On the road… again!

Afghanistan to Zambia

Chronicles of a Footloose Forester

By Dick Pellek

 

Talk About Your Low-Hanging Fruit

 

Usually the expression, “picking the low hanging fruit” has pejorative implications.  It suggests the harvesting of what is easy to harvest; before having to exert oneself by going after the more inaccessible fruit higher up in the tree.  In other words, the object of the scorn is being demeaned for going after the easy stuff, because it is easy to do.

On a contrary tact, the Footloose Forester delights in anticipation of the harvest time each year… when he can pick the low hanging fruit.  In truth, he has heretofore schemed for ways to take a bite out of a low hanging apple, or a pear, or a cherry that graced his back yard.  And he did so, on a few occasions…but the objective was to chomp down without using his hands.  In the past, he succeeded with the fruit of the grafted apple tree next to his prized American Chestnut log; but was not able to chomp into the flesh of either the Bartlett pears or the Japanese pears ripening nearby.

Earliest attempts at biting into the low hanging fruit were conducted during the lychee season in Hawaii.  The small lychee trees in the front yard of Tony Willis's house were so burdened down with bright red fruit, that is was easy to snuggle up under the bowed branches until your mouth found the fruit you were looking for.  The handicap of not using your hands made it the more memorable.

Since we moved to Virginia in 2011, we have been anticipating the fall harvest season.  No apples or pears this time; but we do have persimmons and pomegranates. Of course, this is the first full year that the transplanted fruit trees have been in the ground in front of our house, so we were not anticipating much fruit from such small trees. Wonders never cease!  The photo below indicates that it was not too early to pick the low hanging fruit, and to do it with a bit of panache.  Look, Mom….no hands!

 

Low-hanging fruit of Thu's persimmon tree

As regards a possible entry in Thu’s future legacy, be aware that she raised—from seed, another persimmon tree that is planted nearby, then transported it in a pot in the back of a moving van from Pennsylvania to Virginia.  Next year we expect to see, literally, the fruits of her labor. 

It would not be the first time that Thu raised a fruit tree from seed.  The first near-miracle involved an episode with the Rainier cherry that she nurtured in the backyard of our home in Pennsylvania.  The yellowish-red cherry of the Rainier variety does not grow naturally in Pennsylvania.  Nobody told Thu, so she took a few cherry pits from the sack purchased in a local grocery store and dried them on the window sill.  Later on, she put them in the very same hole where another fruit tree (peach) had grown and died off a decade earlier.

The example of growing a tree from a seed was vintage Thu.  A more detailed account might go something like this: One summer day a decade ago, Thu bought a sack of cherries from the local supermarket and saved a few seeds for an experiment.  Fast forward to a few years later…. we started harvesting from that tree that we had watched growing into maturity. The yellowish-red cherries were indeed of the Rainier strain, and we harvested hundreds of them.  It was a prime example of something new in the region.  The tree produced cherries for three more years until it succumbed to disease.

Another example of a fruit tree gone wild was the small group of purple plum trees that produced some 50-60 bottles of plum wine.  She may have planted the first tree, but in later years others sprouted up nearby and produced bounteous fruit that we used in torts and pastries.  The Footloose Forester made literally gallons of plum wine with the rest.

Then there was the parent, grafted apple tree that stood outside the rear window.  Three kinds of apples  appeared each spring: two red varieties and a yellow one. But the real star was the wildling tree that grew up behind the American Chestnut log that we installed as a place to sit and read.  When the wildling was growing through the sapling stage we did not really know what kind of tree it was; a wildling cherry? an apple?  Finally we decided it was going to grow into an apple tree. 

Three varieties of apples from the wildling tree behind the 130-year old American Chestnut log 

Happily, it was an apple tree that produced all three varieties of the kind that were on the parent tree nearby.  Believe it or not, we harvested the last of the season’s apples on 13 November 2009.  In the years following, we harvested in late fall and cut the salvaged portions of otherwise blemished fuit into thin strips and put them into a drier.

Some years later, in 2014, we again harvested from the small wildling apple tree in late October, but there were still dozens of the red variety apples high up in the tree that didn't get picked even into the month of November. Such is the tribute to the individuality of the germplasm of the grafted offspring of the parent tree; and a reminder that plant propagation science has mysteries that need to be explored, and on a continuous basis. Thu never drew conclusions about what was possible, so was willing to try anything.  The low hanging fruit on her recently transplanted persimmon tree is only the latest episode.