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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Persimmon Tree

When night falls, the fields and woods team with a dark world barely concerned with the day. The nocturnal mammels quietly go about their business of living.  In scant light they gather their nuts, seeds and bugs.  From the small holes dug by the busy skunk to the cropped spruce trees and azelias of the whitetail deer, the night life continues while we hunker inside, watch our televisions or sleep, cozy under our covers.

The persimmons are well ripened on the tree next to the gravel lane, down the hill. Several evenings when returning home after dark, I have seen deer at the bottom of the tree.  With tender lips they retrieve the soft, mishapen persimmons from the grass where the fruit has fallen.  The deer compete on the ground with a small possom while up in the tree a raccoon rests in a fork of branches nearly at treetop, just above a dark possom who travels from limb to limb gathering the sweet morsels.

My father and mother once made persimmon bread which is much like banana bread as I remember it.  Persimmons were an important part of our ancestors' diet.  Full of calories and vitamins, persimons could be made into breads, puddings, or jellies which would be welcome during the winter. One advantage of the persimmon is that it doesn't ripen until late in the season.  It's ripening depends on the shorter length of day as fall heads toward winter.  Many people wrongly believe that the fruit depend upon a strong frost to become sweet.  This is an understandable misconception since frost usually comes the same time that the days become shorter. If you have ever eaten a persimmon before it is ripe, you will not soon forget the experience.  Take a moment right now to slide your tongue around your mouth and teeth.  Notice that slick smooth feeling? Well shortly after eating a persimmon, that same mouth will be left with a rough dry surface many explain as losing a layer of skin.  "Pucker" was invented to describe the feeling after eating persimmon before it's time.  They are best eaten sugared and cooked..  Each small fruit has a seed which must be removed.  All this makes it more likely that we will eat an appled rather than a persimmon.  Before the days of grocery stores stocked with fruit and vegetables in all

seasons, people counted on what they could gather and stock up to get them through the winter with good health. Now, persimmon jams and breads seem like too much trouble but everyone should try it once just so you know that you could if you needed to.

Before I headed out last night, I was very careful to check the yard so as not to be surprised with my friend,  Skunk. Remember last week how I wrote that she was out each morning and early evening?  I should have remembered that Saturday night.  Jeff and I exploded through the front door to go to our car at the end of the sidewalk.  Jeff had already locked the door when he urgently, yet quietly, began telling me to quickly come back and get into the house.  I was impressed with his dexterity as he unlocked the door without dropping the keys. I had walked to within a couple feet of Skunk who was stealthily cleaning up sunflower seeds from under the bird feeder.  We then turned on the outside light (should have thought of this sooner). As we stood blockaded in our doorway, we thought of how we were going to explain why we didn't make it to the church game night.  Skunk seem unconcerned with our intrusion.  So far the air smelled fine.  We then began calmly telling her to, "Shoo" gradually speaking louder with no alarm in our voices.  She slowly left the area, far enough away that we could "bravely" escape to our car and drive away. 

Now, back to last night and the trip to the persimmon tree. I wanted a photo of the raccoon and possom in the tree.  I decided that the animals would be less frightened by the car than by me walking to the tree.  Also, that would give them less time to decide to run away rather than freezing in place.  With Jeff driving, I stood up in the back seat, through the moon roof, camera ready.  With the flashlight directed to the tree, I started shooting photos as small round eyes watched me, perhaps wondering why I would waste my time shining lights when there were so many persimmons to gather. The raccon was not keen on having his picture taken.  He knew the mask would not be enough to keep him from being recognized.  As you can see from the photo, this raccoon was not too practiced in the art of hiding.  While I circled the tree trying to get a good shot, he hid behind a small branch.  I could almost hear that little raccoon voice saying, "She can't see me.  She can't see me."

The day, as well as the night provided some interesting sights yesterday. The sunflower seeds scattered on the stoop attracted a variety of birds and squirrels.  While lying on my stomach to photograph a chubby red squirell, I was surprised by a gray squirrel who decided that it was time to try to get inside the house.  He jumped at the window, ran along the door ledge, slipping and sliding as he repeatedly tried to go through glass.

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