Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dog Days

It's a dark and rainy Friday night. The kids are asleep on the couch. The cat is knocked out, feet in the air. Mandy twitches occasionally chasing the cat in a dream. Dawn and I watch an English movie, Pie In The Sky, a detective movie in which the lead character-Harry Potter's muggle father- plays a constable who wants to run his own restaurant. Asleep, the cat and dog are precious. Awake they're the Devil himself, especially the little one.

"Did you order quiches?" Dawn asks. The phone rings late in the evening. "Quiches? I didn't order any quiches." I retort. I'm thinking back to a fundraiser for any number of local schools. Generally, I resist a good Samaritan urge. Finally, I translate Dawn's question. Peaches. I don't remember ordering Peaches. The neighbor to our Amish friends tells us that our case of peaches has arrived. Damn. I'm up to the gills with canning vegetables. Last year the peaches were over ripe. Trying to cut back on the sugar, the jam became Hot Fuzz Peach sauce.

Mandy and I drive to the Amish farm to pick up 50 pounds of peaches. It begins to rain, so I don't let her out of the car. Buddy, the Amish dog sticks his nose in the open car door and nuzzles Mandy's snout. Mandy's disappointed that she can't run with Jesse James, the puppy or wrestle with Buddy. She sits patiently on the seat next to me as we drive off.

I spend the entire day processing peach jam. In between steps of jam prep, I take the Pup out for brief walks avoiding brief showers. Late in the afternoon, the cat and puppy have a spirited game of chase. Dawn drives up as I'm cooking the final stage of peach jam. Twenty one cups of peaches, fourteen tablespoons of lemon juice, two and one third cups of sure-jell and thirty eight cups of sugar fill my stainless steel pot to the brim. I turn the dial on the gas stove a bit too high. Out of six positions not including the "high" setting, I set the dial between 2 and 3. It scorches the fruit and pectin mix. When I turn it down to "2" it takes forever to bring the sugar, fruit and pectin mix to a "rolling boil."

I taste the jam. It has a smoky flavor. Dawn suggest naming the jam " roasted peach" jam. I'm not amused. The pot is steaming and slightly boiling. I've lost patience. Twenty one pint and two quart jars are washed and turned upside down on a clean towel. I fill the jars without waiting for the rolling boil. It takes four tours in the hot water canning bath at ten minutes each to finally process the jam. We give up the thought of making dinner. Instead we order the Friday night fish fry from the Potato Hill restaurant.

For a short time we allow Mandy in the kitchen. The Pooch seeks safety on a chair while Mandy yips in a high ear piercing bark that not only annoys us, but flattens the cat's ears. After an "accident" in Dawn's studio, Mandy is banished to her outdoor pen. The cat settles in for dinner and a movie. When Mandy settles down, soft hearted Dad brings her inside with us. It's late. Mandy goes outside for a last bathroom call and quietly snuggles up to her fleece blanket in the dog pen.

The next morning, I awake at six to the sound of the blinds thrashing against the bedroom window. Heavy rain, thunder and lightning threaten to knock over the onion drying shelter. In T-shirt, swimming shorts and a raincoat, I walk to the white polypropylene shelter. The north side of the twenty foot long tent is sagging under the weight of rainwater caught in the eaves. I push up the plastic fabric and a gush of water hits the sand below. After the heaviest portion of the rain subsides, I walk past the corn which has been flattened and into the house. My shorts are soaked. I open the garage door to check on the Pup. The Pooch follows me outside in the area between house and garage. Both follow me out to the lawn. The cat hunches down under the car while Mandy takes an opportunity to pee. Against my better judgement, I allow her inside. We'll skip the description of antics: chewing on the furniture and so on. When she heads to Dawn's studio while I'm making chocolate chip pancakes, I race to beat her to the carpet. I get there just as she starts to squat, grab her up scolding her and take her to her shelter in the garage.

Mandy takes out her frustration ripping up newspaper while the cat heads upstairs under the bed for a nap. I eat my breakfast in peace. The dog is asleep. The Pooch comes down with Dawn and sits on a book on the table in front of her as she sips coffee. He enjoys the scratch behind the ears, mouth hanging slightly open. I'm mulling the thought of declaring Mandy a "farm dog"-an Amish term which means she's not allowed in the house. The cat sleeps on the table until he's rudely awakened by the book underneath him falling to the floor. It promises to be another busy day with temperatures hitting the ninety degree mark. Dog days.

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