11 December 2009

Talking to Trees

When I was young, I used to talk to trees because I knew they would listen to my problems.

When I was a teenager I used to hug them, confident that they would give me strength in difficult times.

Sadly, as an adult, I surf the internet about them.

One job that I felt particularly compelled to do in these pre-winter weeks was the pruning. We have a small orchard with apple and pear trees that have been neglected for years. There are strong fibrous vines growing at their bases which twist up into a maze of branches above. These vines drag the branches down and effectively ruin any hope the tree might have of creating a decent crop.

A friend told me that the time for pruning was after they'd gone dormant, in winter. And I already knew from experience that Spring in Italy meant wild and untamed growth. If I didn't do it now, I knew it would be another year before I could get to the fruit trees.

This morning we woke to yet another frost. This one was so thick that it covered the ground like snow. It was a miserable minus 1 degree so we decided to stay indoors for a few hours until it warmed up. Like any responsible and intelligent adult, I took the opportunity to do some internet research on pruning fruit trees.

At 11am, the 'big melt' had occurred around the house but the paddocks were still white.

Regardless, I pulled my layers on, grabbed my Swiss-made secateurs and walked rather stiffly to the shed where I collected the saw.

Then I crackled down the long grass to the orchard, slipping occasionally on the ice.

The first tree didn't look at all like the picture on the internet. I identified some 'upward growing anterior branches' but where were the 'narrow crotches' and 'whorls' that I'd read about?

Faced with a real tree with its own experience of life, I had no idea how to proceed.

So I reverted to my childhood. I talked to it. I asked it to show me what to do.

Yes, I know this sounds like I've finally gone over the edge or that my brain has partly frozen.

But I knew the tree would show me what to do.

So I talked and pruned and talked until a neat but rather vulnerable looking tree stood before me.

Then I moved on to the next tree and talked and pruned and talked to it.

Before long, I'd pruned four trees.

While this story has a slight tinge of insanity to it, I am actually a sane and practical person. So while I may not be able to expect the world's best crop next year, I'm absolutely sure that I've made a few new 'friends'...we certainly hugged goodbye!

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