ADVENTURES IN THE BY-WAYS.
You who live in the country all the time cannot know what joy it is to a city dweller to have a few hours in the country. Last Wednesday was my day - or half-day of adventure. The grape season, as you know, is about at an end; up until Wednesday I had not made a single glass of grape jelly. The grapes in the store are quite expensive, so I decided to pretend that it doesn't cost anything to run a car; just one more little fling before the gas rationing begins. Now, please understand that I didn't have to go 10 miles - or even 5 - to reach the grape country, since we live on the outer outskirts of Cleveland. But I had no certain place in mind when I started out. You remember the physician's wife, a piano teacher, who, in return for a very small favor, invited our family to come at any time, and pick up the many apples going to waste in their big orchard. It always seemed like trespassing; so, except for the time when I went over to invite Mrs. B. and her sister (who teaches music in New York) to a musicale at our home, I never used the privilege - until last Wednesday, when I called up, to ask if I might pick a few windfalls, to mix with grapes. Mrs. B's parents live there, too. And what a dear old couple they are! They were making sauerkraut in the garage - a four-car garage, with big sunny windows. After tasting home-made sauerkraut up in Highland Park this summer (at "Queen Wilhelmina's"), I had resolved to learn how this fall. Here was my chance, in their eagerness to tell me, they both talked at once. After twisting my head like Charlie McCarthy, I finally got it down pat. They let it ferment out in the sunshine, and cover it well at night. Good ol Sol! Shine hard this next week.
Oh, the delight of picking apples! Great Baldwins, many of which were perfect, due to the thick carpet of grass. I picked a bushel - under one tree! Then the kindly old man bade me look at the Japanese crab tree, laden with the bright red apples, no bigger than marbles. He said those crab apple trees are a picture in the spring, with their clouds of pink blossoms. He bade me pick off the tree all I wanted. So I picked a peck (but not a pint of pickled peppers). Mrs. B. could not leave her sick child, to come out, but she called me up the next morning, to thank me for the trifles I brought the little one. These people directed me to a certain farm, about four miles away, for grapes. On the way I saw a great vineyard, with gorgeous big bunches of grapes hanging on the vines. "This is my dish," I purred to myself. "Surely they'll let me pick my own." I drove right into the yard - up by the side door, where stood the dourest couple, who were soured on each other for good. The man just gloomed and glared, but the unkempt woman came over to the car. I told her my errand. "Do you want them by the ton?" she asked as nonchalantly as I would ask for a peck. I gulped, and said I just wanted some for jelly. They were not dealing in small potatoes. Ruefully I backed out, with nary a grape. I soon came to the farm of which my neighbors spoke. Again I drove in to the back porch. A plump young woman came out, her kindly face disfigured by a purple birthmark; but that woman had developed such a lovely personality that, after the first five minutes you didn't see anything but a beautiful soul shining through. Her father has a cider mill right there; he makes cider on Monday and Tuesday, and makes grape juice on Thursday, Fri., Sat. But Wednesday is his day off. (He has no grapes of his own). I told him I couldn't come back; so he directed me to a farm where I would be sure of grapes. This was on the way home. Up rose my spirits, only to go plunk when I found nobody at home. I stopped at every likely farmhouse. No grapes. One friendly little Welsh woman had just bought her farm, which is all run down. She told me of the awful bombing in her home community in Wales. She is truly grateful for the security of and abundance in this land of ours.
The next place was a little gem; just one acre; but that man has two heifers, a few young pigs, 200 chickens, apples, pears - everything but grapes. He happened to mention crab apples, so I showed him my basket of "rubies." He was much interested, and asked if he might have one to show his wife. I made him take enough to make some jelly (which I found, is not only delicious but beautiful). He was not to be outdone; so he said, "I'll swap you a basket of pears for the crab apples." Thus began a beautiful friendship. That man is English and his wife is German - right from Cologne. So you can imagine how their hearts ache all the time. There is no bitterness between them; no gloating over victories; no swearing vengeance. He loves his wife dearly; and yet his brother lies in a hospital at Truro, with a broken neck - from a "collision with a German." Oh, the bitter, bitter fruitage of war!
Now we must be near the bottom of the page. Oh, I almost forgot to say that, after that big tour, I had to buy my grapes right up here at our fruit store! However, if any of you come to visit, you shall have grape and crab apple jelly and sauerkraut (I hope). Oh, Mr. Walker, one more little thing. Please, does anybody have a copy of that loved Thanksgiving song, "Lord of the Harvest" that I taught my pupils at Nowrytown? It would mean much to me to have it for a little while - to teach the Juniors at this time.
With very best wishes,
Florence B. Taylor
Next - 10/22/42 - "Lord of the Harvest". Fruits of Friendship
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