Thursday, 3 August 2017

As sure as God Made Little Green Apples

I love our apple tree, or trees I should say. The major tree, trunk almost hollow with age, is the last of the trees planted in the old orchard created in the 19th Century on the land we bought in the 1970’s for recreational use. The smaller trunk is, we assume, grown from seed that germinated under the original. When we first bought this land, there was an old gentleman named Pollock McDougall who filled us in on a lot of the history of our place, and he told us the tree was a Macintosh planted around the turn of the century, one of two, the last trees planted. It seems to exist with only the bark to support it at the ground.
In Bloom

The original orchard was fenced with rails because cattle or sheep had been grazed on the field around it. It was in terrible shape when we first arrived, with some trees down and others half broken, but most of the trees were producing wormy and scabby apples and I could easily gather enough for a pie when I wanted one. There was one antique snow apple tree that produced a few amazing fruits every year. From the other trees, my mother collected boxes full one year and made apple jelly.

A Sad old Orchard


We spent several years trying to bring the trees back, pruning and spraying and chopping, but the better the apples became the more bears and porcupines and raccoons and squirrels attended the orchard, breaking off big branches from the brittle old trees and creating havoc. JG shot a few, but since we were only able to defend it on weekends, the trees were killed one by one until only the one Macintosh remained.

We decided to build our forever house where the orchard had been to take advantage of the fall of the ground that gave us a walk-out basement (and a miraculous lack of bedrock). But we kept the Macintosh.

putting in lawn seed around the apple tree

It is now starting to die. It will probably last a few more years, but every spring there are more dead branches and every summer more yellowed and prematurely dropping leaves. It is not only I who will be very sad when it must be cut but also the flocks of little birds who hide in it before attempting to get seeds from the bird feeders. There are goldfinches in the summer, purple finches, chickadees who use the branches as anvils all winter to extract the seed from the sunflower corms. Blue jays (who are beautiful as long as they keep their beaks shut) and shiny grackles use the tree as a launch and a refuge, red wing blackbirds hang out in the spring in it and youngsters of all species hone their less than perfect flying skills among the branches.

A fall haircut. With cat.
As I watch the juvenile birds’ antics I also see the bare branches and diseased leaves. I also see a great many little green apples, soon to be little red and yellow scabby apples, beloved by squirrel and deer. The deer like the leaves as they fall as well. 
The tree today

The deer, in fact, seem to be taking over. I looked out the kitchen window a few days ago and saw a sleek young doe eating my orange lilies. !!  Deer are not supposed to like orange lilies; the flowers bloom with impunity in every ditch. Not mine. This [censored] doe and her friends have stripped two lily beds in my yard. And we feed the wretched animals fine deer ration regularly. One of my Facebook friends lost her geraniums to an equally deranged doe and is threatening to shoot.

 What would our world be without birds and trees and flowers? Without deer too, beautiful and unpredictable animals that they are. I imagine, sometimes in my worst moments, a wildfire roaring through our peaceful wilderness. My husband imagines bulldozers and a pod of ticky-tack houses built on the other side of our road.  We do not have to imagine the climate changes as they take place under our noses; the disappearing Monarch butterflies; the changes in bird populations; invasive species of weed in every ditch, and the dead branches and leaves on my brave apple tree. There are still lots of little green apples for the deer this year but I can foresee a time when they will be gone, when so many things will be gone. 


Is this what it looked like on the tree in Eden when we were tempted and we fell?