“Oh, you do it fancy,” said Michelle as I got out the wire basket to lower the peaches into the boiling water with; “I just use a ladle” at her house.
One one thousand two one thousand… Sixty seconds, lift, and quick into the icewater.
And then the peels just kind of melted off. I squeezed one lemon from the tree, she added just a touch of sugar–not much–a taste test all around, just a spoonful more from the sugar container and then we food processored the heck out of those four or five pounds of perfect peaches.
Plug in and wait.
Direct side-by-side comparison between the plain pureed mixture and what came out of there and all I can say is it was magic. That electric ice cream maker is suddenly going to get used a whole lot more.
I get buy with a little help from my friends
Our friends Phyl and Lee came over tonight bearing newly picked, perfectly ripe figs from their friend’s tree, sharing the bounty that had been shared with them where they would be appreciated and eaten in time. So good.
In turn, we fed them peaches picked Friday morning at Andy’s Orchard. Michelle had called ahead the day before and been told, Don’t come down today, we’re about out–wait till tomorrow, we’ll be picking first thing, and whatever all else they said was such that Michelle told me, We need to be there at eleven.
We got there at 11:05 and two people in line ahead of us already had three boxes and a bunch of people who came in after us wanted some. We were allowed three boxes, too, and a few extras because we’d called ahead, and because we were buying not just for us but for a friend with four school-age kids who’d tasted some of what Andy grows and definitely wanted us to bring her more.
But I asked around the room first: did everybody have some that wanted some and did they have as many as they wanted. I’d never seen the place so crowded and we didn’t want to be greedy. It was clear they were running out fast. We had a heat spell in the hundreds early in the summer and it sped up the ripening process so we were near the end of the season early this year and clearly, people knew it.
Those CalReds were even better than the variety we bought the week before.
That afternoon, looking at those rows of beautiful fruit, I thought, y’know…if I ever needed an excuse to stop by our neighbor’s and check in on her that’s a good one right there.
She’s been fighting cancer. Knowing how careful you have to be when you’re immunosuppressed, I told her, These have only ever been touched (to the best of my knowledge) by the picker this morning and by me.
She was surprised and happy and anticipating just what those could be like and I wondered why on earth I hadn’t done this before.
Phyl, who grew up with two peach trees herself, remarked tonight, Now *that* is a peach.
As my cousin once remarked, Adam and Eve could never have been tempted by an apple: it had to have been a peach.
I picked up a peach this morning from last week’s box from Andy’s and put it right back down: an impressive puddle had been hidden under it–we should have eaten that one four days ago. I guess we handled it too many times trying to find the softest and ripest. There was a heartfelt thought of, oh if only…
I don’t feed the squirrels but I just couldn’t toss it. Not one of those peaches.
Maybe it would encourage them to search for food away from my ripening figs? Right? So I put it in a bowl so it wouldn’t weep across the carpeting and took it to the farthest point in the yard from my figs and the neighbors’ tomatoes over yonder and put it on a stump, the remains of one of the fence-threatening trees we cut down two years ago to make way for replanting in fruit trees.
I went out this evening to check if it might by any chance still be there, unnoticed.
You can see where more of that pink juice ran out onto that stump. It took me a moment to find the pit a yard away and yes, it really is that red.
But what is funny and intriguing and quizzical is this: a gently rounded stone with no sharp points had been placed right where I had put that peach down. It was definitely larger than the pit. It couldn’t have gotten there without that peach having been gotten out of the way first. Wherever it had come from it had not been there before and I don’t know how far they’d had to carry it and it would have been heavy in their mouths for getting it up and onto that stump.
But they did.
They left me a tip.
And they’re big
A few warm days in a row and while all the others sat there green, two of the figs decided it was time to turn reddish brown: one on this branch, one on that. Just like last week. They’re not drooping quite enough yet, though, and when I tested by lifting each one to horizontal they did not come away from the tree.
But one has two tiny droplets of sugar on the outside of the skin halfway down already, something the ones I’ve picked so far have not. I was tempted. It wants to be sweeter still? Okay, I can wait–probably won’t have to for long, like, tomorrow, probably.
My birder friend Alice told me that I would find the birds would go after them but the squirrels somehow really don’t seem to like figs, to which I say well Hallelujah for that! I guess they don’t like the smell of the latex in the sap? They tend to walk carefully around the mango tree not too close and that’s the one thing those two trees have in common.
One of the ripening ones hadn’t even been covered in a clamshell but I guess the jays hadn’t figured out how to get at it among the ones that were. It is now.
I like this idea of them ripening a good snack worth’s for two at a time. I don’t know how long the process will stay that way, but if we get a whole bunch at once I will roll them in melted butter, roast them, and drizzle honey on top. If they need it. Which clearly they won’t.
A few more thoughts on Saturday: my hubby wanted the traditional family Emergency Room Medicine–which means a cone of ice cream on the way home. I had no interest but he’s the one who went through all that, so, hey. Tradition. Sure. I stopped at a Coldstone Creamery, ran in, got his favorite and ran out.
Then to the drugstore to get his phoned-in prescription at the only pharmacy for many miles around that was open at nearly 8 pm on a weekend.
Your insurance will refuse to cover it, they told me, because we’re not in their network.
You’ve filled it already?
They had. CVS *might* still be open, he said. Probably not. (The doctor had said he was phoning it to that Walgreens because he thought they were the only place in four cities that would be.)
And if it’s not… And even if it is. I was so very very tired, and more importantly, his very life might well depend on getting that med in him quickly. “It’s under a hundred? Fine. Go.”
I got back in the car where Richard was still trying to keep his foot propped up as best he could in that space and went off to Trader Joe’s: we had to do some grocery shopping, and we had to keep going while we were going because collapse was so close.
The innocent clerk with the gentle smile asked me, “And how was your day?”
I will forever be grateful for that and for his listening; I tried to keep it brief.
I started loading the car and Richard said Michelle had gotten stranded and had been trying to reach us and we had to go get her right now. He was worried and pushing me to hurry.
I stopped right there, having not had lunch yet and the sun was nearly set on this fine summer evening and said firmly, “I am going to drink something and I am going to eat something or I am going to burst into tears.” I considered what I’d just bought and realized it was his favorites to make him happy with–but no drink. I have this drink 8 oz every two hours or your kidneys fail thing going on for life, this was serious. The clinic’s drinking fountain had been awhile ago at this point.
He handed me a ten and I dashed back inside. I grabbed a mango smoothie and another clerk saw me coming and opened a line just for me and got me out of there fast (blessings on her! I think she’d overheard the earlier conversation.) I chugged it fast, we got to Michelle in no time, and then at long long last we made it home.
Where I wondered why on earth I hadn’t bought one of those two-minute bags of microwaveable dinners they sell, and generally pretty good, too.
Actually yeah I did. Richard found that grocery bag the next morning after it had been left out all night.
Then there was the respite of the rest of Sunday. Church. Old friends, new friends, the services themselves.
A couple was visiting from out of town and I had this flash as the man’s eyes briefly met mine, of, Wait. I know you. Weren’t you at BYU with me? (I didn’t quite say it out loud. I’ve pattern-matched wrong on faces before.)
And thought, naaaah, couldn’t be, that guy’s way too old.
….. *blink* ….
But surely he…the Wilkinson Center, yes…
As it sank in: Wait, *I’m* that old. (Did you forget that little detail, hon? I mean, really?) Helped by the fact that meantime he’d done that same double take and flash of recognition.
Oh well, by that point it was too late to chase after them with any sort of dignity, so, that was that. At least now I know he grew up to be someone with deeply kind eyes. His wife does, too. It helped so much, and they could never know.
This morning the deep purple in the toe area, the fierce swelling in the reddened foot and lower leg: those are gone. His color is normal, normal everything as if all that hadn’t happened. He was still wiped from fighting back the infection along with the antibiotic, but he’s going to be okay.
It was one of those times when life says, Take nothing for granted. Hug your dear ones. Be kind. Be grateful.
Last year they had a drought and a poor crop and weren’t selling the seeds and I just had to wait.
But guess what I just got in the mail. They even came with two empty seed packets to save your own in later. If you want heritage varieties, this is definitely a heritage variety: a soft-shelled watermelon that was the best-selling one of the 1800s and considered the sweetest.
Until the arrival of the railroads induced breeding that was shipping-centric at the expense of flavor (sounds like tomatoes) and the market bottomed out for these.
Just this one family kept growing their ancestors’ variety, 170 years on their land. They got discovered. It had been thought to be extinct.
You can read their story here. And the Bradford Watermelon’s Revolutionary War history here.
They say they get an average of one watermelon per plant. How many gallons of California water to grow a single one? I’m not sure I want to know but I know I want to try. Re saving the seeds, they can cross-breed with any squash plants that might be around and although that might make for some really odd and curious future food I’m not sure I’m that adventurous. Half Bradford and half zucchini? Wait–it IS intriguing… Baseball bat size for the win! (Yeah, but.)
I’ve got almost a year to figure out how I’m going to keep the critters from eating them.
You big lug
I said something about her lug.
“What’s a lug?” asked Catherine, picking up her flat of Kit Donnell peaches.
We had already eaten the entire flat of them that I’d bought Friday, the morning after our trip home from Texas (they were that good), and with Catherine wanting some as an excuse went back down to Andy’s today and got more: some for her and some for Michelle and some for us.
“That is,” I told her.
She exclaimed over them, sniffing one in her hand and declaring it was like an eastern peach! Here, smell this! I knew just what she meant. Back home. I thanked her for being someone who was as enthusiastic over a perfect peach as I was.
After she left, though, finding myself unsure about that definition, I went and searched around.
One site says it’s slightly less than a bushel.
Another says it’s a way of packing peaches in particular and can include several layers’ worth. (Nope! Just one, but they were cushioned.) Another said that it was an old Southern term and generally meant a big flat, like what I sent her home with.
Whatever gets that juicy, fragile fruit home safe and sound.
Mystery plant solved. I think.
I had to know. I had to know what to do with them, leave them growing or harvest them small, so I finally cut a little one off and opened it up.
My squash seedlings got eaten as they came up a few months ago so I set out some much-anticipated Sharlyn melon plants in the same spot. Three times. And the squirrels devoured them all–except that last one.
Clearly it was a new squash plant coming up late from the earlier seeds, because this is no melon.
Butternuts grow like this and turn washed-out-yellow later, right? Or is this yet another squirrelled volunteer? Because I know my neighbor on the other side of that fence grew gourds at least one year and I have no desire to commit my water to growing those.
It tasted sort-of zucchini-ish but was already a bit hard in the handle end. Any experienced gardeners reading this who’ve grown butternut?
One of my sisters wants a black cowl, and I figured that if my eyes were going to be working in black it was going to be a yarn that of itself made me want to work with it despite the difficulty in seeing the stitches. Plus, this was my sister; I wanted to make her something really nice.
And so I bought the last two skeins of black Woolfolk that Purlescence likely will ever sell.
I finished all but the cast-off as the plane landed Friday–if I were going to stop at one skein, and it would have been a very nice if smallish cowl. Given the iffy lighting on the plane and the splittiness of the yarn, this was very tempting.
Tonight, though, I finished it the way I wanted it done, after using up as much of the second skein as possible. My father-in-law was in the middle of Facetime talking to our niece and I showed it off for her briefly–I was really proud of myself for persevering and doing it right: generously sized, thickly knit, and warm as well as soft against the northeastern chill.
And that yarn really, really is soft. A cousin got an earlier one-skein wonder out of Woolfolk and couldn’t believe it wasn’t cashmere? Nope, merino, plain and simple. Matter of fact, Deborah’s ecstatic reaction was why I bought more.
I put it away, Dad continued his chat, and afterwards he asked me, What did you call that?
A cowl. Or sometimes, an infinity scarf because of its being round.
He grinned: Looks like a bib!
When we laughed, he added, Or a hoodie. (But not wanting to waste the opportunity for a good tease, he went back to) A bib! Like, y’know, you eat lobster with!
Me, laughing: Can I quote you?
Actually? Lobster would be a dish worthy of such a thing.
A quick Cooper’s hawk report: one landed on the fence and watched me today like old times–warily, but it did.
I loved it for coming and as I felt that, he suddenly relaxed and fluffed out his feathers and took in the day, and a fine day it was. It was so cool seeing him so at ease.
But after finally getting him to come back I’ll be deserting him by not filling the feeder.
Richard mentioned that we should pack an umbrella.
There was this Californian moment of oh…! I remember those! (Haven’t used one in years)… (Running and checking the Ft. Worth weather report again. Ours, 79F, theirs, 99.) I remember the surprise from the first time we went there that the oranges and juice were so much sweeter in Texas for the heat.
We are off in the morning to take care of his dad. The house will be sat, the tomatoes ripening. If you don’t hear from me, the plan is also that Lynn there will be taking me to sightsee West 7th Wool yarn shop Saturday afternoon.
Sweet will be the times spent.
So we’ll see how it goes
I think we can officially call it eighteen fruit trees now.
Last year’s volunteer fig seedling that I dug out on a whim from under a tomato plant got put in a small pot and paid only just enough attention to to keep it alive.
If that. But it wanted to survive. It didn’t grow much at all but no matter what I did or didn’t, it hung in there. It even added a third leaf when the weather started warming up again. It had demanded a chance, so I moved it to a #10 pot the end of this May.
Actually, some credit should go to the squirrels: they tried to stand on the flimsy #10 that I forget what had arrived in and dug holes and they’d pretty much knocked the fig half out of the pot. There wasn’t much root structure and I didn’t think it would make it but I couldn’t bear to just let it be destroyed for no reason–not when I didn’t even know yet…
I mentioned the large ceramic pot the other day that was given me by a friend moving away; there were two others as well (but they didn’t require the dolly.) One was this big, very lightweight, plastic gray one. I would never have bothered with the expense for a tree with no knowable payback and given that some fig varieties hit 40′ high in our climate I would never have planted it in the yard, but a free pot big enough for it to stay in, yeah, I can buy a bag of dirt and try and if it doesn’t work I’ll plant something else in there.
So tonight I filled it up (which took more than one big bag), soaked the soil, scooped out the center, and went to go get that little fig tree.
In just those two months after staying tiny for a year and despite having been partly exposed to the air till I rescued it that rootball had grown to fill that much space that fast. It was highly gratifying–and it took some doing to get it out. Who knew? And the tree, still only a foot tall or so, had grown thicker and happier and leafier, which is why I’d finally decided I really really did want to see what it could do. It was my first thought when Sheryl said she needed to give away large pots.
All we can do is wait now to see if the variety is any good, or if it produces at the exact time my Black Jack is going whole hog. If the figs are no good (how can a fig not have at least some goodness) then no great loss, it’s just fun to find out what life has randomly offered us. I’m assuming it’s the offspring of my neighbor’s, which means it may even be another Black Jack.
But from what I’ve learned so far, we probably won’t have long to find out. And if I’d given it this much room at the beginning of the spring we’d probably be seeing fruit on it by now.
Visions of rolling them in butter, roasting them, drizzling with honey, and serving them hot out of the oven…
The idea behind using the very lightweight pot for it (although the soil certainly isn’t) is that if it does turn out we’ve got a good one but it duplicates what we have, it’ll be much easier to wheel it away on the dolly to hand it down to someone else and spread the joy.
Call it my inner squirrel.
We were fresh out of peaches…
Two weeks ago we asked at Andy’s when the Lorings would be in. Today we asked again as we came in–and I laughed when they said they were picking them tomorrow. We were one day too soon.
But hey, a reason to come back in the same week? Incentive to share Baby Crawfords? Cool. They were so good last year that I planted my own in January, with thanks to Andy for that variety. (The white one there is a Silver Logan.)
My friend Nina has wanted to make the drive down there with me for some time and just hasn’t been able to yet, so tonight I brought some over to her to give her a better idea of what I’d been talking about.
The great juice of summer dripping down everybody’s arms as the slices got passed around her loved ones: the way a peach is supposed to be.
With love from London
Before I forget. Actually, I wasn’t there because it was held outside in the sun, but Richard went and helped flip pancakes at the Fourth of July celebration at church Monday morning. I knew the old veterans that would be stepping forward in turn to say where and when they’d served, and I knew there would probably be younger ones that might surprise me to see them in uniform, too.
But hey, lupus, and so you get this report second hand.
He told me who one of the speakers was–a young dad who’s here for grad school and because his wife grew up here.
It took me a moment as it sank in. A Brit?! On the Fourth of July?
Richard was grinning as he recounted the tale. The guy had started off by taking a good, appraising look all around and then back to his audience with, “I like what you’ve done with the place.”
And then he’d said some of the things he’d found that he liked about America.
People in the stores call him sir all the time. That would never happen back home!
You can have all the water you want at a restaurant.
He named a particular fast-food joint.
(And actually, at one of those drive-ins, his little boys can come inside and watch the people slice the potatoes and then fry them up and hand them to them to eat. High entertainment for small children while still at the pace of the actual food.)
Thursday June 30th 2016, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Food
The peaches have started to come in at Andy Mariani’s…
And the plums and the apricots and the nectarines. I snapped a picture as soon as we got home because that box was going down, and fast.
“When will the Lorings be in?”
She checked and came back: “Two weeks.”
I will be there.
With oatmeal-cookie-type crust
Sunday June 26th 2016, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Family
It’s always a good day when your daughter comes over with homemade strawberry pie…