By Maxine Kumin
For fifty years on our craggy hillside farm in central New Hampshire ornamented with Stonehenge-style boulders we raised horses and took in shelter dogs. Now all the animals are gone but the vegetable garden we maintain on one of our only bits of flat land persists. Four summers ago, working aged compost and ancient manure into our raised beds, we uncovered among the clumps of earthworms and tattered bits of eggshell two unknown sprouts about eight inches high. They didn’t resemble any of our common invaders. Curious, we dug down to expose the roots. There they were: two peach pits cracked open by Nature and straining for the light of the New World.
Anything that had lain fallow underground for over a year deserved some support. We potted them, brought them down to the house and gave them pride of place on the southeast-facing brick terrace where red peppers thrive year after year in old muck baskets. When the fall frosts came, we took our cosseted trees in at night. Winter days when the glassed-in porch temperature rose above 40 degrees they reposed on a bench in the sun. They prospered with all this attention. By spring they were begging to leave their pots.
We planted them ceremoniously on either side of the garden, both in full sun, at least until mid-afternoon shade from the adjoining forest overtook them. Although they appeared to thrive in their new location, it gradually became apparent that the one closest to the pond overflow was no longer looking thrifty. The soil proved too wet for the little one; in July it drooped, lost its leaves in August and succumbed before Labor Day.
At this point I thought it might be useful to consult authorities on the Internet. Had other people had this experience? Or, if they had a spare pit or two, how should they proceed? The amount and variety of information available was staggering. Eat the fruit. Save the center pit. Scrub pit gently with warm water and soft brush to remove any flesh still clinging to it. Dry pit for about 10 days. (It takes longer for larger pits to dry.) Chill pit at a temperature between 35 and 40 degrees. Refrigerators are ideal for this purpose because they consistently control the temperature within this range. An ordinary sandwich bag may be used for this purpose after you punch a few holes in it. Chill peach pit for 90 to 105 days.
How lucky we were that Nature had taken care of all these preliminaries. Directions followed about potting the sprouted pit, growing it indoors, setting it out in the earth when it was eight to 12 inches high. Then: Beginning in the second year, fertilize your peach tree in the early spring before leaf and bloom set and fertilize again in the fall after the leaves have fallen off the tree. Bloom set? In its second year all we had was a little skinny sapling standing alone with its sparse leaves shining in the sun. It was unfertilized but looked healthy. There was no sign of blossom. Did this mean our tree was sterile? Never mind; we cherished it for having survived this far.
When your fruit tree is about two years old it will need to be supported with stakes until its center trunk is strong enough to withstand the wind and the rain in your area. That hadn’t occurred to us. Nevertheless, the “center trunk,” spindly and smooth, stood straight and true. On April 20th of its fourth year, the tree burst into bloom. The word “burst” is no exaggeration; overnight, blossoms appeared. They looked fragile but withstood an afternoon thunderstorm and accompanying wind. Our peach tree had reached adolescence. Not a moment too soon, we staked it. Three odd little swellings, ovoid, green, somewhat fuzzy-looking, formed. Peaches-to-be!
They triggered memories of biting into rich, ripe New Jersey peaches, South Carolina peaches, the peaches of yesteryear sliced over cereal, into yogurt, over ice cream, or best of all, eaten in hand, juices cascading down chins and shirt fronts. But we are warned to be realistic. It is likely the peaches that come from this pit will not greatly resemble the original fruit. This is because most fruit trees have a different type of rootstock grafted onto them and the seed will revert to the original stock.
Never mind. We hereby promise to hold dear whatever peach comes forth from our three babes on the branch.
From New Hampshire Magazine May 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
Sunday, May 19, 2013
When it's the middle of May around here, you can count on rhubarb. We've divided the plants over the years, and we now have five that produce great quantities of the stuff! The first recipe of this season comes from the book my friend Les gave me, The Joy of Rhubarb by Theresa Millang. It is really called Rhubarb Crisp, but I've renamed it Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp because I substituted one cup of (frozen) strawberries for one of the cups of rhubarb. I think rhubarb's best self comes through when it is accompanied by some strawberries.
Rhubarb - Strawberry Crisp
I did not use "individual baking dishes." I used an 8x8 pan. And I used Sugar in the Raw instead of brown sugar, as I always do. I used whole wheat pastry flour, and my "oatmeal" was rolled oats.
Tom and I both thought this was delicious. Hooray for rhubarb season!
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Sally: a brief journey; an excursion or trip.
Two wonderful authors were on the Diane Rehm show recently. She is my favorite interviewer. She really listens without interrupting, and truly cares about the people she talks to.
You may listen to the programs with
Maya Angelou (which is pronounced low not lou - I didn't know this) talking about her new memoir, Mom & Me & Mom here.
Edna O'Brien talking about her new memoir, Country Girl here.
And for this week's third stop on our sally, a wonderful video of an older woman and her old car. My father sold Packards a long time ago.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
This recipe may lead you to exclaim that I need to get out more. Who posts a recipe for baked spaghetti? Doesn't everyone know this? Well, I didn't. A couple years ago we went to someone's house for dinner, and she very kindly made it for the vegetarians, while everyone else had some kind of meat dish. I loved it. I'd never had it before, and indeed had never even heard of it. It is quite a different taste from regular boiled spaghetti topped with sauce. And it tastes different from a baked pasta like macaroni or rigatoni. In case there are one or two of you who have never had this simplest of meals, here's what you do.
Boil about half a package of vermicelli. I chose it because it cooks fast.
Grease a baking dish - I used an 8x8.
Add half the cooked spaghetti.
Top with sauce.
Add another layer of spaghetti.
Top with more sauce.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.
Of course if you eat cheese, which I don't, you will put some grated cheese between the layers and on top before, or instead of, the breadcrumbs.
Bake a few minutes in a preheated 350º F. oven.
That's it. Easy peasy. And delicious.
Monday, May 13, 2013
May is a month for dreaming. The rich fulfillment of summer is not yet come, and the stern reality of winter is one with all time past. Winter, I think, has the frosty visage of a Puritan, and has no traffic with light-mindedness. And summer is like a Greek goddess, templed in green and robed in moon-silver, but she carries in her hand the dark secret seed of sorrow, for she forecasts beauty that must die.
But May is enchantment without shadow. May is the sweetness of love and the mystery of blossoming. …
It is good for us, I think, to keep as much joy in life as we can. We busy ourselves with so many things that are not of the heart and spirit. We worry about money, we agonize over the terrible state of the world, we fret at household duties or business minutiae, we work, we argue, we squander our strength in a million ways.
And all the time the wonder of life is around us, the ecstasy of breathing air ravished by apple blossoms, of walking on fern-cool driftways, of listening to young leaves moving in the moonlight, and of seeing the twilight stars in the violet bowl of the sky. There is joy enough in one spring day to furnish forth the world, if we but knew it.
Stillmeadow Seasons 1950
Friday, May 10, 2013
The recent years have brought too many animal deaths to Windy Poplars Farm. Since 2006, we've lost three dogs, one cat, two donkeys, one goat, and one sheep. The remaining barn animals are all quite elderly. Since Daisy died, we've felt the lack of an equine presence. Last week, the state market bulletin had an ad for a donkey. I called the person immediately, and everything he said sounded great. Nebby is around 11 years old, a small standard donkey, and has lived with cattle for a few years. The price was good. We know a guy who transports horses so we hired him to travel the couple hours to pick her up. (He has gotten a lot of leverage from his 'hauling ass' joke.) And today she arrived! Margaret and Matt came up to visit, and she was calm and friendly to all of us. We've put her in a stall for a bit so she and the sheep and goat can get used to each other. So far, she's had grain, hay, and apples. We are all so happy. A perfect spring tonic!