Sunday, September 06, 2009

Picking Pears and Other Adventures

The word, "free," being a siren call and having a liking for canned pears, I stopped by a neighbour's on Saturday to pick some pears.

I had picked some there last year and they were good, if a little small and misshapen (like you would expect from a private tree). I only got 5 quarts last year and was determined to get more this year.

I went armed with two boxes to fill and a sheet to lay on the ground to "catch" the falling pears and differentiate them from the rotting grounders. The sheet didn't work out so well, but I filled both boxes and got about 40 lbs of pears!

That was the good part. The bad part?

Well, I was using the pole they have available for people to jiggle the branches and "persuade" the fruit to fall. It's a two-piece telescoping jobbie that I was putting to full use. By the end, I was reaching all the way to the top branches. For one, there were good pears there; for two, I figured I was one of the few that could reach that high to get them, so I may as well do them all a favour.

Well, only minutes after thinking that it would be possible to actually get the pole stuck on a branch, that's exactly what happened to me! (Not exactly doing them a favour.) After jiggling the last (very high) branch, I lifted the pole to unhook it from the branch, and I couldn't get it loose. I'm moving the pole around, pulling, jiggling, etc, and then the part in the middle that holds the two halves together loosens, and I am left holding the bottom while the top hangs many feet above my head. :loser:

I packed up my stuff and ran away. No, I'm just kidding. I went to the house, met their dog, and then explained to the "master of the house" what had happened. Did he have a ladder, or should I go home and get my own to get it down? Oh no, he wouldn't hear of it. He would take care of it. So I left with my tail between my legs, not allowed to fix my own mistake. If I hear on the local news that an old man falls off a ladder tending his pear tree, I'm going to feel really really bad.

Later that afternoon I was doing some much overdue weeding and noticed quite a few bumblebees flying around. One of them landed on my jeans. I stood still so as not to disturb it.

It stung me!

I was so stinking mad. Now, wasps are one thing. But I have firmly believed for a long time that bees were the good guys. Leave them alone, don't freak out and they will go their merry way. And they used to look so merry to me. No longer. It's not nice to have one of your life's tenets wiped away. It's painful. (But the sting hurt worse.)

Finally, I can report that our second canner (purchased at an auction while we were on vacation) works quite nicely. Before realizing that we had tomatoes in our very own garden, I purchased a half bushel at the local market/store.And then I canned them. (My latest method is not skin them, slice with the mandalay and pack tight with no water. I run them through my hand-crank mill before using them; the canning makes them soft enough to go through the mill.)

The second canner is a little different than the other and I was a little alarmed at all the steam escaping by the handle (it was really pouring out). But Troy theorized it was just because the handle lock hadn't kicked in. Sure enough, a few minutes later it did and there was no more steam.

It processed in about the same time as our first one (I can't call them "new" and "old" because our old one is new and our new one is old) which is not surprising since they are very close in size. Very convenient.

So I was able to process all 11 quarts at a time. Nice.

By the way, in case you were wondering, if a pear falls from a very high branch and hits right on the top of your head, it bounces quite a ways up before coming down again.

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