Wednesday 10 June 2020

Pruning the Apple Tree

I am reasonably sure nobody has pruned our apple tree in years. It stretches over three neighbouring yards, and when I went in there with our new pruning saw, I found many dead branches. Now we have enough old, dry apple wood for a satisfactory bonfire.

Pruning the green wood made me nervous, but I sawed off a few thin branches that were crossing  other branches. Later I read a few more how-to guides on the internet and was satisfied that I hadn't done anything wrong. This morning I went out and had a look at the tree with a pruner's eye, and I see the there is much more to do. It would have been better to do it in April, but we're still far enough away from winter that I think the tree will be okay.

I'm looking forward to having a bumper crop of apples--next year if not this year. We've been drinking our stored-up 2019 cider, and we've only two bottles left now. I want to keep them to sustain us through our next cider-making marathon.

Yesterday Benedict Ambrose went up the hill towards where the Roman fort used to be and collected elderflowers for his famous elderflower champagne. When he returned the rich scent of elderflowers emanated from his collecting bag and filled the whole kitchen. He had already zested and squeezed a dozen or more lemons. Now our large fermentation bin is sitting at the safe end of the bathroom, covered in a muslin cloth.

Elderflower champagne reminds me of twelve-hour parties and weekend guests at the Historical House. However, this is no longer such a melancholy thought now that we have had a proper Sunday Lunch in the garden. One day there will be a bigger Sunday Lunch and then several Sunday Lunches to look back on fondly.

Last night before I fell asleep I re-read a Wendell Berry essay beginning with his 16 year old impatience, in 1950, with a mule team slowing him down as he drove his father's nearly new tractor. His grandfather, who had always worked with mules and loved the good ones, had died in his mid-80s only three years before. Berry's grandfather had rejected tractors, saying that they compacted the soil. And here is where I once again exult in the memory of seeing a farmer behind a horse-and-plow on a hill between Kielce and Krakow, I think it was.

Farming sounds like very hard work, much harder work than gardening. It is easy to become romantic about it, so I have to keep telling myself that. The chances of Benedict Ambrose agreeing to  start a market garden with me are zero--and I have to admit that this shows good sense. Still, I love the idea of being self-sufficient, and when B.A. was recovering from brain surgery, he watched endless hours of My Self Reliance videos.

One of the things I love about B.A. is that he enjoys watching surviving-and-thriving in the Canadian wilderness videos even though he entirely dislikes camping and didn't own a saw, for example, until Monday. His idea of a perfect dwelling is a "double-upper" in the New Town, and I have to admit that this would indeed be ideal for winter parties. One of the drawbacks of our current flat is that it is a bit of a squeeze for weekend parties.

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