The Farm Ponds of Donbridge
Below the alfalfa fields of my parent’s farm, our pond was nestled deep below the rolling meadow. It was there that my Grandparents had set up a picnic for all of us under the giant oak tree whose branches hung low near the ponds shores. As we sat upon the picnic table shaded from the afternoon sun, my grandfather began grilling hot dogs over a portable grill. My grandmother was hard at work setting the table while my brother and I fished the pond, hoping for a large mouth bass to grab our lure.
About 30 minutes had passed and my grandmother was now unloading her ice chest pulling out picnic salads, pickles and condiments of all sorts. Calling us to the table we began helping ourselves to hot dogs that were now cooked to perfection from the grill. While we ate, a large bullfrog sung out over the marsh and my grandmother smiled as she heard its song. “You know that bullfrog reminds me of something my father once told me long ago.”
It was a warm summer’s day in the Hudson Valley Town of Donbridge. Children were off in the fields, farms and orchards helping their parents with the harvests and keeping the farms in good operating order. One of the farms that was most important to the town was Mapes Dairy Farm.
The Mapes were famous for their cheese, cream and milk which was sold all over the region. The farm was the oldest in Donbridge and it was the only Dairy Farm that had an assortment of dairy cows. This was rare as most farms stuck to only one breed of dairy cow, Holsteins, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Ayrshire or Jersey cows. But it was the mix of all five dairy cows that gave the milk at the Mapes farm its own special flavor and made the cheese all the better. But for as much harmony and serenity that was had at their dairy farm, soon calamity would find its way through their door.
One morning, the Mapes awoke to find that none of their cows would produce any milk. Jonathan Mapes tried everything he could think of, but simply nothing worked. Soon, feeling that there was nothing more he could do, he went to Midwife Sutton, who was known to have a flare for problem solving but most of all seemed to be one with nature. So, when Midwife Sutton had heard of the plight of the Mapes Farm, she worked quickly to come up with a solution. And with most of her ideas, she set to the forest for a walk.
The Midwife hiked for nearly a day and then came upon a swamp that was filled with small islands. Standing there she listened to the forest and as the sun was setting, she heard a melodious sound she had never heard before. The water frogs and tree frogs sang in harmony and their peaceful sounds filled the air. The Midwife thought to herself and began to realize that maybe this lovely sound would help the Mapes cows find peace again and may help them produce milk.
Traveling back to the farm, she explained that the Mapes would need to dig a massive hole and reroute the creek that ran by their barn to this new crater. The Mapes toiled about the earth and soon a newly dug pond formed. The Midwife then slowly brought over lily pads and frogs from the swamp. When evening came, the sound of frogs filled the entire valley bringing peace and harmony.
The next day Mr. Mapes went to his barn to milk his cows and every cow not only was able to be milked but all produced more than they ever did previously. From that day forward, Dairy farms would always make sure they had a pond and singing frogs in them to keep harmony and milk production high.
When my grandmother finished her tale, she began placing Cherry Tarts on our plates that she had baked the night before. As I began to eat my tart, the frogs of the pond again began to sing out over the meadow and as they sung a man could be seen walking across the farm field toward us holding a jar. As he approached us my grandfather shook his hand and then both he and the man came to the picnic table. “Sorry I missed my delivery at your house Jules. I was told that I could find all of you here at the pond. Enjoy the milk!” the man said as he walked off. Looking at the container, I read the ornate label which read “Mapes Dairy Farm 5 varieties of cows strong since 1825”.
1 cup of flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup of shortening
With a pastry fork, mix ingredients together until mixture becomes granulated. Then slowly add cold water while mixing the ingredients together. Finally, the dough for the crust will form.
Roll dough out on a floured surface. Cut dough and place into small baking pastry cups. Flute the edges of each cup and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
3 cups of pitted cherries
¼ cup of sugar
½ tsp. of almond extract
¼ cup of tapioca
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat and stir until thick. When finished, chill the filling.
Take the chilled cherry filling and place a generous spoonful in each baked pastry cup. Serve with whip cream if you so desire. Makes 10 tarts.
RD Vincent shares fables his grandmother told him as a child growing up on the family farm. www.donbridgeseries.com