In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Harvesting pears

There's always something to harvest on the island this time of year. So even if my garden didn't exactly rise to meet my aspirations, if I look around I will easily spy something else that's ripe or nearly ripe. The pears, for instance.

There are two pear trees in the back orchard. I think one of them is quite old -- from the time of the Perrys or the Gouldens -- and the other about twenty five or thirty years old -- from Elizabeth Hyde's time.

In the fall of 2007, our first on the island, the pears simply dropped from the trees when they got tired of clinging to the branches. We did not pay them any attention that fall. I imagine that our neglect made the sheep and the deer very glad, as it continued the seasonal windfall of apples and pears they had gotten used to and come to expect during all the years when the house was empty and nobody cared for the fruit. Except them.
Last fall we were eager to pick the pears. But we didn't know when to pick them, nor did we know to let them ripen off the tree. We learned those basics last fall. We pressed the pears and ended up with a few gallons of perry, which is the old name for pear cider, and also the name of the first family to live in this house. It was an extraordinary experience to drink it; it tasted like fall.

This past spring Greg pruned the pear trees. The older one, which was very tall, got a radical pruning. It will be much easier to pick the pears now that the tree is smaller. But, maybe at least in part because of the pruning, the older tree did not bear very many pears this year.

Greg pruned the younger tree, too, last spring, but not as drastically. This fall its pears have been plentiful. They seem like a bosc of some sort.
Today Greg went up into the tree to pick the pears.
It was a day that contained a bit of everything: sun and shadow, racing clouds and wind, rain drops, splotches of bright blue sky, more clouds. The wind swirled around from east to west and the temperature dropped. The weather kept changing all day long so you never could decide what kind of day it was. It was a good day to be up in a tree.
He stood on the short ladder to reach the pears hanging from the upper branches. You have to pull upward with your hand to snap the stem without tearing the flesh of the pear. You need to keep the stem on the fruit. So picking them requires some attention and care.
In the end he harvested about a wheelbarrow full. We'll press most of them for perry, but we'll keep some to eat later on, when they are ripe, and to give away.
We are grateful to the Perrys and the Gouldens and Elizabeth Hyde for planting these trees and for taking care of them for so many years.
Last year we saved the last two pears for Skipper and Radar to have with their lunch on the first day of the lobster season, which is around December 1st. I remember how amazing the next-to-last two tasted then. I hope that on December 1st we will again be tasting the fullness of ripened pears.

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