Clark Hollow Ramblings: Never give up

I want to tell you a story about an apple tree. It has been 18 to 20 years since I bought this little sapling from a Kmart store that was located in Fairfax. My intention was to plant it at the cabin, with the dual hope that maybe one day I would get a few apples from it, and it might attract a deer or two. I am fond of both apples and venison.

I planted it in a nicely drained area that had as much sunshine as you could find in the mountains. I watched it grow for several years and soon it had an apple or two and I began to be more hopeful for the little tree. I put a rather rickety fence around it of American wire and a used a couple of stout saplings to hold the fence in place. I was beginning to feel pretty good about the whole deal. The next year it had a few more apples, but a bear had decided it belonged to him. There was very little left of the tree once he destroyed the fence and pulled most of the branches off to get to the apples.

At about the same time in 2004, we moved into our present house in Flint Hill. Being raised in a generation when “waste not, want not” was the mantra, I dug up the battered little tree, saving as many roots as the rocky, mountain soil would allow. I also purchased a Northern Pie cherry tree and a peach tree from the Food Lion in Front Royal. I planted all three of them in a row, in a good, sunny spot above where I planned to put in a raised bed garden.

In 2012, Bob Day and I were coming through Pennsylvania on our way home from a fishing trip in Canada. On the truck radio we began to hear news stories about the storm that had hit certain parts of Virginia very hard. Over a million people had no power. Bob had his cell phone with him and tried calling his home, then his daughter’s home, then my home, and got no answer. At this time we became acquainted with a new weather term, derecho.

We had been driving since we left Shining Tree, Ontario, and decided not to stop. We continued driving and eventually he was able to get my bride on the phone and she filled us in on what had happened. You will, I am sure, remember the storm. In addition to everything else that resulted from the high winds, my little apple tree was lying flat on the ground.

It took more than a few days to get everything back to normal, or as close to it as possible. I took an old metal fence post and drove it almost all the way into the ground about 15 feet from the apple tree. I got a heavy piece of wire and ran it through a section of old garden hose. I attached that to the tree and attached the other end to the top of the metal post. In line with the heavy wire I placed a tensioner that is normally used with high tension fence. With that and a couple of 2 x 6 braces, I was able to get the bedraggled little tree to stand upright again.

In the intervening years, I have tried to learn how to properly prune an apple tree. I must admit to being a terrible failure at that job. But the little tree refused to give up, and so I started using orchard spray and fertilized the little tree and talked to it and last year was able to get enough apples to keep my interest up.

This year, I will harvest over two bushels of apples. With the help of my daughter, who told me what kind they were, and the confirmation of a couple of web sites, I find I have the tastiest Gala apples I could ever have hoped for. They are delicious fried, leaving just a little of the peeling on them. They are great right off the tree, and make really good applesauce. What more could you want?

Not all of the apples are perfect; there is a spot here and there, a bit of corkiness, and a worm in one now and then. They are a lot like me. But I couldn’t be happier. This little apple tree has shown me, once again, that as long as there is sunshine and a little rain now and then, we will both be alright. Just don’t give up.

Richard Brady
About Richard Brady 151 Articles
Richard Brady was born and raised within sight of Rappahannock Peak, as was his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, etc. He graduated from George Mason University and was employed for 35 years with various agencies of the federal government. He retired in 2001, and he and his wife, Linda, live in Flint Hill, Va.