Paint Schoodic

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Apple picking time

Old apple trees make for good painting as well as good eating.

Apple tree swing, by Carol L. Douglas. Available through the Kelpie Gallery.
Today, I’m teaching my first class in Rockport since mid-July. I wanted a special subject for my students. I’ve passed wild apple trees along the roadside. I know they’re ripe and starting to drop. But to find one that was suitable for a class has been a different matter.

The ones above Rockport Harbor are too high to paint from the parking lot. The one at the Opera House bore no fruit this season. It must be a biennial bearer, which some apple trees are. I finally found a suitable tree, with parking and permission to paint, but it took more work than it should have.

For someone from the heart of apple country, this is a paucity of resources. I know the heritage orchard people don’t think New York’s miles and miles of commercial orchards are ‘real’ apples, but they’re an important food crop there. Fruit trees are very long-lived; many of them can easily make the century mark. Old apple trees make for good painting as well as good eating.

The old orchard, by Carol L. Douglas
I know there are apple trees in Maine. I painted one in Castine this summer, and I have a plan for another one for next year. They’re just not lined up in neat rows as they are in my home state.

Long before the McIntosh apple became the champion apple in the northeast, a variety named the Baldwin was our most popular apple. It tolerated cold-storage and shipping. That meant you could keep it through the winter and send it to market.

Conventional wisdom says it was developed in Wilmington, MA, and, after the dust-up, the good citizens there were quick to put up a monument to it. But in the 19th century, several towns brawled for the title of birthplace of the Baldwin apple. One of them was Baldwin, in Cumberland County, ME. Baldwin was noted for its orchards, and it had a factory for drying apples.

Young apple trees in bloom, by Carol L. Douglas
The connection isn’t completely spurious. Baldwin, ME, was named after Col. Loammi Baldwin, who is largely credited with disseminating scions of the Baldwin apple through New England. (Apples don’t grow true from seed. The best way to get edible ones is to collect twigs from a good tree and graft them onto parent stock.)

Col. Baldwin was a Revolutionary War soldier and is considered the father of American Civil Engineering. He was also Johnny Appleseed’s cousin.

All Flesh is as Grass, by Carol L. Douglas
The harsh winter of 1933-34 wiped out the Baldwin apple orchards in New England. It was largely replaced by its Canadian cousin, the McIntosh, which is disease- and cold-resistant. However, Baldwins make for good cider, especially hard cider. In an historically dry state like Maine, that was curiously important. I’m sure there’s more than one gracing an old dooryard here.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Baldwin apple on a tree, but as of today, I’m looking for one.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Wow! These paintings are adorable.