Sunday, August 16, 2015

studded with fuzzy

studded with fuzzy
ripe fruit the pliant peach limbs 
arch down to hands' reach

With no late frost and a lot of rain, our old peach tree outdid herself this year. Every branch bears dozens of blushing golden globes covered with baby-soft fuzz. Many of them have fallen to the ground, where deer, squirrels and raccoons have been feasting on the sweet fruits. Some of the peaches still on the tree show signs of bird pecking or bug boring. Of course, we do not spray our trees with toxic pesticides, so we accept a certain amount of loss. But there are plenty left whole.

The branches are so heavily laden that they hang down over the protective wire cage, low enough that we don't have to use a ladder to harvest the entire crop. More than a few of the warm juicy peaches go into our mouths while we collect and place them in wicker laundry baskets.

We gather four baskets full, probably the equivalent of four bushels. Because a lot of them are already quite soft and ripe, I spend several days slicing and putting them into plastic quart bags for the freezer. Well, the freezer on top of our Sunfrost refrigerator is already packed almost full with frozen aronia berries. So I start giving away dozens of peaches to family and friends. Someone asks, "How many peach trees do you have?" I hold up one finger.

And there's still a superabundance. My son suggests we buy a separate freezer. What a good idea! I find one at Best Buy, an 8.5 cubic foot upright Danby that will just fit between our washer and dryer. It's on sale and they'll deliver it for free. What a deal. Now I've filled all of the bins in the bottom of the refrigerator with peaches, hoping they'll keep until the new freezer arrives. We'll certainly have plenty for the rest of the year, and maybe even the year after. What a joy to grow your fruit and eat it too, though really, the credit for this bounty goes entirely to Mother Nature.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

rain on shadow lake

rain on shadow lake
glistens roots, rocks, bark, black glove
on the wooden bridge

My friend has just had a liver transplant, a kind of rebirth, and I am here to help take care of him during his recovery. But I also need to take care of myself, and that means submersing in nature. I walk to a little lake tucked away among houses in this big city of Charlotte. At the entrance, a sign says "SHADOWLAKE." I look at the letters and see "SHAD" "OWL" "AKE." This is going to be interesting -- river fish stuck in a lake, a bird of the night and ake, which means "bright" in Japanese.

The lake is surrounded on two sides by houses, but there is a public picnic area on one side and a bridge that leads to a wooded path on another side. As I walk toward the bridge, I pass by a tall clump of goldenrod. It's raining lightly and I notice a number of elongated insects hanging underneath the sunny panicles, like women in bright embroidered kimonos sheltering from the rain.

As I cross the bridge I'm startled to see a crumpled, shiny black vinyl glove shed by a human hand, perhaps symbolic of my friend shedding his old liver.

On the far side of the bridge the path turns and runs through a wooded area, providing me with a little shelter from the rain and many delightful surprises.

A black root that looks like a turkey foot. Turkey, symbol of thanksgiving for a successful harvest, peaceful coexistence with friends and neighbors, and the renewal of family connections.

The rocks in this area are hard and black, perhaps from the transformation of lava into rock. But this one sports a wide white quartz stripe, yin and yang, harmonious coexistence of opposites. 

A sycamore with an owl face staring back at me from the peeling bark. Owl is a symbol of wisdom, insight and foresight.

The Green Man, ancient symbol of rebirth and renewal.

A vine in the form of a snake, another symbol of rebirth, healing, rejuvenation.

A butterfly shaped scar on a tree trunk, and of course the butterfly is yet another symbol of rebirth and transformation.

A strange silvery green mat of moss on the floor of the woods is as close as I get to seeing a shad, but if it's there, it's the fish that fed the American founders, so it must be a symbol of nurturance. With these auspicious signs, I turn back to the house where my friend is welcoming his new liver to a renewed life together. May they both live long and prosper!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

purple clusters curving

purple clusters curving
branches to the ground -- bumper
crop of aronia

For a week I've been harvesting aronia berries. Nothing on the bushes last year, due to drought. But this year, with all the rain, we have a bumper crop. The 20 foot tall branches are bent to the ground with heavy clusters of purple-black berries. This makes collecting the plump berries easy. I can easily reach the low-hanging clusters and then I pull the pliable branches down to reach the ones further up. Still, it takes many of hours of patient branch wrangling and berry picking.

Now that the work of producing berries is finished, the leaves are already turning orange and falling off. After a rainstorm, the low-lying berries are covered in mud. Some of them fell off and are floating in puddles, so at least they aren't muddy!

I've counted as many as 32 berries in one cluster. I can usually pull a whole cluster off in one hand and drop them into a bucket, but sometimes my palm is not quite big enough.

The seedless berries are easy to process, just wash and pick off the stems. This year, because I have a bigger freezer, I froze 28 quart bags of berries. Aronia, commonly known as chokeberries, are quite tart when eaten out of hand. But when added to cereal or a smoothie with a little honey or maple syrup, they taste like blueberries. The dark purple, almost black color protects the berries from ultraviolet radiation, and the antioxidants, which are among the highest of any plant, are also good for us humans.