Cherries

I adore cherries. This is probably not a surprise, given my previously stated views on other fruits.

Therefore I doubt it will shock anyone that, when I went with some friends to Hood River for cherry picking, I got a little carried away.

It wasn’t entirely my fault. We arrived at the cherry orchard in my friend’s suburban, five kids and three moms, and grabbed a picking bucket for each family. As an afterthought, we grabbed buckets for our two oldest kids as well, Nathan and his friend Quinn. They’d undoubtedly want to participate, right?

Yeah, for about two minutes.

This is how I ended up with three buckets, standing under trees that were simply dripping with juicy dark Bings and golden, red-kissed Rainiers. (I wish so much that I’d brought my camera. It was like cherry-scented paradise.) Now, the responsible thing to do would have been to fill my single bucket and then stop. After all, even upick cherries are not free. But leaving those buckets empty would have denied deep, ingrained instincts, rooted in my love of fruit and cultivated through years of fruit-picking practice while growing up.

All this is a long way of saying that we came home with 22 pounds of cherries.

I can easily eat a pound of cherries at a sitting, but this many cherries demanded some experimentation. (Although honestly, we did eat an awful lot of them fresh. I think that cherries comprised about 30% of Ryan’s diet for a few days.) We have three jars of sweet cherry jam now, and there’s a bucket on the counter with a batch of wine brewing. Mmmm, the smell of fermentation. A gallon of pitted cherries has been tucked into the freezer, ready for future inspiration.

And the insane thing? While browsing upick places, looking for sources of other fruits, I found one closer to home advertising cherries — and the same greedy cherry-lust welled up in my belly. Perhaps, I started to think, I need just a few more pounds

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Morning Visitor

Escaping down the driveway.

We had a visit from the peacock this morning. I watched him carefully for a while as he walked through my garden, but he didn’t seem inclined to eat my plants, only to peck in the grass around the beds. So we left him alone for a while.

When both kids were awake, though, we took them out. Soon after the peacock headed on his way. I don’t blame him. It must be tough to focus on breakfast when there’s a one-year-old twenty feet away, shouting “Ba-cock! Ba-cock!” and then bursting into peals of maniacal laughter.

Nathan’s Voice

“What happen without the engine?” – Asked while driving home. I’d just finished a discussion of batteries with him, in response to an earlier question, and had ended by talking about car batteries, which Nathan has some prior knowledge of (he’s been instrumental in draining both of our vehicles’ batteries, at different times). After a moment’s reflection, he asked what would happen should a car be without its engine. Questions like this are fairly new, and very exciting to me. They show him beginning to break down the world in a different way: instead of just accepting the car as a whole entity, he’s beginning to understand that there are parts to it, with their own functions. Along the same lines, he’s interested right now in the idea of bones inside his body.

“You should try quicker.” – Said after I missed a fly with the fly swatter and admitted to not being quick enough. What I love about these kinds of statements is that he isn’t trying to be sarcastic or rude; he’s just performing a careful analysis of the situation and coming up with a (he thinks) helpful suggestion.

“Ryan bottom-burped!” – Ok, admittedly this one is a couple months old. It came after a rather impressive display of baby flatulence at the dinner table. I love this description; it’s deliciously accurate, and it amuses me almost as much as the fact that Dave and I subsequently had a straight-faced discussion with our three-year-old wherein we explained the word “fart.” We haven’t made a big deal of farts in our home, so they haven’t yet become a source of intense amusement for Nathan. I expect that will change eventually.

“Last night today the dishwasher had a leak.” – Nathan’s concept of time is still very hazy. The incident he was referring to had occurred about a month and half before. He routinely strings together time references; recently I’ve heard him use “last night tomorrow,” “today when we went out last night,” and “we can do it yesterday tonight, right?” Some phrases he seems to have a vague understanding of; he often seems to understand that “last night” is in the past, for example. But something like “tonight,” which needs to be interpreted based on the time of day, is tougher for him. “Do you want to make cookies tonight?” I asked him last night after dinner, and his reply was “Oh yes, but I want to do it right now.” It made me realize that when we use “tonight” with him, it almost always denotes “not right now.” “Right now” is the one time concept that he has down perfectly.

Jump Creek

On our last day in Boise, thanks to the efforts of James and Kim, we took a hike up Jump Creek Canyon. Originally we’d intended to leave the kids with their grandparents, but we ended up taking Nathan. He has loved the woods when he’s had a chance to get into them. Last time we walked in the woods with him, he not only managed the entire trail with little help (into and then back out of a steep ravine), but he also led the way! So we thought he might enjoy the novelty of a desert canyon hike.

Sure enough, Nathan managed the trail with no problems, and only needed an occasional helping hand on the steepest and rockiest bits. When we got to the end of the trail, he looked briefly at the rather impressive waterfall falling in a large pool, clambered through a convenient small cave/tunnel, and he was off again, Dave in tow. He headed up one of the steep slopes climbing away from the pool. You’ll notice that Dave and Nathan are very small in the pictures, since I didn’t have the right lens for zooming in. In the second picture they’re very small; I took that one to give a sense of the slope that Nathan climbed. By himself. That little three-year-old mountain goat climbed up a slope that would have freaked me out with hardly a qualm. Dave helped him quite a bit on the way down, since that is of course harder, but I still found it an impressive feat.

Do I sound proud? Not at all terrified for his safety? Only because Dave was with him could I be so calm. Fortunately Nathan seems aware of him own limitations, and only attempted perilous climbs with his father or me right behind him. (Usually Dave. Heights and climbing are still things I have to work hard on.)

My only regret from the day is that I didn’t let Nathan do the initial hike at his own pace, exploring the multiple detours along the trail in his leisurely way. Pushing him along on an excursion like this is something that I always regret. Maybe one of these days I’ll get a clue and stop doing it.

After a long day in the desert, topped off with swimming in the hotel pool that evening, it was no wonder that Nathan collapsed into bed that night. Dave managed to capture a wonderful shot of our little sleeping boy. Not to sound too much like a doting mother, but I ask you: isn’t he a gorgeous little boy?

A Story In Kid Pictures

I feel like I ought to be able to pull together a really good synopsis of our trip to Boise, complete with humorous anecdotes and probably a moral at the end. So far, though, it just isn’t happening. Maybe it’s because the garden (which never sleeps) has blessed me, since our return, with almost more strawberries, broccoli, and raspberries than I know what to do with. Six heads of broccoli were waiting for us, and one evening I picked almost two gallons of raspberries. I’m not complaining, just saying that I spend a lot of time processing berries right now.

So I decided to just slap up some cute kid pictures from the trip. Let’s face it, cute kid pictures are really what everyone wants to see anyway, right?

One of the few hitches of the trip was that we missed our flight there due to traffic. Fortunately there are lots of things in an airport to keep kids busy -- if you're willing to be a little creative.

Ryan obliged us by sleeping through most of both flights. While Nathan was old enough and interested enough to pay attention to the airplane (we learned about the wheels going up, for example), Ryan succumbed to noise and movement and conked out.

Nathan was the main taste-tester for the homemade ice cream at our first family reunion. He pronounced it worthy of devouring.

Best toy at the first reunion: the big blue ball. Ryan was all over it. There were also other small kids to play with -- awesome.

Second-best toy(s): two scooters that the kids drove around and around and around the house. Note the suspicious look on Jaden's face. He wasn't certain of me in general, but every time I pulled out the camera, he was certain I was up to no good.

Ryan was apparently much more trustworthy. Here he's offering a dandelion puff.

Twice a long train passed us, on the tracks a little farther into the valley. We all had to go out and watch.

Despite all the festivities of the trip, there was plenty of time for their more usual play. It turned out that their grandma had a stockpile of toys, including cars. Nathan and Ryan took full advantage of these. Yes, Ryan is lying in the driveway in this picture.

I got fewer pictures at the second family reunion, because it was at a big park and the kids had farther to roam. Nathan tried hard to play with the two little girls there, who were unfortunately enough older than him that they were entirely uninterested in pretending to be trucks. Everyone was into the bubbles for a while, though.

I’m saving a few more pictures for another post. Unfortunately we didn’t get a single shot of the kids swimming in the pool at our hotel, which we did every single day we were there — twice one day.

Flower Jelly

Right now the air is perfumed with honeysuckle and rose. Every time I step outside I’m immersed in fragrance, and in these warm evenings, when the breeze is like silk against skin, it creates a sense of perfect well-being.

Somewhere long ago I remember hearing of making honeysuckle jelly. With the sweet scents of summer so prevalent, I went looking for recipes and eventually settled on this one. (Although, true to form, I was unable to follow the directions exactly, and used a bit more sugar.)

The best part was harvesting the flowers — quick and easy for the roses, slightly tedious for the honeysuckle. But oh, that honeysuckle flavor! I admit that I tasted more than one of the delectable little gems. The second best part was the lovely pink color of the infusion; I’d included some of our neighbors’ deep red roses just for that effect.

The jelly itself is… different. In the context of toast, the floral flavor is delicate and exotic and very fun, although I don’t know if I’d eat it every day. I also think it would be fabulous as a glaze over a fresh berry tart. I was afraid of honey overwhelming the flowers, so used sugar instead, but I think now that at least some honey would have deepened the flavor nicely.

More experiments will undoubtedly happen…