The phone rang at my parents’ farmhouse and I quickly ran to the other end of the kitchen to answer it. From the other end of the receiver, my grandmother gave a pleasant hello and explained how she was in the middle of making apple harvest bread. Running out of room for the nearly one hundred pounds of apples she had picked at the local orchard, she asked if we were interested in taking some from her. My mother quickly nodded her head and stated we would be at her house in a few minutes to get them.
When we arrived at my grandparents’ home, my grandmother had just finished hanging out some freshly washed sheets. The light smell of bleach and detergent filled the air as the breeze gently dried the fabric. “Come on in, guys,” she said as she bent her head out the window. My mother and I entered the house, and as we walked through the door, we were immersed in the pleasant smell of cinnamon and steaming apples. In the corner were three large pumpkin gourds.
I quickly ran over to the stove to investigate the cooking pots, and to my surprise, the apples and the cinnamon were in different pots. Grandmother came from behind me and began to stir the contents of each one. “Why are they separate, the cinnamon and the apples?” I asked in my inquisitive fashion. Grandmother took a moment and a brief laugh came from under her breath. “Well, I can tell you that, but to understand why I am doing it, it would be best to hear a tale.”
Each spring, the seamstress of Donbridge would be given the usual pile of clothing for repairs which the townsfolk would need for the coming summer months. For years, these repairs seemed to be nothing more than wear and tear on the trousers and shirts because the community was a farming community, so the occasional tears and pulled threads were not uncommon.
One day, Sharps General Store received a rare shipment of fabric from the Orient. Many people were astonished at the shiny silk cloth and the women of the town requested dresses and other fashionable clothes be crafted from the fine textiles.
The seamstress was busier than she had ever been and soon she hired the help of a young girl, Lavinia Woodlock, a daughter of the local inventor. The two created fashionable dresses and even the town of Sleepy Hollow came to admire their work. However, something besides beautiful fabric came in the crates from the Orient, and it was not anything the town had expected.
By mid-summer all orders sent to the seamstress were completed, and the folks fell in love with their fashionable couture. But soon, their clothing began to show signs of mysterious holes nearly overnight. Some awoke to find large chew marks in their sleeves. Not long after, the seamstress began to receive complaints from everyone in town.
Lavinia, having listened to the townsfolk’s complaints, began to take an interest in the situation. Lavinia loved nature and also enjoyed solving a mystery. She began by going to each home, and wherever she went, she would examine the cabinets in which the garments hung. She investigated the outside areas of the homes and even looked about the yards. Lavinia visited with Mrs. Sharp, owner of the general store, and asked to investigate the crate in which the fabrics originally arrived. As she looked over the crate, she found a thick web-like structure in the bottom corner of the crate. Taking a stick, she slowly pulled it away; beneath the webbing were hundreds of caterpillars. Startled, she then went back to each home and as she looked on the property, she saw webbings in the trees, and some had moths which had matured from the caterpillars.
Lavinia quickly informed the town of the caterpillars and stated that through her research, she was familiar with the bug and knew that if more moths matured, trees and clothing would be destroyed.
It was already nearly the end of October and many people were getting ready to store their clothing for the following year. So Lavinia went to her home and created a solution of cinnamon sticks, cedar chips, eucalyptus oil and pine cones, which she mixed with pieces of cheesecloth and distributed to all of Donbridge. She then instructed that all of the nests be burned. Many people were concerned about the moths coming into their homes, and so Lavinia instructed them to hollow out gourds, carve a hole in the front of them and light the cheesecloth in the gourd. This would ensure that the scent would drive away the moths. From that day forward, each October, Donbridgians would create the moth repellent which became known as the “Moth Light Charm,” and in front of their homes, sitting on the steps, a carved gourd would be lit burning the repellent, keeping the moths from returning.
As Grandmother finished her tale, a knock came at the door. An older lady walked in and greeted my grandmother. “I have your pants right here, fixed and as good as new. Oh, and here is your moth repellent; don’t forget to keep it lit. I don’t have to remind you what happened last time at the store.” Looking out the front window, I watched the woman climb inside her car and there, painted on the driver’s side panel, were the words, Sharps General Store.
Apple Harvest Bread
1 cup sugar
3 tbs. olive oil
1 cup plain applesauce
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Pre-heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, olive oil and applesauce. Fold in sifted flour and other dry ingredients. Mix in pecans and raisins. Next, lightly grease and flour a 9x5-inch bread pan. Pour batter in to the bread pan and bake for 60 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure the batter is cooked through. If not, a few more minutes may be necessary. Yield: 1 loaf