Leftover Summer

I placed a garden stool next to a tomato plant. Although some of its leaves were crisp from recent frosty nights, I spotted a few yellow blossoms deep within the plant. A few big tomatoes on the plant were faintly tinged red. Knowing they would finish ripening in the house, I put them in a box before cutting the plant down to a stump. Methodically, I processed each plant in the row, enjoying the beautiful, earthy scent of my garden.

Finally the only tomatoes I had left in the garden were the cherry tomato plants a few rows away. Less affected by the past few cold nights, each plant bore many clusters of perfect, but still green cherry tomatoes. I knew they would slowly ripen in the house so I put them put in a box, too.

As I worked, my daughter Tammie entered the greenhouse. She excitedly informed me, “The apple tree behind the greenhouse is covered with hundreds of beautiful red apples.”

With a smile I playfully questioned, “Guess who’s going to help me pick them?”

Loving to do things with me after her workhours are finished, Tammie enthusiastically responded, “I’m looking forward to doing that but will the apples be okay? We had a killing frost the other night.”

“They will be fine,” I assured her. “These are late apples and I always pick them after the first frosts in the fall. They’re like these last tomatoes in the garden. All the summer’s warmth turned into plant sugars for us to enjoy after the growing season is over.”

A few days later, Tammie and I used a long pole topped with a small cage to pick the apples. Our arms got sore as we repeatedly guided the cage through the branches to nab the topmost fruit. We tossed rotten and bird damaged fruit into clumps of tall grass near the barn. My cats, Louie and Shadow, chased after the fruit as if they thought the noise each made landing signaled there were mice to be caught. The apples we picked filled four large boxes.

Back in the house, Tammie and I made pies, apple crisps and filled plastic bags with fruit to freeze for use during the winter. There were more apples than what I could possibly use. Tammie asked, “What are you going to do with all of them?”

I confidently pointed out, “These are very good apples and I know there are many people who can use them. I’ll donate them to a food pantry this week.”

Tasting a baked apple, my daughter sighed, “I love these apples! They’re the last thing you harvest each year and yet they make me think of spring blossoms and warm summer days instead of fall.”

Opening the oven door to peek at a baking apple crisp, released a great wave of a sweet, mouthwatering scent. I reminded Tammie, “We have one last thing to harvest yet before winter sets in.”

After a moment of thought Tammie asked, “What would that be? Everything is out of the garden and the apples are picked.”

“Leaves.” I answered. “We need to rake them so some can go in the garden for the soil to have fresh organic matter. This year I want to use some of them to mulch my new flowerbed.” Standing at the kitchen sink, I looked out the window at a maple tree on the lawn. Only half of its leaves had fallen. I questioned impatiently, “Why can’t that silly tree drop all its leaves at the same time?”

An early snowfall whitened my backyard after I’d raked the leaves. The next morning the sun came out as I made lunch in the kitchen. The box of ripening cherry tomatoes sat in one of the patches of sunlight on the countertop. Filling a small bowl with the bright red fruit, I took them to where Tammie was working to exclaim, “Look, I found some leftover summer in the kitchen.”

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