The First of our Fruit Trees

When i was a child my mother came home one day with a stick in a pot. Everyone thought she was crazy because she’d paid money for a leafless stick. Well she planted that leafless stick in the ground next to our house. She watered it faithfully. During the winter she placed the plastic kids picnic table over the stick, put a heat lamp in there, and covered the whole thing with a blanket. In the spring, that stick sprouted leaves. It was indeed alive, just as our mother had known, even though the signs of life were not yet there. She tended to it regardless and for the fruits of her labor, she got a fig tree that grew taller than our house and gave us hundreds of figs (and fed the birds too). It was a brown turkey fig tree. Brown turkey figs are the smallest of the fig varieties to choose from. They are a dark purple or brown when ripe. They become soft and visibly wrinkled when ready to eat. They are a relatively unimpressive sight but they are genuinely amazing sugary little morsels of sweet sticky goodness. People who know me bring me brown turkey figs from their trees for my birthday and at the local jenschke’s farms market the daughter at the cash register always points to the shelf she knows i’ve been watching like a hawk during the first day they have figs for the season. When we moved out of the house i grew up in, the buyers didn’t want the tree roots that close to the foundation of the house. First they just cut the tree back a heartbreakingly drastic amount until it was unrecognizable. Then one day we drove by and it was gone. I vowed that day that if i ever owned land i would plant my own brown turkey fig tree, let it grow as tall as ours had been, and give it a safe haven where it could exist unpruned and unhindered to feed me, the birds, and all the squirrels. I’d been looking for one ever since i closed on the house. There were plenty of sticks in a pot to choose from but none of them brown turkey. Then one day i was walking through the walmart parking lot when the familiar shape of fig leafs caught my eye. I thought to myself that there were probably no brown turkey ones but it was worth a check. The first tag i picked up said in bold green letters plain as day, “BROWN TURKEY”. My heart leapt in my chest. I had found it. My very own version of the monster we grew in that yard years ago. I hurriedly fetched a basket and began picking through the available options, looking for the one with the most balanced and sturdy structure and the greenest most intact leaves. I decided upon a specimen and into the basket it went. I was giddy with excitement. When i got the tree home i let the dogs out and began to walk the property, trying to pick a spot where we could group all our future fruit trees. I settled on a spot in the back part of the property where there was good access to sun and no access to the street where opportunity could tempt people to take from the branches that weren’t theirs. I made a visit to the tool shed and grabbed my shovel and my post hole digging bar. I had laughed when home depot sold it to me. Nobody would have asked in a big city but in a small town, the guy at the cash register wanted to know if i thought i had the strength to “use that thing”. I laughed because my father, who was never big on manual labor, had conned me into digging all his tree holes with just such a tool as a little girl by telling me he didn’t think i was strong enough to do it. I thought, “well i’ll show him” and he got a yard full of very deep and very wide holes. I was very familiar with a post hole digging bar. It had long been my favorite tool. I had lived in texas the majority of my life and limestone was no stranger to me. I smiled politely and informed the cashier that i knew how to use the tool and inserted my credit card. Now i was standing in the yard ready to break my new tool in. I spent a good part of the afternoon digging that hole in the yard. It was a hot and sunny day and i tried to rest in the shade of the trees in between blows. It was addicting, really. Each time that heavy bar came down and split the limestone into smaller pieces it was like a really big pimple had been popped or all the pictures in an “ocd person’s nightmare” youtube video had been rectified and made even. I dug a good sized hole, tossing the limestone pieces into a pile next to a cedar for use in later projects. I piled the dirt up next to the hole to use for filler once the tree was in place. I slid the tree out of its plastic bucket. It was fairly root bound. I said to it, “now you’ll get a chance to really spread your roots.” I set it down in the hole and filled it in with the dirt mound. When it was nice and cozy i poured myself a glass of ice water and set to cutting some wire fencing off the roll in the yard. When i’d cut the amount i needed i dragged it over to the tree i’d just planted and wrapped it around in a cylinder to protect it from the deer. I used a pair of pliers to bend the cut ends of one side of the wire fencing around the edges of the other side, locking it together. I placed some leftover metal furniture bits i had in the shed over the bottom wires of the fencing and hammered them into the ground. Then i piled the limestone rocks i had lying around the yard against the fencing to keep the wind from carrying it away. It was done. The fig tree was planted. I felt that i had finally somehow rectified an old injury from 16 years ago when humans had their priorities bass ackwards and chose to trash the fig tree and save the concrete. Bitter, maybe, but finally healed. I picked out other spots near the fig tree where i would one day put at least two other fruit trees i had in mind. The back part of our land would be the fruit tree corner.

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