Monday, August 26, 2013

Downtime, Recharging Batteries

Photo by my husband, stolen with permission and attribution. :)

This is our annual quiet week.

My in-laws live on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, on a sleepy little peninsula where there are as many osprey as there are cars driving down the street.

We have photos, exactly like this one, taken every August during our retreat here. (That's the royal 'we'; actually, all the photos, at least the best ones, are taken by my husband. I am not any kind of photographer.)

While my in-laws have wireless, it's slow and cranky, so by necessity and by choice, I haven't spent a lot of time on the computer. In the mornings, after coffee, I stand by the back deck and practice yoga. There is something about doing sun salutations to the morning sun shining on the Bay.

We alternate between long times of daydreaming and bursts of chaos, as the dogs--our two and my in-laws' two rescued dachshunds--decide it's time to play. Or roll around on dead fish the osprey have left behind on the back lawn. (Apparently, they only like to eat the heads.)

Yeah, another of hubby's photos. You can usually tell mine--they're taking from my ipod
and often cut people's heads off. . .

One of the sounds I associate with our time here, is the peep-peep-peep of the juvenile osprey. Their parents leave for their migration, while the youngsters linger, complaining that they have to hunt on their own.  It takes them a week or so of plaintive crying, before they finally decide no one's going to feed them anymore and they take their own path.

Our eldest returns to college in less than a week. Our youngest starts his senior year in High School. If I were to anthropomorphize, I would imagine how ambivalent the parent birds feel when they wing away, knowing their offspring need to learn to survive.

While we don't kick our spawn from the nest (or abandon them) quite so abruptly, still, our job is to prepare them for their long flight into the world.

With long stretches of quiet time,  I also do a bit of canning the local bounty. Their neighbors have some fig trees that conveniently ripen just in time for our annual visit. I had never seen a fig tree before coming here to Maryland in the summer. I had never eaten figs, either, outside of Fig Newtons. This is fig jam, flavored with balsamic vinegar and ginger. About 8 cups of ripe figs yielded 10 4-oz jars of preserves. They are wonderful on crackers with cheese. For some reason, I get this crazy satisfaction from doing this every year. The figs would otherwise rot on the ground, the trees are so prolific. Instead, I have this amazing bounty, and a memory of our holiday every time I open a jar.

I make them a bit differently each year. This is this year's batch:

8 cups of fresh figs, washed and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups of sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
3-5 TBS of balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Grated fresh ginger to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix the sugar with the chopped figs and let macerate overnight in the fridge.
Heat mixture in a non-reactive pot.
Add lemon and other flavors to taste
Bring to gelling point
Can in a water bath, at rolling boil for 5 minutes.

I think I want to can some whole figs in cider vinegar, with cinnamon and cloves. I imagine they would be amazing over vanilla ice cream. :)

Tonight, I'll make a peach crisp. Simpler than a pie and I can delude myself that it's healthy, too.

At the end of the week, it'll be time to step back into our busy lives, deadlines, and commotion, but for now, I'm soaking in the peacefulness.

See you on the flip side!

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