Have you ever noticed how wasps love apples? Okay, I really am going to leave the subject of wasps behind, really behind and go behind our cottage where we have an old apple tree. We were told that this apple tree only produces apples every second year and when we bought the property in 2014 there were no apples on the tree. We went into winter a little concerned because the tree had branches hanging over the cottage roof. Another tree had already fallen on the roof three years before and caused a huge amount of water damage inside. We knew we had to address the risk this apple tree posed before the end of 2015, but we put off giving it a major pruning job until later in the year, hoping we might get to enjoy some apples.
The only apples native to North America are crab apples, so we know it isn’t a native specimen. Apples were not brought to North America until the 17th century, when the colonists brought some with them. We have been told that it is probably an heirloom apple tree, but we don’t know what variety it is. Apple trees tend to need a buddy and there aren’t any other apple trees near. Maybe that is part of the reason it doesn’t produce fruit every year? It is also likely that it was grown from seed because of the size it is.
On June 21st I noticed that we had some apples in our apple tree. It was exciting to see we finally had some apples, but disappointing because there were so few of them. They were very high, above the roofline and totally out of reach. Many branches had no apples on them, so on July 4th we made a start on taking out some of the saddest looking parts of the tree that were not productive and half dead. When I said “we”, I need to give my daughter-in-law the credit for actually venturing up beyond any point my husband or I felt comfortable climbing. I played my part, hovering like a mother hen, whilst she assured me that she spent all her childhood climbing trees and was perfectly safe!
On August 1st some of the apples began to come down. It was thrilling to bring them in and make some stewed apple there and then for dessert at suppertime. Thankfully I had a jar of sugar at the cottage, just for visitors who might want sugar in their tea. I didn’t expect to be the one using that sugar. They are not eating apples and needed to be cooked.
The next day I gathered more apples and brought them home with me and made an apple cake. I was determined to make the most of my harvest, however small it was. I got an apple picker for my birthday, which helped us retrieve some before they fell, but many were too high to reach. The best ones were at the top of the tree and even my daughter-in-law was not happy to go that high! We managed to get some desserts out of the apples, but given the size of the tree, the total harvest of apples was very poor.
We finally cut down the branches hanging over the cottage on September 27th. We had to use a winch to pull the branches away from the cottage and make sure they didn’t fall on the roof. There were only seven apples left in the tree by this time and we did manage to retrieve them once the branch was down.
We still have a couple of branches left on the tree that are lower and away from the cottage and they too need to come down because the tree is so rotten, but for now the roof is no longer in danger and we have done a reshuffle for the order of priorities on the job list.
Clean up took us several more weeks to process all the branches. We put the smaller ones through our chipper and the larger ones we chopped and stacked for firewood.
I loved the idea of having an apple tree and I certainly want to make sure that we will have an apple tree in future. We need to figure out a couple of good spots and next year I plan to plant two new apple trees. I am going to need to be cautious because I am not the only one wanting to dine from it. I did actually plant a couple of apple seeds and planted little seedlings earlier in the year, thinking perhaps they could replace the old apple tree. It was not a successful experiment because “someone” ate them. I came back the next week to find them munched to the ground. At least I know I need to put a fortress around anything I plant in the future!