The parable of the peach tree
The spice box
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
The day was cold, gray and drizzlynot really unusual for a January day in Willowsand I was determined to plant my newly purchased peach tree. It looked more like a dried up five foot long stick, but I was taking it on faith that it really was a bare root Early Elberta Peach tree. Every time I thought of the wonderful, juicy peaches that would one day hang from its (so far theoretical) branches, it was as if I were experiencing again the incomparable taste of the peaches of my Washington childhood. So what if it was miserable weather! I was about to plant the joys of yesteryear’s childhood delight for future years’ harvests.
I planted that tree by the book, read all I could find on how to care for it, and watched it thrive. I thrilled at its first blossoming, and fumed when the birds took first dibs on the only peach that developed in its second year. The third year the peaches were few, but I beat the birds to some of them, and they were wonderful! And this year…
This year the blossoms were followed by scores of tiny peaches-in-the-making. I was determined to beat the birds to them again and thus hung Mylar strips on the branches to scare them off. SUCCESS. The peaches thrived, crowding the branches. “You need to thin them out,” neighbors advised. “Thin them out,” the books said, “or the branches won’t be able to support them.” “Thin them out,” I told myself every time I looked at the tree. “The peaches will be bigger and better.” But they were good last yearand what if I take off the wrong ones, and they don’t grow like they’re supposed to? What if the birds get too many of them after all? What if early summer winds (they can be pretty fierce) blow too many off the tree? What if I end up not getting any at all? And just think how many more peaches we’ll be able to harvest this way?
So I left them to grow in abundant clusters.
I was wrong, of course. I knew how wrong the morning I found one of the main branches bent to the ground, heavy with half-ripened fruit. I propped it up. The next morning another branch had fallen, this time broken from the tree entirely. That afternoon the other half the tree bowed to the inevitable, bending so low its fruit rested on the ground.
Now my laundry room smells delicious. Some of the partially ripened fruit will ripen to sweetness, while the rest will wither into uselessness. And my efforts now are directed toward trying to save the peach tree.
The moral? It’s not enough to read the book. You have to follow its instructions.