Saturday, January 18, 2014

About a tree


Before pruning


After pruning

This week, we had our apple tree professionally pruned. Three arborists came to the house on Wednesday afternoon. They brought all manner of saws and a gigantic wood-chipper on wheels, which they parked in the street in front of our house. They didn't take a lot off the tree, but you can definitely see a difference. I asked them to leave the biggest pieces for us to add to our firewood pile; to my surprise, they chopped and even stacked it for me. They swept the patio under the tree and even chipped some plum tree branches we'd pruned ourselves last week. These men were veritable dynamos of tree maintenance.

I've been worried about this tree. It's probably about as old as the house, which was built in 1980. It's very old for an apple tree. We think it grows Golden Delicious apples. Its apples are small and tart, and have been prolific in previous years. We eat them straight from the tree; with the fruit, we also make pies, applesauce and fruit leather each fall.


This year was the first with a meager apple harvest. We had a feeling this would happen; there was a late freeze in the spring, and very few blossoms. We knew there were also some dead branches which needed to come down. The tree had begun to grow too far over the roof as well, mostly over our bedroom at the back of the house. In fall, we'd listen to apples dropping onto the roof above our heads, which was pleasant. But they would accumulate up there, then clog the canales during heavy rainstorms. I was truly sad to have so few apples this year. I love to feed my family from our own tree. It feels pure and clean - I happily take self-sufficiency wherever I can get it. But the apples this year were sparse, and the ones which did grow were misshapen and even smaller than usual. I didn't make anything with our own apples this fall. I felt this keenly.


In early August, we first contacted the tree service and they sent one of their experts to our home to perform an evaluation. He felt that the tree probably didn't have much time left, a few years at most. But his prognosis wasn't all that negative; he suggested a very good pruning and a change in our watering habits (actually using less water than we had been). He said fruit trees all over the city had done poorly this year because of the aforementioned late freeze, and that pruning the dead buds would help. He told me to call in January and that's what I did. We feel hopeful, now that the work is done. It may soon be curtains for our apple tree, but this was the right thing to do. We won't plant a new apple tree here, it's actually not the best location for one. If it does die, we plan to replace it with a Chinese pistache, which does well in our climate and is beautiful, with vibrant fall color.


We would miss the apple tree very much, though. It has been an important part of our lives here. It gives wonderful shade. It's tall and graceful - or it was before the branches began to die. The small Bears have always enjoyed playing under the tree. We moved here when the LB was almost four years old, the GB about 10 months. Our first week here, I set up their wading pool on the patio under the tree. It was July, with temperatures in the 90's most days. I sat near the pool while they played in dappled sunlight. We were so happy to be in this roomy house in a pretty neighborhood. We used our new backyard every afternoon, in that time-warping space between naps and dinner. I soon realized that the wading pool needed to be moved to the other backyard patio, far from the apple tree, which was shedding debris into the water. I was disappointed; it's very sunny over there, which felt much less idyllic. It still does, even now, as I sit squinting and sweating in relentless sun while they play in their current (much larger, sturdier plastic) pool in summer. But they still want to play under the tree when they aren't swimming, and I'm really glad.


We spend a lot of time on blankets near the tree, especially in spring and fall, when there are fresh breezes and the ground is cool. The tree shades most of the backyard in afternoon, when the sun has moved to the west. We go outside when we're finished with our homeschool work; we laze, read books and talk. We watch contrails streak across a deep blue sky. We watch our anemometer spin as the wind comes up. The tree is alive with activity: leaf-shadows dance, hummingbirds hover, bees drowsily buzz. We observe our tree in every season; we know its patterns. We feel lucky to have a fruit tree in a climate which isn't always hospitable to them. We hope our tree has lots of time, but we know we may have to say goodbye soon. We're glad to have known our tree.


And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything. 


                                                               - William Shakespeare, As You Like It

40 comments:

  1. What a lovely post. Apple trees are very special, and there are so many wonderful varieties. I have three little ones in the garden, and a dwarf one in a pot. This year was a good year for apples here, but the year before was terrible. Thus it goes. So I hope that your apple tree will do well for it's remaining time. You are right, it is nice to have your own fruit harvest. The pictures of your little people are so sweet. How nice for them to have an apple tree to play under. I remember when I was little there was one at the end of our garden and I loved it, and often spent time lying underneath it in the grass, reading. Bliss.

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  2. I love seeing the tree in different seasons. The picture of the small bears when they were younger is so cute!

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  3. I love fruit that grows In my yard,apples like you.The neighbours overgrowimg blackberry bushes yum.Very cute pictures of your children x

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  4. I want to get a professional to prune our apple tree.. the poor thing is kind of crazy looking but always has lots of apples. We don't spray it though, so the apples get kind of wormy. So you have yours sprayed? Your kids are just adorable. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  5. Lovely post Jennifer, lets hope that your tree will have lots of fruitful years after it's pruning. I had my cherry tree heavily pruned last year because it's fruit was practically none existent, I have a feeling that because it was given such an almighty chop it will be a few years before we see any cherries :)

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  6. Such a lovely post my Grandad was a friut farmer and always used to come and prune our fruit trees and we learnt through watching him. I home your tree has many more summer in it.
    Clare xx

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  7. You are very lucky to have the apple tree for a while longer. It looks like a beautiful tree, giving you so much joy, and fruit, too. We have 4 fruit trees: apple, plum and pear in the front garden (all small) and a larger quince tree in the back garden. Let's hope for plenty of fruit on both sides of the Atlantic. Cx

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  8. I feel your pain Jennifer! We have an apple tree that is as big as our two oak trees in our garden, and it really needs some attention, in fact, by coincidence I need to call our tree specialists next week to get them to come and have a look. Our tree is much older than yours I would guess and much larger. It produces apples that are like rock hard misshapen lumps. I hope that by having it professionally pruned it might produce some fruit that can be eaten. I hope that your tree lasts for a long time and becomes productive again. If you do lose it, you could try a container grown apple tree in a large pot in your garden. I haven't grown one myself, but I hear tell that they are quite easy to grow and quite productive too. Here's hoping for apple trees!! xx

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  9. I find it sad when a tree dies, they do take a long time to die I believe. It is even sadder that healthy trees are cut down like in our villages where the local authority has just cut down six big healthy poplars. I hope you have many more years with your apple tree. Xxx

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  10. We had one of our trees die this year. It was a big shade tree that did well up until this year when the crazy late Spring weather brought us a late freeze and then the leaves dried up and fell off and then died. Shame! I hope you can save yours.

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  11. Fingers crossed for your beautiful tree - your little ones look adorable xxx

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  12. I wish your tree well and hope that the arborist's attention and your love keep it going. Love GB's fluffy Mohawk, that is a lovely picture as they just look happy and content together.

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  13. What a sweet and charming post, Jennifer. I would love to own an apple tree! Of course, it is far too hot here - I do however eat an apple for breakfast every day. The pic of your two little bears in the pool is soooo cute.

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  14. Ok....I am serious.....you need to be an author....for real....awesome post!
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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  15. I loved the story of your tree. And the photo of your kids when they were so little is so precious. I hope this tree that has grown with your family thrives and gives you many more years of pleasure!

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  16. We had apple trees when I was growing up, and my mom would make apple pies for us in the fall. I hope your tree does well this year, and for many years to come. The photo of the baby bears is just the sweetest!

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  17. I love the four seasons picture. What a fun memory to have. My apartment faces West and just bakes in the summer sun. I would love having anixe big shady tree like yours. Sounds like you found a great pruning company.

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  18. Oh gosh...a beautiful but sad story.I'm so lucky to have a "tree friend" when I was a kid. Provides me with lots of great memories. Maybe your love and care will give your tree more wonderful years with your family ♥

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  19. I am a tree lover...and proud to be a tree hugger! There is nothing that pains me more in my garden than losing one of my trees. I have a 55 year old Ash tree in the center of our yard that is starting to lose many limbs and with the emerald ash bore we know that our time is short as well. The visions of my children dancing under that tree are strong as are the gorgeous pictures of your sweeties! Love that one of them in the pool!!! I do hope you have a couple more years but the specimen that you picked out to replace it with is gorgeous! What a cool tree! I hope that the pruning helps...Hey and I just thought of this but I just read a very interesting article about planting certain apple trees in containers...they actually produce a lot of fruit! I may be ordering a bare root tree and giving this a try on my patio so if you want anymore information I can send you the name of the book! You take care lady! Nicole

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  20. Your apple tree is looking very neat and tidy and I do hope that this pruning works out to be a bit of magic which allows you a few more 'fruitful' years with it! How lovely to see the pic of the children when they were smaller, they are so gorgeous! Happy weekend to you Jennifer, and to your lovely family!
    Love, Joy xo

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  21. I love this post and really really hope that the visit from the tree guys really does give it a new lease on life. I have always been fascinated by trees and feel quite sentimental about those that have played a part in my life, such as yours has with your family. Recently a small woodland on one of my routes to work has been chopped down (don't know why) and it made me feel quite angry and sad. Weird I guess but there you go - that's me!

    My darling mum has a beautiful horse chestnut tree in her back garden, which grew from a conker my brother planted when he was only 6. It is now 61 years old, we would all be devastated if anything happened to it.

    Helenxx

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  22. Very nice post, it really is a lovely tree.

    Lluisa x

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  23. I hope you manage to keep your apple tree, there is nothing nicer than being in dappled shade on a hot day. Last year I had only one apple from my apples trees, I don't why. This was the first time this had happened in 7 years. They were pruned quite hard a few years before. This year has been abundant again so fingers crossed for your tree. You never know it may keep going for years! Heather x

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  24. That will be such a shame if you do lose the tree. I've bought a couple of apple trees which I'm growing in containers, one of them is a Golden Delicious. We haven't had any fruit off them yet but I'm hoping they might just give me a couple of apples this year.

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  25. A tree can give such meaning to one's home and one's life, can't it? Our little apple tree, planted with my eldest was small, had a few rubbish summers with bad weather, but last summer we had a lovely crop of apples, so stay hopeful, I think yours will be fine after his good haircut! ;-) I think pruning trees is an art in itself - we have a very large silver birch in our back garden, and we had it pruned for the first time this year - I was worried it would look as if it had been butchered, but amazingly, the tree man was as careful as a hair stylist at Vidal Sassoon! The birch is gorgeous! Happy weekend, Chrissie x

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  26. Jennifer, I simply love trees, even more than flowers. I think they have feelings, call me crazy but I do and frankly talk to mine all the time. Send your lots of love, I bet it gets well quickly.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  27. Jennifer,

    You know how much I adore trees, (I've lost count on how many times I've posted about them!), and seeing your beautiful apple tree, especially in the mosaic, throughout the seasons, brightened my day. Enjoy it, for as long as it is there for you, after all, everything has a beginning and an end. Lovely post.

    Poppy

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  28. What a lovely post Jennifer. We planted an apple tree a couple of years ago and have yet to have any fruit on it, but I'm hopeful for this year. One of my favourite books 'The Magic Apple Tree' by Susan Hill is about a year in the country in England where she has a lovely apple tree in her garden, I thoroughly recommend it. Julie x

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  29. I loved this post, Jennifer! I have become attached to certain trees in my life, most notably the old apple tree that sat up on an old homestead behind the farm where I grew up. Maybe I will post about my memories at some point. I also want to say, those wood-chipper things give me the creeps. I always feel a shiver run down my spine when I see one.

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  30. Lovely post, I like the photos at the end, of the tree in each season. Your new header is looking great!
    Marianne x

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  31. Jennifer, your new header is perfect! I love it!

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  32. Jennifer, I really enjoyed this post. I enjoyed learning about this special tree. :)

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  33. I am echoing Linda's encouragement to you, Jennifer. Blogging is an exciting medium of communication to me...letting me exercise my creative bent in simple and satisfactory ways; and it is a special delight when it bumps me into others like you who are gifted in communicating. As I read this post I thought, "Jennifer, you have a book in the making!" You are creating a wonderful family journal I believe your family will treasure, your blogging friends appreciate now, and perhaps someday the world at large will enjoy as well. Thanks for posting! xx

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  34. Hey Jennifer,

    Oh I dream of an apple tree in the garden! I have a plum that Mrc bought for me one Mother's Day. I am thinking about buying a couple of dwarf fruit trees next month. When I was young, we had an apple tree in our garden. It produced cooking apples that made the pies and crumbles of my childhood. My Dad also put a tree house in the top most branches (parents today just wouldn't dare balance wood so precariously), and I felt as if I could see the whole world from up there.

    Leanne xx

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  35. Such a lovely post Jennifer. I love apple trees too and they should be a fundamental part of our lives and gardens. Unfortunately we don't really have the right space for one, so I planted one against the wall of the house last year and espaliered it, so we will see how that goes. I really enjoyed seeing the photos of the tree over the time and the gorgeous photos of your children, especially when they were so young. xoxo

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  36. What a lovely post- a lament to a beautiful tree:)

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  37. I hope your tree recovers after the pruning. How nice to just reach out from your back door and grab a healthy snack for the kids or the makings of a pie!
    Your pictures of the kids are adorable!

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  38. This is such a lovely post. I hope your tree continues to live - thrive even - for a good few years. We have an apple tree in our back garden and I'm very attached to it. It produces very little fruit, or blossom, but gives our small and otherwise dull garden interest and a focal point. It badly needs pruning but I refuse as we are very overlooked by the house that backs on to ours, and the tree is the only privacy we have! x

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  39. I enjoyed this post Jennifer. I hope your tree continues to produce lovely fruit after a much awaited prune. We had an orchard in our back garden when I was a child and my mum was always making apple pies, crumbles, cakes and toffee apples. Gosh what memories you have evoked. Thank you. x

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  40. A lovely post, Jennifer, and I can feel your sadness at the thought of possibly losing your apple tree before long. Trees and their shade make such a difference to a garden and I love the apple trees in our French garden, however misshapen they may be.

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