It has been harvest time here at this old house. I have been making pesto from the small pot of basil growing on the back deck. We also harvested one of the two cherry trees, getting about 2 cups of cherries. After eating a few and sharing a few, I had a little over a cup left. Fortunately, I have a very small pie tin and was able to make a tiny cherry pie to share with friends who dropped by. We have two cherry trees now that we had to cut the maple down a few years ago. It had been trimmed back so far to keep it out of the power lines that it just didn’t look good any more. When they took it down, we discovered rot had begun in the base of the trunk and was working its way up. It’s a good thing we took it down before Mother Nature did in one of our big wind storms. We planted a second pie cherry tree in its place.
We have to net the cherry trees as the fruit begins to develop because the birds will eat every single cherry unless we do. The original cherry tree, for some reason, didn’t put out much of a crop this year. We had a Mother’s Day snow and I think it was just blossoming when that hit. It is a different variety than the new cherry tree though for the life of me, I can’t remember either name. We harvested the new cherry tree for the first time this year after netting it several weeks ago. Last year, it produced a few cherries but we let those go to the birds. John wanted to do a “first fruits” thank offering with it (see Leviticus 23:9-14). It wasn’t exactly the Biblical ritual but it was an awareness of thanksgiving for one of nature’s great marvels, fresh cherries.
Two cups of cherries may not seem like much. The first cherry tree has had years where we get six or eight cups from it, but those two cups of cherries made me ridiculously happy. Maybe because we aren’t really able to grow anything here at this old house. Between a lack of space and wild animals, namely racoons, deer and bears, anything we plant is decimated before we can get to it. In addition to the basil and cherry trees, we have oregano and mint, a grape vine and a rhubarb patch. The grape vine is loaded but the racoons have an uncanny knack of knowing the night before we plan to harvest the next day. They go through and strip the vines bare. The grapes aren’t really on my cooking radar screen because for years, we have ended up with so few of them.
This year, for the first time I can remember, we didn’t get any rhubarb. We had a lot of rain and then it got very hot very fast. The rhubarb was not happy. Also, the patch is about 30 years old. Does rhubarb expire from old age? I don’t know. Usually I make at least one rhubarb custard pie and some chutney. I have also discovered that cherry rhubarb pies are great! Many people are familiar with strawberry rhubarb pie but cherry rhubarb is less common. I like it better; the flavors meld better, in my opinion.
Coming in to the end of July and harvest season, I am reminded of the parable of the Sower and the Seed found in Matthew 13: 1-23. In that story, a man throws seed prodigiously on all kinds of ground. Some never sprouts, some sprouts but withers in the sun due to shallow roots or dies out in overwhelming weed patches. Some produces a great harvest. While Jesus meant this as a metaphor for the spiritual life, it also speaks to life in this old house. We can’t have a vegetable garden because there is no ground to plant it in and the animals will get it all anyway. However, we can rejoice in our herbs, our rhubarb and our cherries. We do what we can, not what we can’t. It makes for a peaceful co-existence in our little corner of creation and some darn good cherry pies and pesto. That feels like a full harvest to me.