Vin and Alice

Thinking about apples often puts me in mind of Vin and Alice Strout, who were our neighbors to the south all the time I was growing up. Vin and Alice came from upcountry in Maine, town of Jay I think. They were both teachers, first in Farmington, then maybe in Fairfield, CT. At some point they bought an old farmhouse with a few dozen acres on Robinhood Cove, and ran a boys’ camp down by the shore for a few years, probably in the 4os or 50s. By the time I knew them they were getting on in years and wintered in Florida, but they remained active and were a significant part of our lives on the North End. Vin was an incurable tinkerer with sheds full of old machines that he would try to get running, “titravating” was his word for the mechanic-ing efforts. His example was a large part of the inspiration that turned me into an engineer.

Vin and Alice kept a very nice vegetable garden; they always had the first corn on the North End. Vin also kept a number of sorry old apple trees, they never had a dog or a fence so the deer raised havoc with them. His favorite was the Red Astrakhan; it’s a summer apple and we’d go over and help him make the most brutal, tart cider you can imagine in late summer; he had a nice old cider press with a small AC motor that he jury-rigged to run the grinder. Vin died some years ago and Alice followed not long after; we were afraid that their farm would be turned into some gawd-awful subdivision, but thankfully it was purchased by a conservation-minded lawyer from around Portland and his family; they’ve fixed up the drafty old farmhouse and rebuilt the dock and they appear to be using it as a summer getaway.

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