September 23, 2013

Wrestling with trees proves fruitful

Writer shares story of daughter determined to get ripe pears


— It took a decade of looking to finally purchase my Adirondack home. 

I found many residences as far north as West Chazy and south to Keeseville that I liked but was outbid by competing buyers time and time again.

Weary of losing out, I took an underpainting workshop with Sheel Gardner Anand at the Firehouse Gallery in Burlington. If I couldn’t buy a house, I could learn to paint like the old masters. 

I forgot about house hunting, and then Judy Guglielmo, a Fessette Realty agent, called and said I should take a look at a property she had showed another client. I looked online at the property and was too jaded to appreciate its charm. One sunny but slushy spring day, I drove from my then-Peru apartment to check out the estate home, and I saw the light.

Besides Guglielmo, my team consisted of Pete Conroy, a contractor and skeptic of the first order, and a house-and-building inspector whose name escapes me now. He agreed that the home I purchased was the best one I looked at and would go for $100,000 easily if it was in Plattsburgh.

Conroy looked at every house for the promise of from-scratch baked goods for life. There are more than a few cakes and pies outstanding.

One of the perks of my two-bedroom ranch was a very tall pear tree in the backyard.

A backsplash of gray and pink tile with a pear motif still graces my kitchen installed by the previous owners.

For the last five years, it’s always been a question of how to get to the ripe pears that are way out of reach. My days of shimmying up trees are long gone. Down South, there was a time my cousins and I climbed towering trees and jumped out of them to our parents’ horror. Amazingly, we never sprained or broke anything.

Now that I’m older and know better, I rely on practicality over derring-do. Gravity always wins, so I competed with bees and wasps for the soft, sweet Bartlett pears, an heirloom variety I’m sure, that eventually fell to the ground. The tree has some years, but its fruit is divine when one can get to it.

When my daughter, Nikki, visited Labor Day weekend, she wrestled with trees, the ones growing where no shade or foliage of any kind was needed.

After she slayed the renegades with machete and ax, she moved on to gentler pursuits.

Plattsburgh resident Don Papson (of gigantic butternut-squash fame) had gifted me with a narrow, wooden ladder used to pick apples.

Nikki placed the ladder against the back deck and lifted a rake to snag various branches and shake pears from the tree.

When she finished, we had two baskets filled with luscious, yellow-green fruit. It was my birthday, and I didn’t miss eating cake.

She washed off two pears, and we sat on the grass in the late-summer sunshine sampling the organic offering.

“Do you want another?” Nikki said.

She walked over to a basket and selected two more.

“This is the best pear I ever had,” Nikki said.

I have shared our bounty with friends. The pears served as barter for squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. In a Crock-Pot, I made pear sauce that Nikki and I packed in a picnic lunch with roasted-turkey sandwiches and ate in Burlington.

A few pears dangle from the tree, and many more cover the ground beneath.

Zucchinis are hard to come by this harvest, I hear, but for those of us lucky enough to have a pear tree, it was a bang-up year.

All that rain was good for something.

Email Robin