Monday, October 6, 2008

Autumn, by the bushel or by the peck

The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.

—Thomas Jefferson

Sometime in the next week or so, we'll probably take a day trip down to Nebraska (by which I mean Nebraska City) to visit the Pendleton outlet and to lay in some apples and fresh-pressed cider from the orchards there. But we're not short on fruit at the moment: A friend from work sent me home a few days ago with a generous bag of heirloom apples from her family's small orchard. She couldn't tell me the variety—apparently her husband mislaid the diagram showing which trees are which—but they easily beat Granny Smiths for tartness. Ellie and I like a nice sour apple and, ignoring my friend's recommendation that they be used only for baking, we've been eating them at a good clip.

We haven't been the only beneficiaries, either. With the sudden bounty has come an uptick in the household Drosophila population. The fruit flies are a minor annoyance, but nothing more—except to our Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens), who live in glass coffepots on the kitchen counter. For the bettas, the fruit flies are a boon equivalent to the apples for Ellie and me. When I catch the fruit flies loitering on the kitchen cabinets, I kill one or two with a tap of my finger, then step over to the coffeepots and let the water's surface tension draw the flies off my fingertip. The fish have figured out the routine by now, and as soon as I withdraw my finger, they float to the surface to suck down the flies.

The fox squirrels in the back yard, already starting to fatten up for the winter, get the apple cores. My redtail, Stekoa, would rather chase rabbits than squirrels—we'll be back at it soon—but it never hurts to propitiate the animal spirits anyway.

If there's a unifying theme to any of this, it's just that autumn is here, and I'm grateful.

[Pictured: Pendleton blanket based on a Cherokee basket. We'll need a basket at the orchard, right? And the colours are just right for the harvest theme.]

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