I think it was when we were walking the trail in the field, when I was in labor with Beatrice, and Jeremy and I had a brief conversation about gardens and planting and growth and fruit. Namely, about the timing of the harvest of some plants versus others.
Our garden last year had been brief and exciting. We plowed, we tilled, we planted, we watched eagerly. Then plants sprang up, the fruit grew, and the harvest was bountiful. All of this happened in the span of a handful of months.
In the orchard, things are a different story. We planted some of these trees the first year we moved–they have been planted almost three years now. Some are younger. While they flower every year, and a few may sometimes bear an apple here or a peach there, they’re still too young to do very much. We knew it would be a while before the trees would get rolling, so to speak, but it’s still somewhat disappointing to walk through there looking for fruit, seeing none, and knowing it will be another year before you get another chance.
Some of the trees have died. With some, we know why. With some, we don’t. We figured out way too late last year how to deal efficiently with a problem of Japanese beetles. When we talk about using the fruit from the trees, we’ve stopped saying “in a couple of years” and have started saying things like “hopefully when the boys are teenagers…” It’s just how things work.
Just recently, I overheard someone talk about getting his first harvest from the trees he planted six years ago. Things like that give me hope. In the meantime, we tend and prune and water and fertilize and wait.
I heard a talk once by Martin Cothran titled “Domus Without Domesticity” (domus meaning house or home); in it he said what is probably the thing I repeat most often to myself: You have to work hard to make your home a place you don’t need a vacation from. Another point he makes is the planting of trees as a sign that you intend to stay and invest in a place. “Putting down roots”, as we like to say even when we’re not talking about trees, is something that just takes time.
I’ve seen both kinds of “gardening” in my role as a mother and teacher. Some things I’ve been able to do and see nearly immediate fruit. Other things have taken more time, have brought more wondering, more waiting, more second-guessing, more tending, repeating, coaxing. How I love the former things! They make me feel extremely competent. The latter things are more humbling, and sometimes easy to overlook in favor of the things that are more easily seen. I think one of the most difficult things about parenting and homeschooling has been not confusing the vegetable garden with the orchard. The fruit that we yearn for in our children is not the kind we can necessarily glean in one season of labor. Like the orchard, we’re in it for the long haul.
In these pictures, Ephraim and Clive and Eldore are helping Jeremy put mulch down on the trees. This was back in the Spring, as you can tell by Ephraim’s shaggy hair and the blue-green dewyness of the grass and leaves. It’s September now, and everything has shifted to a warm, golden green; Ephraim’s hair was finally cut short as Mama couldn’t stand it anymore. This summer we saw a couple of pears and one peach that we cut up and shared. Tiny fruit from tiny trees.