Faith and Patience

Will I lose my citrus trees?

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I would hate to add up how many hours a gardener spends waiting for something to happen. But then, there’s a reward of some sort at the end of the wait—a crop, a bloom, a successful new plant.

And gardeners need just as much faith as they do patience. We don’t know what each growing season holds weather-wise, but we have faith that our seeds will grow, our plants will mature, and we’ll benefit from our growing.

But this time, I’m waiting for a thing I do not anticipate with pleasure. And I’ll confess, my faith is being tested hard.

In Spring, after the bean seeds have been assigned to their rows, the wait for the little green soldiers to stand up and put their heads to the sunlight—now that’s a good short wait. And after the tomatoes have set fruit and the little marbles become solid light green and then gradually redden to fully ripe fruit—that’s not such a bad wait, either.

But this thing I’m waiting on stands to be a very bad wait— with some very bad results at the end of the wait. I need every bit of faith that things will work out.

I have to wait and see, and this wait looks to be a bad wait.

Last week, we gardeners here on Alabama’s Gulf Coast suffered through two nights of the lowest cold temperatures we’ve seen, at least since I have been gardening down here—25 years! We had two nights of thirteen-degree cold with violent winds. Believe me, that is very cold for our sub-tropical climate.

And my citrus trees which have grown so well for the past 25 years and given us so much fresh fruit and so many gallons of the best breakfast juice in the world, well, these trees have been damaged. Just how badly damaged, I don’t yet know. I have to wait and see, and this wait looks to be a bad wait.

My citrus trees for the most part are satsuma mandarin oranges, and these are some tough old citrus trees. These trees can handle cold pretty well, and despite having been bitten back in previous cold snaps, we’ve seen nothing like this brutal cold. I can tell that all of my trees have suffered damage. And this is the hardest part of waiting right now. Some cold damage can be dealt with. Dead branches can be trimmed back; frozen fruit which fell from the trees can be raked up and tossed to the chickens.

But what if the trees are killed?

It’s one thing to have to replant a too-early crop of peas or beans that get cold-zapped.

But, citrus trees are not measured in seasons, but in years. After planting, perhaps in five years there will be reward in the form of a harvest—that’s the timeline of citrus.

I don’t know if I have five years left in me.

So I wait. Perhaps in a month or so I will know what I have before me. It may be a heavy pruning of dead limbs and a much smaller bloom and crop of fruit this year. Or it may be a reluctant pulling of the chainsaw starter cord and orange-scented sawdust piling up where a lovely tree once stood.

So I wait. And my faith in the power of growing things, though shaky at this moment, will get me through whatever happens.

At least, I hope so.

Please wait and hope with me.


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