Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ode to Bud

There are two key people who spurred my interest in urban homesteading: my mother and Bud, a sweet elderly man who I shared backyards with nearly a decade ago.

Bud is the first and only individual I knew who really had a victory garden in the 1940s. He harvested his small backyard oasis of vegetables and fruit well into his 80s. Year-round, I was always blessed with fresh-cut roses and sweet peas from his front yard, pounds of delicious tomatoes, foot-long zucchini and best-I-ever-tasted lemons, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit. At this time of year, he would share dozens and dozens of black mission figs from his perfectly pruned tree.

Bud would always deliver his harvest after I came home from work. We would meet at our shared back fence, chat about the day’s events or whatever crossed our minds during those few moments of conversation. For many years, it was updates about his wife, Evelyn, who suffered from Parkinson’s, and then after she passed, the conversation picked up to include neighbors or church. Sometimes we talked about his days driving to work well before the development of Southern California, when the land was filled with rows and rows of citrus.

It was Bud who educated this amateur rosarian on how to take care of her small, but aspiring rose garden (don’t remove the dead branches until the third week of January). Later, he gave me tips on how to deep-water our emerging trees (drill three or four feet of PVC pipe deep a foot away from the sapling and drop water into the pipes to feed the roots). He taught me how to snip the bottom suckers off the tomato plants for a heartier and healthier plant, and he showed me the beauty of a red calla lily.

Bud died nearly six years ago at 89 years of age. I still miss him. I’d like to believe he would have loved Joe and the sound of his laughter. I also think he would have embraced the chickens and would have appreciated the taste of fresh eggs for breakfast. And yes, he most likely would have approved of my roses and my small, thriving garden.

This month, as I gathered Bud’s black mission figs from branches that now climb over our back fence – it’s not as perfectly pruned without Bud – my memories of this gentle gardener reminded me of his beloved Evelyn’s recipe for candied figs. Bud shared the recipe with me on a index card that I treasure. I haven’t made them since he died, but this year I decided to carefully harvest his delicious fruit in honor of him and his Evelyn.

Here’s to you, Bud, for everything you’ve taught me. God Bless.

Candied Figs

5 pounds of figs
1 cup of water
2 cups of sugar

First day. Boil water with lid on for one hour.
Second day. Boil with lid off for one hour.
Third day. Boil down until there is no syrup left. Take out of pan. Separate, and put on cookie sheet, put in over at 175 to 200 degrees, until they are dry. Turn over at least one time (takes all day to dry out completely).

Roll in sugar (I prefer powdered sugar), and then split open and put a pecan inside, store in cookie tins with wax paper between layers.

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