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Apple-Culling Time

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

This is the time of year when, feeling like King Herod getting ready to massacre the Holy Innocents, I pick up a pair of scissors and go out to cull the apple crop.

Apple blossoms grow in clumps of five or six or even more, and on years when there\’s been plenty of sunshine and the wind has been still and the pollinators have done their job, every one of those blossoms becomes a baby apple.  Infant apples are adorable.  Plump and green and darkly pink, the size of my smallest fingernail, they thrust themselves up on their stems towards the light, towards life, towards the future.

And then I come around with my scissors.

Sometimes among the five or six siblings in a clump there is a clear winner, a plumper, healthier apple to which the others must be sacrificed.  But often all the apples are similar in size and future prospects.  Then I must choose at random which one will live and which will be severed from their stems, fall to the ground, and be gobbled up by my little red dog, Bisou.

I don\’t like these choices.  They make me feel like some irrational deity wreaking havoc on harmless beings.  They also make me wonder if there is some invisible demiurge poised above me, enormous scissors in hand, ready to cull me.

Besides, I dislike getting rid of all those potential apples.  The purpose of culling is to enable the tree, instead of producing a large number of stunted, gnarly apples, to concentrate its energies on fewer fruit so that these may attain their full glory.   But all kinds of misfortunes may yet befall the apples that I spare.  They may be knocked down by winds, pecked by birds, attacked by fungi.  It is entirely possible that, at harvest time in the fall, I will end up with only a couple of apples.  Wouldn\’t it be smarter to leave them all on the tree?

But I ignore my doubts and continue sniping with the scissors.  It takes a while to find all those tiny apples.  This is where I\’m glad for the severe pruning I do in February or March.  I keep my trees so small that I hardly have to raise my arms to reach the highest branches.

I\’m barely into the second of my four trees when it starts to rain again.  After a worrisome dry spring we\’re finally getting rain, but it\’s stormy, scary weather with lightning and thunder and precipitous drops in barometric pressure.   This sends Bisou onto my lap and me into the arms of CFS.

I try not to fret about the unculled trees, the unweeded garden, or the unmade bed.  Instead I close my eyes, breathe in, breathe out, and visualize the water table slowly rising.

5 Responses

  1. I can't imagine apple orchard workers, scissors in hand, culling acres upon acres of trees. Why don't you use this storm as a reason to experiment? Just leave the other two trees alone and compare the harvest. I just picked the last of the juicy sweet pink grapefruit(18)at my parents' house. The trees are so tall, we have to use a long pole with a little metal basket at the end. The prongs across the top grab the stem and when you twist and pull down, the fruit drops into the little basket. The grapefruit and orange trees are loaded with hundreds of dark green golf balls, which will grow to huge globes, waiting until after the first frost to sweeten up. We don't cull our citrus trees…Just prop the low limbs up so they don't drag the ground. The satsuma and lemon trees are still flowering. Ohh the heavenly aroma of a citrus tree in bloom!

  2. There is NOTHING on this earth like the aroma of citrus! That's why love my little lemon tree in a pot (don't laugh).I don't know how they do it in large orchards–I should ask around. But a friend who is a landscape architect and has over twenty trees spends endless hours culling.

  3. I have the same problem thinning seedlings. Little potential plants that I have grown from seeds planted with my own hands, ripped from the soil…

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