September is sprinting into view. The nights are cold, the days are hot, fire season is in full swing here in northern Idaho. The air has been thick with smoke, and ash has been falling out of the sky for days. Before that, the hills were hidden for weeks. It’s been the driest summer I’ve ever seen. There are tens of fires all around these parts, some in Idaho, some in Washington state. Just yesterday the sky was grey and the sun was a glowing red ball in the sky. But today the air cleared up. The winds must have shifted. It’s easy to breathe again, and there is sunlight.
With the summer winding down, life is starting to come to fruition. My huge Sun Gold tomato plant has been giving ripe yellow fruit since June. The rest are lagging but still working hard. Around town there are dozens of fruit trees loaded with heavy but delicious burdens. They are all cared for by the resident fruit-tree-care-taker, Sprouts (aka Jeff Rich). Jeff is an elderly man, medium height and build, lean, sporting a off-white beard and a torn baseball cap. Around this time he visits the neighborhood fruit trees and picks ripe fruit off the ground to his heart’s content, then shares his crop with the community. He also prunes and rehabilitates fruit trees in need. In fact, many of the fruit trees around town owe him their bounty. And without any powerful storms this season, there is quite the bounty to be had.
Prune trees are plentiful, and now quite conspicuous with weighed down branches obscuring residential alleyways. There is so much fruit, that one must be ready to process it in more ways than one. So far, dehydrating the ripe ones, and boiling the almost ready ones (to make what my grandmother calls compote), are the two main ways to deal with backyard bounty. When there will be too many ripe prunes, jam season will start. Can’t wait! It will be my first year canning fruit for the winter. I feel so grown up!
Lately, I’ve taken to biking to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning to see what other people’s bounty looks like. Veggies of all kind are on display, all organic, honey, jams, baked goods, and an abundance of flowers. There are biscuits and gravy at Preferred Pastries, all you can eat for $5. That’s breakfast on Saturdays. Then there is veggie shopping from the Rugged Roots farm, a local stead. Last time I got a bouquet of teddy bear sunflowers. I felt quite dainty. Isn’t this the life everyone dreams of?
Sweater season is approaching and my Irish cables can’t wait to get pulled out of my vacuum bag and stretched in the chill. Yeah, life is good. I just wish for enough snow this winter so the fires don’t come back next year. I don’t care how much I have to shovel. Sweaters and tea are way better than no air to breathe in a year.