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Getting Out of a Jam

We had to stay one step ahead of the squirrels this year. Last year, they hoovered up every last apricot on our tree with astonishing speed. One day the tree was laden, and before we could blink, the fruit vanished.

This year marks 20 years that we’ve lived in our house.  The squirrels are new to the ‘hood, arriving within the last three or four seasons. They are not entirely welcome due to their thievery. So we plucked all the fruit last week—a bit smaller and greener than we would have liked—before they could abscond with it.


“Are you going to make jam today?” David inquired as he was leaving for work the morning after the harvest. I said yes, but Mel Brooks would have termed that “a false lie.”  I couldn’t gear myself up to make the jam that day. It’s a big job, and a hot one, and although I enjoy it, sterilizing jars, pitting and chopping pounds of fruit and stirring pots of jam doesn’t fit in the middle of the week along with everything else to be done on a workday. But by Thursday, I decided to tackle the job.

“Put on some music and crack a beer,” David advised when I told him I was going to make the jam before the fruit spoiled. That man knows how to make a party out of any routine responsibility. No beer, 11 hours, and multiple KPCC shows later, there were 19 jars of lovely apricot preserves—just fruit, not too much sugar, and a bit of lemon.


We’ll give some away and save the rest to smear on toast, stir into yogurt, and liven up otherwise dull peanut butter sandwiches. We’re profligate with it now. But around December when we’re down to the last jar or two, we’ll dole it out more carefully, the bright color a souvenir of the not-quite-summer day when we outwitted the squirrels.


About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

10 responses »

  1. I love this! Bravo! Makes me want to make peach preserves before the birds get our beautiful little freestones! You inspire me, as always.

  2. Oh how I love the way you write! And I can almost taste that jam. We have similar issues with our apricots: birds, squirrels, even an occasional bear. But a bigger problem is squirrels and chipmunks in the macadamia orchard. One morning Monte said, “That’s it. I’m getting a pelican.” I was baffled. A week later, a pellet gun arrived. Now I’m baffled and appalled on a regular basis.

    • Cynthia, I am cracking up! I was marveling for a moment and thinking, “I had no idea pelicans could ward off chipmunks.” But in that same split second I thought, “Only Monte would know something like that.” 🙂

  3. I’ve never made homemade jam in my life; it always seemed like a daunting task to me, especially the sterilizing the jars part. I’ve always worried, “What if I don’t sterilize them the right way?” But you make it seem so easy – almost fun, actually, Treacy! And I agree with “cynopsis” – I can almost taste that delicious jam, too! Wish I could be right over for some coffee and jam on toast with a nice chat on the side! 🙂

    • Jan, although I loosely interchange the terms “jam” and “preserves” in this little story, preserves are much easier to make and not nearly as daunting as canning other things. I, too, never dared to do it for years, sure that I would take everyone out with botulism. When you make preserves, you just put the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. You make sure the preserves are hot hot hot when you spoon them into the jars. Put on the lids and voila! The heat self-seals the jars, and you hear each lid give a satisfying “pop” sometime within the next half hour or so. We’ve made preserves with our apricots and figs for several years now and everyone who has eaten it is still alive! ;-). I’m still hoping your CA trip comes to pass so that we can have that coffee klatch!

  4. What a satisfying result to all that labor. Mouthwatering! I always think I’ll try canning this season but so far have chickened out every time. The birds pecked away at most of our meager apricot crop this year before they were ripe.

    Congrats on the beautiful preserves.

  5. YUM! Apricot preserves are my absolute favorite, in fact, the only type of jam or jelly that I buy regularly. I have never canned anything either for the same reasons that everyone mentioned. Wish I lived around the corner so we could share some nice crispy toast and your preserves. I could handle bringing the bread! 😉


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