Birdland has been cool and mild. Hurricanes in the east and in the Gulf have sent the prairie this lovely weather, so there is sadness blowing in on these cool breezes. We think of friends who evacuated from New Orleans and friends in Brooklyn who had to decide between running downstairs to escape the tornadoes and running upstairs to escape the flooding.
And, of course, we remember those who couldn’t get away. Evacuation and taking cover isn’t always easy for everyone.
Here in the mild prairie, Maude, the turkey hen, knows something about waiting. It takes 28 days for her eggs to hatch. She sits silently eyeing me from the big basket I set on the floor of the coop for her nest, her tail end sticking out while she covers the eight speckled eggs with her downy breast.
Twenty-eight days is also how long I will quarantine when I get to Shanghai. I could learn something about waiting from a turkey hen.
First, though, I have to wait for my visa to come. That wait is not so exact. I applied a while ago, and it could come in a few days, or a few weeks, or not at all. I begin to feel sorry for myself … and then I think about others for whom a visa is a life-or-death wait.
Today, I am both hopefully packing my suitcases and processing peaches. I pour boiling water in a bowl of peaches so the peels will slip off easily. And then while it steeps, I go to the bedroom and pull fall clothes out of the closet and put them in my suitcase.
Our peach trees have been barren for three years. Sometimes it was a late freeze that killed the blossoms, some years the trees never flowered, as if they were just taking a year off.
But what bounty this summer! These are volunteers that came up in the compost after I processed peaches from my aunts’ good old tree. I planted three in a row at the edge of the field, and they gave us a delicious crop for years, until one tree died.
This year, the peaches were getting ripe just as we were headed to the Porkies for our annual backpacking trip, and I worried that I would come home to find the whole abundance rotting in the grass.
I picked half a bushel and put it in the fridge. These were tasty, but not soft. I figured they could ripen some while we were away, and I thought this bushel was all I would get. It was more than last year, though, so I should not complain.
I also asked a friend to stop by and pick some for herself. It was so hard to think about the waste.
But they were still clinging to the tree when we came home, though some had dropped.
But it’s not really waste, though, since those on the ground were filled with bees and beetles burrowing into the sweet fruit, eating their fill.
I wonder if honeybees can use the flesh of over-ripe peaches. It is as sweet as nectar. Maybe our honey will have a slight peach flavor.
Our peaches are a bit wormy, but I cut out any bruises or worm-rotted parts, along with the stone. The chickens love the peelings, and they don’t mind the worms.
“A little extra protein,” as my mom would say when she found a beetle in the flour while mixing pancakes.
I cook the peaches down into a thick butter, luxurious in its sweetness. Today, I used it to sweeten a cheesecake instead of sugar. You can find my recipe at ellishg.github.io/laughing-potato/.
Now, I’m slicing this batch to dry in the oven. They are like lovely, big, peach-flavored prunes. I dry them in the oven and then pop them in jars when they’re cool. A few times a day, I check them for dampness, so they don’t mildew, and shake them so the moisture evens out.
The tree still holds several more batches worth, and peaches will keep me busy until my visa comes.
I’ll preserve a bit of this mild summer to savor next year.
Wait in Beauty; Preserve Peace; Blessed Be
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in The News-Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal-Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at email@example.com or via snail mail care of the Journal-Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.
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