Last year I wrote a note on Sept 1 about dilly beans. It's Sept 4th and I'm putting up the dilly beans, rosemary-lemon beans and bread'n'butter relish... but that's not what this note is about. This note is about our apricot tree. That tree giveth and giveth no matter how much we shareth and taketh away.
This year we've had at least 15-groups pick (and we could have had 30 judging by the number of wheelbarrows of mashed ground fruit I put in my compost)! We've had seasoned pickers, neighbors, co-workers, folks from our winter grubshed, winners of a few silent-auctions where we donate 5-pounds every year, and loads of friends.
[An aside - one auction winner was a local banker... he was up on my ladder in his leather loafers replete w/ tassels, pressed dress pants and a short-sleeved pink collared shirt and tie picking fruit on a 90+-degree day! I loved this so much.]
But today was the best... a good neighbor friend and her three kids, one of my oldest and dearest Missoula friends and another old and now new again Missoula friend and her son all descended up on our tree within 5 minutest of one another... It was only sort of planned... very loose timing, a lot of maybes and delays earlier in the week, and then they were there.
And it was just what EB and I needed. We'd been spiraling on totally clashing orbits all morning. She suddenly had 4-friends over, I had a team of good women friends to clean up the warm mushy fruity ground, and then shake the bejeasus out of that tree with me. And we all had laughs and sticky-sweet fingers and faces within the first few moments.
The apricot tree has balanced us these past few weeks more than a few times. EB is a pro at gleaning the ground and has a discerning eye for the good vs. the bad fruit, which is a fine line. We'll spend a half-hour picking the ground. Then give the fruits a quick rinse and commence pitting. This is the best part... juice is running down our arms. You have to pop a few perfect fruits in your mouth. And EB likes to take two handfuls and just squeeeeeeeeeeze the pits out and dump the rest in the freezer bag. We're done picking and pitting enough for 2-gallons in less than an hour. And she gets to press the "wet contents, vacuum and seal" button on the food-saver.
After our apricots friends left today, EB and I were back on the same planet. We happily finished our day of chores and playing, talking about how special it is to share our fruit with friends so they can feed their families the taste of summer all through the winter. During the afternoon I got a picture text of one friend pitting and storing w/ her toddler. And another "thank you" text. Just the other day I found a jar of chutney on the front steps and my co-worker gave me a jar of jam from their harvest. The gifts of our tree pass both ways.
Our tree still has a few laden branches left. All the fruit will be gone by the end of the week. Tomorrow I'll likely pick my last gallon or two w/ another great friend before I teach her how to shoot a rifle (that's a post for another day). While the bees and wasps and mashed fruit on soles and scattered lawn nag me more than a few times a week, I'll miss apricots when they are gone. They are so sweet and warmed by the sun. They make me smile. They bring over new friends and old friends. And they'll feed my family - when we're in the throngs of winter, we'll enjoy a pop of hot-August and endearing friendships in our jam, chutney, fruit leather and crisps.
EB said to me the other night, as we were sealing up the last bag, "Mom, this is going to jam that we'll eat all winter, and it will taste great because we made it together."
She is right.