The changing of another season has started. Halloween has past but the joy of fresh picked apples and the wonderful taste of fresh apple cider pressed on nearby apple orchards cannot be beat for its freshness and flavor.
I usually eat one or two apples a day through the months of October to May. I often have a baked apple for my dessert.
I also enjoy a good apple pie with a mixture of spices to flavor it. The old saying goes “An apple a day will keep the doctor away.” I find it a true joy to walk into our local grocery stores and see the fine examples of all kinds of fall vegetables like different kinds of squash grown right here in our local area, like butternut squash and acorn squash.
Here again I enjoy baking an acorn squash and filling the center with brown sugar and butter. There is nothing like a good Maine baked potato for part of your main meal. I enjoy the crispness of the potato skin when baked right with butter on it.
This brings back memories when my wife Marjorie and I had our own garden and each fall would raise about 300 pounds of squash for the family as well as about 16 bushels of potatoes for the winter months. I also recall Marjorie would make about six apple pies and freeze them in the big deep freezer for the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. These are just wonderful memories.
The sumac tree across the road has turned a beautiful fall color. This small tree has long and pyramidal panicles of crimson drops. Just for some important information, please do not get the sumac tree mixed up with the poison sumac.
The poison sumac shrub will cause small water-like blisters to form over your skin like poison ivy and will make you itch and very uncomfortable.
Now the reason I brought up the sumac tree is that when I was a young boy, my parents took my grandmother, Mary J.B. Alcott, to see her sister, Florence Bryant Oliver. As a young woman, Miss Florence L. Bryant married Mr. Elwell Oliver, who was a farmer in Nobleboro and they lived on their farm, which was located on the left side of the intersection of Deer Farm Road and Vannah Road.
The farm is now the home of their grandson, Mr. Henry Oliver, and his wife.
I remember my mother telling her aunt, Florence Oliver, how beautiful her kitchen cabinets were. Aunt Florence told my mother that her Uncle Elwell cut some of the small sumac tree butts and sawed them into narrow tongue and groove boards and built her kitchen cabinets and left them in a natural color.
These are just memories of past events in my boyhood. My father was very careful and took the time to show me all the wild plants in our area that would cause infection and skin discomfort. I also taught this to my wife’s Cub Scout pack when I used to take them on a Saturday afternoon to hunt for old bottles beside the stone walls around many old field and wood lot areas.
It is important to know the type of wild plants in your area as well as in the state of Maine.
The citizens of Damariscotta, Newcastle, and Nobleboro as well as the grammar and high school age children should take notice to all the “invasive” plants that have started to appear in our area. Many of these invasive plants will take over an area and overwhelm the native plants, shrubs, and trees.
One of these invasive plants is called bittersweet. It is a climbing vine that will wrap itself around a shrub or tree trunk and completely climb up the tree and weave itself through all its top branches until it completely covers it and chokes the life out of the tree.
The vine of the Bittersweet plant has scarlet berries and, in fall, orange berries. Many people bcut these vines in the fall and weave the berry covered vine into a circular wreath for fall decorations. One can see if the berries fall off onto the ground, it will only spread this wild plant over more area.
Then another plant is the bamboo. It is a plant with a hollow woody stem. This plant will completely take over an area and choke out the life of any plant in that area.
The root system goes deep and is even known to come back up through a hot top area of payment. I recall the Damariscotta Baptist Church had bamboo on the east side of its foundation and had to completely dig it up and haul off the entire old root system. I also recall the stone wall where Bangor Savings is today was covered with poison oak. This plant can cause blisters on one’s skin like poison ivy.
Poison ivy is poisonous to the touch with shiny trifoliate leaves, green flowers, and whitish berries. So just remember, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, or poison hemlock are poisonous to the touch and, if you are burning these items in a brush pile, you can breathe in or inhale some of their particles with negative effects.
Please stay safe when raking up your leaves and cutting brush along your stone walls. Take a walk each day and enjoy the great Maine fresh air now that you have turned the heat on in your home.
P.S. I just looked through my 1966 photos of my garden and I saw a photo of a row of sunflowers about 14 feet long and they grew to a height of 10-12 feet each, according to a note on the back of the photo. I fertilized them with chicken fertilizer and they grew to a great size and height and many of my neighbors came and took photos of them. The sunflower blossom was over 12-14 inches across.