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Gulf's no respite from early swelter

We're just easing into the middle of June and already we've had to hand over bragging rights. Spring leapt into sweltering summer about a month ago, reminding us that Nature takes its course, never mindful of humanity's calendar.

We could take refuge at the beach, but for how long? The Gulf of Mexico is an ebbing cesspool of sorts, thanks to corporate types who opted to cut corners, no matter the risk. They weren't drilling in the English Channel, after all, and so now giant swaths of oil coupled with some kind of chemical dispersion are swirling through something called a "loop" current skirting our fragile coast. In the meantime, BP's 2009 Oil Spill Response Plan has come to light, complete with a regional wildlife species list that includes the Gulf Coast Walrus.

A "Keystone Cops" kind of clean-up.

Adding to the misery are those "back at you" calls from northern friends who crow about glorious temps, a New England coast kept cool by a salty Atlantic breeze and the tender seedlings that are bursting through rich soil in their newly planted gardens.

The wild rabbits have nibbled at the green beans, I'm told, but the tomatoes are looking pretty good. Should be ready for picking by the Fourth of July cookout!

Damn.

Here, our shriveled patch is being laid to a summer rest as we pluck the last of the cherry tomatoes and deal with the left-over fruits of someone else's hefty harvest.

Georgia may have the reputation, but it turns out you can grow peaches in Florida — especially when Nature bestows a favorable turn.

Millions of fruit, all measuring about 3 inches around, were fetched by the middle child after friends picked their backyard tree clean and called to offer some of the surplus.

Okay, it was merely a shopping bag full.

That's how I came to spend the better part of what was supposed to be a day of pure leisure putting up hundreds of jars of peach chutney.

Okay, it was a dozen jars.

But it felt like a hundred.

Start to finish, the canning of peaches is an arduous task, one that won't be put off when the fruit is softening and the whole "waste not, want not" philosophy is winning out over the thought that feeding the compost pile would be a simple fix.

People are hungry in other parts, and so time is better spent in an air conditioned kitchen blanching, peeling and dicing the 12 cups of peaches that need to simmer for three hours with onions, peppers and golden raisins and aromatic spices before being ladled into sterilized jars and given that last hot water bath in the canning pot.

"Pop, pop, pop!" go the tops as the water cools and the vacuum effect seals the lids to the jars so the contents won't spoil.

Happy Holidays.

At least that's the thought.

It's not a bad one — especially when it's hot as Hades and there is no end in sight with all that ebbing crude giving us a taste of what it's like to live in a third-world country held hostage by a foreign corporation and our own American consumerism.

Then it seems that the making of chutney — even on your day off — isn't such a bitter pill. The labor intensive task is a gift that can send your mind wandering to better things: a brighter future, perhaps, and the thought of how well this batch will go with the cranberry sort we'll ship north for the winter holidays when those crowing New Englanders will be pining for our milder temps.

Maybe by then the Gulf of Mexico, our precious shore and the fabled walrus, too, will be well on the way to recovery.

Who knows what will be? Not BP.

Nature has her own step, after all, one that isn't always in accord with our own.

With any luck, we wake to see a new day, complete with more tasks we're loath to take on.

It could be a pretty good one, I think, not guided so much by life's happenstance, rather the manner in which we choose to meet it.

Michele Miller can be reached at miller@sptimes.com or at (727) 869-6251.

Gulf's no respite from early swelter 06/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 6:55pm]

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