Today, I planned to stay in and just catch up on blog postings and do my taxes. A plan was cooking, though, with Asiya from Forage Oakland to collect some grapefruits from the towering grapefruit tree on 51st near Broadway. This morning, I got laundry started and did some housework and headed out with Asiya where we collected about 75# of very large grapefruits. They are rather sooty from being so close to traffic, so I won't likely be candying the peel from these fruits.
Asiya had to go off to work, so I did more laundry, downloaded updates to Quicken so that I could install the new TurboTax and then headed out to ask about a lemon tree in Rockridge.
First stop, though, was to check on an enormous back yard grapefruit tree. I met one of the tenants of the building who gave me the phone number of the owners who live in the lower unit.
As I made my way up the next block, I saw a tiny old woman with long white braids and a knit cat sitting in the sun, and a sleek black cat who looked like Dobson sitting on the roof above her porch. I said hi and introduced myself - she asked where I was headed. When I said I was going after some lemons, she said "Do you want some Meyer lemons?" I accepted and said I'd return.
When I got to the end of the street, there was an old man sitting on a wheeled walker sort of thing - just watching the street and the people. "What are you working on?" he asked, I told him I was off to pick lemons.
At the house with the lemon tree, I was enthusiastically received by the owner of the house, Steven - he said I could pick as many as I wanted. The tree is very prolific and there's never a shortage. I told him about Asiya's project and the article that Michael Pollan's student wrote for tomorrow's Chron, and he was excited. "I heard about a project like that in Berkeley, I'd love to be introduced!" He also mentioned that he has Hachiyas, apples and plums in his back yard, and admired my fruit picker. "I've been needing to get one of those," he said.
I started picking lemons while Steven went to write his e-mail and phone for me. His three blonde kids (all under 6) waved and watched me from the window. Within 15 minutes, I filled two big canvas bags and started back toward Ruthie's house, offering lemons to some neighbors across the street who were doing yardwork (and I still brought home 40# of softball size Eureka lemons).
At the corner, I stopped to talk with the old man - he asked about my lemons but didn't want any. I noticed a miniature harmonica on a chain on his neck and he asked about my birthday - since December was close enough, he played "Happy Birthday" for me. His name is Howell (and his birthday is November 9). We talked about cooking and food - he said that at 95, he doesn't eat a lot but I think he does hang out on the corner in the sun when weather permits.
As I walked down the block with my fruit picker and two big bags of lemons, I saw Ruthie getting up to go inside. She had me follow her into the house and we talked. She raised 5 kids, "So we needed a big house." She is 87 and a tiny delicate thing who hasn't left her house in 10 years. Two daughters live nearby to visit, a son lives in England where he is a professor. She has a caretaker living upstairs who does her groceries and errands (and has the sleek black cat). She emigrated from Germany just before Hitler's rise, the whole family was safe though her father died before they left.
She showed me to the back yard and we picked Meyer lemons, and she offered me to pick some oranges too. She asked me about my family, whether I had children, we talked about world population and food crises. I told her about Asiaya's project and she seemed enthusiastic - she said she would be happy to have us visit next week to pick oranges.
Yay! Three new places to harvest citrus! I will be writing up some back-dated posts later tonight - after I finish washing and squeezing and zesting all these lemons and grapefruits, complete my taxes and bring in and put away my dry laundry.