Lemons: An Answer to Life’s Troubles

I inherited my Kitchen-aid mixer when my husband and I married and my mother upgraded to a larger size to accommodate her enormous baking habit. With it, she gave several attachments, including a juicer.

It may have been five years ago. That sounds about right. About five years ago, dear friends who knew me as a child invited us to pick fruit in their front yard. Now, every year, either we ask or they remind us, the fruit is there. Come and get it.

The aged trees are laden with lemons, grapefruit, and oranges.

I used to accompany my husband until our little babes outnumbered us. This year, he took two of our daughters.

What could a family do with three gallons of lemon juice?

“When life gives you lemons,” they say.

We make lemonade.

The lemonade serves special occasions. It serves for playdates, parties, for summer art classes. It serves.

The orange juice comes out when illness strikes and we need to be more proactive than our usual nutrition. We need a boost, and all the better if it can be tasty. It also comes out for Mother Day mimosas.

The grapefruit, one year, was condensed down to a simple syrup and added to Italian sodas as part of our Italian booth at a church festival. Last year, we experimented with grapefruitade.

I moved the mixer across the kitchen

and set it on an old bath towel.

The juicing attachment goes on. I place a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup underneath. We bring in two five-gallon buckets to collect the rinds. Empty half-gallon jars build a formation around the mixer.

We have to be more careful this year because citrus will etch the of the marble work surface that replaced the broken tile. We lay out two cookie sheets, two cutting boards and two knives. A quick assessment determined the decision to gate off the kitchen from the two-year-old.

And we get to work.

One capable and well-trained child cuts the citrus, filling the tray. We switch the empty for the full tray and I begin juicing. She fills the next tray. Once filled, the bucket needs to be emptied. She carts it across the field to the grove of baby fruit trees. It takes her a while to come back. By the time she does, I am ready for her to cut more.

We work in rhythm with each other. The man of the house reenters the kitchen with labeled gallon-size freezer bags. He blends the admittedly pulpy juice and fills the bags, carrying a batch of four or five to the outside freezer.

Little girl juicing lemons at a Kitchen-aid mixer to make lemonade.

After many bags of citrus, bucketfuls of rinds and two days later, the job is done. A thorough clean-up reveals a little etching on the marble. That makes my husband and me even since he etched the opposite since of the counter. This one was my doing. It is good to have equality in marriage.

There are so many things we are powerless to stop in this world.

There is so much heartache, so much bad news, so many things that never should have been.

So when it’s time to harvest the fruit, and it must be harvested before it is too late; and when it is time to juice all that citrus, and it must be juiced before it rots on my countertops, we allow ourselves to be beholden to something that is good, natural, rewarding, and, well, sweet.

We allow ourselves to join in a bigger world, a world of neighbors sharing with neighbors, which we pay forward in our homeschooling co-op and hospitality. We teach our children about family projects that take multiple hands.

The reward is the juice that comes from it.

You have to work to get there, but it’s better than anything packaged and sold in a store.

Jars of grapefruit juice.

We freeze the juice in those gallon bags and take it out throughout the year to make strawberry lemonade, lavender lemonade, Palomas, and smoothies. Bigger than that, we make memories and receive the generosity of others.

“The man and woman who let us pick their trees, they must be really wonderful,” the hardworking child gushes.

In a world that is hurting or disconnected, it is good to return to the land, to the ideas of farming in which neighbors work together to bless each other.

And it is very, very sweet.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

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