Cuttings

In our garden there is a row of eight apple trees. Seven are bramleys and in the middle of the row grows a taller pollinator which produces sweet, smaller red-yellow apples; I don’t know their name.

Last week an expert pruner called Tony gave each of our trees a serious haircut. Their new winter silhouettes are brutally simple. The complexity was arranged in piles laid carefully in front of each tree: hundreds of cuttings of varying length and thickness in eight gun-metal piles. If I had the right camera equipment and picked my light carefully I might have produced a gently ironic image and called it something like ‘Seen for the First Time’, or ‘Rosary’.

These piles of off-cuts kept me and my boys busy this week-end. First we went through each pile and pulled out the thicker braches and cut then down to a regular length. We threw these thicker pieces into new piles and when we were finished we loaded the wheelbarrow and carted them off to the wood shed to dry out. Afterwards we manhandled the longer, stragglier stuff off to one end of the garden where we have bonfires.

The boys worked intermittently. Both favoured working in close proximity to their father, and neither is afraid to ask questions, or to suggest alternative approaches. Jake (4) is a little young for gardening, but when the fancy takes him his desire to help is sincere, though fleeting. He has a curious mind and is easily distracted, and he has mixed feelings about being outside in February. Fred (6) relishes hard labour, especially if he gets to wield a tool that has the ability to maim. He did a lot of work with a lopper, and when he could get his hands on it, a pruning saw with fearsome teeth. The teeth gave me the fear, even though their potential for harm was probably less than the loppers. So I banned him from the saw. Life is full of these inconsistencies.

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