This time of year, harvest time that is, my house looks a lot like any other house might have for the past few thousand years. We are busy harvesting and processing the bounty that we were able to produce. This changes year-to-year, as what we get is largely dependent on all the same things: sun, soil, water and pestilence. Just like any other farm. Except that ours is in the city.
This year, I got plums. Boy did I get plums! I haven’t had any for 2 years now, as there was a virus of sorts that affected all the plum trees in Seattle. However, 2 of my more productive apple trees were hit with a mildew and produced scabby apples that had to be destroyed. The grapes are in, but a little thin. The blackberries can’t be deterred no matter what, so unless I buy me a goat (hmm… now there’s an idea!), I will always have blackberries.
My pears are also pretty consistent. Right now they are falling faster than I can collect them. I am actually avoiding even going into the yard today, as I just can’t face it. I already have a bucket full on my counter that is so sweet-smelling that in a matter of a couple of hours it collected what appears to be 3 million fruit flies. My little home-made traps (I call them my “bowl of carnage”), which are pretty effective under normal conditions, just aren’t keeping up.
Being less than a genius, I decided that I would make a pear tart to use some of these up. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of pears right now. (Using a sing-song voice) I picked a recipe that would look lovely in my rectangular tart pan and fit onto my nice, new tart plate. Then I made the crust. Then I slaved over making a caramel – only got 2 burns out of it. Not bad considering how stupid it was. Then I laid out the pears to see how many I could fit in. It took 3. That’s right, 3. (End of singing voice) As they say on that show, I am no sweet genius! At least the tart looks pretty. I am turning my back on the bucket for the time being and pretending that it isn’t there. I doubt that will help, especially with the bugs, but it’s the only coping mechanism I have right now.
My dad recently commented on my canning. He sounded genuinely proud to know that I was doing something that his mother used to do and her mother before her. He mentioned that he just doesn’t know anybody who cans anymore. I admit that there are very few of us that do, when the norm was that very few didn’t. I thought how much he would appreciate getting some of my stuff this holiday season when I remembered that he is a diabetic. I can’t exactly send the man a gift that amounts to basically a jar of sugar, regardless of how natural it might be. He asked how it was all coming along and I admit that I sounded a bit exasperated. I was clearly getting tired of the whole thing, but told him that it is a lot of work for a short period of time. I normally have about 6-8 weeks for the bulk of it. Of course, I could actually can year-round, and sometimes do. I told him that I would survive. It was only jelly, after all.
But with harvest time also comes the closing up of the garden. Because of its shear size, this takes me weeks as well. The front yard is ornamental. This is always the easiest area to care for: Cut a few dead flowers here, rake up some leaves there, cut the grass. The backyard though? That is another story. This is where my 12 fruit trees, 2 grapes, and raised beds reside. The area is amazing, which I sometimes forget, as one is wont to do when you start taking it for granted. Anytime I show the yard to people they are always so impressed by the vastness of it, the variety of plants and the clear abundance that surrounds you. The possibility of it just takes your breath away. This year, we had some major failings though, and I have decided to take the whole thing “back to formula,” as my kids like to say. Rather than spend another year troubleshooting it, I am scrapping it all and starting new in the spring. I have to finish the harvest first, which will undoubtedly drag things out. By November, I should be in a good place to pull out hoses and move the survivors to higher ground.
Then, I can officially say goodbye to summer.