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First Fruits

September 17, 2023

I have written on multiple occasions about planting fruit trees. I have planted a lot. I don’t have a lot of property and I’m running out of room to plant more.

I try to allow sufficient space between them. I expect at some point in the future, my backyard is going to be all shade. And fruit. Lots of fruit.

I have two varieties of apples, three pears, three cherries, and a peach. I’m trying to find a good source for a Stanley Plum tree. Several years ago, I planted trees I got at Tractor Supply and also some from Lowes or Home Depot. They did not survive. That is an experience with lessons. Even if guaranteed a year was lost. I have a limited supply of those. I now buy my trees from a nursery just outside of Clarion (C&A). Trees from a nursery each cost more than 5 of the ones bought at the big box stores, but they live. In some cases, the nursery trees were already bearing fruit when I bought them. Most have not borne fruit since then, until this year, but I am sure they will. They are growing very well. I see a lot of new growth.

The first year for many of them, the deer ravaged them. We fought back with stakes and chicken wire and Irish Spring and whirly-gigs. This year beetles took their turn and did significant damage. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! Many of the leaves look like lace. We used chemicals to deal with beetles. We have also had to endure late frosts. There is no spray or trickery for those. Some things there are that don’t love trees. I love my trees, and especially my fruit trees. I do what I can for all of them. My only downside is that I don’t have a lot more property.

This year, I have seen first fruits. Fruits that I expect to enjoy. I have a Macintosh and two Yellow Delicious apple trees. The Yellow Delicious are bearing a couple of apples each. I also have pears. I have Bing, Montmorency, and Stella cherry trees. They had buds but I think the frost ended those. My wife says at least one of the pear trees has fruit. No cherries or peaches yet. These are trees we planted. We nurtured. We raised. This year, we are seeing first fruits. In my experience, it only gets better from here.

First fruits, according to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, are:

1)The earliest gathered fruits offered to the Deity in acknowledgment of the gift of fruitfulness
2)The earliest products or results of an endeavor

I fully acknowledge the part the creator has played in my crop. The fruits are truly a gift and I appreciate it. First fruits the more so. I hope those who I see planting and reaping every year know the same joy I am feeling this spring. It would be a shame to get so used to the experience that the thrill is lost. I have said the same thing, often, about people who have lived in this forest all their lives. We are especially blest.

The second first fruits definition is the one I’m really celebrating. Over 40 years ago, when I lived in Swissvale, I had the same thrill. Apples, pears, peaches, and plums. In quantity. My peach trees bore so much abundantly that I had to brace the branches with boards to keep them from breaking under the weight of the fruit. I tried cherries. I don’t recall the variety. They grew but were small and mostly pit.

Fruit trees are a bit of science. One thing I learned about fruit trees is that they require pollination. That means that, typically, you need more than one variety of a tree to bear fruit. That is why I have multiple varieties of most of my trees. Peaches and plums are self-pollinating. I also learned this year that the sour varieties are the pollinators. (Learned from a C&A technician.)

My wife also loves our trees and contributes her own research. She is the caregiver. Her research led to our painting the trunks of the trees with diluted latex paint. Her careful monitoring led to spraying for beetles. She touches things and they grow.

I’m not trumpeting any particular skill or talent on my part. In Swissvale, I put the trees in the ground. In the case of the peaches and plums, I planted saplings a friend had given me. I pruned them though not with any special knowledge or skill. I researched pruning but never achieved any level of comfort in my ability.

For any success we have enjoyed, I give all credit to the creator/designer of trees. Trees, and especially fruit trees, seem to be almost idiot-proof. Here in the forest, until I started buying from an actual nursery, I did not have the success I had in Swissvale. (It could also be that I simply became a better idiot.) This year, we are seeing the first fruits of our labor (digging holes/putting purchased plants in the holes, watering, weeding, protecting, pruning, spraying, etc.) and I am beyond thrilled. I should also say that my wife has done most of the cultivation and nurturing. My work was mostly with the post-hole digger.

I have never understood how property owners so often start out by clearing trees for the sake of lawns. I have had several trees cut down since moving to the forest. Each was a little like losing a family member. Melancholy space in the skyline. Scar on the ground. Small hole in the heart. If I had a hundred acres of land, I would have 99.5 acres of trees. And still be frustrated that I could not plant more. September of 2023 is one-third done. I just planted a Bartlett pear tree, the last new tree for the year. I love my trees. I’m excited about next year’s harvest!


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