- "An Unforbidden
- The Story of Robert Frost's Apple
- at the Stone House, Shaftsbury,
- The Robert Frost Apple
Tree in winter, 2006
- NEW!! Apples
- April 25 last
day of sale in 2010.
- Five varieties are
offered for spring 2010, inluding the Snow apple and new this
year, Frost's varieties from the cabin at the Homer Noble Farm
in Ripton, VT. Sale days at the museum: Saturday and Sunday,
April 24 & 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Read about the sale here
or paste: http://www.benningtonbanner.com/entertainment/ci_14910819
- In 1920 Robert Frost moved from
Franconia, a town located high in the White Mountains in northern
New Hampshire, to Shaftsbury in southern Vermont. Among other
considerations he sought "a better place to farm and especially
grow apples." His two youngest daughters, Irma and Marjorie,
were still in high school so the family also sought a place where
good schools were available. His son Carol wished to take up
farming. Frost had considered properties in Massachusetts and
Connecticut, but his friend Dorothy Canfield Fisher of Arlington
had convinced him that the charming, historic stone house in
South Shaftsbury would make the perfect home for the Frost family.
In those days, the stone house featured 80 acres of land for
farming, and Vermont had a warmer climate for orchards and gardens.
It was closer to Frost's publisher in New York and easily accessible
by railroad. The Frost daughters could finish high school in
- Frost purchased the "Peleg
Cole" house in July 1920. He wrote to a friend, "I
depose that I have moved a good part of the way to a stone cottage
on a hill at South Shaftsbury in southern Vermont (on the New
York side) near the historic town of Bennington, where if I have
any money left after repairing the roof in the spring I mean
to plant a new Garden of Eden with a thousand apple trees of
some unforbidden variety."
- Frost published this poem, "Good-bye
and Keep Cold," in Harper's Magazine also in July,
1920. The poem accurately describes the topography at his new
farm. Perhaps he was already dreaming of his new orchard.
This saying good-bye on the edge of the dark
And cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don't want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don't want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don't want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn't be idle to call
I'd summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don't want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard's the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn't get warm.
"How often already you've had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below."
I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an axe--
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard's arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.
- Robert Frost's experience with
apples dated back to his first farm in Derry, New Hampshire,
where he lived from 1900 to 1911. The place had a working orchard
when he bought it. He found that growing apples was a good occupation
for a poet and he liked having them around. He said, "One
of my apple trees, standing stock still and rooted, earns more
money in a year than I can earn with all my locomotion and artistic
detachment." Aside from pruning, Frost let the trees take
care of themselves. He claimed he never sprayed his trees. Frost
kept his orchard as a good practical New England farmer, for
its fruit and byproducts. To open the cellar door in winter was
to be treated to the scent of apples.
- One of Frost's finest poems was
written about his apple orchard in Derry and proved his skill
as both a poet and apple farmer.
- AFTER APPLE-PICKING
- MY long two-pointed ladder's sticking
through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
- Frost subsequently wrote several
other apple poems, including "Unharvested," "The
Cow in Apple-time," "The Gold Hesperidee," and
he mentions apples in many more poems. He once consulted an apple
expert to be sure of his "pomological facts," and was
told that he knew what he was talking about.
- Frost's dream of the "thousand
apple trees of some unforbidden variety" enchanted the whole
family. Frost's son Carol had his heart set on being a farmer
and thought the orchard would be the main stay of the farm. Robert
and Carol planted the orchard, but it was actually Carol who
did most of the work at the stone house. By 1920 Robert Frost
was a recognized poet, whose love of rural life was more an avocation
than vocation. However farming was always a way of earning money
and living off the land. Carol also set out red pine for timber
and blueberries along with the usual summer vegetables that supplied
the kitchen. The Frosts relished summer peas, corn, potatoes,
- The apple varieties planted at
the Stone House were MacIntosh, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious,
Red Delicious and Red Astrachan. Most of the orchard was planted
on a slope west of the house beyond the old grey barn. Today
that land is not owned by the Frost museum but the trees, choked
and dying, are still there as reported by neighbors who hunt
on the property.
- Frost planted one special tree
directly behind the Stone House. This tree, pictured above, is
the subject of our project to restart the Frost orchard. There
are also Frost apple trees at the Gulley that will be used.
- A crabapple planted by Lillian
LaBatt Frost (Carol's wife) next to the Little Red Barn is also
worthy of attention. We have a picture of the tree shortly after
it was planted dating c. 1935. In the spring it is covered with
clove scented blossoms that perfume the whole yard. In late summer
the crabapple fruit are little crimson, cherry shaped globes
that are very pretty.
- A New Display Orchard
at the Stone House
- Objective: Create a display orchard
of 20 trees composed of the historic varieties of apples as mentioned
in Frost's letter: MacIntosh, Northern Spy, Golden Delicious,
Red Delicious and Red Astrachan. This orchard will be planted
in the south pasture, adjacent to the visitor parking lot. A
kiosk will be erected giving the Frost history with a map of
the orchard, information about propagating heritage trees, and
annotated with Frost's apple poems. Information will be given
on our propagation program of Frost's apple tree and how people
can order a Frost tree of their own. Booklets will be printed
on the Frost history and care of apple trees, annotated with
Frost's apple poems.
- Through the UVM Master Gardener
extension service, we hired apple consultant Russell Allen of
Westminster Station, Vermont, who is a specialist on apple propagation
and grafting. He visited the museum in December 2005, to talk
about techniques of restarting new trees from cuttings taken
off the old Frost trees. He inspected our surviving tree and
says we can work with it to make new trees. He gave a demonstration
and talk on apple trees and grafting techniques on August 20,
2006 as part of our program, "Sunday Afternoons with Robert
- Interesting local history: The
wax used for apple grafting was invented in Shaftsbury in the
mid-19th century by David Millington, a descendant of one of
the Green Mountain Boys. Millington's grafting wax was a blend
of rosin, tallow and beeswax. There is quite a history of apple
grafting in Shaftsbury.
- Apple trees grown from seed will
bear fruit, which is nearly always of small size and poor flavor.
For good fruit, trees must be grafted to the desired variety.
To do this "scion wood" is taken off an existing tree
and grafted onto new rootstock. Modern rootstock methods have
been developed to control the size and hardiness of trees. Orchards
are planted with several apple varieties so that bees cross pollinate
the trees. Curiously, orchards planted with only one variety
would bloom but not bear fruit. When cross-pollinated, a MacIntosh
tree bears MacIntosh apples, but the seeds from a MacIntosh apple
will not breed true since they bear traits of another variety.
- The Frost Heritage
Tree after a good pruning in spring, 2006
- The Frost Heritage
Tree in bloom, spring 2006
- STEP BY STEP TECHNIQUE.
- 1. The Frost apple tree in the
west pasture was readied for propagation in the early spring
of 2006 with an application of high nitrogen fertilizer and a
good pruning. This stimulated new growth of "scion-wood"
to be harvested in August.
2. On August 20, 2006 Russell Allen took cuttings off the tree
in the program described above. Cuttings were also taken from
the Gulley trees. We produced over 100 trees from the scion-wood.
The extra trees will be sold as fundraisers to benefit the Stone
3. The cuttings were personally delivered to Adams County Nursery
in Aspers, Pennsylvania, where they were grafted onto new root
stock. The technique called "bud-grafting" takes several
leaf buds and makes a new tree. There is a good success rate
with this technique because the buds on new wood are highly amenable
to grafting. The trees remained in the nursery for 18 months
and will be ready to plant in spring of 2008.
4. In the fall 2006, the fruit on the Frost "Heritage tree"
was identified. After careful consultation with apple experts
it was determined that the Heritage tree is a Snow apple. A Frost
Snow apple! This is bound to be our most popular apple.
5. The site of the new orchard in the south pasture was prepared
1) Remove two pine trees, 2) turn the soil and fertilize
- The Frost Snow apple.
- You cannot tell the variety of
an apple tree just by looking at it. You must examine the fruit
as it matures looking for shape, color, markings that change
as the fruit ripens; and finally you taste it. An apple is ripe
when the seeds turn brown. The Frost heritage apple has very
particular stripes that provide a major clue.
- Top apple experts Tom Callahan,
Russ Allen and Zeke Goodband examined the apple evidence, but
the taste test along with the stripes provided the final proof.
- It's a Snow Apple! It's definitely
not any of the varieties in the orchard. It was special enough
to plant close to the house. Did you know that apples have parents?
The Snow Apple is a parent of the MacIntosh. It is one of the
oldest recorded apple varieties dating back to 1600. It came
to America from France through Quebec in 1789. It was a popular
variety in Vermont at the time Frost lived at the Stone House.
It is named for its snow-white flesh. It's a small dessert apple.
The French called it a Fameuse. Try Googling that.
- In addition to the Snow apple,
we are offering three other varieties: Lillian's crabapple,
that was planted by Frost's daughter-in-law in the 1930s. Its
blossom is very fragrant and the lovely fruit is good for jelly.
From the other Frost farm in Shaftsbury, The Gulley, we
have the Rhode Island Greening, a good apple for cooking.
It makes delicious apple butter or applesauce. Lastly, there
is a tree at the Gulley that reverted to its wild rootstock.
It's a good apple, but you must be patient as it ripens late.
We call it Gulley's Wild Patience.
- Our trees are being grafted onto
modern rootstock EMLA-111, which will produce a semi-dwarf tree
that reaches 18 - 20 ft. - good stock for the home garden.
- The first annual Robert Frost Apple
Tree Sale will take place on Sunday, April 27 at the Robert Frost
Stone House Museum located on Route 7A in Shaftsbury, VT. The
fundraising event starts at 12 noon and runs through 4 p.m.
- © Carole Thompson, 2006-07
- Robert Frost Stone House Museum
- 121 Historic Route 7A
- Shaftsbury, Vermont 05262