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the fruit buffet and other urgencies

2018 September 25
by Rachel Turiel

I am making peach-plum jam, not because it sounds like a lovely combination (though it is), but because the plums are at full-squish and the peach-ripening assembly line of our counters are at capacity and the crew (me) needs to move in another 20 pounds that have fallen from our backyard tree.

Really what I want to do is watch the robins and evening grosbeaks, who spend much of their day nabbing chokecherries from our tree. “They’re back!” I tell the kids each morning. “Those robins are such fatties,” Col replies, gazing out our east window, watching the fluffed up robins swallow chokecherries whole. The grosbeaks—seeking just the seed—painstakingly work the berry over in their beaks, spitting the purple flesh all over our walkway. You can hear the grosbeaks cracking seeds in their jumbo jaws, their beaks stained purple. I feel so much companionship with them.

Rare raven sighting in the chokecherry tree.

Chokecherry syrup on acorn waffles.

Facing my fruit-hoarding tendencies.

Dan has been bowhunting much of September. When he has cell service I get cryptic texts like “7 X 8 @ wallow @ ten yards but no shot!” (Later he told me he could hear the animal slurping up water but with his head facing Dan at the water hole, no ethical shot). He’s hunting with a homemade bow, which is deeply meaningful to him—the challenge, the crafting of his weapon, the intimacy with the animals—but odds are pretty tough. He needs perfect access to vitals, no foliage blocking the shot, 15-yard range max, and ten seconds to pull his bowstring back before some ultra-wary cow elk busts him. You know those subdivision signs “If you lived here you’d be home now.” I keep thinking: “If you had a rifle you’d be home now.” But really, I’m happy for all his happiness.

Dan trying to prove something by eating his traditional bowhunting sandwich at home. More on the bowhunting sandwich in latest issue of Edible Southwest Colorado Magazine.

The kids are not enjoying school tremendously this year. After many years of homeschooling, it feels a bit heartbreaking: waking them up (before the robins have even arrived) and rushing them about so they can be on time for a day of sitting and following someone else’s learning plan. I actually told Col he didn’t have to go to school (which I didn’t exactly mean, but I didn’t exactly not mean, but wanted to hear his response). He said, “I know school’s not supposed to be fun. I need to go so I can learn things and then get a job someday.” And then the whole world dimmed. Really? Is that what your parents are modeling to you?

I just finished two excellent books by female immigrants. This one, a novel by Imbolo Mbue, is a fascinating illustration of what happens when a Cameroonian family yearning for security and belonging intersects with a wealthy American family, which (surprise, surprise) lacks so much connection and vitality it makes you rethink the word ‘privilege.’ And yet, Imbolo Mbue manages to humanize everyone which makes things really interesting. (Thanks Mom, for the recommendation).

And this memoir written by an Iranian immigrant is a light and funny meditation on growing up Iranian in America. Hint: family and food are everything. Rose read Firoozeh Dumas’ kid novel version of the memoir and loved it.

In other news, I’m teaching some new nonviolent communication classes that I’m really excited about. They are filling fast. Come join us! More info here.

Where things get weird: green grape jello. (Or, how to proceed when an entire grape vine ripens at once).

Fruit recipes:

Fruit leather recipe

Fruit cake recipe (not fruitcake, but a wonderful gluten free cake that is accentuated with fruit!)

Spiced, dried pears

Peach BBQ sauce

Grain-free apple crisp

I actually love the particular abundance of seasonal food, how the urgency of ripeness grounds me in work so vital and immediate; how the earth gives freely, encouraging my own generosity, (I love telling the kids’ friends sternly: nowdon’t leave without a box of peaches); how the very caloric abundance calls into question the dysfunction of our American quest for novelty; and how, engaging in this unpaid work I get to detach from the capitalist system for a micro-moment, exploring a different paradigm for determining value and worth.

Dried peaches, plums, pears.

Dried yucca fruit – our favorite.

Between when I started this post and today the robins and grosbeaks have stripped the chokecherry tree bare. Dan has returned, elk-less, though integrating gracefully back into the wild chaos of homelife. Six boxes of peaches are exhaling ripeness into our house, all of which we’re determined to enjoy fresh (i.e. it’s a good time to stop by hungrily) and the apple and pear trees, groaning with weight, wink at me suggestively as I pass them on the way to the chicken coop. School is a conundrum and certainly a manifestation of a larger, dysfunctional system that values economic growth at the expense of human well-being (i.e. no fault of teachers). Right now the best I can do is model connecting to love and life force when my kids are home. (Though I’m contemplating creating a class called “How to raise disobedient children.” Feel me?)

But seriously, enough about me. Tell me about harvest season in your region, about your own back to school paradigm, your bird encounters, book recommendations, recipes. Really, I would love that.



14 Responses leave one →
  1. Carly Thomson permalink
    September 25, 2018


    I have begun canning for the first time in my life this year, and it makes me feel very “Rachel Turiel”. I have spent my career working with food, and love that I am finally able to connect to local produce in this way.

    I want to email you about school. Ugh.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      September 25, 2018

      Never too late to add skills of the domestic arts to your repertoire! Thx for the e-mail.

  2. Sara permalink
    September 25, 2018

    I love your peach barbecue sauce, and I’m always jealous of anybody who actually gets peaches from their trees. (I might not mind sharing with the squirrels so much if they didn’t pick them all when hard and small as walnuts to be left on the ground with half a nibble.)

    Everything is slowing down here, except kale and chard (and apples, which aren’t in my yard but are pretty abundant.) We’re tripping over potatoes, and I made a delicious potato parsnip soup with an overgrown parsnip that had been hanging out in the fridge for a while and the potatoes that got split during digging … and my kids liked it. One even LOVED it. I have to say it was good and I need to remember parsnips.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      September 25, 2018

      Squirrel interlopers! Must be so frustrating! We lost all our grapes to raccoons last year and somehow, miraculously, they didn’t bother us this year. We hardly wanted to acknowledge their absence aloud as if mentioning them might summon them to the grape vines.

  3. Chi-An Chien permalink
    September 25, 2018

    Rachel! Long time no write for me, sorry. I diligently read your posts every time but am not good about responding. In our SF yard our pears are almost done and the apples are coming in. I am conflicted about pears as I never liked them that much and am now allergic- but I don’t like letting them go to waste. The kids like them but don’t love them, so we have been gifting a fair amount. Unfortunately 4/5 of the apples I picked last weekend had either bird bites or mealybug infestation. I might make applesauce soon.

    School: I feel like we’re at about 75%. My teenage son is a sophomore at the academic magnet in town, working really hard and loving it. I can actually imagine him in college, which is scary in itself. And our tween daughter (she of the butterfly twirly dress) just started middle school, which she describes as meh at best. Part of it is just learning to get through stuff, even stuff you’re not so fond of. Not all of life is manga and Minecraft, after all. Some days I am sad she doesn’t love school but then I remember that I didn’t either, plus- middle school. Sadly, a love of learning is not always the same as a love of school.

    Book recommendations: have you read Deborah Harkness’ _A Discovery of Witches_? That’s the first book in the trilogy. She just came out with a fourth book, _Time’s Convert_, which is related- in the same world. It has vampires, witches, and daemons- a huge amount of historical and scientific background as well as great world-building and some lovely relationships. Cheers!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      September 25, 2018

      Chi-An, I’m so happy you’re still here. It’s been a long time since our girls were in butterfly twirly dresses. I worry that if a love of learning is not always the same as a love of school, but the majority of waking hours are spent in school how that impacts a love of learning. Thank you for the book rec.

  4. Chelsie permalink
    September 25, 2018

    I had a being day & spent the entire day reading “room” by Emma Donoghue. So so good! It’s been a long time since I had a book so thoroughly absorb me & since I’ve allowed myself the time to do so :)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      September 26, 2018

      That book is mesmerizing!

  5. Kathy permalink
    September 26, 2018

    Ah, school. Robin was 12 when she knew her passion, sports medicine. so She read all She could from the public library and interlibrary loan. She waited until she was 15 to enter the community college. “Mom, I want to take my anatomy and physiology book to Durango on our vacation.” So we spent the $80 so she could have her book two months before that first class. That was in 1995 or maybe 1996. Don’t overlook the possibility. We were pretty much free to choose our path back then. Freedom to learn means everything! And the system restricts…
    Wish I was more motivated to practice good preservation. I would be at your doorstep to learn if I could just live down the street. Have a great Durango Day!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      September 26, 2018

      So lucky that Robin knew so clearly what she wanted. Though Col did ask me last night if I thought the Batman comic illustrators made any money. ;)

  6. September 27, 2018

    Hey Rachel! We are back on the road and just entered Colorado last night! Of course, our first stop was Odell Brewery to stock up on the beautiful beers. The girls, now 14 (the twins) and Mathilde 12 are still homeschooling (well, bus-schooling). As Yukoners, we are super lucky to benefit from great online classes (the Yukon works with the British Columbia curriculum, which completely change last year to a much more integrated learning model). They are currently doing a Humanities class (a compo of History, English 9 and Social Science 9) virtually with other kids (some in the Yukon, some in BC, some in Seattle) and a great teacher who also integrates lots of First Nation history into it. They do an art class online too with the Vancouver animation school, a science class with Alberta, math from Ontario and French with British Columbia. It’s been quite the ordeal to organize, but so worth it, since we can still be together in nature and they get the education they want/need (after years of relaxed Waldorf/eclectic homeschooling – and a few years of radical unschooling, the girls wanted more structure learning). So yeah, I feel very lucky.

  7. September 27, 2018

    Last year was the first year I harvested something from the garden officially 12 full months out of the year (hooray for kale!) and I loved it so much that I’ve now done quite a bit more planting in hopes I can replicate it again this year and more. My husband heads out hunting in a few weeks for a whole week, which will be a new experience for the kiddo to have daddy gone for a full week. We shall see how it goes.

  8. Cait permalink
    October 3, 2018

    I’m waiting on this baby to come, and I had a dream I was a very tired, overlarge bird that couldn’t take off from the water and instead just floated and flapped and drifted towards shore while waiting to be eaten. If that’s not a metaphor for the end of pregnancy, I don’t know what is. Your peaches sound scrumptious!

  9. Anonymous permalink
    October 3, 2018

    Our three pear trees have produced so many pears we are drowning in them. We make lots and lots of pear sauce, which we have all decided we love way more than applesauce. We are enjoying the cooler days and the colors and the rain (these last few days). We have NOT enjoyed the river drying up and the drought though. I love reading about your life and family. It’s so awesome that you “put up food”, it makes me happy that the “younger women” are carrying on the “putting up” tradition! Sorry Dan didn’t get his elk… :(

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