Pawpaw Harvest

What is a pawpaw?

a. someone’s grandpa
b. a tropical fruit better known as papaya
c. a fruit that grows wild at least as far North as Virginia and West Virginia?

Actually – all of the above!

I have been curious about pawpaws (Asimina triloba) for years now but have never been able to get my hands on them. It’s not like you can buy them in the grocery store, and I have never seen them at farmer’s markets either. I planted a few pawpaw seedlings but they are still only knee-high and will take years before they will be bearing fruit.

This spring, I finally saw pawpaw blossoms on a few trees along the river. They are very pretty, 6-petaled, maroon colored flowers:

pawpaw blossoms

pawpaw blossoms

In early summer, I visited a friend who lives down by the river. I noticed a number of trees with large, dark green leaves along the river bank.

When I looked more closely, I saw small, unripe pawpaw fruits clinging to the branches. Jackpot! I told my friend about my discovery and she gave me permission to harvest them when they were ripe. She herself had never noticed them or eaten the fruit.

I didn’t know when the pawpaws would be ripe and asked around a bit. Some vague responses pointed towards mid to late September in our area. So I took the opportunity a few days ago, when I was in the general vicinity, to check on “my” pawpaw trees. When I turned down the narrow lane, this was the view that greeted me:

Stand of pawpaws

Stand of pawpaws

- an entire row of pawpaw trees along the edge of the field, nestled under much taller walnut trees.

On the other side of this row of trees was the river, flooded with golden green late afternoon light:

I knew I didn’t have much daylight left, so I turned my back on the river and began to scan the trees for fruit. Sometimes they were high above my head and I had to shake the branches and collect them after they rained down on me.

pawpaws in tree

pawpaws in tree

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At other times, they were just out of reach and I had to step into the thorny brambles growing under the pawpaw trees to get to the fruit. It might have taken me an hour to gather an armload full of fruit, conveniently fitting into my sun hat.

A hat full of pawpaws

A hat full of pawpaws

Most of them were still hard and unripe. But when I found a soft fruit, I decided to split it open and taste it right there. After all, if I didn’t like the fruit, what was the point in going through all that effort, accumulating scratches and wondering whether any deer ticks would be hitchhiking home with me?

Pawpaw cut open

Pawpaw cut open

I squeezed the pulp into my mouth: it was soft and creamy and pleasantly sweet, tasting like banana custard. I didn’t even mind the dozen or so black seeds that seemed to be randomly nestled throughtout the flesh.

Pawpaw seeds

Pawpaw seeds

This was entirely worth the trip and the bloodied forearms, what a delicacy!

Today, I experimented with the half dozen fruit that were soft. I peeled them, squeezed out all the seeds (a bit tedious when you have to do more than one). I whipped up some heavy cream in the blender, added the pawpaw flesh to turn it into a rich, creamy custard. This custard crowned a freshly baked bread pudding. A bit of elderberry syrup drizzled over the whole concoction – it was very, very good!

Breadpudding with pawpaw whip cream

Breadpudding with pawpaw whip cream

Posted in Appalachia, Flora | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Strong, enduring – and abandoned

It is not uncommon to find a chimney all by itself in a field somewhere. It is the one part of a house that remains after the house collapses following decades of non-occupancy. The fireplace and chimney had to be constructed from brick or stone even if the rest of the house was built with wood. Usually, it’s a skinny little thing that keeps on enduring long past the last occupants abandoned the place, and long past the rest of the house has disappeared.

So I was quite surprised when I came across this very substantial fireplace and chimney still standing its ground in the middle of a field, somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley.

chimney in the field

chimney in the field

It was constructed with rocks, bricks, and cinderblocks. The cinderblocks, especially, seemed out of place. Were they used later on to repair deteriorating brick work? Were the bricks there from the beginning? What time period are we looking at?

Bricks and cinderblock

Bricks and cinderblock

Weeds growing inside the fireplace seemed particularly out of place but reinforced the theme of nature taking over the man-made structure:

Weeds in the fireplace

Weeds in the fireplace

These little baby vines are just beginning to climb up on the lichen-studded layered rock:

Lichen on chimney rock

Lichen on chimney rock

More mature vines have spent years embedding themselves in the mortar and brick, strong and enduring themselves.

vines

vines

I wonder what kind of a house stood here, who built it, what kind of families lived here, who were the last occupants, why did they leave? There’s only one thing I know for sure: they believed in warm, cozy fires to keep them warm.

chimney

Don’t you just love it when three different photo challenges come together as a unified theme!?

The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance.
Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Strong.
Sunday Stills, The Next Challenge: Abandoned.

Posted in Sunday Stills, Travel Theme Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Goodbye Summer, we hardly knew ya’

Summer was like a shy stranger, here in the Virginia highlands: she sometimes waved from the distance but never really joined the dance. And now it appears she took the fast train South, leaving behind her blooming meadows which thrived despite her benign neglect.

Field of wildflowers

Field of wildflowers

Can you believe she just up and left?

Goldenrod behind the fence

Goldenrod behind the fence

How could she leave all of this behind?

Late summer wildflowers

Late summer wildflowers

Her pink and white dresses strewn across the field, recklessly:

Pink grasses and fleabane

Pink grasses and fleabane

And so much yellow, her favorite color – probably because she really adores Sunshine, her elder sister:

Yellow wildflowers

Yellow wildflowers

I wished you’d stayed a bit longer….I had my patio table set up and kept watermelon juice with mint leaves in the fridge, in case you came over for a visit.

At least say hello to my Australian friends when you see them.

Posted in Appalachia, Flora | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Migration

A few days ago, I noticed a large flock of birds, high up in the tree tops. Their chatter was very different from what I had been hearing all summer – a delightful, high-spirited zee. They flitted back and forth between the branches unable to sit still for very long. A small group flew to the next tree, followed by another little group. They were in constant motion. Before long, they were all gone.

birds in the tree tops

I did not know who these winged visitors were until I uploaded the photos and zoomed in on them. The pictures may be a bit blurry but I was delighted to recognize them as Cedar Waxwings. You can see the yellow band at the tip of the tail and the red (“waxy”) tips on their wing feathers. The juveniles are softly streaked.

Apparently, they were resting a bit during their long flight from Canada to Central America and maybe catching a few insects or leftover wild cherries for a quick snack.

May their journey be swift and may they all reach their winter destination together. Thank you for the delightful afternoon entertainment.

Posted in Animals and Critters | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Humanity at Play

I have always been fascinated by play. As a mental health professional, I was trained to assess how a child’s play reflected his developmental level and contained clues to her ability to connect, be creative, express traumatic experiences, neurological issues, and more. Nowadays, though, I enjoy just watching children immersed in play – the way they give themselves to an activity tuning out everything else.

But play is not just for children. As adults, we must continue to play. We have many reasons for playing: stress control, pure fun, staying in shape, expressing our creativity, connecting with other people, to be entertained, seeing and experiencing new places and cultures, expressing a ceremonial aspect of our own culture – all of these are forms of adult play.

Some of us draw a distinct line between work and play; the two don’t mix. Play only happens after work, on vacation, or weekends. For others, work and play blend together. They love their work so much that it feels like play, or their play turns into an activity or product that then can be marketed.

Animals always seem to invite us to play and be in the moment with them.

Many of us are drawn to water and we can play in and with water in a myriad of ways:

Sometimes, we “play” by strolling around, hanging out together, resting on a park bench, or reading:

Sometimes we play by crafting a painting, a birdhouse, a shed, or tinkering and fixing things:

We play by physically exerting ourselves, either alone or in groups:

We either entertain others or we are being entertained:

Another important form of play that transmits cultural and religious identities are the various celebrations and rituals we engage in, special foods we may cook, festivals we attend, holiday customs we observe:

My favorite ways to play are taking photographs, writing, hiking, and traveling.

What are yours?

You can find more posts featuring images of humanity on the Weekly Photo Challenge.

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