Grandpa Crown’s farm


When the August sun was high in the sky, I used to trail along behind Grandpa Crown into the peach orchard for my afternoon dessert.

Grandpa was always busy doing something, grading peaches, driving them to the train station, fixing the tractor. For a man with multiple medical complaints and a drawer full of pills, he was one busy guy.

Peach season was always tricky; it was highly dependent on the temperament of Mother Nature — one bad storm could ruin the whole crop. We didn’t have a big peach orchard, only maybe an acre, but it was jammed packed with orbs filled with wonderful, sweet nectar just ripe for picking by a little girl with a hefty appetite. Though I wasn’t fond of peach fuzz, I loved biting into a perfect peach right off the tree and feeling the warmth of the summer drip down my arms and legs.

I couldn’t have been raised in a more idyllic setting. I was surrounded by taste temptations, from pod peas to raspberries to musk melon. The orchard was my version of fast food, and I spent the lazy summer days combing the trees for my next taste sensation.

There was beauty for all the senses on Grandpa Crown’s farm. From the subtle scent of cherry blossoms in the spring to the musty notes of the Concord grapes in the fall, there was always a symphony for both the nose and the palette. It’s what I miss most, lo, these forty years since I’ve become a city dweller.

And as I look at sad state of the produce at my local grocery store, where tiny fruit balls compete with nuclear products from the South, I lament the end of an era. I do not recall ever seeing fruit that looked like this when I was picking it.

I don’t remember biting down on a Red Haven peach and having it taste all mealy and dry, while the outside skin looked fresh and fabulous, thanks to a dusting of preservative. I really can’t eat store-bought peaches — they seem manufactured somehow.

And when did farm fresh strawberries start looking so sad and small and full of seed?

Summer is just not the same any more — or maybe I just lost my appetite for it.

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