Back in the winter, when I realized that I would have a three-month-old baby at prime canning season, I resolved to approach the summer with abject hedonism: I would buy and greedily consume all the fruits of the season without feeling any pressure to blanch, freeze, pulverize, water-bathe, or otherwise process them. I would eat my way through the summer sticky-faced and content, babe in arms. And then the peaches came.
We have one elderly peach tree in our backyard. It is wizened and bent, and full of carpenter ants, as we discovered the summer we bought the house and removed a dying branch. Last year there was drought, and it failed to produce. In April and May of this year hundreds of small, prickly, green baby peaches appeared and I watched them suspiciously, wondering if there would be enough rain to sustain them. Lo and behold, it was a mild summer with regular rainfall, and August came and suddenly there were peaches all over my dining room table. These are terrible pictures, but they capture approximately 1/3 of the total crop.
We picked them one evening while the children were sleeping. We distributed bags to the neighbours. Neither A. nor I grew up in a climate warm enough for the softer fruit-bearing trees, so to be able to walk outside and pick and eat a peach from our own tree is a miraculous thing. Surveying the bounty, I thought of my mother, who on a trip to Arizona could not be coaxed away from an orange tree, despite the fruit hanging just out of her reach. The next morning, I batted at the fruit flies and despaired that we could never eat them all, that we’d run out of people to give them to, that I had a three-month-old and a 2.5-year-old and would require about eight additional arms to do any preserving whatsoever. I may or may not have shed tears at the prospect of wasting the beautiful haul.
Enter my helpful husband, who took charge of the children for the morning so that I could make four litres of jam. And who assisted well into the evening so that we could do a batch of lazy-person canned peaches (peeled and pitted and packed in syrup, then frozen instead of canned, because while we may have been a little unhinged from residual sleep deprivation, we are not that crazy). Our efforts made hardly a dent, so the rest were tossed into bags and frozen whole.
A neighbour, one of the recipients of our surplus, told me that the drought had made for a similarly staggering crop of apples this year – that after a lean year with unfavourable conditions, the trees made use of rainfall and sun to flourish beyond their normal capabilities. I guess it might be true of peaches, too. I hope it will be true for me after these years when I feel so pulled out of myself to focus on the nurturing of others. There is virtue in it, of course, but I am full of anticipation for a time when I can turn towards an examination of myself, consider the resources I have close by, and direct some of my energies towards other pursuits of my choosing. I can wait, knowing that the time will come in due course; and when I forget, I can eat jam.