My husband's favorite time of year occurs in August. He clomps into my kitchen attired in a battered straw hat, blue shirt, suspenders, and a satisfied look. "I ate one of everything today," he comments.
"Everything" meaning all of the fruits that can be consumed at this point in the harvest season. My husband's declaration ushers in the evening rambles that I've labeled "grazing."
After a day of standing while we sort, pack, and lift tons of blueberries, one would think that my family would collapse on the front-porch swing. My husband's and sons' taste buds should rebel at the idea of eating one more piece of fruit. But instead of lounging, we lace up sneakers and head for the orchards.
Because of the quantities eaten while working the blueberry shaker earlier in the day, my husband and sons merely snack on blueberries. They pick a few blackberries as we stroll through the woods toward the orchards. We wander amid peach trees fragrant with blushing fruit. The blue-shirted males taste each variety that's ripe and comment on this year's vintage while peach juice drips down their arms.
A few rows over, they pluck plums, pears, nectarines, and early apples. I shake my head as each is sampled and the surplus heaped in straw hats for the next day. I have come to believe that fruit is what sustains my family through the arduous labors of harvest.
Finally, we reach the acre of fall raspberries, humming with bees and bright, red berries.
As far as I am concerned, fall raspberries are the jewels, the flavorful gems I've been waiting for all summer. My fingers turn pink and seeds lodge between my teeth as I munch my way down the row. A catbird chortles from a nearby sassafras grove, where a solitary red leaf flutters and goldenrod edges the hedgerows.
Eventually, we trudge up Pleasant Hill toward the melon patch. While my husband might wish he could add strawberries and cherries to this progressive August repast, the promise of cantaloupe for breakfast erases such desires. He and our sons will end the evening at the picnic table with a watermelon cooled in our pond and a discussion of tomorrow's work.
If my maturing sons ever stray far from this farm, they will soon understand how luxurious these nightly tasting sprees are. Only a fruit farmer can afford to dye his lips blue from berries and daily eat quarts of sweet cherries direct from the tree's branches. We may have to share our bounty with raccoons and crows, but there is enough for all.
My level of consumption will never match that of the males in my family, but I am equally as spoiled with my preference for tree-ripened fruit. Despite the sweat, grime, and long workdays farm life demands, these are the moments we savor. Their sweetness lingers in the waning days of summer.
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