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The family that picks together sticks together

2009 October 10
by Rachel Turiel

Tfruit 006he kids are becoming such good little foragers. Still young enough that they like the idea of working for the family, Col, 4, climbs any tree he can swing a leg up on, plunking juicy orbs into his bag. Soon he forgets what he’s actually doing and spills half of them, but nevertheless, proper neural pathways are being forged. Rose, 2, scurries around tree trunks taking bites from fallen fruit, then like an entitled raccoon, tosses the rest in the grass.

Dan and I met in the fall and early in our courtship we exchanged—unplanned—homemade peach bread (his) for a jar of plum preserves (mine). We were like two skiers swooshing down a black diamond on a first date, thinking “Man, she can ski.” Except in our nerdier case it was “He knows where to pick peaches and what to do with them.”fruit 011

Our well-trained offspring watch our neighbor’s apple tree proprietarily as it groans and creaks under pressure. They know when most people are sick of the fallen soldiers rotting on the ground, or of sidestepping the earwigs that burrow into the most promising fruit, Dan and I are ready to move in and set up work camp.

Perching in an apple tree is like a game of twister. When the spinner points to the clump of polished ruby apples just beyond reach, it seems I’ll collapse if I stretch another inch. But when an image of barren January flashes before my eyes, I’m always more elastic than I thought.fruit 012

Rose—being the kid who demands more food while her mouth still bulges with the last bite—begs in a puzzled and desperate frenzy: “More apples, no, more peaches. More pears?” (Except it sounds like “mow pay-uh’s”) She rattles off every fruit she’s devoured this summer like some nervous contestant on Jeopardy trying to increase her winnings. And you feel sort of sorry for her, being the smallest, most disenfranchised, and regularly confused member of the family.

Being grubby little scavengers at heart, the kids are more likely to devour a sour-fleshed, baby apple that they filched from an alleyway tree, than some juice-buster in the fridge from Washington State. This propensity stems from the same gene that has them begging at the feet of any mom who whips out a plastic baggie at playgroup snacktime, despite what their own Mama has packed.fruit 021

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After the kids are tucked into bed, Dan and I process fruit with the alacrity of Santa’s elves. We fill drying racks with sliced peaches, pit cherries while blood-red juice splatters our clothes, and keep a hand moving on wooden spoons in bubbling applesauce. There’s a certain massacre-like feeling when we’re done, like we’ll never get all the sticky juice cleaned up before the police arrive. After processing a mountain of peaches which were one day away from becoming moldy compost, Dan falls into bed murmuring “I’m impeached.” But I’m still buzzing from peach sugar, and placing another warm jar of preserves in the pantry feels like money in the bank.

Bookmark and Share *this was previously published in the Durango Herald

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. October 10, 2009

    I am so impressed with all the food you put up this fall! I haven’t had enough time to get much processed…..just some tomatoes! Sweet photos of you sweet little ones!
    Love, Sara

  2. October 10, 2009

    So envious and feeling oh so guilty cause I’ll buying my canned peaches from the store this winter, and they’ll cost a bundle and won’t taste a smidge as good as yours! Mmmmmm, Colorado peaches!

  3. Daryl permalink
    October 11, 2009

    Max and I’s moment like that when we met was “What? You are obsessed with New Zealand meat pies, too?!” Some people do wine tours, we did a country meat pie tour. I guess it’s time to find something a little more lasting!

  4. Peggy permalink
    October 12, 2009

    Wow – I couldn’t begin to do all of this on my own. My mother wants to get me the thing that you can make applesauce with (can’t even think of what it’s called) and I told her it would be a waste b/c I don’t have time and would never use it. I would be so proud to say that most of what we ate was from stuff we made or grew (or got with a bow and arrow!).

    Julia Childs – eat your heart out!

  5. October 15, 2010

    I keep coming back to your blog because I love the way you tell the story of the adventures your having..I’ts a good life and it’s wonderful that your sharing it with others. Wish hubby could be in on the Elk hunt, < but I'm afraid he might get in the way and get hurt :o( as he hasn't done that in so many years since he left his country home. Ginny

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