A Bowl of Cherries

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, wondering where June went…

I don’t need an astronomer, or a calendar, or standing stones to know when the summer solstice hits. I’ve got my own personal predictor: the sour cherry tree we planted a couple of decades ago. The cherries are plump and green and just beginning to ripen by the longest day of the year. And by July 4th, they’re all done.

 

Anybody who’s ever been a gardener might know this feeling. You watch the plant’s progress, from dormancy, to blossoming, to fruiting/vegging and ripeness, eagerly awaiting the perfect time to pick. And then the time comes for the first harvest and it feels satisfying and wonderful.

Some years, like last year when we had a late spring freeze that decimated our fruit trees (we have two pear trees as well), we get only a handful. And other years, we get a bumper crop and manage to stay one step ahead of the birds. This is a bumper crop year. So the picking begins.

As does the pitting. And preserving. The thing about sour (pie) cherries is that they are extremely perishable, which is why you almost never find them in grocery stores. I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen any at a farm stand. They must be picked then within hours pitted and preserved or they develop an ugly brown and untasty ring at the stem end. So I have to pick at a time when I know I can do the follow-up work–pitting each individual fruit, then immediately cooking up with some sugar or freezing, to be cooked with sugar later.

Sour cherries are delicious–but they’re inedible until they’ve been properly prepared.

And I feel like that’s a metaphor for writing. Like those cherries between the solstice and Independence Day, ideas come fast and furious sometimes, and some of them will ripen into something wonderful. And some I’ll never get to, because they’re for the birds.

Today, and for the next few, there is no more time for profound thoughts. There are only endless bowls of cherries to process into jam, barbecue sauce, and future pies while binge watching Frankie and Grace on Netflix. But maybe, just maybe, during the repetitive motion of the pitting, a sweet little idea for the next story will emerge. We’ll see.

Do you grow any of your own food (or flowers)? Are there certain types or varieties you plant or harvest every year?

Wicked Wednesday-4th of July Memories

NEWS: Mary Lou H is the winner of Mulch Ado About Murder! Check your Inbox or Spam folder, Mary Lou. And congratulations!

called-to-justiceJessie, In NH, dreaming of warmer weather!

Edith’s latest release, Called to Justice, opens on Independence Day. Which got me thinking fondly of the 4th of July which happens to be one of my favorite holidays. So, Wickeds, do you have any special memories of our nation’s birthday?

Barb: I, too, love 4th of July. I love barbecues with friends and family, parades, and fireworks. I have many happy memories of 4th of Julys past, from childhood to last year. Our front porch in Boothbay Harbor offers a fantastic view of the town fireworks, which are set off over the water. For the last several years, both my kids, their spouses, and my granddaughter have been with us, which makes it extra special. I especially love that my granddaughter shares my love of fireworks.

Edith: When my sons were growing up we had a one-acre back yard. On the 4th of July we’d invite everyone we knew and fill up the place, sometimes with more than a hundred friends. Kids jumped on the trampoline or splashed in the kiddie pool. Adults played horseshoes and volleyball. We set African rugs around on the grass for lounging. People brought sides or desserts, we grilled meats, and a keg of beer flowed under the big shade tree. It was a splendid way to gather community for a relaxing celebration, although I don’t miss the work it took to pull it off!

Liz: When I was a kid, we used to have family cookouts for the 4th. It was a big deal to have lobsters. My grandfather loved them and he would devour every piece that he could, right down to the icky green stuff. It wasn’t my thing, but I’ll always remember how happy he was sitting at the picnic table eating his lobsters and watching us play on the swing set.

Jessie: There is a Fourth of July parade that goes right past my house every year. There are antique cars, kids on bikes decorated bikes and the town fire and rescue vehicles. It is organized by volunteers and has a very small-town, nostalgic feel to it. The parade route is so short that they often go around twice. Ahh, village life!

Sherry: One of my most interesting Fourth of July experiences is when we were flying from Miami to Boston on a flight that left at 8:00 pm and landed around 10:00. For almost the entire flight we could see fireworks displays from above. It was so beautiful and we even saw part of the Boston celebration.

Barb: Sherry–I had a similar experience one year on the ferry from Provincetown to Boston. It was wonderful!

Julie: I adore the 4th of July. I have a ton of fond memories, including one year at Old Orchard Beach.  But my favorite thing to do is to watch the Boston fireworks, whether from my house (I can see them through my living room windows) or down on the Esplanade, which is very crowded but stunning. My favorite time was when my friend Mary was in town on the tour of Mama Mia (she played Rosie), and they were going to sing at the Pops concert. Knowing how much I love the holiday, she invited me to be one of her special guests! It was beyond thrilling, and a memory I will treasure forever!

Readers: Do you have a favorite Fourth of July memory?

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The Fourth of July

Sheila here. Today we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, when the American colonies took the first formal step in separating themselves from England.

Picture a group of men, all formally dressed, locking into a relatively small room in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, with the windows nailed shut so nobody outside could overhear what they were planning. It’s a wonder they didn’t all pass out from the heat. But they came up with one of the most significant single documents in modern history.

That gathering doesn’t lend itself to great art. But! We in Massachusetts have a work of art that defines our concept of patriotism: the Minute Man statue that stands by the river in Concord, designed by Daniel Chester French. Yes, I know—it represents an event that took place a year earlier, on the 18th (or 19th) of April in 1775, but it conveys the same message, in a more personal way. It’s the ordinary man, standing up against a one of the major powers of the world as it was then—and winning.

Minuteman_statue_2_-_Old_North_Bridge

Photo by Dave Pape [Public Doman], via Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Chester French is well known now (and his statue of Lincoln in Washington DC is magnificent), but when he created the Minute Man, he was just starting out. In a fictionalized biography written by his daughter Margaret, called Journey into Fame, published in 1947, the author reports that Daniel’s first sculpture was a carving of a frog wearing trousers, made from a turnip. Unfortunately for the history of art, this youthful work did not survive. But it did convince his family of his talent, and his father purchased a quantity of clay at an art supply store in Boston and presented it to his youngest son, and the rest is history.

It is astonishing now to think that the Minute Man statue was Daniel’s first commission. He was 23 at the time. In 1872 the town of Concord appointed a committee to plan for a monument for the Centennial of the famous battle, and provided $1,000 through a bequest from a local resident. The committee asked Daniel to make a model, which he began in his studio in Boston in April 1873. The model was approved and he was officially awarded the commission in November. (The fact that family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson was on the committee may have helped.)

The statue was unveiled on April 19th, 1875, and the dedication was attended by President Ulysses Grant, as well as Emerson and James Russell Lowell.  Strange to say, French was NOT present at the unveiling, and was in fact in Italy.

The statue depicts a modest farmer, who is at the point of abandoning his plow and taking up his musket, to respond to the call to arms. The statue has become the iconic image of the Revolution, or at least our romanticized version of it. Even though the statue is a single figure, it embodies the conflict between the simple colonists who really wanted nothing more than to go on with their farming and raising families and so on, and the larger, better equipped and better trained English forces (who in their arrogance thought they could squash that puny rebellion in the colonies and go on collecting taxes from them).

So we’re celebrating the triumph of the ordinary people over a powerful antagonist they had little hope of beating—but they did. As a long-time genealogist, I can count at least thirteen ancestors from Massachusetts who took part in the Revolution in some way. They weren’t heroes—in fact, family legend says that one of those heard the alarm for the Battle at Concord said, “forget it—I’ve got to finish plowing.” How American that sounds: I’ll defend my new country against all odds, but let me get my crop planted first–my family needs to eat!

But here we are, 240 years later, still going strong. Happy Independence Day!