‘Tis the season of harvesting summer fruits. The raspberries continue to produce, and will do so for at least another month given the autumn fruiting variety hasn’t got underway properly yet. Picking them occupies around an hour of my morning, and I can see another round of jam-making may be required as the freezer is already well stocked. Jam-making is my man’s domain though. I rarely eat it.
As we’re also keeping an eye on a friend’s place at the moment, harvesting the bounty from their apricot tree is also on the agenda. It’s a well-established tree and it’s loaded, but it’s a case of beating the birds who must also be keeping an eye on every apricot, plum and peach tree in the district that’s not netted, ready to swoop in for a feed the moment fruit looks ripe enough.
We suspect the possums have also paid this property a visit, and if they go away to tell all their mates trees can be stripped of fruit overnight. Rather anxious that doesn’t happen so we’re picking apricots that still aren’t quite ripe. They’re swiftly achieving the juicy state though while laid out on baking trays on our kitchen counter. As of yesterday more half-ripe apricots are also spread out on paper on the spare bed!
Next it will be a case of beating the birds and possums to the greengages, as these plums are ripening fast too. I’m convinced birds are attuned to the berry and stoned fruit season, and once they’ve had their fill of one variety, they move on to the next. Certainly they seem to have become bored with boysenberries. I’d given up on picking ours believing it a waste of time because pesky blackbirds, starlings and magpies were nicking so many, but when I walked past the vines last week I was surprised how quickly I managed to fill a container. So I reckon the birds have moved on. Apricots are now flavour of the month, and next it will be greengages – unless we can beat them to it!
There were serious doubts summer was not going to arrive in Tasmania this year, but with a few days left before we wave December goodbye there are signs of optimism. Warmth and sunshine also spells optimism for ripening boysenberries, raspberries – and tomatoes – all of which looked to be in serious jeopardy a few short weeks ago. For all it being a first world problem, no berries for Christmas would have been horrible to contemplate, and while the tomatoes will be later than usual there are encouraging signs they will be ready earlier than we first thought.
So for the next few weeks it looks like 5.30am starts to walk Della dog before a quick breakfast and then out to pick the berries in order to beat the worst of the heat. Just as well we’ve almost eaten our way to the bottom of the freezer. The winter months have seen it steadily emptied, and defrosted, so it’s ready and waiting to receive this year’s bounty in my usual collection of recycled and assorted containers. There should be plenty of berries to share with friends too – even if I reckon the birds are not playing at all fair and stealing more than their share of the uncovered boysenberries. The wretched blackbirds aren’t at all fazed by the foil-wrapped used loo rolls strung up on the vines and swinging in the breeze that I fondly hoped might deter them. I may as well not have bothered. Sigh.
For all it’s supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation summer is always busy if you grow vegies, or have fruit trees that need harvesting. All this produce needs to be picked and processed, and some of it preserved for the winter months, so while I love the warmer weather and the extra hours of daylight, I cannot agree that summer is necessarily a time when the living is easy! Come winter though there is nothing more satisfying than knowing there’s a well-stocked freezer to rely on when preparing the week’s menu.
At least not when the temperatures are as warm as they’ve been this summer, and there’s a lot of harvesting to be done. I’m rather over getting up at 5.30 every morning to walk Della dog, and then start the picking.
Breakfast has become a hasty meal for the duration, fitted in somewhere along the line before it gets too hot.
We had an abundance of boysenberries this year – which is excellent as I love them but they are a pain to pick. Literally. The raspberries are chugging along quite steadily and will continue to do so for at least another four months due to the different varieties we have growing, one of which is an autumn produce. All very yummy and delicious but picking them is also a pain so for these two berry varieties long sleeves are essential and in the weather we’ve been enjoying this is not comfortable. Hence starting as early as possible.
Despite removing some of the thornless blackberry vines last year we still have one, and of course there are plenty of berries on it which are just ripening nicely. At least I can strip off to short-sleeves when picking them.
And the plums have started as well so it’s all on to beat the birds although we did cover the greengage tree after the parrots decided to breakfast on these plums a few days ago. This is the first year we’ve had fruit, and they are prolific – as are the plums that pollinate the greengage – the Prune D’Argan which according to the book we have is the oldest known plum tree in the world.
Last but not least are the tomatoes, which are a bit late getting underway but have now started, and there are loads, so the kitchen bench is currently full of bowls of assorted produce that I shall have to work up enthusiasm to do something with.
So where is John in all of this? Well, he’s not been slouching around. All the watering is down to him – which includes all those native trees and bushes he’s been nurturing so carefully, which he’s grown from seed or cuttings, as well as the rest of the garden. For some it’s a hand watering job with buckets of water.
So as I swelter over picking produce I keep reminding myself I will appreciate all this bounty in the winter months when I go to the freezer(s) and from the selection that’s there, pick out a container of some of this home-grown produce to make those winter-warming casseroles and crumbles.
Summer time, and the living is easy, or so the song would have us believe. Personally I’m not so sure. At the moment my life involves getting up at the crack of dawn, taking Della dog for a walk, eating a quick breakfast, and then it’s on with the sunscreen and outside to pick produce. Before the unusually hot weather we’re having this year makes it too uncomfortable to stay outside for long. Then of course there’s always the odd weed to pull out, and dead-heading to do.
We’ve already waved farewell to the boysenberries for another year so currently the produce involves cultivated blackberries – which at least are thornless but are nowhere near as good as the wild variety, their toxic weed status in this country notwithstanding. Then it’s onto the raspberries. Too few of these as yet because the vines are still new but things are looking good for a decent autumn crop. The strawberries have had their spell of R&R and are getting underway again, and then there are capsicum, cucumbers – and those dilatory tomatoes, which are finally starting to ripen, albeit far later than we would normally expect. A straw poll suggests we are far from being alone in experiencing this tomato delay, which is some consolation, so perhaps the very late cold snap we had in November – when we thought we’d lost a couple of plants to frost – is what has set them back.
When the toms do finally get their act together harvesting will be time-consuming. There are loads, and several varieties. Which is wonderful, and I’m certainly not complaining, but it will mean more time out of the day to cook them up with onions, garlic, capsicum and whatever else in the fridge that needs a home, to freeze down for winter casseroles and pasta dishes. Maybe I’ll even dust off the dehydrator again and dry some, or try my hand at relish which did work rather well last year even if it was runnier than it should be.
But all this activity means my mornings are all but over, and barely a word is written, so all that easy summer living? Hmmmm, maybe not. Not this year at least.