Looking out my Backdoor: I can't believe I'm going to tell you!


Last updated 9/22/2023 at 12:10pm

Some stories should stay hidden and this might be one of that kind. It is ridiculous, embarrassing and impossible.

I have three lime trees in my yard. In the backyard, I first planted a key lime. After three naked years and lots of talks, including veiled threats, she began producing limes in profusion. So I planted a regular-type lime in the front yard. It made limes a mere toddler and hasn’t paused yet. So I planted another regular-style lime in back next to the key lime. I use a lot of limes.

This poor dear dangled a few limes when I planted her but nary a lime, year after year and another year. I cajoled, begged, pleaded, threatened. Nada.

We several women friends talk regularly via email. I said, “I’m close to digging her up and replacing her with a mango or a papaya or something flowery.”

Karen said, she really did say this, “Take a broomstick and whack the tree trunk in each of the four directions, north, south, east and west.”

“You are joking, right?”

“I did it with my lazy apple tree and that year my apples broke branches, the apples were so full and heavy.”

I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe I admit to you that I did it. I carefully scanned the yard, to make sure nobody could see me out in the back lawn holding my broom and looking guilty. My yard is enclosed by a tall brick wall grown up with all manner of bushes, trees and greenery. The only way anybody could see me would be with one of those flying spying things. I struck a nonchalant listening pose, just in case. Air above me was clear of all but birds and butterflies.

I explained to my lime tree that this would hurt me more than it would hurt her and that it was for her own good. Then I gave her a whack, once in each direction; north, south, east and west. I sneaked back to the house blowing my nose and propped my broom in the corner.

That was a couple months ago. I didn’t give my lime tree a lot of attention until the other day while gathering a handful of key limes. I glanced over and about lost my eyeballs. My lazy lime tree was full of limes in all phases of growth, big limes, little baby limes and middle-size limes. I had to circle her twice just to make sure it was real.

Magic? Of course not. She was ready, right? It was her time to bloom, right? I know it was a co-inkydinky. A whack with a broom will not make a tree bear fruit. But it was kind of a kick just to do it, sort of gave me more patience with my slow tree.

However, if you want real magic, I got a taste of the true stuff later the same day that I noticed my tree full of limes.

I had a bag of frozen mango I’d taken out to make a pie, but changed my mind. I also had a quarter of a fresh pineapple I needed to use soon. I’d been grating Mexican-type zucchini into my pancake batter and figured a mango-pina syrup would enhance pancakes like a charm.

I whizzed the fruit in the blender. Syrup is easy, right. Fruit and sugar and water. A pinch of salt to enhance the flavor. Heat, stir, and voila, syrup to spare and to share.

Ha! Anybody who has ever worked with chokecherries knows how difficult it is to make jelly. One must be precise in measurements, exact in standing over the heat and stirring, assiduous in testing for the jell stage, and nine times out of ten, instead of jam, one makes syrup. Just the way it is. Syrup is good, so we pour it into jars and process it. Yummy, drizzled or drenched over pancakes on those cold and snowy mornings.

Fruits with natural pectin are easier to jell, but still, without care, one makes syrup. This time I took no care, measured approximates, wanting and expecting syrup.

I poured my syrup into jars, one for the freezer, one for my immediate use, one to share with Lani and another to share with Janet. The syrup seemed kind of thick but it is easy to thin out to the right consistency.

The next morning, given a chance to cool, my beautiful jars of fruit syrup had jelled. No syrup. Just jelly. Now that is real magic.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com/. Email [email protected].


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