On Sunday, Tim and I harvested our first-ever crop of sour cherries.
To say that this took most of the day would be an understatement. We planted the tree almost ten years ago, and this was the first time there were enough to pick. Other years, we’ve left the meager fruit for the birds.
Even with ladders, I couldn’t reach most of the fruit, so I left that task to Tim, who’s much taller. But height didn’t speed up the process. It took most of an hour to pluck the cherries by ones and twos. While he perched in the tree, I worked at ground-level harvesting a bumper crop of black raspberries and the usual onslaught of red ones.
When the kids lived at home, I had eager child labor for this farm task. As an empty nester, this chore now falls to me. I spend a lot of the summer picking berries. As soon as the raspberries are over, the blackberries and blueberries start coming in.
Processing berries is easy: we freeze them on trays, bag them, and tuck them into the chest freezer. We’ll dig the frozen berries out in January, when their vivid color will be a welcome relief from winter’s monotones. Processing cherries is more labor intensive. They need to be washed, stemmed, pitted, then sugared and left to macerate for an hour or so.
Despite years of growing and processing fruit and vegetables from our land, I still underestimate the time involved in putting up the surplus. I’d planned an afternoon paddle for Sunday afternoon, but ended up on the back porch, pitting cherries instead. I pitted half the batch with an old-fashioned cherry-pitter Tim brought into the marriage and which has been knocking about a kitchen drawer ever since. While I did get more proficient in its use, it was slow going, and I finally abandoned it in favor of peeling the cherries open with my thumbnail and squeezing out the pits.
The task allowed me time to think. I thought about all the time we’d spent nurturing the tree, and the years we spent waiting for it to bear fruit. Even our small harvest took longer than we bargained for, and processing it longest of all. Given how relatively inexpensive sour cherries are in the supermarket, I wondered how farmers earned a living at all. Growing our own cherries certainly isn’t cost-effective. But that’s not the point.
Growing my own food adds value not just to what I eat, but also to how I live. And sitting on the back porch separating pits from cherries is not a bad way to spend a hot Sunday afternoon. I was off-line, rooted, contemplative; I was Living in Place.
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