Post By Redbrick
Fat fluffy snowflakes drift gently out of the sky as the kids build snow forts in the yard. Christmas music plays in the kitchen while my wife and mother-in-law help her uncle package fresh venison. The dog spends half an hour deciding if she really wants to go out for a bathroom break in eight inches of fresh snow. And Halloween is two days away. Yeah. Halloween. Not Christmas, not Thanksgiving: Halloween.
Snow weighs heavily on the branches of pines and hardwoods outside, bowing them to the breaking point. Sharp reports ring across the neighborhood, signaling the failure of a bough or trunk to hold up to the pressure. The power has flickered a few times in the house, but it hasn’t failed yet. In that, we’ve been lucky.
Where we haven’t been so lucky is in the matter of my apple tree. It was an extremely rare variety, a Ditlow’s Hard Winter, ironically enough. A rescue variety, there are fewer than ten trees left in existence, most of them grafted by me personally. So you can imagine I tend to obsess over this tree. At seven years old, it bloomed for me for the first time this spring. Even though it set no fruit, I rejoiced over the blossoms.
This forenoon I went out to it with the idea of shaking off the heavy wet snow from its young branches. I was too late. The trunk had snapped clean at the graft union. My Hard Winter lay unrecoverable in the offending snowfall, a sad little tangle of branches.
As I stood over my lost little tree, I reflected on how circumstances can change your perspective. For years I looked forward to the day I could cut scion wood from Hard Winter, to distribute to whoever wanted to help save it from oblivion. What I had imagined would be an exciting, joyful moment had become a time of sorrow and desperation. I thought I’d be standing UNDER the tree as I cut them, not OVER it. You’re not supposed to take scion wood in October, either; the storage period is too long. Yet, here I was, pruner in hand, making a last ditch effort at a rescue attempt.
A small package now rests in our spare refrigerator, a precious bundle of scion wood waiting for March and grafting time. So much can go wrong until then: mold, dehydration, even a faulty thermostat. Will the world come to an end with Hard Winter? No. Will it be diminished, even slightly, with Hard Winter’s loss? I think so. Am I partial to Hard Winter? Yes, but isn’t anyone who does what we do, rescuing heirloom vegetables and antique fruits? Say a prayer for Hard Winter, and for me as we wait out the coming months.