You know it’s apple-picking season when the dogs start bringing in the bruised ones and then growl at each other.
When I bought the house, I inherited the apple tree. I didn’t realize how prolific it was until one day, after the gardeners left, I noticed a line of fat apples sitting on my side fence. One of the gardeners had picked them with the intention of taking them home, but he must’ve forgotten.
The tree is in the side yard of my weird pie-shaped lot. Imagine a piece of pizza, tip toward the street. I have a shallow wide back yard and a deep skinny front yard.
I had a gate installed in the side fence two years after I moved in. The same gardeners that picked the apples and installed the side gate also dug a foundation drain on that side of the house. They cut right through the tap root to the apple tree. They also filled up my wheelbarrow with rocks to move and snapped off one of the handles.
When I realized what had happened to my wheelbarrow I asked the head gardener to fix it, though I paid for the new handle but not the labor (he owed me that). I didn’t realize what had happened to my apple tree for a long time.
For years the tree produced only tiny apples on one side as the other side dried up and died. My handy woman told me to cut it down, but I wouldn’t do it.
My handy woman brought her daughter to work with her one summer day, and the 7-year- old girl shook the tree until all the tiny apples fell off. She gathered them up in her stretched-out t-shirt and brought them into the house to show me.
“Those will give you a tummy ache,” I said.
I had zero apples that year.
Last year the struggling tree produced its first real crop since the tap root/foundation drain incident six years before. I picked a couple of large pans of apples, cooked them with cinnamon and ate them with every meal.
The gardeners are long gone, but the tree pushes to survive. Limb by limb, I have trimmed the dead side of the tree while the other side continues to produce green apples. Pie apples, if only I had someone to bake a pie for.
My two dogs pick up the bruised ones that have fallen off the tree. They carry them into the house and growl over them. The old wiener dog used to bury the apples all over the yard for later. I still laugh thinking about him (he is in that big dog park in the sky).
The gardener built me a flagstone path under the apple tree and then kept hitting his head on a branch on the good side until he finally got mad and chopped it off. That was the day I was done with him.
Nobody cuts my trees without asking. Not even a half-dead one with tiny fruit. I am a tree hugger, through and through.
I dated a landscaper for a couple of months. He said the gardeners could have dug down deeper and left the root intact.
My poor old tree. For 40 years nobody bugged it. Then I moved in and messed it up. I’m so sorry, Mrs. Granny Smith or whoever you are.
At least my dogs appreciate you.