30 September 2008


My main accomplishment last weekend was harvesting the bulk of the plums from our backyard tree. These are gorgeous, meaty Italian plums, with purple skins and yellow-gold flesh. I triaged them into (1) wrinkly: stew into compote for freezing; (2) firm-to-ripe: bake into tarts and/or eat over the next week or two; and (3) ready to go NOW.

I can't think of too many things more fulfilling than standing on a stepladder in your own back yard, shoulder-high in fresh fruit, sunlight glinting on the leaves all around you. Abundance.

The yield looked a lot like this picture from the year before last. I see that the harvest was two weeks earlier this season. Curious, since we had such a late, cold spring and a not very warm summer.

Speaking of matters agricultural, I've been meaning to post something about the bee-in (my term, not theirs) that we attended at Zenger Farm -- a working organic farm about 10 minutes from us in outer Southeast Portland -- a couple of weeks ago. A beautiful young woman, Jill Kuehler, executive director of Friends of Zenger Farm, introduced us to the place (note the solar panels above her) and then turned us over to a series of mini-tour guides -- Laura Masterson of 47th Avenue Farm, Mace Vaughn of the Xerces Society, and finally Wisteria Loeffler of Zenger’s Community Bee Project and her comb-wrangling colleague whose name I didn't get.

We learned more about pollination than I thought was possible at our age, including the fact that tomato flowers, because of their structure, are very hard to pollinate and require specialized vibrational behavior (a hum job, you might say) on the part of the bee.

The filmmaker who produced The Real Dirt on Farmer John happened to be there, with a sound guy, shooting footage for his next film. He really got in those little guys' faces.

Yesterday, I pitted 170 plums (I counted the pits) and stewed up a vat of plum compote. I'll freeze most of it in smaller containers. It'll be great for spooning over pancakes this winter, or ice cream, or folding into cake batter, or eating straight. Tomorrow I plan to bake a plum tart or three.

Back in April when the plum tree flowered, the blossoms seemed fairly sparse compared to the last couple of years. Plus, we had to cut one major branch in preparation for building the deck. I thought the harvest might be down this season, but that's obviously not the case. Good job, bees, on that pollination thing.

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