The Fat of the Land. And Other Matters

Caps of soft, sticky wineberries pull cleanly off the berry's "recepticle"

Today, even with my two meetings and Ann’s one tonight and the five gallons of final tomatoes to can, we hope this morning to get out to gather the wild grapes. We time this enterprise to happen after we see the dog foraging for the first fat, fallen black-purple fruits that he smells way before we do. He has told us it’s time. By the point human noses can smell them in the air, they are on their way to going to the bad. Getting the fruits within reach will require cutting a couple of saplings that they trail on, but the little trees are leaning steeply at the edge of Nameless Creek and will soon tumble away from the soft banks anyway. Even though we have two vines of Concord grapes in the garden, the wild ones make the best jelly!

It has been a good year for wild fruit, at least early on before the high heat and low rainfall set in. And you can tell from the number of squirrels we have this year that there is plenty of mast for them this winter. I plan to take the .22 out and bring back a few, just to prove I can still bring home the bacon, so to speak, and because squirrel gravy and biscuits (and maybe a rabbit or two) would be mighty tasty simmering on the wood stove come a chilly day in October.

You may recognize the ruby fruits in this image as wineberry. it’s classified as an invasive because it roots at the tip of the canes and can spread rapidly–like it’s doing behind the house where Ann insisted we transplant some she dug up down the road a few years back. They don’t seem terribly difficult to control, and it is nice to be able to carry your cereal bowl a few steps up the bank and fill it, of a foggy summer morning, with these jewel-like mildly tart-sweet offerings from the fat of the land.

Back briefly to the dog’s nose: We just noticed in the past day or two that Tsuga’s brown nose has a bright pink blotch that has just developed. It is not scaly, raised or angry looking especially and he does not seem bothered by it. I plan to take a picture to send to our vet, just in case. I do know that labs and other breeds experience both seasonal nose pigment changes and changes over the life span. Tsuga is 8 years old, and qualifies (don’t tell him) as past middle age, so heck: join the club old man. It ain’t for sissies!

Finally–in light of the fat reference from the title (the term “fat of the land” originally is Biblical and I think disappears beyond the King James version): I did buy a set of bathroom scales a few months ago, and thus have a daily (or at least several times weekly) reckoning with my weight goal of 175. Closest I’ve come with a morning weight is 176.2, so I’m within reach. Just wondered: how many of America’s millions of obese folks do NOT even have a way of assessing the trend, early on? Would it matter?

Having the accountability of “the facts” from this $30 bathroom scales has shown me, among other things, the importance of exercise. The scales are accurate to the tenth of a pound. Before versus after a couple of hours in the garden, calories are burned, and a few tenths of a pound disappear. After a couple really active days with intentionally light lunches (that less often include anything made from corn–dang, I love my chips) and the weight comes off.

Lord knows, we need to do something with regards to our national corpulence. The fat of the land has taken on a whole nuther meaning, and the consequences are and WILL BE tragic.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Hey Freddie,
    I remember the wild grapes from Clairmont Avenue. As kids, we used to go up in the woods toward the water tower and find them up close to the top of the mountain. They were really good, only they were too small.

  2. no grapes but it’s been walnut-gathering time here
    and the apples that no-one else seems to want

    it’s sad that people don’t forage these days