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Fifty Pounds of Stone Fruit

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Today’s entry isn’t about nutrition, or food policy, or new recipes. It’s just a little story about fifty pounds of stone fruit, a bird’s nest, and a box of dead leaves that arrived in the mail.

The story begins with my recent fascination with urban homesteading, and my earnest efforts to bring little pieces of this lifestyle into our otherwise frenzied household. I’ve been a dedicated farmers’ market shopper for quite some time, and earlier this year I established a compost pile in our backyard. And now this summer, after looking at the ingredient list of my econo-tub of store-bought jam, I resolved to start making my own jams more often.

Two weeks ago I asked my friendly stone-fruit lady at the farmers’ market if she had any bruised seconds that I could use for jam. Why yes, as a matter of fact she did. In a massive milk crate were 20 pounds of peaches, apricots, and nectarines that were headed straight for the trash bin unless I took them. So I lugged them home and got to work making some of the best jam I’ve ever had. The next week I brought her a big jar of apricot jam, and she responded with an even bigger gift – a whopping 30 pounds of plums. Needless to say, I’ve been “jamming” all week long.

However, the unfortunate side effect of having so much fruit waste is that my compost is way, way, way too fruity. It’s more like a primordial soup. Too much wet and sweet stuff, not enough dry brown stuff. And where we live (at the beach in Southern California) I don’t have much in the way of dried leaves or old grass clippings to throw in for balance.

That’s where my dad, who lives in the tree-rich Northeast, comes in. Yesterday I got a medium-sized brown package from him that was curiously light. I opened it up to read a small note: “Premium Mix Compost Helper. A hand-picked selection of prime northern hardwood foliage by Jersey Brown Thumb Ltd. (Purveyors to the Queen). Guaranteed to provide the necessary roughage for perfect compost. *Be sure to look for the free gift in every package.”

Inside was a grocery bag filled with delightfully crumbly brown dried-out leaves. Which of course I added to the compost forthwith. And I had to smile thinking of my dad and his quirky sense of humor, because it was exactly the kind of thing that my grandmother (his mom) would have either done herself, or would have found completely entertaining.

But more mysterious (as if there could be something more mysterious than getting a package filled with dried leaves) was the “free gift” – a small cardboard box that had been carefully taped shut. It was even lighter than the leaf bag and made no noise when you shook it. We gingerly peeled off the tape and opened the box to find the teeniest, tiniest, most perfect little bird’s nest you’ve ever seen. My son and I gently lifted it out and brought it outside to its new home, in a little crook in the bird-of-paradise tree in the backyard.

And if you thought our L.A.-area flies and worms are confused about what’s been appearing in our compost, imagine what the L.A.-area birds are thinking this morning.

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2 Responses to Fifty Pounds of Stone Fruit

  1. Beth Moore July 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    (a) this is 100% completely charming and makes me wish I knew your parents better when we were kids.

    (b) although considerably less urban than CA, I too have taken up the principles of urban homesteading and really do ‘relish’ (no pun intended; I am sure there will some of that too) the idea that my kids won’t always expect bread to be plucked from a plastic bag but rather withdrawn lovingly from the oven and that sometimes the condiments that you planted, harvested & preserved are the far better part of any meal.

    • jollytomato July 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

      Thanks, Beth! A) You’re right, they are pretty awesome; and B) Sounds like we think alike – though from my end, the idea is usually very far from the reality. : )

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