March 17, 2011
An Early Spring Chore: Pruning Apple Trees
This year winter has been tenacious; we've had only occasional glimpses of spring amidst the cold and snow, which still deeply blankets the ground. Now that I've written this blog for over a year, the seasonal chores come round again: last year I wrote about pruning on March 9th, which you can see here. At that time, there were remaining patches of snow, but the ground was mostly bare and there had been many mild days. This year, I am excited to be out of doors working on any day that is a harbinger of spring. We had one such day a couple of days ago, and another is coming today, so I put on my snowshoes and take my hand and pole pruners out to the trees.
This grande dame of a tree, leaning on her cane, is my favorite; it doesn't bear well, but is so dramatically beautiful. When we prune, we're supposed to encourage outward growth, but this tree has a vigorous habit of sending many thin branches skyward. It is the only tree I have of this variety and the only one to behave this way.
A random pattern of branches appears on the snow as I work. I marvel at how insistent this old tree is in growing and refusing to stay in bounds.
The tree's wild hairdo is now contained, and I hope that each of the branches I have left will grow thicker and stronger with time. And next year I will have to prune the overreaching branches yet again.
A close look at the aged horizontal trunk shows a landscape in miniature, full of textured ground and small green hills of lichen. I feel that I am looking at an illustration of the passage of time in the scaling bark and depressions in the surface.
After finishing the leaning tree, I move into the small orchard behind the house to prune the dozen or so old trees there. They are all antique varieties and bear fruit only every other year. This is their on year, so I have apples to look forward to this fall, and the making of apple sauce and apple butter, which I will store for a year or two's eating.
Lastly, I wanted to show one of my favorite signs of spring, that I look for each year with pleasure: the widening circles bare of snow around the base of tree trunks, meaning that renewed life and warmth are on the way.