Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mulching and Mulberries

I can hardly believe its the middle of June. The summer is going by way to quickly. We were at the Sheep and Wool Festival in Iowa over the weekend. Met some new friends and made new contacts again this year. Its good to see others with the same interests and enthusiasm. A little reinforcement that we are not totally crazy at least. Then we came home to reports of flooding, and wet dirty sheep and more mud than we would like. So we decided it was getting to be time to cover them. So Don got the suits out, soaked them overnight, and then hung them on the fence and hosed them off. They came surprisingly clean!
The weather has been so crazy lately, we have gotten a bit behind on the garden. The poor melons were growing out the tops of their jugs, some by a foot. So, despite the humidity, the mud, and a long day of work, we dove into weeding to prepare for the mulch. Thanks to the 'horse' (Troy-built), it went pretty well, and we managed to get at least the melons done. Then as darkness fell, we quit. But I noticed the ewes in the pasture gathered beneath the trees to the north.

Recently, I have been drawn to the frequent glimpse of the blackish trees. for some reason, this year the sure fire outline of a Mulberry tree. For some reason, nostalgia has over taken me, and I am consumed with a longing for mulberries. The distinct memory of the unique sweet odor of cooking mulberry jam has risen from somewhere in my childhood. It has been at least 25 years, but it lingers and calls. I have been watching the trees, awaiting the change from red to black. Hearing my fathers voice from long ago. The screen door creak and slam, the bent soiled straw hat fan the air in gesture, and the announcement "The mulberries are ready."
In a time and place were fresh fruit was strictly seasonal, mulberries were a welcome addition to the table. My Dad's favorite was a simple bowl of berries and cream. I preferred them on ice cream. But they were probably best picked right off the tree.
Mulberry harvesting at our house was serious. Never mind the tedious picking one berry at a time. My Mother would bring out the sheets. With as many hands as could be rounded up, we would be assigned corners of the cloth - actually 2 sheets sewn together- and Dad would tap on the upper branches with a rake. The resulting hail of purple was sure to bring a round of squeals and giggles, as we dodged the stray berries while attempting to catch as many as possible. Of course, the mosqitoes were unbearable, and the tall grass scratched even through clothes (long pants required), and a thorough tick check was sure to follow. And the next day, the house would be filled with the aroma of mulberry jam.
I started off today by doing some weeding in the flower gardens. But the trees seemed to be calling me. It was hot, so I left off the weeds and took a break.
So after cooling off a bit, I grabbed my camera, and set off on a short adventure. Pleased that crossing the fence is no longer a problem now that the new panels are up, I picked my way across the pasture. Everything was still very wet, including the back of my neck. Sure enough, there were mulberries. And, thanks to the short sheep, on branches that could be reached. I tried a few, and was pleased to find they were much better flavor than the tree across the road. Within moments, my thoughts were flooded with childhood memories of hot, still, early days of summer. The sweet purple mulberry goodness mixed with horsey sweat, the welcome whisper of a slight breeze through the leaves to still the buzzing of mosquitoes, and the frantic slap that was sure to follow.
Mulberry madness had set in. As the plumpest, darkest berries were soon consumed from one branch, I moved to another. Then another. And then it occurred to me that there was not one tree, but many. And to think I had been missing them all these years... Wait. Oops. Was that an unripe one, or just a bite of reality. Truth is, they weren't here before. The trees that now overhang the fence line by 15 ft or more are probably close to thirty years old!
Time passes. Things change, and life changes things. Yet it seems, mulberries stay much the same. The ones hardest to get to are often the sweetest. The sweet purple taste of summer still leave a stain on your memory that does not fade even with time.
Now I'm off to look for some sheets.