Fruit Census

Martin and I care for kids and fruit trees in much the same fashion:

We get them started, monitor them for a few weeks, and then leave them to fend for themselves.

We subscribe to a hands-off approach.

We planted apple trees in April ’09 and since then, I’ve probably checked them three times. Maybe that’s why they haven’t been fruitful. Wicked weather and wildlife haven’t helped, either.

In their first full year, summer of 2010, they were stunted by droughty weather. (We planted them beyond the reaches of our longest garden hose.)

And in 2011 Martin pulled down their protective chicken wire to mow the high grass. Apparently that signaled every deer in 10 miles; they chewed off any shred of green. What they left were knobby, naked branches.

This year is different. Most days I roar up the driveway, spitting gravel and raising a cloudy plume that mars a view of the orchard. But the other day I was nearly out of gas so I crept along, telling the car to sip fuel. And while I was killing time at this glacial pace, I glanced out the window. Was that a glint of red in those trees? That night I ventured out. Yes, them’s apples growing.

We should prune the trees and spray against insects but let’s be real: those apples are on their own.

The berries and grapevines grow by the barn and a convenient water source, so we treat them better than the trees banished in the sheep field.

In 2011 the black raspberries shriveled in a stretch of hot, dry days but this year, they’re flourishing. Darkening up and soon ready to pick.

The blueberries would be doing well, except the damn kids keep picking them before they’re ripe. “We like them tart!” they say.

The raspberries did wonderfully last year — they earn the drought-tolerant award — but this season they’re struggling. Perhaps it’s too much rain, or else they’re suffering from fallout from the grapevine spray. We’ve been at war against blackrot — it claimed the grapes two years in a row. As a result, Martin’s been dousing the vines and it’s possible that the neighboring raspberries got caught in the crossfire.

There’s only one other plant to acknowledge and that’s our teacher’s pet: the¬†strawberries. They’re the newest addition and so far they’re impervious to wacky weather, neglect and constant trampling of kids and cats. Gold star for you guys.

I see hand-churned ice cream in the future….