Monday, September 7, 2009

In the Orchard

Friday, Mirabelles and Senecas came in from the orchard. This was, for me, the second of two stints in the orchard

The first trip culled the Coe's Golden Drop misfits. The second trip brought in as much fruit as possible before an early seasonal shift brought in bands of cool southern rains and split the overladen branches, dashing fruit and hopes to the ground.

I process information slowly and I work slowly. I am slow. It takes a long time for my fingers to understand what the farmer has told my brain to understand. Switch fields, switch varieties and I have to learn over. On top of it, the requirements of every harvest, whether plum, bean, berry or corn, is different. The Mirabelles have resistance on the branch, slight give in the flesh and a rosy blush. They ripen quickly on the counter. Senecas will store longer and counter ripen. They come off the tree before the rains, before they are ripe, before they are lost. Reine Claude de Bavay is green and rose and hard. A courtship has started. We taste every tree before picking. Yes. no. no. no. YES. The harnessed picking belly bucket is 17 pounds full and my back is angry from this 40 minute gestation.

I try to accelerate my understanding. I close my eyes and practice harvesting with the tips of my fingers only. A patch of warm wind drops down and into the orchard carrying honeyed particles of ripe fruit from another tree. I'd like to follow. I hear the young kestrels hunting and acorn woodpeckers mocking in the pine stand. The family of California Quail are to the south. The farmers voice has moved on. "Here. This is young but bite off the end of the fruit. The skin is thick enough to draw all of the flesh into your mouth leaving a carcass of pit and skin." Another week away to look forward to.