Friday, June 17, 2011

The Lilac and the Apple Tree

These are some of the field stone cellars seen along Windham, New Hampshire's rail trail
A few days ago I was listening to the folk music station on the radio when I heard this song by singer Kate Wolf (1942 – 1986). It reminded me of New Hampshire’s abandoned cellar holes. I love walking through the forests, following stone walls and thinking about when the landscape was bare of trees and the fields were full of crops. The stone walls will invariably lead to a cellar hole. These cellar holes, now swallowed up by thick woods, will sometimes be marked by a lilac bush planted by a settler woman possibly thinking of life back in England or Scotland. Kate Wolf's addition of an apple tree to the song, and mentioning the mills, only makes me think of Londonderry even more!

The Lilac and the Apple Tree

"A Lilac bush and an Apple tree
Were standing in the woods,
Out on the hill above the town,
Where once a farmhouse stood.

In the winter the leaves are bare
And no one sees the signs
Of a house that stood and a garden that grew
And life in another time.

One Spring when the buds can bursting forth
And grass grew on the land,
The Lilac spoke to the Apple tree
As only a good friend can.

Do you think, said the Lilac, this might be the year
When someone will build here once more?
Here by the cellar, still open and deep,
There's room for new walls and a floor.

Oh, no, said the Apple, there are so few
Who come here on the mountain this way,
And when they do, they don't often see
Why we're growing here, so far away.

A long time ago we were planted by hands
That worked in the fields and the mills,
When the country was young and the people who came
Built their homes in the hills.

But now there are cities, the roads have come,
And no one lives here today.
And the only signs of the farms in the hills
Are the things not carried away.

Broken dishes, piles of boards,
A tin plate, an old leather shoe.
And an Apple tree still bending down,
And a Lilac where a garden once grew."

Words and music Kate Wolf
Copyright Another Sundown Publishing Company BMI, 1977

A well tended Londonderry apple tree,
although there are many abandoned orchards around town....

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Heather I grew up in a community that Apples was the market, today they rot and and the young generation is planting grapes. My home land was Luther Burbank's test garden for many types of apples. As we grew up and the trees were older we lost many of them but we used them all. I think he actually had some better apples than what he marketed. Less sweet and stores all winter long. I am so going to miss the few that are left. I bet when they buy they will not even know why they are still growing in such old tired shape. Thanks for the post.

  2. If those old apple trees survive to winter, graft them onto young rootstock, and they will live for another hundred years or more. If you don't know how to graft, Big Horse Creek will custom graft for you.