Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Gleaners

When we first moved into our home over nine years ago, I would sit at the computer in the sunroom, which is now the dining room, looking out into the backyard and enjoying the flowers; but most of all, the wildlife that would parade through the yard looking for a bite to eat.

There were wire fences around some of the gardens when we moved in to keep the bunnies out. I found it quite amusing that the bunnies knew every low spot that was hidden by plants and would crawl under and hop from plant to plant nibbling away. I didn’t care if we shared the garden because I found so much joy watching them. After about a year, I took the fence out to make it easier for the bunnies to get into the garden. But I guess half the fun was out-foxing the fence and the bunnies didn’t seem to care about my garden once the fence came down. They do, however, show up and play the most delightful leap frog sort of mating game in the back yard. They will face each other, nose to nose, with only inches between them, when one will leap over the other bunny and the other one will flip around--and again they will be facing each other. They continue to play like this until they disappear into the shrubs.

We had quite a few fruit trees in the back yard when we moved in. I had the pears removed because I couldn’t eat all the pears they produced or give them away. So it was just me, the yellow jackets, and wasps enjoying the fruit, and since I was always afraid of accidently stepping on the fruit and being stung when I was in the garden, the pear trees came out. The plum trees just quit producing so they came out next. Then the apple tree that only had about 2 apples a year and was very tiny, crooked, and almost falling over if it were not propped up, can’t mow around apple tree, was removed. We have what we were told was a peach tree, but I think it was mislabeled because it has never had a peach on it but it is pretty so it can stay. And so it went that out of the twelve little fruit trees in the part of the garden that was planted like little soldiers, all lined up and ready to march, only an apple tree, some just pretty trees, and a couple of cherry trees remain. Maybe next year I will get my Rainier cherry for the garden.

Closer to the house we have a very old cherry tree that the previous owners cared for less than they did the pine trees, because they continued to butcher one side of this cherry tree so the pine could grow. The pines rotted and had to be removed after one fell and we have been trying to take care of the cherry tree to preserve it ever since. It is old and I think if must have been part of the original farm that our house sits on now. It produces a great crop about every other year and we have to fight the crows, the blue jays, the robins, and every other bird in our neck of the woods to have a small bowl to enjoy. Because the tree was never pruned or cared for, most of the cherries now are on the upper braches beyond reach and we can only watch and listen as the feathered gleaners strip it bare.

We have another tree that I think was part of the original orchard that is a late harvest apple tree. The apples are good but it produces more than we can eat. Every year we have a deer that brings her fawn, or fawns in most years, to our backyard in the fall to teach them where to find the best produce. We can watch mama deer from the house standing on her back legs to search for the right apple and then take a bite. If it is not to her liking then she drops it and chooses another one. When she finds just the right apple, she shares it with the baby or babies. This morning when I went to the kitchen to fix a cup of chai tea there was the doe with what I thought were twins. After watching for several minutes and trying to get a picture, I realized that what I thought was the second fawn was actually another smaller doe and she also had a little fawn with her. The two mothers worked out their differences about where they would each stand under the tree, with the larger doe occasionally chasing the other doe a little farther away, reducing the other doe to only picking up apples already on the ground. The two little fawns played together, dancing in and out of the bushes and shrubs, tasting a leaf on various plants, and then going back to their game of tag, unaware that their mothers were dividing up the apple tree turf by who was the biggest, strongest, and wisest.

These are the gleaners in my backyard. I know there are coyotes in the farm fields behind our house but I don’t like to think about their hunting and gleaning. There are geese that swim in the pond behind our neighbor’s home and the ducks in the pond down the road all adding to the rural natural life that is only a heartbeat away from the city limits. The opossums, raccoons, and the occasional skunk all looking for a meal, a little something left over.

It is also at this time of year that we will call the human gleaners to come and strip the apple tree of the apples left by our deer and share the bounty with our fellow citizens who don’t have enough to eat or need help supplanting their groceries. The workers come with ladders and boxes and within a few hours last year they took away several hundred pounds of apples to be shared at food banks throughout the county. The simple act of making a phone call and sharing what otherwise would go to waste, is just one easy way to make a difference in the lives of those just trying to live day to day.

Leviticus 23:22
'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.'

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