looking for donations of a wide range of goodies from your garden, orchard and kitchen, including baked goods of all kinds, vegetables, fruits, breads and rolls, jellies, jams, pickles, preserves, plants and flowers. If your plan is to drop off your donation on Sunday, September 10th, give Barb a call so she knows what’s coming. Or you can call and arrange a pickup. Her number is 613-361-2703.

Historical scrap heap

I ran into Alexandria’s Réjean Boulanger last weekend, an acquaintance from my days on the Municipal Recreation Committee. He was getting ready for a meeting to plan next year’s 100th anniversary of the Glengarry Soccer League and was bemoaning the lack of historical information on the league. Apparently all of the organization’s records had been stored in the spare room of a local business. Tragically, when the business was sold, the new owners — unaware of the paper’s significance — consigned the minute books, ledgers, correspondence and other paperwork to the trash.

It brought to mind the time when, after Mary MacDonald of Greenfield passed away, historic records from her general store and post office were quietly consigned to a dumpster one drizzly Sunday afternoon.

It’s a story that happens all too often. And I have to ask why there’s so much humming and hawing, when we have one of the finest county-level archives in the province right here in Glengarry. Instead of playing Russian roulette with our history by squirreling it away in vermin-infested attics or damp, moldy cellars, we could give it a safe, climate-controlled home that will preserve it for the use of future generations. It makes no sense.

Talking about history

Next week, we’ll look at “Glengarry Rambles,” a bus tour coming up in October that will explore the hidden histories of Kenyon Township. The tour is a joint venture of the Glengarry County Archives and the Glengarry Pioneer Museum. More details will follow.