Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fruit Fresh From the Farm

We are a veritable cornucopia of produce, or at least we were until the cousins descended on us last night to heave their quotient of apples, grapes, and Asian pears into vehicles and depart. Our own gleanings are nestled in boxes and refrigerators, awaiting consumption by our hearty family of five.

The cool part is we picked it all this weekend. My spouse is familially linked to a hearty clan of farmland folks, proud to consider themselves rednecks, yet liberal, well-read, and up on the latest social and political news. Paris Hilton is not on their radar.

I've visited "the farm" several times during the last eighteen years. While the farm itself has dwindled to a compound of homes on a sunny dirt road far from bear country* as the land around it has been sold off or leased for machinery and pasture, the feeling is much the same. Dogs run in the road as cars approach (giving me a heart attack having lost three dogs to the road as a kid and witnessed the sudden vehicular death of a dog last year), relatives pour from the three houses on the loop that are home to grandparents and two aunts, and the wind chimes ring in the fall breeze.

The produce came from a vineyard (can you call it that if they don't make wine?) near the farm, and the rest from another Aunt's ranch by marriage, a vast land holding made up of apple orchards, cherry orchards, steer, and the largest sheep raising operation in Washington. Our dog was born there, and his sister still runs through the orchard all day, arriving exhausted and happy as night falls.

Our youngest son was happy running through the orchard, picking apples, eating as many as his stomach could hold when he wasn't learning to catch with his other mother who may have finally produced a ballplayer. It was his kind of place. No walls, no breakables, no sharp edges and cupboards to climb. Perhaps he can become a ballplayer who lives on a farm (though I suspect he will be painting in the barn at night and/or composing music as well).

Our older two feasted on fruit, filled boxes with ease, and enjoyed the crisp fall air. It reminded me of my own grandparents' house in Ashland, Oregon, a small acre of hillside dotted with cherry trees, plum trees, apple trees and even a pear as I recall. My sister and I would sit on the branches and eat until our fingers were red and our stomachs full. There were dozens of strawberry plants in the bed, producing months of ripe, red strawberries nothing like the imported nuggets of pulp that passed for berries in the Campbell River grocery store we shopped at during our seven years on Vancouver Island.

We left the farm in Sunnyside with boxes of fruit destined for our home and the homes of cousins building families of their own in Portland. They will fill us for as long as they last, the ripeness ephemeral, while we dole out apples and pears to people we care about who know what it means to pick an apple fresh from the tree, and that it isn't just fruit we are sharing with them, it is family.

*an allusion to the Berenstain Bears that parents of preschoolers will all understand

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