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When faced with a windfall of apples, Marilyn Englander puts a California New Normal spin on the old phrase ‘turning lemons into lemonade’.

When we bought our home years ago, my husband and I inherited the water-guzzling landscaping of previous owners. We replaced the most unsuitable plants, while drought helped us along by killing others. Last winter a big tree crashed down in a windstorm, so this fall I began worrying about our overloaded apple tree. In late October, with a forecast for extreme winds, I called a tree crew for help pruning.

Just as the chainsaws went silent, and the winds were peaking, we were plunged into a Public Safety Power Shut-off. I hauled two overflowing bushels of harvest into a lightless kitchen as night fell.

Here was a windfall of ripe fruit, but we were back to pioneer days, with only candlelight and dim lanterns. Yet with cold settling over the dark house, I knew there was only one solution: marathon baking.

We’re fortunate to have a gas oven, so I set lanterns around the room and got out knives and rolling pin. Chop chop, chop some more. Golden halfmoons heaped into glistening mounds in the pie tins. A light sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon, the top crust pinched in place, I slid pie after pie into the hot oven. Every time I did so, I took a moment to appreciate the radiating heat. The homey aroma of baking pies cheered us too, as we huddled in the only warm room in the house.


Morning revealed a mother-lode of pastries arrayed on the counter. Warm sun was beaming through the windows, and we had pies to offer neighbors and friends, a balm for the next days without electricity. Thankful to have conjured pleasure from the misery of a power outage, I lit the stove again for a new round --- this time, old-fashioned apple butter, simmering and sweetening the air through the day.

As darkness once more overtook us, I spooned sweet brown sauce into jars and pasted on the labels, “PSPS Apple Butter, October, 2019.” We’ll savor it on our toast when the apple tree blossoms again in spring.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.