Melanie Heuiser Hill ampersand


Melanie Heuiser Hill

Melanie Heuiser Hill ampersand


Melanie Heuiser Hill

The Apple Tree

The apple tree was a gift. We’d just moved to a new home and I had a new baby on my hip. Friends brought lunch…and an apple tree. 

We did not have a per­fect spot for the tree, so we plant­ed it in the best spot we could. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this was part­ly under the shade of a large estab­lished ash tree, but the apple tree was so lit­tle we fig­ured it would­n’t be a problem.…

The baby grew and the tree grew. To begin with our apple tree had about as many leaves as she had hair, but some­how it thrived in its less than ade­quate loca­tion. And she, too, thrived—and grew hair!

By the time she could eat apples, we were get­ting a few on our lit­tle stick of a tree. It had entered its ado­les­cent stage—tall and bit gan­g­ly, not very filled out. But it pro­duced won­der­ful apples, none-the-less. By then we’d lost its tag and so did­n’t know what kind of apples they were. Lat­er I would do some research and com­par­isons and we’re pret­ty con­fi­dent they’re Har­al­sonsFirm tex­ture with a com­plex tart fla­vor. Good for fresh eat­ing and cook­ing. Espe­cial­ly good pie apple. 

Some years there were enough apples for a pie or some apple­sauce. Some years there were just enough to be plucked com­ing home from the school bus on an autumn after­noon. The apple tree grew taller (and filled out some) as the chil­dren grew taller, and it gave both nour­ish­ment and delight as our kids grew up.

Even­tu­al­ly, we noticed that the loom­ing ash tree was like­ly com­pro­mis­ing our lit­tle apple tree. But what was to be done? They were both mature trees—it was­n’t like they could be moved. The apple tree adapt­ed, stretch­ing toward the street, away from the shade, chas­ing the sun. It became notice­ably crooked, but only when looked at from the neigh­bor’s yard. From the house it looked fine, and so our neglect con­tin­ued. But then the ash tree began to look dan­ger­ous and seemed doomed with the Emer­ald Ash Bor­er on the loose. So we had the tree tak­en down. This was unex­pect­ed­ly dif­fi­cult, even though it was a scrap­py tree that felt dan­ger­ous to walk or park under, and even though it was keep­ing its thumb on the apple tree. Los­ing a tree is always hard. What I think of as The Scar is still vis­i­ble in the yard. It was a big tree.

We thought the apple tree would straight­en itself with more sun­shine, but it has rather held its crooked course. Like most plants we grow, it kin­da has had to fend for itself…we’ve been hap­pi­ly con­sumed with grow­ing chil­dren until quite recently. 

Spring 2019, the apple tree put out a bevy of beau­ti­ful blos­soms. Alas, a late spring frost killed every sin­gle one and we had zero apples last fall as “the baby” start­ed her senior year in high school.

Spring 2020, that baby on my hip when our apple tree came to us grad­u­at­ed from high school. The tree out­did itself in celebration—made 2019’s excep­tion­al blos­som out­put look mangy! It was a major sign of life for us while we were quar­an­tined in the ear­ly days of COVID-19.

There was no late frost last spring.

Come fall, our girl went to college—far away and dur­ing a pan­dem­ic (she’s doing just fine.) And the blos­soms that turned to hard green apples over the sum­mer turned to red apples in the fall…and we began to real­ize how many apples we had on our hands. So did the neigh­bor­hood. Peo­ple walk­ing and dri­ving by slowed down or stopped to gawk.

My hus­band guessti­mates over a thou­sand apples have been picked—not count­ing the hun­dreds that fell off the tree when the top pruned itself. Not count­ing all the ones that have gone to the squir­rels. We have spent our first weeks of emp­ty-nest­ing pro­cess­ing apples. Work­ing togeth­er, we can fill four pie pans and the crock­pot or food dehy­dra­tor in about 45 minutes. 

We should’ve kept track, of course, but we’ve hard­ly been able to keep up, so we’re stuck with what we’re con­fi­dent are con­ser­v­a­tive esti­mates. We’ve made close to twen­ty pies—eight of them in the freez­er now. (I make a real­ly good apple pie, if I do say so myself.) Twelve quarts of apple sauce at least (they’re buried in the freez­er and hard to count now.) As many batch­es of dried apples—each batch using about 50 apples. And we’ve pressed large bags of apples upon friends, neigh­bors, and rela­tions, of course. We’ve encour­aged chil­dren in the street to steal from the tree. We sent out invi­ta­tions to the squir­rels to make merry.

Abun­dance does­n’t even begin to describe our apple sit­u­a­tion this year. What a gift that tree is! And what a joy to think of the par­al­lels with our daugh­ter’s growth—it is, real­ly, her tree. When she comes home for Thanks­giv­ing, she will be greet­ed with apple pies, apple sauce, apple scones and apple cake.….

(And yes, we have some­one who knows about apple trees com­ing to assess the sit­u­a­tion. It deserves a lit­tle TLC, that sweet apple tree.)

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.