Holy apples! We may have finally pressed our last gallon of cider. It has been a banner year. After separating out a bushel of perfect ones, I am gearing up for an applesauce-a-thon. It is a much more tedious task than cider pressing. There are two methods. One is to wash and core the fruit, put them over heat to stew it with enough water to prevent them from sticking. When they soften to the touch (and smell wonderful), run them through a food mill to retrieve the skins. I used this method for years when I had babies as it makes a fine puree. Now I prefer peeling, coring and slicing. The sauce is then chunky. It is packed hot into sterilized jars and waterbathed for 10 minutes. Sometimes I use half-pints for single servings in a lunch box. Where I come from, we called lunch boxes “dinner pails.” A bushel of apples will yield about 35 pints of sauce — enough to eat it once a week off-season. I never sweeten it until opening, if at all.

This is a word to you new canning buffs: remove the rings from the sealed jars for several reasons. They can rust on the jar making it difficult to twist off. They can trap tiny pieces of food which mold and are extremely unattractive, although it will not get into the properly sealed jar. I usually wipe the jars with a soapy cloth before storing, especially if I have used the pressure canner. Finally the plain lids are less expensive than the ring and lid combo. I only tell these things after having made the mistake myself.

Laurie Clements commented that her father used shingles to blanch his celery rather than newspapers.

Chappy resident Dale Carter phoned with her recipe for skunked dog: 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid. Leave on the wet dog for 10 minutes before rinsing.

I have to admit my least favorite holiday arrangement is a hothouse mum sitting next to a big old pumpkin. I did see a festive windowbox in Edgartown with ornamental cabbages and tiny gourds and pumpkins tossed randomly around.

I grew some rather impressive birdhouse gourds this year. The plant is remarkable. It takes off like some botanical star in Little Shop of Horrors. It has tropical looking flowers and wanders aimlessly up fences and around stone walls. Susie Goldman reported hers was frightening, as it attempted to invade her house. I am encouraging Seniel, the illustrator of this column, to paint some interesting scenes on them, shellac and give for Christmas gifts.

After bragging that I had yet to freeze here in Vineyard Haven, we dropped down to a killer 25 degrees last week. All is lost. I ate my last tomato as I refuse to buy them in winter. One can save a crop in a light freeze by watering the morning after before the sun hits the leaves. Of course, that is if you can coax water out of the hose. Don’t you hate it when it turns all warm right after a frost. It could have the decency to stay cold for a few days so that you could begin the acceptance process.

This is my last writing before the presidential election of 2008. I will never figure out why John McCain and Sarah Palin keep pushing the Obama and socialist agenda. First of all, stop with the Joe the Plant — oops, I mean the Plumber. Fear of spreading the wealth around is so ironic. The very people booing and angry about it are the ones who could use some wealth spread their way. I guess they don’t want any lazy non-working bums getting any social services from taxes collected from multibillion dollar corporations? After all, any day now, they are going to win the lottery and do not want any tax on their money.

I have carried on about this subject before but here I go again. Why do we think we can have a government without taxes? I don’t want to educate children, build roads and bridges, stand in a bread line when I get old, put out my own fires, and live with no police protection. We keep saying we hate socialism but the best thing we have going for all our elderly is social security and socialized public education for our children.

Let us not forget we have just spread the wealth ($700 billion) to the poor destitute folks on Wall Street. We have never balked at corporate welfare. I, for one, am in favor of being my brother’s keeper. I would rather be the keeper than the keepee.