Three times my friend communicated that “the blackberries are ready,” and to “meet me at Wellston…we’ll drive down together to pick them.”
But the first time they weren’t really ready. Then the heat was too extreme. Then it rained. And then I think my friend might have gotten tired of trying, and we dropped that plan.
I had already let the thought of those precious blackberries fade from my mind when I drove by my favorite sand plum thicket and spotted the color of ripeness. I picked a few, took them home to show Mick, and within a few hours we were headed back to strip the thicket and head to the kitchen.
In spite of the lingering effects of chigger bites I suffered the next week, making that jam was a beautiful thing. You see, I’ve been writing and coding and building tables for my dissertation. And jam therapy seems to be the best thing to clear my head this summer.
I’ve cleared my head six more times since then…
Mick’s friend called and reported that his “daughter’s pasture had wild blackberries, and would we like to come pick some?” Our answer was, “Yes!”
Our arms were scratched, I picked up a piece of wire in the pasture that made a horrible screeching noise against my brakes, and it was so hot our clothes were soaked when we finished. But we got about 6 or 7 pounds of blackberries and my second “jam session” was once again a beautiful thing.
Then I called my friend Cathy because she had planned on going for the original blackberry run that never happened and I wanted to chat with her while picking fruit. I knew my contact down in Blanchard had grapes and that it was time for them to be turning. So after she answered, I said, “Hey, wanna go pick grapes with me?” And she responded, “Yee-haw” or “Yippee-Skippy” or something like that.
So the two of us packed our containers, do-rags, rubber boots, bug spray and more equipment than we probably needed and headed to the vineyard. We picked Mars, Vanessa, Jupiter, and one other variety. And then, we took her 14# bag and my 10# bag up to the shed to pay for them. The farmer weighed Cathy’s bag and said, “Okay, that’s 14 times 6…uh, that’s…”
I looked at Cathy’s face. Her eyes were blinking as she tried to register the fact that he actually WAS charging us $6 per pound for the grapes. She was stuttering, so I decided to help. “That’s $84, I’m pretty sure.”
In my head I was screaming, “EIGHT-FOUR DOLLARS??? WHAT-DO-YOU-THINK YOU’RE DOING? THIS IS HIGHWAY ROBBERY!!”
After we paid for the grapes, I took my $60 bag and Cathy took her $84 dollar bag and we walked to the car. Then we opened the doors and gently laid the grapes in the back seat. Then we closed the doors and checked through the windows to make sure the grapes were okay. Then we got in the front seat. Then we closed the front doors, buckled our seatbelts, and exploded with, “What the??…” “I KNOW, right?”
Then we took our solid gold, no – PLATINUM grapes home and went our separate ways.
Later I got a text from Cathy. “Drinking fresh Jupiter grape juice – Oh. My. Larry….this stuff is good.”
Then I juiced all mine, cooked them down with a rosemary bouquet and turned it into Rosemary Grape jam. Another therapy session. And, it’s probably my favorite of all I’ve made this summer. Cripes, maybe they were worth the six bucks a pound…who knows? After all, I charge $125 per session when I provide psychtherapy…maybe $6 was actually a bargain, eh?
Then Mick and I drove to Stratford and got peaches, and I made jam. TWO therapy sessions today: jalapeño and cherry bomb pepper peach jam, and spiced peach jam with bourbon and crystalized ginger. Each time I scrape the very last bits from my large stock pot I close my eyes and think, “Okay – I can do another table. I can write another few pages….I can do this.”
I was in WalMart one day and saw $3 bags of apricots. I bought five of them and made apricot jam. And felt better when they were done.
I invited two friends over who wanted to learn how to can. I had jam therapy vicariously through Rose’s first pickles and Katie’s first peach jam. When the day was over, we were all a little worn out but I was calm and peaceful as a cucumber.
My daughter and my husband have dispatched the location of two loaded crabapple trees that I’ll probably harvest this weekend or next. I haven’t even built my last two statistical tables or my final model but I KNOW I’ll need crabapple jam therapy to get me through.
Blackberries, peaches, grapes, apricots…all procured by hand in one way or another. All cleaned, prepared, cooked and put up into half pints or pints, each pinging with a beautiful seal when it’s over.
I can’t wait to climb the crabapple trees. I can’t wait to smell that beautiful tart-apple-ly aroma, or see the lovely pink sunset color when the jam is packed into the sparkling jars. I can’t wait to feel relaxed and worn out after I complete my (most likely) 60th half-pint of jam this summer.
Why? Because I know that between each therapy session in my kitchen, is a pile of pages stacking…and stacking…and stacking up in my master dissertation document. I think on my defense day, I’ll take my committee jam.
After all, that’s only appropriate, right?