NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far (Enough) From The Tree

Yes, I know: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That’s just the problem.

Twenty years ago, lightning split the pretty Russian olive tree that presided over our back yard. We missed it mightily, especially the next spring, when its tiny perfumed blossoms could no longer tease us through the open bedroom window.

We knew just what that corner behind the garden needed — another tree that would again brighten those spring mornings. Even better, what if it could also share its gifts in the fall? Greedy for the best of both, we settled on the most attractive answer … and sallied forth to buy an apple tree.

Our nurseryman at Levi Runion’s Garden Center in Sabin, Minn., steered us toward the Haralred, a tangy refinement on the University of Minnesota’s venerable staple, the Haralson. We took home a broomstick, more or less, and a promise. As good ol’ Lucy from the Peanuts gang says, “Planting a tree shows faith in the future.”

Little did she — or we — know what the future had in mind.

For years, we beamed with pride as that broomstick grew into a sturdy youngster popping a bevy of spring blooms, then a teenage tree that managed to cook up an armful or so of fine fruit in alternating autumns. Our carefully nurtured baby was growing up! We relaxed, figuring we’d made it past the hard part of arboreal parenting. No worries!

Yes, we took that tree for granted. In the years when it boasted a few bushels, we grew complacent — picking them stretched on tiptoes or on a household-sized stepladder. And then … and then … we took our eyes off it for just a minute or two… and it turned into Godzilla.

We’re cowering beneath it this fall. An epic bumper crop of gorgeous glowing apples is approaching the picking point. Our cute little broomstick has turned into a 30-foot behemoth in what seems like overnight. Every branch hangs heavy with perfect globes of apple goodness. It’s a mind-blowing bounty, and we don’t have a clue what to do next.

Oh, the bottom third of the tree presents no particular problem. Russ and I can reach those apples. After a little frost, we’ll pick them — careful not to pull off the stems — and neatly place them in clothes baskets, where they’ll keep in the garage until deep winter.

We’ll pie them and crisp them and sauce them and freeze them. We’ll share generous quantities, too, with our willing friends … then plot to hide the remaining bushels in cars the neighbors foolishly leave unlocked.

That covers the apples that are reasonably reachable from the ground or on a kitchen ladder or using that awkward apple-picking tool on a long, unwieldy pole that the hardware man assured us would do the trick.

But what of the other, airborne two-thirds of our harvest?

If he had a more accommodating wife, Russ figures he could brace our tall extension ladder against a sturdy branch, pitting life against tree limb and putting him in reach of the next 10 feet or so.

But he doesn’t, and he can’t. Though the spirit is plenty willing in theory, he is forbidden — FORBIDDEN — to climb higher than he guarantees me that he can bounce.

This commandment was formulated by a woman with common sense and the absolute intent to employ it. Russ’ history as a monkey is dotted with daring climbs followed by swift descents.

On one occasion, he was in the studio hanging lights from the rafters. He believed he could magically stretch his arm just 1 foot farther. He was incorrect. I heard a loud crack-thump-bang, followed by a muffled “uff da” that sounded suspiciously like someone’s last breath.

On another occasion, my cell phone rang as I pulled into our driveway. The husband, who’d been muttering earlier about the state of his eavetroughs, was calling … from the roof. “Would you mind putting the ladder back up for me?” my second-story man asked sweetly.

After sharing several salient thoughts, I stomped around the house to lever the ladder off the lawn. Just as I heaved it up against the eave, our neighbor called out from her yard, “Oh, Russ … did it tip again?” Turns out he’d already been rescued once.

So he’s more or less earthbound … and under surveillance.

But that leaves us with a gazillion tempting red apples well out of reach. And no, mechanical means — a cherry-picker, say, or scissor lift or even a boom truck — aren’t going to save us. The yard is fenced and cunningly deployed with immovable objects.

Several friends have offered to take excess apples off our hands, either for home preservation or winter treats for sheep, goats and horses. Great! But that’s once they’re on the ground. When reminded that this fruit is 15 or 20 feet above a 6-footer’s wingspan, their interest becomes more theoretical.

Charlie, our nurseryman, stopped by this week to witness the dilemma his innocent tree has wrought. He shook his head and delivered the advice we should have sought a dozen years ago: “You’ve got to prune that monster.”

And so we shall … early next spring, exchanging a year’s worth of apple blossoms for relief from this embarrassment of riches. In the meantime, though, we’ll have to cope.

The good news — and the bad news — is the wise old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. After the frost, possibly a few weeks later than we should get around to clean-up, you’ll find us under our beautiful specimen of prime applehood … gathering a quarter-acre of bruised, wind-bopped, now-mushy fruit with a scoop shovel.

Surly and bent, we’ll dream darkly of lopping off those loaded branches. We’ll quote the old Irish proverb, “When the apple is ripe, it will fall.” And just in case the tree wants to send us a message, we’ll be wearing helmets.

5 thoughts on “NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far (Enough) From The Tree”

  • Larry Gauper September 30, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Excellent piece, Nancy! Makes me hungry for apple crisp or apple pie, with whipped cream. Ladders are dangerous, as you point out. I’ve had more friends fall on their rump with both little damage and some great damage. Ladders are dangerous tools. You apparently know that. Thanks for sharing!

  • Barbara La Valleur September 30, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    How about a young (10-14) neighborhood adventurer who could keep the bounty after climbing the tree? I used to love climbing trees. Fun piece, Nanc.

  • Myrt Armstrong September 30, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    ThIs is an Awsome story love it! I so appreciate all the writing on farm stress for the Mental Health Assoc” lots of. Donated time for education on many MH subjects. You are special and happy to call you friend.

  • Katherine Tweed October 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Amen — keep that guy safe. I would appreciate your sharing the salient comments so I can use them on Doug. My history of success with my own comments is not good. Perhaps a new script?

  • Kevin Bonham October 8, 2015 at 7:45 am

    What a treat. I always look forward to your fine prose on this site.
    But you miss that Russian olive tree? We curse those thorny, scraggly overgrown woody weeds at our place.



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