A Close Scrape

“I’ll pay you $50 for every one of these grapefruit rinds you scrape,” I offer the Bearded One, who sits at the kitchen table reading the newspaper while I slave over Christmas fruitcakes.

“I have taken a vow of poverty,” he says.

I am momentarily amused, which is nice since I am surely tired of standing here creating this huge pile of pulp.  Granted, he periodically takes the accumulation out to the compost pile, then dutifully brings the bowl back so I can fill it up again.

This year's compost pile, ready to be turned into the bin as soon as we get last year's out.

This year’s compost pile, ready to be turned into the bin as soon as we get last year’s out.

“Every year I manage to mess up one batch of citrus,” I say, and glance over at the measuring cup full of yellow and orange rinds that I overcooked in the syrup.  This is the first time that’s ever happened.  It’s all rock candy.  A person could break a tooth.  Last year I boiled rinds in preparation for the scraping, and then put off the scraping for several days and the rinds went bad.

Scraped and cut up rind ready for boiling in the syrup.

“Yep,” says the Bearded One.  He grins at me, but my mind is elsewhere.  I’m a mess.  This has all been dredged up by the stressful parts of an important wedding on the way. There’s lots of figuring to do.  I actually managed to make our eldest daughter, the bride-to-be, cry last week with my careless thoughts on the sheer opulence of big weddings.


I apologized.  And made it up to her, I hope.  Floor cleanliness in our family is a genetic thing, and I purged myself on hands and knees. I scrubbed the hell out of her kitchen floor on Sunday morning while she unpacked boxes of clothes in the upstairs bedroom.  The Bearded One put together a jillion-piece bathroom shelving fixture — the kind that straddles the toilet — and our son-in-law-to-be stained new closet clothes hanger rods a rich dark redwood color to match the 1913 woodwork of their new old home.


There I scrubbed and reflected on my sins.  Now, I scrape and reflect some more — other family and other weddings.

On Friday my mother emailed me the transcript of a 1915 letter written by a relative and sent to my great-grandmother.  It is kind of amazing that this great-grandmother was born in 1883 and our daughter was born in 1983.  The letter is from my great grandmother’s cousin who was a Protestant Christian missionary in Annam (renamed Vietnam in 1945) and recently engaged.  It’s six pages long and includes the background of the family furnishings in her modest little cabin, her interactions with her servant woman, her passion for her mission to convert all of heathen Annam to Jesus and translate the Bible into Annamese, and her loathing of the abusive Catholic priests from which she labored to differentiate herself.

I press the edge of my tablespoon into the soft, cooked pulp of the grapefruit quarter section, then scrape it down the length being careful not to rip the thin rind.  You’ve got to scrape it really close or there’s no point.

Outside my window I can hear the Bearded One hauling last year’s finished compost in the squeaky old wheelbarrow over to the gardens.

My mind is still on our eldest child and my earlier faux pas in hurting her feelings.

And then the phone rings.


“You are?”

“Thank you so much for coming and making everything in my kitchen work better!”

I can hear her sincerity, and feel her love.  She’s not judging me.  Why should I?  That was a close scrape.



12 responses to “A Close Scrape

  1. Thank you.

  2. I understand. I too have committed purgery, usually by suffering thorough some sufficiently unpleasant task for someone’s comfort or joy that I feel I’ve expiated any wrongdoing. But even though it might be impolitic to point out the monumental combustion of wealth involved in expensive weddings, whether you point it out or not, it is still true. I understand it for those who are so loaded that they don’t have to ask how much it costs because it doesn’t matter, but for the rest, if it’s enough to make the down payment on a home, in general it ought to be one of those. Nice article, my friend.

    • Purgery, indeed. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, J.K. It’s the right/wrong ego trap that got me — the sheer purity and rightness of my stance trumps all! Plus, I know this daughter pretty well…and she makes wonderful choices, over and over again. This was totally MY problem. 🙂

  3. Its an incredibly stressful time at Christmas and with it being the end of the year AND with huge wedding plans it adds to the stress quotient exponentially :(. I really do feel for you (hugs from Sidmouth 🙂 ). It is hard to keep your feelings under your cap when you are dealing with your kids. It sounds like the “Big wedding” is going to indeed be BIG and I agree with your sentiments (our wedding cost less than $1000 in total including clothes and rings AND the entire costs of the ceremony and reception…eloping with your kids as witnesses is a great way to have a very meaningful and cost free wedding 😉 ) about the grandious waste of resources and money that go into weddings. I dare say your wonderful daughter is totally caught up in the magic and its very VERY hard to see any form of reason when you have the most AMAZING dress in your sights (whatever the cost). The hardest thing that I have had to do regarding my children is to let them make their own mistakes. I am not saying that a huge wedding is a mistake, but I dare say the costs will be worn for a good few years after and weddings might be spectacular but in 2 years time they might just be thinking “I can hardly remember it but we are STILL paying for it!”…that is where they “get it” ;).
    I am smiling as I read your post because I am reminded of history repeating itself…we humans never learn do we? ;). I am also smiling because next year you will have a Serendipity Farm spoon to help with your preserving. A full and most wonderful circle from heavenly jam to a spoon full of happiness and careful crafting sent across the seas to what back in 1883 would have been an imposibility (although the Auld Kirk Church had been build at that stage so at least our “hallowed” bit of ground was already staked out for the coming of “the chosen ones” 😉 ) and in 1983 we could really have only been penpals…now we can zip across the world in an instant and have our thoughts with our friends and family all over the world. The world is such a small place now and we are all having to learn to negotiate the highways of culture and tradition. I am in love with the idea that something crafted on Serendipity Farm could be working close to the harvest in Olalla. Do you think that your daughter would like a hand crafted spoon as well? Let us know if you think that she would (we won’t be offended if its “not her thang” 😉 ) and Steve will consider that 1912 redwood base in his choice of timber.
    Daughters can be the easiest and hardest things to love 😉 enjoy the processes of “The Big Wedding” and tell The Bearded One that we are just about to start a new compost heap on Serendipity Farm as well! We have stockpiled almost a square metre of lawn clippings from Glad’s place next door that are festering away magnificently in our recent heatwave conditions and with the addition of some mushroom compost, some mulched leaves, some chopped up twigs and anything else that we can toss in to increase the suite of microorganisms in our brew (including regular watering with weed tea (the ultimate revenge!) we hope to be building more veggie garden beds pretty soon with the results. Metre square hot composting makes usable compost in 6 weeks! We learned all about it when we were humble day students 4 years ago and were the only ones willing to get into the compost heap and turn it as it rapidly decayed into what can only be considered “prime black gold” but that smelled like hades! We are learning the value of compost as can be seen by our vegetable garden that looks amazingly healthy because of all of the compost injections (and we have wayfaring tomatoes rising up from the depth of the compost layers so BONUS to us!). I will be thinking of you pondering your daughters wedding as I carefully snip rope from netting today. Your mind wanders as you perform the simple “snip” and “move along” process and you have time to think. Remember to let us know about whether Molly wants a spoon or not and we will see what we can do for you 🙂

    • Hi Fran! Here is Molly’s answer: “I would feel honored to be included in such a thing as a baeutiful wooden spoon from her husband and her farm. It gives me goosebumps just thinking of it. Thank you for such a kind gesture Fran!” I agree, and thank you so much for your comment, as always. You and I had very similar second weddings, Fran. We didn’t elope, though. And my first wedding back in 1980 was small, too, and in a church! Molly won’t go into debt on her wedding; her birth dad is very generous. And she’s making smart choices, as usual. 🙂 And I, too, LOVE the idea of stirring the very essence of Serendipity Farm into our food. I envy your heat, and on days like this, your dryness. It takes forever for our compost to “cook.” But it does, even though late this year. Hugs from Olalla to Sidmouth and your own lovely daughters in Launceston!

      • Steve and I were married in a church…it was right behind our home when we lived in Western Australia :). Steve will be working on both of your spoons now that we have finished our course but AFTER we get those chooks locked up ;). I am glad that Molly has her head screwed on straight about the wedding…so many people go nuts and spend years paying back something that they seriously can’t remember much of after a few years. My son’s friend and ex housemate that he lived with in Western Australia before he moved to Melbourne got married not so long back and his new partner has severe depression. She had been looking and focussing so much on their wedding, on making it perfect, that after the wedding she completely lost interest in anything! He is having a very hard time coping (she doesn’t work and spends her days at home depressed) with their new situation (they didn’t live together first) and her depression…people think that everything is tied up in that one day…that it is going to make their married lives perfect. We all forget that it is just a symbol. A sign to the world that we have made a choice rather than something that is going to guarantee us marital success. I wouldn’t even think that one of your children would be anything less than capable because their mum is such a wonderful caring person :). Molly is in good hands 🙂

  4. Ah…as you know we had our youngest daughter’s wedding here in October.
    Not a huge wedding but, as you know, I used “money language” questions that created stress also.
    Thank goodness for the embracing forgive and forget-ness of our darling daughters.
    Thank goodness for floor washing there and wedding cake pan washing here to absolve ourselves.
    Thank goodness for the beauty and joy of the wedding day and the wedding guests and the wedding couple to transcend all.
    Missing you.
    lololololol over the Bearded One’s “vow of poverty” comment.

    • Hi Christine — and thank goodness for your friendship and the balm of your understanding. Knowing you’d done a similar thing and didn’t lose your daughter’s love comforted me! We do have wonderful, smart daughters, and Molly’s wedding will be beautiful and joyful…and I’ll be there with bells on! Hugs.

  5. Clearing the decks is a most compassionate court room, eh? Scrubbin’ is therapy 🙂 Wonderful blog….and I too am looking forward to my sweet niece’s wedding…it will be a stunner! Amidst all this rain I hope a little sun shines on the farmlet today…..muchos love!

    • Hey, sister and fellow scrubber.:) We’ve scrubbed some floors together in our day, haven’t we? I’ll look for that break in the clouds today and think of you. Thanks for commenting.

  6. what a beautiful post ….. life is full of those close scrapes …. I love the way you capture so many family dynamics. May your daughter’s wedding be a beautiful and loved filled day!

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