I have to apologize to the most loved and I'm sure, most photographed, tree on our homestead.
When we first surveyed our property, I gave this scraggly, crooked little tree with tiny green apples only a sad glance, expecting nothing out of it. It was almost buried in suckers, making it difficult to even find the original trunk. The ground all around it was nothing but clumps of red clay and, judging by the way this poor thing leaned, it seemed as if a bulldozer had almost done it in at one point in its not too distant history.
The first year we lived here.
Wow, look at that little pork-chop we called Johnny!
BUT, it was all we had. Not much of a tree, but when the goats started ripping the bark off of it it, we thought we owed it at least a chance at survival. So, Andrew lovingly trimmed all the suckers off of it and fashioned a snow fence around its perimeter to protect it from the goats until they had their own pen. For years afterward, any time the goats got out of their pen, their first target was that poor little tree. On several occasions, it suffered the merciless stripping of large pieces of bark of its trunk.
It also tolerates cats which, for some reason, love to play in its branches and sharpen their claws on its trunk. Besides that, every year there is an onslaught of tent caterpillars which attempt to make their home in the poor little tree, sometimes eating the leaves almost to the stems. To boot, year after year late frosts threaten, and a couple of times prevailed, causing the poor little tree to lose all of her blossoms.
Donna has learned from a young age where to nab the freshet fruit!
To its advantage, it gets to listen to the laughter of children, baaing of sheep and goats, cackling of chickens and chirping of birds every day. It also gets frequent encouragement in the form of any liquid "compost" that comes out of the kitchen, since it is the closest to the house. It has now sports a lovely flower garden at its base, thanks to Mary, and is neatly pruned every year, thanks to Andrew. Everyone contributes to keeping it free of caterpillars, picking them off as they go by, spraying the base with my homemade concoctions, and beginning every season off with a good soaking of dormant oil spray. But most importantly, it gets hopeful and loving attention of all of its humans who pass by it often throughout the day, or who just appreciate its beauty from the vantage of the front porch.
An early fall snow storm catches the apples still on the tree!
So, despite all of its disadvantages, challenges and neglected start in life, this little tree has proven itself to be an abundant provider of crisp, sweet-tart apples that keep us smiling for over a month almost every fall. It never ceases to amaze me at just how many apples we pull off of this little tree, and how nearly perfect and delicious each one is. Every day, each of us helps ourselves to 2 or 3 of these treats as we're passing by... that's over 2 dozen per day! And at the end of the season, there are still 5 bushels left to put in storage, though we've discovered that they're not the best keepers. At least to the degree that they lose their crunch, which is a little disappointing after having been spoiled by that all fall. However, last year I learned to appreciate the apples in their softened state... just a little different, but still very worthy in their own way.
Take a bite, you know you want to!
Anyway, I just wanted to share with you all a tribute to this lovely little tree today. I'm especially pleased with it because last year it was so loaded with apples that the branches were nearly touching the ground, so I expected it to take a year off this year, but I went out to check closely on it last night and, lo and behold, many little buds are forming inside the leaves! I looked up at the tree bursting with love and gratitude, and with that, a gentle breeze came through the tree, as if it was showing me its delight with my delight. Thank you, little tree, for all you do for our family, and how tolerant you have been of our kitties and our naughty goats. Thank you for giving us your all. We love and appreciate you!