Archive for September, 2015

Sep 16 2015

Apples in the Garden

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When I think England in the fall, I definitely think apples. Not just apples, but apples are somewhere in the mix. I’m not sure what else is in that mix…rain, pies, wool, um? Imagine my surprise when on our way to Oxford, we stopped at a mini grocery in the autoroute “services” (rest stop) and found only New Zealand and South African apples on sale, and the same, curious situation prevailing at our local Marks and Spencer supermarket. Does England not have its own apples? From whence does that tradition of hard cider come, then? Apples had to be in season…they were already in Switzerland and France.

And, curiously, in our “garden” (backyard), the first thing to greet me was a half-eaten apple on our back steps. Who has been throwing half-eaten apples into our garden before we had a chance to move in, anyway? I don’t want to live in a place where people toss half-eaten apples into my yard!

But THEN! THEN! We found an apple tree in our garden. It is tiny, just Seth’s height, but has at least 5 apples, a couple gnawed like the one on our steps. It has a tag that says it is a Jonagold tree. Undamaged, ripe apples are crisp and fresh, and from our own backyard!!! This is magical. What a greeting. How appropriate for Rosh Hashanah.

Then I remembered that at one house viewing back in July, the current owners told us that they had two apples trees in the garden, one for cooking and one for eating. And so far, everyone (sample size = small) who has a garden seems to have their own apple tree, sometimes more than one, and they trade apples with one another and cook them into applesauce and apple crumbles and apple pies and have special long-handled applepickers they share with neighbors to reach the high ones and altogether eat tons and tons of apples, so local they didn’t have to travel through the supermarket or even the farmers’ market. I asked one local what she does to tend her apple trees–“nothing,” she answered. Well. Um, why again do Americans love to plant ornamental fruit trees, lacking in fruit? This is so much better!!!

Our garden also has some brambly blackberries, a nice tree with a baby doll stuck high in its branches (can apple pickers pick dolls out of trees, too???), a little tree covered with something that might be crabapples and I don’t know if we can eat/cook them, and a shed. In-between, there is high grass that will soon need mowing (…um, how do we do this?). The fence is sealed and high, keeping Ruben in, and nosy neighbors out. Except, of course, that from the windows upstairs, it is quite easy to peer directly into all of our neighbors’ gardens. Can’t wait to spy on all the professors’ children and apple-picking habits and see them spying back. It would be nice to have a suke back here.

Now, our 5 apples are awesome but are going to only last a few days. I better make friends with some neighbors who have more apples than they can eat, and soon!

Oh, and now we have Internet. I just had to test it out, you see.

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Sep 14 2015

For the New Year: GVA—>OXON

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Leaving the US, again. Packing, packing. Electronics waiting to rust in my parents’ basement. Farewell to our things (my books!) for 2 months…see you on the other side. Frantic driving around and hours on the internet spent working out more paperwork than can possibly be imagined. Doctor’s visits and last appointments. Trying to tire-out Ruben. Last-minute raspberry picking and eating. Saying goodbye—I miss you already. A largely empty overnight flight with Ruben on the alert for fidgety snoozers, agreeing to snooze himself only after arrival.

Switzerland. Beautiful blue and golden early fall weather. A wild hedgehog hanging out on the sidewalk. Ruben enjoying his homeland, remembering it all, including the vet, our old apartment, how to walk off-leash in the countryside, how to behave in train stations and snooze on trains. A serene park on a hillside overlooking the lake between an art museum in an old mansion and the Olympic museum, with several packs of teenage boys rebelling against life by listening to techno music together and practicing their party tricks. A sign in the train station saying in English that “composting”of tickets is not obligatory. Three francs for 2 deci-liters of hot milk in a cafe, but successfully poured directly into my travel mug on top of my coffee. A village post office open from 7am to 10am and not a minute longer. A wonderful week spent with friends Adar, Horesh, and growing boys G and N, who are Ruben’s new favorite playmates. A graduation ceremony that verges on a graduation parody, one lucky prize recipient, and so little food at the following reception that it is gone within 10 minutes. One beautiful, restored carriage house in Nyon. Fresh fall apples, plums, squash, and grapes. Where “self salade” (e.g. “pick your own lettuce”) is more convenient for dinner than a trip to the grocery store. A potluck dinner for kids and parents where the options are limited to green salad, ham quiche, ham pizza, slices of ham on hand-sliced bread, popcorn, plain potato chips dispensed meagerly on small plates, grapes, several versions of apple tart, wine grown and fermented down the street, and apple juice. A public bus packed with teens on the way home from school…because why have separate school buses? Sheepsmilk ice cream in “raisinee” flavor (syrup of reduced pear/apple), perfect for the lactose sensitive among us.
France. One day, traveling across it on the express train. The Jura mountains and rain over the fields, demarcated by trees, dotted with French country villages with a church at the center. Seth: “This looks like the MidWest.” Right, except for the hills, the trees, the fast train, and the villages. Feeling grateful that we have the papers to cross its borders. Seth got everything right on this account.
Oxford. We are moving here, to North Oxford, dog and all. Together, wherever we go. We are both doing postdocs in our respective disciplines. Since I last wrote, we both defended our doctoral dissertations and are each just a few administrative steps away from our PhD diplomas. Relief, for the time being. We know it will be ok, because we can buy good bagels in London and drink a lot of tea, even if we are arriving to an unfurnished house, no internet or telephones, a non-existent bank account, and streets that are all backward. Bring on the rain! Check back for OxFording rather than SwissWatching.
Thank you to everyone who has made our last year ultimately so sweet. Shana tova. To a sweet and gebentsht year.
Written September 12.

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