It has been a joyously fruitful year here in Nebraska. Everybody I know who has an interest in such things has been puzzling over it. The trees are over-burdened with fruit why, exactly? Perhaps because of last year’s historic drought, which discouraged fruit production? Was it that beneficial for the fruit trees to just take a year off–which they did (at least mine did)? Or do we have so much fruit this year because we had a cool(er) rainy(ish) spring and summer, maybe the ideal situation for many fruit trees? Or . . . what? Is it this way in your neck of the woods, too, Gentle Reader?
Just yesterday the kids and I were re-reading the Bible story of Joseph, where he was put in charge of Egypt’s affairs for seven years of plenty, to prepare for seven years of drought. This sort of forethought and preparation appeals to me, especially after our one year of drought last year. During a fruitful year, it makes sense to put up lots, especially if people are offering you their excess fruit. You never know. Maybe next year will be a drought year again, or maybe the fruit trees will feel like a year off? Or maybe our income will dip and we’ll need to make do with what we’ve socked away from this fruitful year.
In any case . . . it’s a blessedly fruitful time in a very fruitful year, and the kiddos and I are putting in the extra time to pick up and put up more for the pantry. Last year, we put up very little in the way of fruit and not even much in the way of tomatoes and tomato products, and my shins are still smarting from my childrens’ kicks when we did the unthinkable and ran out of salsa (not really, as far as the kicks go, but we did run out) before Christmas, for shame!
I feel blessed that my husband supports my staying home, rather than getting a “real” (i.e. one that would provide a paycheck) job in town, because I can spend my spare time pleasantly occupied in this way. I can forage with the kids, canning or saucing or drying or freezing whatever we don’t eat right away, rather than sitting in a little office someplace, looking longingly out the window (I know myself) and counting the minutes until I could go home. (Thank you, honey.)
On the other hand, I know that my efforts to stuff the freezer full of chickens and peaches and pepper slices and pesto from our place (among other things, my, the freezer is full already) and also my willingness to do this extra work, also makes it possible for me to stay at home and practice the humble (yet valued) arts of gardening, child-raising, food preserving, animal husbandry, and so on.
If I had a “real” job, I don’t think I’d have much of a garden. Or an orchard. I’d never consider spending an afternoon picking up fruit; I don’t think I’d have the energy or the time. I wouldn’t have the time or energy to figure out how to make my own saurkraut or kimchi or kombucha or apple cider donuts! I’d buy my applesauce from the grocery store, and I’d toss the bags of frozen peaches into my cart during the winter with a clucking of my tongue, resenting the expense.
Not to disparage any person who prefers a day job. I just happen to love all the fuss and the mess and the unpredictability of this life I’ve been blessed with. There are (obviously) others who would find my day-to-day life intolerable, unbearable, grueling, possibly even dull.
Our young(ish) fruit trees have done very well this summer; my parents’ fruit trees are overloaded and are leaving my mother gasping for breath (all the pies she has had to make!) and yesterday a generous friend offered to let us pick out at his Grandpa’s place, where he discovered to his surprise that the mature fruit trees out there were loaded and even breaking under the load of the ripening peaches, pears, and apples.
I have a very hard time walking away from free fruit. I have such an eager hoarding gene just built into my pioneer woman code. Add that fact to the reality that with my husband’s self-employed status, we do tend to have “feast or famine” cycles in his income, where we do rely heavily on the freezer and the pantry, to feed our family. So the kids and I picked fruit for ourselves, and then we went back and picked fruit for my son’s family. I’ll make an apple pie next week and take it back to my friend, to thank him for calling us.
This is my mother’s time-honored method for thanking others for good turns: bake them a pie . . . or a couple loaves of bread . . . or a batch of hot donuts! When I was a kid, we had all sorts of folks showing up at our door with gifts for my Mom (Including a huge catfish, still gasping for breath, but that’s another story) and she would always be sure to give them something back.
Yesterday when I went to pick at my friend’s house, I took Amalia and Malachi and three buckets only. I knew that if I took 16 buckets, that I would not be able to stop until I filled every one. My friend insisted that I take all I want, but I wanted to be sure to take only what the kids and I could realistically put up in a few days. And he had offered the fruit to others, too, so I was not going to clean it all up . . . much as I wanted to.
But, oh, the temptation! Not only were there scads of apples–on the trees and on the ground–but some really beautiful peaches, that looked as if they had just begun to fall.
So we filled (what restraint!) our three buckets, and then (after our friend let me know that there was still some fruit left, after the other folks had come, picked, and gone) we went back with three buckets more, and a large black trash bag, into which I loaded with bruised windfalls, for my chickens. You should have seen their little dizzy-with-joy faces when I dumped a load of bruised and half-rotten peaches and apples in their yard!
Does this sort of foraging appeal to you? Do you have time to put up some applesauce or some frozen peaches or some canned pears this fall? If so, look around your neighborhood and note where there are trees that are burdened with fruit, that nobody seems to be caring for. You’ll see the rotting fruit underneath the tree. Consider asking the owner if you can clean it up for them. You may end up with bushels and bushels of free fruit, and even some windfalls to feed to your chickens . . . or your homestead hog . . . or your compost pile. And you might make a new friend, in the process.
Foraging is a time-honored practice, and a habit that fits in nicely to an effort to eat more local foods. You really should try it–it’s great fun!
By the way, I shared this post with The Prairie Homestead (check out their Homestead Barn Hop today!) and it joins many other posts about fall-related goodness!
*Squnkalope: Squash + Pumpkin + Cantalope = ??
- Heirloom tomatoes that I’ll grow again next year
- The Big Reveal: Dad’s Potato Tower comes down