Monday, 10 March 2008

Jam and cycles of life

In a triumph of optimism over reality, I bought an entire carton of plums at the market last week. Since our local greengrocer changed hands, I have been driven reluctantly to buy fruit and vegetables at Woolworths. However, last week I tried out another place that has recently changed hands, the elegantly named “Jumbo’s” on the highway. I hoped that the name was representative of the quality and discounts of its produce and not the end result for consumers. Other than the slightly chaotic presentation of its produce, one thing immediately stood out – the sales savvy of its owner. He isn’t pushy but he does wander around telling you about the produce, what’s good, what’s on special and of particular interest to me, where it came from. I found out last week that he is a new resident of Marburg, moving from New Zealand and buying the property on the highway advertised as being “ideal development land” as well as the fruit shop. He assures me that he doesn’t plan to develop – he has a few horses and thinks the small acreage is perfect and “it was so cheap!” Between his cheerful dissertation on fruit and my illness-induced weakness of mind, I emerged clutching the aforementioned carton of plums. Well, actually he clearly sensed my mental and physical state and sent his assistant out with the plums.

I love plums and the way that a fairly ordinary fruit somehow transforms into glorious sticky jam and smooth stewed fruit. All of a sudden though I had to rack my brain: did I have enough jars, what about sugar, how many kilos of plums in a carton…? Fortunately I was on the way to the supermarket so was able to pick up eight kilos of sugar. And what about all the other things I had to do last week?

I took the advice of organisational gurus and split up the tasks. Three kilos of fruit became jam on Friday then about four kilos were stewed today and the last three kilos for jam are cooking away now. Standing at my window preparing the fruit I was watching the enormous crows that move into our neighbourhood in March. The longer we live here, the more aware I become of the cycles of nature. January and February are the time for the huge webs of the golden orb spiders draped over every bush and twig. March brings fruit on the old guava tree down the paddock and means the crows will soon arrive. They are incredibly picky eaters and carefully remove only the ripest guavas from the tree. We don’t bother to net as the fruit isn’t the best. We enjoy the occasional grainy pink and yellow treat but keep the tree more as a testiment of its survival rather than for the fruit. They can clean out a crop pretty rapidly though and I am grateful that we don’t depend on any of our fruit. If Jumbo’s fails me, I can always go back to Woolies. Although some may lament our contemporary disconnection with the land, it does make for a more convenient life.

This year the crows are fighting for dominance with the magpies. We have plovers (technically masked lapwings) nesting near the house and they are almost psychotic over the invasion. They can’t decide whether they hate the other birds more or us. Every movement of person, bird or car on the road results in an explosion of harsh sound and wings. I think the crows and magpies enjoy teasing them. Or perhaps they heard about how much I enjoy quietness. Somehow though the birds, the weekend and the jam-making have been therapeutic and I feel a bit better able to face the week, albeit in a somewhat sticky state.

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