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Come, let us plant the apple-tree.
Cleave the tough greensward with the spade;
Wide let its hollow bed be made;
There gently lay the roots, and there
Sift the dark mould with kindly care,
And press it o’er them tenderly,
As, round the sleeping infant’s feet,
We softly fold the cradle sheet;
So plant we the apple-tree.


from "The Planting of the Apple-Tree" by William Cullen Bryant, 1794 - 1878

What I had in mind was sitting in one of the deck rockers, cool drink in hand, and gazing over rank on rank and row on row of apple trees swaying gently in the wind with a variety of bright red and glowing golden fruit on the limbs.

Maybe one day, but we evidently won't be there for years.  And we probably won't be sitting in rockers, either. As I have discovered growing trees, you can’t plan on sitting around much, unless you can afford to hire people to do the work for you.

Since sometime last fall, I have been running pretty hard trying to get a new fence in to protect the new apple trees. I’ve worked on getting them staked out and pruned and braced and fertilized and sprayed and I forget what comes next, but it won't be rockin' and sippin' and takin' in the sights.

We are, nonetheless, making some progress. Back in March, when the ground was still pretty hard and I was just beginning to bore postholes, the only protection from deer were some smallish cages that didn't quite do the job.

Nature has given these little trees a whuppin'. They are battered from a late freeze, harsh winds, mean little ants and mites and crawlers, some powdery looking fuzz and some ugly spots here and there that make me wonder why I ever thought this would be easy.

I'm spraying for everything and hoping for the best, but everything is still alive and the 12 heritage apple trees I discovered last year around the rest of this old farm now turn out to be maybe 13 or 14, now that we have had a crew in to renovate most of them and give the trees room and guidance to grow. They are responding vigorously, and we have high hopes.

Our orchard is probably too small to be called an orchard, a patch is probably more like it, but we're not done planting yet, just pausing to catch our breath, and backing up about 50 feet to squint and see how good everything looks, here in the full glorious inhalation of Spring.

 

Jack Betts

Jack Betts is retired associate editor of The Charlotte Observer.

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