Cuttings

When Apples Make You Cry

ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH ENGLAND

It took me 16 exhausting hours of overtime in a local bakery to rake together the $200 for a bearing-age apple tree, shipping included. The Anna Apple, one of the few varieties capable of surviving—and fruiting—in the searing southern half of Arizona (118° being the average July temperature) was gorgeous when it arrived. Evenly spaced and well-trained branches, dormant but plentiful buds, taller than myself—breathtaking!

It took half a day and a sprained back to excavate a hole of the recommended size in the flinty clay, then backfill with homemade compost and scavenged mulch. Another half to cut the rootball from its container and set it at rest, level and even.

It took many sweat-soaked T-shirts and loads of topsoil, leaves, straw, and wood chips to keep Anna lush and happy throughout the year. Even a few stings when some local bees discovered the lovely strawberry-and-cream blossoms in Spring (and told all their friends).

It took stake-pounding, rope-pulling, and another sprained back to secure the tree against the breakneck desert winds.

It took twice-daily soakings with a neighbor’s leaky hose to keep the leaves from wilting in the dry heat of Midsummer and early Autumn.

It took hours of kneeling in the dirt to install an irrigation system (finally) and repair it again and again after jackrabbits bit it for drinks.

And, in Fall, when the branches were loaded and heavy with apples and I had already ordered a braided harvesting basket…

…it took the birds about 2-1/2 days to harvest my fruit. Maybe next year.

—By Nicholas Larsen of Florence, AZ.


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