A Plum Date

It’s early morning and the days are getting shorter fast, yet I sit and stare.  I feel weary and weak.

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What difference does another jar of jam really make?  I am too wimpy to take anything else on, I think.  Still, I ask the Bearded One, quietly.  “Do you want to go pick Lou’s plums with me?”

I know the Bearded One is racing to get the next round of deck staining finished, and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, but he says he’s up for it.  “A plum date,” he says.  “Got to work on the plumming.”

My blood perks up a bit.  I get up from the couch.

“Do you want a picking jug?” I ask.

“NO,” he says, then immediately, “YES.”

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This is his usual pattern of which I rarely witness such a blatant display, and he knows it, and we both smile.  Not an actual laugh or anything, but I feel light at the top of the rabbit hole I’ve fallen into this weekend.

I lash the milk jug to my waist with the ribbon looped through the handle and pull on my boots.  I fetch a couple of 5-gallon buckets and the apple picker pole from the barn.

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The goats watch me and follow me down the hill, hoping for a plum.  Which I pick from our tree and give to each of them through the fence.  Their fleece is thickening up fast.  I consider starting to brush them now, to avoid the dreadlocks.  Nah.

LaLa takes the entire plum into his mouth and works it, chewing and shifting the skin and sweet pulp around in his mouth for a full minute or two.  Then, behold, he spits the pit through the fence a full five feet, like a watermelon seed.  A hilarious direct hit to my sour mood.

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This morning is cloudy, but it’s supposed to be sunny this afternoon.  We walk the road north to Lou’s place and make note of the potholes we’ll need to fill soon.

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I adjust the 10-foot long picker pole I’m carrying.  Lou’s is the one thing on this road that hasn’t changed, I think.  He’s 86-years-old and getting frail, but he’s still here.  Momma Goose moved out.  Hansel and Gretel and Batman started their homeschooling elsewhere this week.  Ruby is dead, His Majesty has gone back to college, and all 235 wedding jams are gone.

The Bearded One whistles as we walk up Lou’s driveway, but we can hear his TV and he said for us to just come on over and pick the whole orchard anytime.  “It’s either you or the deer!” he said.  He lives alone. We met his extended family this summer, when they were up from California.  We have their phone numbers now, and Lou knows to call us if he has an emergency.

We’ll leave him one of the jugs full of the best plums, apples and pears and a couple of pints of jam — Rhuberry and Peach.  He couldn’t decide when I asked him which he wanted.  “Surprise me,” he said.

Lou’s yard is full of plant experiments, old trucks, mowers and various project leftovers.  His little orchard circle behind the house is overgrown with weeds, the mason bee canisters moldy and quiet.

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Ripe fruit — dark purple plums, red and yellow apples, golden pears — hang from every tree limb.

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“These plums are gorgeous!”  I reach up with the pole picker and pry the high ones off into the pronged basket.  The Bearded One picks the apples and pears.

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Sap droplets ooze from the tops of the juicy plums, and I pick two and three at a time, dropping them into my milk jug, filling it a dozen times.

As we leave with two full buckets, Lou hears us and opens the front door.  He smiles and waves a plastic bag and calls out, “WAIT!”

We stop and the Bearded One jogs over and retrieves the bag, and points out our gift on the porch.  Lou smiles big and hollers, “Thank you!” to me.

I see that the plastic bag is full of jam jars, all carefully cleaned.  There are the metal bands and plastic tops I gave him to use instead of the metal lids.  Everything washed and ready for another use.  “You’re welcome!” I call back.  “Thank YOU!”

The date is over.  I’ve got jam to make, I think, and rush home.

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28 responses to “A Plum Date

  1. Older neighbors are one of life’s most bittersweet gifts: we benefit from their experience and staggering generosity, but ache for what ‘used to be’ for them. It is all part of the circle of life, even the making of the jam and the exchange of jams. I have over a hundred jars. And still there is fruit going begging. It’s the end of the season and we are slowing down…

    • So true, Robbyn. Lou is a genius gardener and nurseryman who has been in and out of cancer treatment. He never seems lonely, but he does enjoy jawing with the B.O. on the road. He used to make jelly and has given me his strainer and other prize gadgets. I was having a spell of end-of-the-summer ennui…all gone, for now. 🙂

  2. After all the excitement of the season – the events wonderful, dreadful and hopeful that I have read about these last months I am not surprised to see you hit the wall a bit. And so glad to read ‘it has gone now’. And you have the BO and those characterful goats to help lift you up which is a blessing too. D’you know I started salivating reading about the fresh fruits – I had a small orchard once – and the gathering and preserving and jam making that marked the end of Summer….. those were some days 🙂 Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Much love to you all!

    • Thank you, Pauline. That’s it…the wall rose up and I sat down. It’s a bit of empty nest and season change and who knows what hormone! The goats are truly funny creatures, and you’re right, a blessing to be able to go out and have them spit a pit any time I want. 🙂 Hugs and love back to you!

  3. end of summer and end of all that excitement and the build up of Molly’s wedding. Time to settle down and make jam…let it cook it’s way into your soul and mellow it out like the sweet true flavour of your amazing jam. It’s raining here today and the dogs won’t get a walk this morning. Just waiting for Brunhilda to give us our daily tea/coffee wakeup juice and then we get to work out what we are going to do with our day. You could always start making jam for profit…any farmers markets near you? Your jam is a complete and utter winner and the best we have ever tasted. It would go like hot cakes. Lou reminds me of our Glad. Glad is 91 now and getting frailer but you certainly wouldn’t tell her to her face, you might end up with a walking stick firmly planted on your shin for your troubles. Glad makes the best plum pudding in the street still. No potholes on her part of our road but plenty on the dirt bit and thank goodness we don’t have to mend them as we have our driveway potholes (canyons) still to mend ;). Hugs to my twin in Olalla and we are both feeling that melancholy of the change of seasons that nature infuses we women with.

    • Lou and Glad are similar and would probably enjoy each others’ company, for visits anyway. 🙂 He doesn’t like ANYONE telling him to clean out his stuff or, heaven forbid, throw anything away, but he allowed a few truckloads to the dump by beloved family members this summer. It’s his stuff!! He might need it!!! He gives us plants all the time. And yes, the seasons change, the hormones moan, and we try to remember that’s why we feel the way we do sometimes. Thanks for the cyber hugs, Tassie Twin. 🙂

  4. Sweet. Pits, plums and the season(ed)s. Is that what it is? A season change melancholy? I’m feeling it too. Maybe tomorrow’s rain storm will ignite a pencil-box excitement in me. Meanwhile, I’m happy for your shift in energy, but I think it’s time for a little nap. Oh – tell the Bearded One his recliner illustration is spot on. Maybe after he finishes the deck he could start a daily cartoon like Gary Larson. “The Soft Side”

    • I am a big fan of the nap! I’m a Naptist, in fact. I BELIEVE in them. I loved the recliner image, too, Pierr. Even though we don’t have a recliner, that’s how I looked. The rain feels good to me today; hope it helps inspire you and your pencils. Bring on autumn I say!

  5. Oh the fruit! It makes me cry when I drive past old orchards, unloved and left to die over here. My thinking is that if you are unable to pick your fruit or look after your trees, then let a community group or charity come in and do it for you. At least the old orchards will go on to feed many desperate families and fund a few good charities and you don’t have to stress over your orchard. Give your old friend Lou a best wishes wave from Albany Western Australia. Love BO’s drawings too, especially Lalas pip spitting 😀 xox

  6. I’m so glad ur Christi Glover now – as it should be…. Spoke to KAG (BO) when u were off getting even more beautifuler (matter of opinion – I’m big on natural- & I don’t even have a hippie skirt) 4 wedding. I could not even respond after reading about Ruby – bawled like a baby!!! Told Keith I got BFF, Jan, to read it under pretense & she bawled too & was sorta pissed. Wish y’all all the best!

    • Oh, Vicky, those golden retrievers just bring us to our knees, don’t they??! I miss Ruby, but losing her over those months made the grieving a bit easier, I think. When Jake died so suddenly, a seizure in his sleep, I found him the next morning dead and just howled with grief. With Ruby, I cried hard, but it’s been more wistful. Anyway, thanks for the name-change cheers. It’s a hassle to make the change everywhere, but it feels right and good to do it. Love you!

  7. Christi, those are what my mother’s family has always called Italian prunes, and we make a conserve with them that is delicious! I’ll write it up for you, maybe post it on Yard Food. You know, of course, that you can just pit them and throw them in the freezer until you’re in the mood to make jam. 🙂

    • Italian prunes, yes, I’ve heard them called that, and Italian plums. And Ooooooo, I’d love the conserve recipe. I’ll see it on Yard Food — your FB Page https://www.facebook.com/yardfood?ref=profile — if/when you post it there. Freezing is a good option, too, since our freezer isn’t full of chickens this year. And I swear I’ll get out there and brush the goats so you have nice smooth fleece in the spring! 🙂

  8. Christine Widman

    Here in the desert we are still doing rain dances. Had a light sprinkle 2 days ago. Temps are still in the 3 digits.
    The javelinas are looking for cool spots to rest in. We had a little herd of 20 arrive at twilight and roll around in the dirt making themselves earth soft beds for the night.
    I picture ripe fruit and autumn orchard picking….I look each morning for signs of fall and September rains. Hoping with climate change all over the earth, it may mean our summer monsoons that never came will bless the desert this fall.
    I hope your kitchen is fragrant with the scent of plum jam.
    C

    • Your lack of rain makes me appreciate our rain today, even though there are groans across Puget Sound as the drizzle returns. The slugs are our javelinas, swelling up with love for the moisture, eating what’s rest of the garden. It’s good jamming weather, cool so the kitchen doesn’t get so hot. I hope for the rain for you, Christine. Love and hugs.

  9. What a charming post. I’m so glad I discovered you today!

    • Hi Lynda! I am enchanted by your blog, as well! I spent awhile this afternoon checking out your TWO farmlets and reading some of your amazing house refurbishing tales. We live in a pole house in the woods — like a tree house. And you write fiction, too.:) Our blogs even have the same theme — Coraline. Are we twins?? lol I started this blog in February, 2011. Anyway, how wonderful you discovered me, and I, you. 🙂

      • Hm… Twin daughters of separate mothers perhaps? I haven’t delved deep enough into your world yet, so I didn’t realize you lived in a tree house, how absolutely lovely! I have been after Bob about building a small one for us as an outdoor room. You know, hammocks, sunset watching, stargazing… However, he is less than enthused about the idea. Maybe if I build it he will come? 😉

      • Hi Lynda…sorry for the delay in responding! It’s a pole house, so the foundation is in the earth via the 16 poles (30’x30′ square), but one of the advantages to poles is that you don’t have to bulldoze the site and can build right between huge trees. Other advantages: it cost less, and the poles are great in earthquakes and floods. We have a 4 foot diameter cedar just off the southwest side of the house, and a 3-foot one on the northeast, so we are hidden from above by trees! Lots of pollen and sap, though. 🙂

  10. Christi, not too surprising you ‘hit the wall’ for a bit there. What an eventful year you’ve had; ups and downs to rival the Andes! And I’m glad it didn’t last too long; it helps, just making ourselves do something, sometimes, doesn’t it? I love your stories; you make me laugh, cry, think . . . what more could I want?

    Lucky you to have access to such a harvest, too. What a lovely neighbour Lou sounds like (and Narf7’s Glad, too); I’ve always had friends from pre-teen to older 90s; not so many of either here, though. We can learn so much from the elders and it makes me sad when they are dismissed and not ‘heard’. One day I think we will wish we had learned what they have to teach us. Reminds me of the FoxFire series of books; they came out in the 70s or 80s, I think. An English teacher in the Appalachians sent his pupils out each year to gather stories and photos from the elders in their community, then the writing was published in a book, along with lots of photos. We had several volumes at one point, but I only have one now. One day I’d like to collect them again. The contents were sometimes folk tales, sometimes historical, sometimes instructional. How to make soap, whittle, tan leather, weave, etc.

    In spite of the heat here, I’m feeling a bit of that ‘end of season’ indigo, too. I’ve been lucky to find organic peaches at our grocery store and have been eating one a day for a couple of weeks now, along with organic strawberries. Makes me feel summery again . . . The heat helps, too; it’s been hovering near 30c for a few days but is supposed to begin cooling off tomorrow.

    Happy jamming, Christi! My Mum (long after we had all left home and she finally had a freezer!) used to freeze fruits too, then make jam through the winter, when she wanted the extra heat in the house; what I’d like is a screened summer kitchen where I could do my preserving outdoors under a wide roof . . .

    • Wow, what a lovely comment, Linne. 🙂 So good to hear from you. You of all people know what it means to appreciate our elders, caring for your mom and your auntie the way you do. I don’t want to live much beyond 80 myself…it all seems pretty downhill from there, from my observations. This is just me, of course. I love how you use the word “indigo” instead of “blues.” Do you like plum jam? And when is your birthday, my dear??

  11. Christine Widman

    Hi again,
    The rain dances have worked! We just had a full-force monsoon. Lightning, thunder, water pouring out of the sky. Makes me believe in my ancestral god, Thor. It is Heaven-send for sure.
    Our entire property looks like it is under a lake.
    Maybe a climate shift. Autumn rains?
    Whatever….it’s a celebration. Knew you and the Bearded One would want to join in. Yaay.
    XO,
    C

    • Yay!!!! We’ve had rain most of the day, too, and I have been happily jamming and baking without the house feeling hot. We’re toasting you tonight, in celebration of moisture. 🙂

  12. What a heart-warming story! I really like the way you describe Lou and your relationship with him. He sounds a lot like a few wonderful older people that I know.

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