Freecycle Fruit: The sweetness of sharing (and bartering)


Since we've known each other, Rachel and I have canned together every summer...because, canning is so much more fun and productive with a friend. Also, at the beginning, I felt wildly intimidated by the whole prospect of canning...and mess...and heat...and botulism. Stuff.

Things changed when Dave and my mother-in-law got me well stocked  with canning supplies. What a wonderful world the realm of canning supplies can be! Everything has such a clear, beautiful purpose, and things you didn't realize you had a need for fit in the routines you'd been accustomed to so logically, bringing greater ease by the ladle. Like funnels, of course, and jar holders, and thin little spatulas, must-have clamping tongs, and cool magnetic lid picker-uppers. Yes, I'm down with the science, and the scientific names. And I'm getting even more adept, no kidding...


Every summer, Rachel and I have such a great time catching up while canning, we declare with real, committed enthusiasm that we will make it happen more regularly. But so far, "more regularly" has only amounted to twice a year. This summer, we were both away so much, we could only coordinate once. Yet, generous Rachel kindly brought me two big boxes of fresh peaches for her backyard, providing for a a day of peach preserving solo.  (You're the best, Rachel!) The batch of peach jam turned out gorgeous, rich and sweet, and golden-orange like a warm sunset. Roll your eyes if you will, but humor me too, in drawing comparisons with good friends.

It wasn't just Rachel's generous gift, left one afternoon on my doorstep, that conspired to inspire confident independent canning. Midsummer, Rachel and I decided on a whim to post on freecycle: "Wanted: Surplus Tree Fruits". We briefly explained that we love canning, and if anyone had extras they weren't using, we'd gladly share the preserves.

We didn't expect to get any responses. I felt a tinge of embarrassment, too, that we posted from my account, with my full name in clear view. But then, we did get not one, but two responses, and they were so positive! Marya offered up her apple tree, which I am looking forward to but have yet to visit. Evelyn offered plums. I went by her house today, and was greeted at the door by a tall man with a gray ponytail and a broad grin. "Evelyn's not here," he said. "Are 'ya after some plums?"

I never did get the man's name, as I barely had a chance to nod when he directed me around to the side of their house where, he said, there were nectarines, too. The plum trees were shaded, and they were just laden with the most lovely, bursting, softly purple, dreamy plums! The branches were drooping with them. I picked two boxes and spent the rest of the afternoon canning plum jam, some of which is going back to Evelyn, of course.

Our society can be so guarded, so skeptical, so stressed. We have to be...that's how to survive the structure we've mostly created for ourselves. It's not always that way, but often, right? In any case, sometimes the word "neighbor" seems meaningless. But other times, it seems to expand and stretch, encompassing increasingly greater spheres of influence, and offering an embrace of community that feels so good, even without speaking.

That's all I wanted to say. Thanks friends and neighbors. Will pay it forward, promise. :)