September 27, 2005

Feral Fruits

When my grandfather was alive, his fruit trees and gardens were the family's pride and joy. The happiest memories of my childhood stem from those fragrant trees, which I climbed and then stayed in for hours. When the cherries were ripe, we literally ate ourselves sick. Apple season found us picking all the windfalls into barrels and then cutting out all the apples' bad spots before throwing them into the cider press. No bad apples ever went into that cider, and its frothy freshness was the best thing I have tasted, before or since.



The variety of fruits and vegetables kept my grandfather busy for the entire growing season. Between pruning, spraying, and picking, there was more work than a single man should be able to handle. He handled it, though, with love. We enjoyed the fruits of his labor (literally) all year long: Cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, apples, pears, kiwi, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, melons, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins ... and I only name the best of the harvest; there was much more. Since my grandfather passed away, the orchards and vineyard have slowly gone wild; it is simply too much work for those of us who remain.


Recently, on a visit to upstate New York, I meandered the old plantings to look at the fruit. Pears, apples, and concord grapes are ripe now. I ate some, though I had to eat around the wormy parts. I thought it would make me sad to see the gardens gone wild, but instead it made me feel a fierce nostalgic pride that I can hardly begin to put into words. Here, eight years after his death, I see my grandfather's spirit. In these growing things, propagating on their own and insisting upon living, I see his legacy. I know that if anyone ever wanted to start fighting the bugs and weeds again, they could, and they would reap unparalleled rewards.

These untamed, blemished fruits are somehow beautiful to me. They bear life's scars and survive proudly without anyone's help. A few months of tender loving care and no one would ever suspect that they were feral fruits for several years.

25 comments:

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

What a sweet post. I used to pick apples with my grandparents. It was a Fall ritual. Some of my best memories.

Getting There said...

My favorite part about picking apples (or whatever for that matter) is finding the enormous ones you can't get in the stores. Just last week I had an apple that was slightly bigger than a softball. Awesome.

John said...

I once picked blueberries at my mother's friend's farm. They weighed me when I went in and weighed me when I left and charged us for the difference!

We had orange trees in Arizona. When Grandpa came to visit, he'd go out there with a broom and knock them out of the tree and make fresh-squeezed OJ. I remember once, our trees were bare and he wanted OJ so bad he snuck into the neighbor's yard!

J

FRITZ said...

Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer"?

This book beautifully shows the ecology behind orchards and farming.

I know you would enjoy it.

Perhaps you could buy some of the orchard back? I have always wanted a great sprawl of land, undesigned, and crazy with growth. To see the way the earth grows her fruits without intervention is to see the handiwork of God.

My grandfather died not long ago. He left my father and aunt a farm in North Dakota. It is a quiet place, with wheat and corn. It is a desolate place. But it was land, family land.

My father sold it. I had always dreamed of that farm. Why do we let go of these legacies?

Word Ver: loopyhv. Loopy Hives?

babyjewels said...

In the far corner of our yard's border, there is a pear tree. It's really just a large branch sticking out of the ground from what I can tell, because it's tangled with brush. It belongs to my neighbor and she doesn't take care of it, but it still produces small pears each year. It always amazes me, they are so pretty and perfect.

ticharu said...

Ferral fruits and vegies have more nutritional value, which is why I advocate a return to the hunter gatherer lifestyle!

LBseahag said...

Today was the perfect time to read that...its been a tough week, and it is only Tuesday...

Thank you. Gracias. Merci.Donka...

aughra said...

beautiful.

But you made me hungry!

UberGoober said...

My grandfather too ahd many different kinds of fruit trees, and I used to follow him around the yard and he would feed me fruit. Now thinking back on it, he never picked the fruit he gave me off the tree, no, the ones he took were from the ground, all dented and funny. He would cut them up with his little pocket knife and whittle away the brown spots. I would follow him and eat whatever he handed me. Not that it was a bad thing, but why didnt he take the nicer fruit off the tree. Ah the fond memories of childhood, Pass the case of cherries I need to eat myself into a coma. :)

Used Hack said...

Great post. Too many revealing thoughts come to mind. :)

Rowan said...

Guess I missed out in childhood, we great nothing and my only loving grandparent lived with us! I hope to do this for my kids, 'cept the apple tree I planted died almost immediately. Will try again soon.

Rowan said...

doh! We GREW nothing.

Monkey said...

"Prodigal Summer". That was a good book Fritz.

This was beautiful. Growing up, my granparents had an apple orchard. Apple trees are the best for climbing up into and spending the afternoon with a book.

The orchard was razed by the new owner... they subdivided the property and there is a McMansion where the trees used to be. So sad.

Sleep Goblin said...

I like your pictures.

Ben O. said...

Those apples look great - what type are they.

How do ya like them apples?

Ben O.

Lulu said...

Sigh. I grew up on our family farm. My grandfather, my family and the families 2 of my father's brothers lived there. Most of my cousins built homes on the farm and still live their. We raised corn, soybeans, hay, cows, and had small areas of fruit trees. We even had a Christmas tree farm at on time.

Juliabohemian said...

lovely. did you ever take the apples that fell and skewer them on the end of a stick? when whipped, the apple is sent flying a great distance. We loved doing that.

Sis B said...

There's something about produce that's grown by family and cared for with love that makes it taste better than anything you can buy in a store. I miss my great-uncle's tomatoes and green beans.

Lee Ann said...

It is wonderful to have such great memories of someone you love. You described it so wonderfully, it made my mouth water.

Kris said...

These untamed, blemished fruits are somehow beautiful to me. They bear life's scars and survive proudly without anyone's help. A few months of tender loving care and no one would ever suspect that they were feral fruits for several years.

What a beautiful bit of writing!

Sis B said...

SG, this is off the subject, but I wanted to let you know that I linked you from my blog. I think, according to brico, that means we're life partners now. Hope you weren't already betrothed...

Doublebogie said...

Wow! That's so cool! I live on a farm (or should I say I inherited my great aunts farmhouse) It's 169 years old and the animals have long gone.(horses, pigs,chickens and yes! peacocks), but she must have been quite a gardener. There is still to this day,, iris's, blue lilacs, white lilacs, french lilacs, many pianies, hostas, tulips, 5 wild rose bushes, lillies, forsithia, and way too many maple trees. The fruit I try to keep up on. 4 pear trees, (3 bosch,and a butter) 1 huge apple tree, high bush blueberries,(they grew great this yr), too many raspbarry bushes to count, and a 15 ft. long grape vine. I also tried my hand at squash, tomatoes and string beans this yr. which all produced well too.
My father played at this house when he was a child and I'm doing my best to keep it up to "pear"
Good eats S girl!

Calzone said...

Babe,

Can you go over to Jiggs Blog and see if he'll get down with you and me??

I really want to show how dominant I am over you to another man.

Oh yeah..cool apples!!!!!!

Harry Yak said...

very nice post. once again one of your beautifuly written and emotional posts keeps me trying to crack a joke.

Monkey said...

I am so wiped out from 2 days of migraine mania, that when I read this subject heading now, I read the words: "Fecal Fruit".