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Monday, April 6, 2009

Planting Apple Trees

I find the simplest things the most rewarding. Is that a sign I am becoming wise, or just getting old? This weekend Laura, the kids and I were in the Litchfield Hills. Laura was busy in her garden; she’s inherited her green thumb from her father. On rainy Saturday, we drove to the Kent True Value Hardware store to get eight bags of cedar mulch for Laura’s two flower gardens.

I wanted to take a look at apple trees, which we had thought about planting last year but didn’t because we were too busy. We drove down the road a few minutes to Kent Greenhouse & Gardens. It was almost closing time, but we managed to find Cortland and Royal Gala apple trees, which we liked, and you need at least two so they can pollinate each other. But we left without a purchase in part to get out of the rain.

The rest of that dark, wet Saturday we spent indoors. I read Salman Rushie’s Midnight's Children, and have particularly enjoyed the Padma character, whom the narrator interacts with as he tells the story of the birth and rise of free India. I also edited a novel I have been working on, despite fighting an awful cold/flu which seemed to get worse as the night progressed. By the time I collapsed on the bed, I couldn’t inhale even the slightest whiff from my nose, and I wondered if I would be able to get up the next morning. I dreamed of chasing an apple cart through my version of New Delhi (I’ve never been there), and was the last to rise out of bed the next morning, still exhausted and my head in a fog.

One thing was clear to me on Sunday: I wanted to plant those apple trees. Laura was reluctant because she was busy with other garden chores, but I got her to put fluorescent orange parking cones in spots we thought the apple trees might go. I have my ways. So throughout the day, we watched what spots received the most sun, which were shaded by trees in and around our property, and which still seemed to be ideal, after a few hours of imaging a plethora of apples on the trees and ground.

The hour was getting late on Sunday afternoon, but I enlisted my son Aaron, who also loves apples, and got Laura to drive him to Kent Greenhouse to pick the apple trees they liked while I started digging the holes. The first hole was almost done by the time they returned, and I had to pry out a few large mica rocks embedded in the soil. The Litchfield Hills was long ago a mining area and known as the arsenal of the American Revolution, providing the iron ore for General George Washington’s cannons.

As Aaron and I worked to finish the first hole, I pushed and shoved at one last rock at the bottom, and the old wooden shovel, which I had found in the forest three years ago, snapped in two. So this time, I returned to Kent True Value Hardware, but the store was closed. I drove to Kent Greenhouse (that’s three times in one weekend!), and bought their fancy, ergonomic stainless steel shovel. By the time I returned, Aaron had nearly finished the second hole with the small spade.

We finished planting the apple trees, mixing the planting soil from Kent Greenhouse with the soil we had dug up. Aaron went back to his homework. I cleaned up the area, and raked and shoveled away the excess soil, and watered our new apple trees. I realized I was sweaty and exhausted, my pants were filthy, and my fingernails were black with grime. But I could not have had a more satisfying weekend this early spring.

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