Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Smoking Pears

It's almost 0800, I've been up for nearly three hours now. We had heavy frost warnings down here, so I set the alarm for 0530. I woke up at 0515 and got out of bed and dressed in the heavy winter coat, watch cap and gloves.

When I went outside, the dogs were surprised to see me. Thor stuck his head out of his insulated dog house, then rested his chin on the frame, watching me prepare the fire. Scoundrel didn't even look out, at least I didn't see him. He's smart enough to know it's too cold to be out. Anyhow, the rabbits won't be feeding for at least another couple of hours, so why get up?

When I moved on the farm, a surprising discovery was the old, gnarled pear tree outside my back door. It was surrounded by a makeshift brick enclosure, which the previous tenant had use to dump all his cigarette butts and other debris. Before I realized that it was pear tree, I almost cut it down with the chainsaw. It didn't look like it would live another year and it's close enough that it would interfere with my building a patio off the back steps.

I cleaned the area around the tree and kept it watered during the long, hot summer. It had a pretty good crop of pears the first summer. Pruned it during the winter. The next year, it produced an excellent crop of pears. I was giving them away to neighbors and family, much more than I could eat. Pints and quarts of pear jam and jelly came back to me. Store bought is convenient and some of it's excellent, but there's no comparison to farm fresh.

The past two years, late frost has killed the buds, just after the blooms fell. The pear preserves stock is gone. My father called the other day, one of his main concerns was whether we would 'lose' the pear tree again this year. There's a huge tree on the other side of the farm, but this one produces the quality pears. That's why I was up at 0515 this morning.

Last night I put the 55 gallon drum under the tree, loaded it with kindling, fresh cut grass from the lawn and some wet wood. Paper from clearing out my desk went into the bottom. Most of you are wondering, 'wet wood'?. Yep, I want smoke and steam when I get this fire going. Gotta keep the frost off the tree.

The fire put off clouds of steam in the predawn light, stars going out overhead as the night faded. Smoke billowed up around the tree, shrouding it in a protective blanket. I let the dogs run, but the rabbits were still snoozing, so they came back in short order. They watched me do some exercises, while I kept tabs on the fire.

When my friends in the city ask why I live out here, it's hard to explain.

Morning grass growing gray-white with frost.
Air still, no wind or noise.
Pink-rose smudge of dawn along the ridge,
like a bud blossoming
into the gold of morning sun.
Draw a deep draught from the ocean of air.
Another fish in the sea of humanity,
swimming in my own, quiet pool.
Let the sharks swim in the cities.

You can't buy this kind of peace.

I look forward to the taste of fresh pears in the fall.

Meanwhile, there's hen fruit in the kitchen and the cast iron skillet's hot. Time for my morning omelet.

May your day be as good as mine!

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