My wife's family has been growing apples, peaches, cherries, plums and other fruits and vegetables for 40 years at their family orchard. They take a chance every year that the weather will be right, the harvest abundant, the customers numerous, the deer few, and the trucks, plows, tractors and other farm equipment will function.
The pictures, videos and poem below give a small idea of the work involved keeping this family orchard producing fruit (despite man-made and natural obstacles). These photos and videos were taken in Fall during Thanksgiving week after the harvest and markets and before pruning season. Click any picture to enlarge it.
The Fruit of the Orchard
In winter, these trees are not dead.
their strength lies buried,
ready to burst through when next needed,
like humans in the face of disaster
who rely on spirit to transcend
material barriers and weakness
to make the transition
from this world
to the spirit world
across our artificial divide.
in spring, the earth moves below.
Nutrients flow into underground water
to be leached by root hairs
into the trunks of the apple trees
which bring them up through heartwood
to the baby-like hunger of the branches.
the sun delivers its warmth and energy
while the moon pulls the water forth.
Buds explode into flowers that bees
visit to suck sweet flowing nectar
back to their queen in the hive.
Flowers become small apples
in this season of tectonic rebirth.
in summer, the Orchard man steps forth
more strongly. Like a general,
he summons his wife and sons
for their wise counsel, in-gathers family and friends,
marshals tractors, machinery and tools.
also like a general, he feels
the enemy's approach long before
the dust appears on the horizon.
he works to prepare for the opening skirmishes
while dreading the battles that follow.
He squints at the sky and knows it is time.
he musters his people, machines and knowledge
to fight off the most ancient enemies of man:
drought, pestilence, disease, insects, ignorance.
The Orchard man has seen the fury of war
in the Pacific in world War II as a marine.
He knows this will be like al the other wars,
and, therefore, fears the expected surprise.
Too much water, too little water,
Too much sun, not enough sun,
insects and brown rot, hailstorms and lightning,
floods and drought ¾nature's arsenal is endless.
He looks at the sky again and curses the weather.
he stands alone and shakes a fist at cloudless sky.
In fall, each row a cathedral of trees gleams light;
light of pink flowing through the rose windows
of the golden delicious apple trees,
bowed branch nave to the altar
the trees yield their fruit
the way God gives us children
by the unity of seed, spirit,
and organic material blending
over myriad and passing seasons,
through storms that assault and cleanse:
and animals that eat buds and branches
until the fall comes and the trees
form this cathedral of blinding light
and these trees are alive,
these trees want to be handled tenderly,
these trees demands careful, loving,
selfish love before they yield their fruit.
The hands that love these trees
know how to stroke each twig and branch
tenderly so as to yield all its fruit
until the storage bins are heavy
and full and luscious with sweet fruit,
and the full harvest brings full measure.
In Harvest, the feast is set before
the Orchard family's spare table.
The families of apples' dance
a ballet of sweet nourishment:
applesauce sweet rich from the goldens
and johnnies and grannies fills the bowl.
Honey-colored apple juice is poured.
The new baby is fed diced
Cinnamon and sugar explode on her tongue
and the fruits of labor, human and divine,
in that very feeding from father to daughter
and from mother to son, ensure again,
the continuances of the eternal plan.