Sunday, August 17, 2008
The curse of Eve
This is a photo of our apple tree. She's dying in childbirth. She stands right behind our house, so we can look out the kitchen window and enjoy the blooms in the spring, and watch the birds and deer that come to feast in late summer. The first few years we lived here she bore a tremendous amount of fruit and we were careful to keep her pruned. She was already an aging tree and her trunk was dotted with sapsucker holes, but she was basically healthy. She did well even in drought years, since she had the good fortune to be placed near the field line.
Unfortunately, our second apple tree fell to the borers seven years ago, and since apple trees have to cross-pollinate, the elderly survivor went barren. She still had gorgeous flowers every year, but produced just a handful of apples. Our neighbors planted a few apple trees near her and we hoped for more offspring, but even when theirs got big enough to flower, ours didn't conceive. We figured she just didn't have it in her any more, and we didn't bother with pruning because it seemed like a pointless expense.
This spring she flowered more spectacularly than she ever has. I posted a picture over at BitterGrace Notes, which you can see here. The bees were swarming over her like mad, but we still didn't expect any results. How wrong we were. As if to make up for all the barren years, she's produced an especially abundant crop of apples. Every branch is laden with big clusters of fruit--and that's the problem.
The old branches can't take all that weight, and the tree is literally falling apart under the burden. She's lost 4 big branches--one took down the phone line--and she may lose yet more. Dave has been out there cutting and trying to forestall more damage, but it looks as if it's too late. The core of the tree is weakened and it's not likely she'll just bounce back from this. Plus, all these openings in the bark invite pests, which will only weaken her further. We could spray for that, but I worry about the birds.
So, it's a sad situation--partly our fault, of course, but as I said, she was already old, and fruit trees never seem to last long in this part of the world. If she goes, when she goes, I'll miss her. One of the best memories I have of living here is seeing a dozen bright cardinals perched on her snow-covered branches one January morning.