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GARDEN SURROUNDINGS: Saving Frogs Lives And Making Apple Pie From Home-Grown Apples

By Francesca Filanc, for Let’s Talk Plants! August 2023.


Here is an addendum to July’s Garden Surroundings article about frogs.

The other day I was out by the pool in the early morning and saw a large frog hanging on the pool vacuum for dear life. I didn’t have time to save his or her life at the time because I would’ve been late for an appointment. Luckily, my wonderful gardeners were coming, so I asked them to save the frog’s life. They used the net for cleaning leaves out of the pool to scoop the frog out and then carried it over to the grandchildren’s garden, where there are water features down low, and it’s a nice shady area with lots of vegetation.

Later that day, I did my swimming. I swim half a mile almost every day, either at the Boys and Girls Club, or in my pool. After my swim, at home, I thought it would be fun to swim in the altogether. I dove into the pool and squealed because there was another frog! It wasn’t the same frog because this one was smaller. Not as small as the tree frogs that I wrote about last month though. I was in the deep end, so it was quite a challenge, but I got the frog and talked to her or him lovingly, saying that I was saving his or her life, while I got out of the pool and managed to put the towel around my body and walk all the way around to the other side of the garden and put this frog into the grandchildren’s garden also.

A few days later, the gardeners showed up.

“Hi Frankie, I heard a frog croaking when I arrived this morning.”

When I designed this garden in 2018, two espaliered Anna semi-dwarf apple trees were planted on one of the terraces. Every summer they produce many beautiful apples. I use them for eating and making apple pies.

There are probably at least twelve apples on the two trees right now. It is nice to have apples on the trees so people can pick them and eat them right in the garden. My family is coming from Spain and San Francisco soon and I have already made a gluten free apple pie and put it in the freezer for when they arrive.

Years ago, when my husband Pete was alive, he used to say,

“Francie, you make the best apple pies! You should enter them in the fair.”

I never did that, but I had a very funny, very long dream one time. I dreamt that I was going to be on the Oprah show with my apple pie, but also other pies. This was before I used the computer in real life, so in the dream Peter got me my tickets to go to Chicago to be on the show. Pete was going to be coming later. The dream was so vivid that I even dreamt that the whole pies fell on the airplane. Obviously, in real life, that would not happen, you would make the pies in the kitchen at the studio before going on to the show. In the dream I appeared on the show and Oprah was talking to the audience, asking Peter in the audience if my pies were really as good as he thought, and then she took a bite and in Oprah fashion said …

“M’m! M’m! Good!”

My dream was so vivid, and actually too vivid. I just enjoy making pies for family and friends.

Here is my recipe for the best homemade apple pie (according to family and friends.)

Francie’s Best Homemade Apple Pie


6 homegrown apples, or pippins from the market, cored and cut (I don’t even peel them anymore and they taste delicious)

¾ to 1 cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup white sugar (sometimes I don’t use white sugar)

2 heaping tablespoons cinnamon, plus more for dusting the top crust

1 tablespoon gluten-free flour (I like Pamela’s)

Tiny bit ground cloves

Tiny bit ground nutmeg

1 to 3 tablespoons butter, cut up

2 frozen gluten-free pie shells


Put the cut apples in a large bowl and add the sugars, spices and flour. Stir well. About 10 minutes before starting the pie, take two gluten-free pie crusts out of the freezer. Prick the bottom pie crust with a fork and then pour in all the ingredients from the bowl. Add the cut-up butter on top of the apple mixture.

Now, it’s time to unwrap the other frozen pie shell and carefully take it from the pan that it came in and cautiously place it on top of the pie. Take a sharp knife and cut/poke a pretty design in the top crust for vents for the pie while it cooks.

Next sprinkle about a teaspoon of white sugar or less, a little bit of nutmeg and cloves, and about a half teaspoon of cinnamon over the top crust. Have your oven preheated to 400°F. My oven runs cooler, so I keep it on 400°F. for the whole 40 minutes. If your oven runs hotter, turn it down to 375°F. or 350°F. after 15 minutes.

The other day I cooked one, turned off the oven and left it in the oven because I’ve been having an ant problem in the kitchen this summer. It was absolutely delicious. Just don’t forget to take it out of the oven if you’re going out or to bed and put it in the refrigerator for the night.

If I don’t have company coming on the day that I make the pie, then I don’t cook it. I take tinfoil and wrap it tightly, so that no air can get in, and I put it back in the freezer until the company comes. It’s a wonderful way to have a delicious pie on hand if you have spur of the moment company. Or, if, like me, your family is coming for a visit. That way you can pop it in the oven. (Use the same cooking directions mentioned above.)

l am looking forward to having all my family here. We will be enjoying the pool, garden and eating homemade apple pie from my home-grown apples.

Enjoy having your family and friends in the garden and delight in delicious meals and apple pie.

Supernatural, by Francesca Filanc, 48 x 60 Acrylic on Canvas.

Happy Gardening!

~ Francesca


Artist, author, photographer, fly-fisher woman, Francesca Filanc grew up in old Del Mar and these days lives, paints and gardens in historic Olivenhain with two dogs.

Find her art and writings here:

She can be found on social media here:

Have gardening questions or want to learn more about Francie’s art? Contact:


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