Post Summer Solstice

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Summer is officially here, at least according to our calendar. The mystery of spring has passed and now the long and slow somnambulant days have begun to lull us. The green has taken over so quickly and fully that I don’t stop to differentiate anymore—it’s all just green, and I have surrendered to it. Flowers are the standout everywhere—the orange of the daylilies trumpet along the roadsides, the fractal pink pom poms of the crown vetch that lines our driveway, down to the small yellow blossoms of the tomato plants. The kitchen, normally dark at 7 a.m., is now flooded with light. I stand and bask in it, my northern exposure kitchen unusually filled with sunshine. It will be like this for another week and then back to the dark, though I am thankful for its coolness when the true heat of summer arrives.

I can see that I will be busy with fruit this summer, unlike last year when we were deprived of all stone fruit. Last year was so sad! The cherries have started their flood and clear plastic cambros fill my fridge for when I am ready to pit them. I find that I am less pained by cherry pitting if I spread it throughout the day. Here is a cherry tip: you can freeze them pits and all. When you take them out, defrost them half way and then pit them. They come out quite easily then, although your fingers will be a tad cold. Each type of cherry has a different kind of pit, and some are easier to pit than others. I bought a pound of Pacific Northwest cherries recently, huge and dark and unbelievably sweet. I was able to cut them in half like a plum and pull the pit cleanly out. On the topic of cherry pitters: I’ve never found one that truly worked, and I’m sort of an old school person who hates gadgets in the kitchen. I pit with my fingers, and it seems to work well enough. But get back to me when the season is over, I might change my tune.

I can distinguish the changes I see in the yard—my area of focus has closed tightly on it. I see the mulberry tree is laden with big sweet fruit, and I allow the animals to get most of them. I’ve been noticing the deer making for the understory, a woodchuck’s summer home is in a hole underneath, newly cleared every year when the mulberries start to fall, and the birds swarm the top branches. It makes me happy to see that the tree I encouraged to grow by the pond long ago is now a food source for so many. Mulberries take up residence everywhere, and I’m often pulling them out, so it is nice to have allowed one to grow big. I have fond memories of a mulberry tree outside my back door while growing up, and I was often found tucked in its branches, feasting on berries and even eating the leaves upon learning they were safe to eat.

The red currants are also ripe, and I’ve harvested a small amount from my three bushes. The one gooseberry bush I have, a Hinnomaki red, has ripened strangely, starting off with something called premature fruit drop to tightly hanging on to huge gooseberries turning just a faded red, bending the tender branches with weight. Every day I see if one will come off easily—are you ready?—I ask the berry. And when it replies with a yielding snap of its stem, that is when I harvest them, one by one as the days go by. The jostaberries are also just starting to ripen. It looks like the harvest this year will be small, and I do believe it’s my fault by not pruning them this year. Each day I would pass them by and think: I must prune them, but I never did.

This is only the beginning, I think, as I stand with my elbows resting on the high windowsills of my bedroom looking down at the yard in the deep twilight. The sun lingers so long that I find I’m usually in bed before it. But I try to stay up until it’s dark, like a child, so that I can see the lightning bugs flicker in the shadows of the garden. Their dance is mesmerizing, and it transports you for a moment into timelessness, the way that mysterious beauty often does, your mind connecting with the beauty while shutting out all the other noise of life. That’s what art does, I think as I close the window a bit before going to bed. Art transfixes you so much so that the world can’t touch you for a fraction of time. I am thankful for those moments, as I pull up the covers that we still need because the mornings continue to have a chill.

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4 thoughts on “Post Summer Solstice”

  1. Lovely post! Trying hard not to count my stone fruits before they hatch, but I share your suspicion that this could be a fruity season, antidote to last year! I was just wrestling with a crappy plastic pitter here and thinking fondly of the cast iron one (the part with the X in it was made of leather!) that our ancient neighbor used to loan us.

    1. Thank you, Janet! I do think we are in for it! Thankfully! I bought some apricots at Fix–first of the season–and thought of how much I had missed them last year.

  2. Ah, thank you for this, Jules. I love the image of a young you up in the branches of the mulberry tree eating both fruit and leaves.

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