I’m feeling in need of what might be called a harvest nap, having returned yesterday from my gardener friend Ann’s home with several hundred ripe and rosy peaches.
The yield of one ambitious tree, the fruit has already deranged Ann’s exceptional sense of order. When I arrived to help pick stragglers and take home surplus, peaches were spilling over bowls onto kitchen countertops, waiting to be prepped for post-tree life as slices, salsa and jam. Water simmering in the old enameled canning kettle steamed the windows as Ann peeled, sliced and chopped, sweat tickling her forehead. It was clear — at least at this juncture — who was sailing this ship: not the captain of the bounty but its constituents, whose perfect ripeness demanded her urgent attention.
Now they’re working on me. So far, I have dehydrated peaches, frozen peaches and — this last an experiment — prepared a fragrant peach applesauce in the slow cooker. I forbade myself to go to bed last night before I sliced another batch for the dehydrator, where they dried to leathery sweetness while I slept.
Today comprises more putting up of various kinds at both households — Ann reckons the tree produced well over a thousand peaches — securing the harvest in that brief, beautiful moment of peak flavor, which soon and precipitously gives way to rot. Neither of us has the energy to contemplate making a pie, though I hope I may yet rally, as it seems a shame not to enjoy amid all this future-oriented preserving the present-moment pleasure of a fresh peach pie.
Sharing in my friend’s harvest is especially welcome in the wake of a violent storm that recently destroyed the modest spinach, kale and cherry tomato yield I had anticipated at my own homestead.
The tempest — black skies, copious rain, crashing thunder and hail, gale-force winds — stressed my small flock of chickens, though they were safe in their coop. My buff Orpington Tess commenced an early molt, and the next day another hen laid a huge double-yolker, which results from a hiccup in a chicken’s egg-making physiology. They’re rare in my flock — a good thing, given that large eggs can bind in a chicken’s oviduct or cause a prolapse, both serious and potentially fatal conditions.
But all of the girls were intact and in good spirits, so I turned my attention to the ginormous offering, which dwarfed the other eggs and pushed my weighing scale to the limits of “extra large:”
The bounty of one chicken thus documented, I did the only sensible thing, and had dinner:
Which has me thinking again about the importance of not only preserving the harvest, but savoring its present, ephemeral beauty. So I’ll be off to the grocer’s soon for lard — only my grandmother’s crust recipe will do — and add to today’s sweet and pressing labors the making of two peach pies, in celebration of a hard-working tree, the generous friend who tended it with love, and a bountiful harvest that realized — to overflowing — the efforts of both.