I grew up on a fruit farm in the San Joaquin Valley in California, surrounded by orchards. When we bought a lot in Orem to build our home on 21 years ago, I was drawn to our neighborhood because it was once a fruit farm, and some orchards remained in the area. I felt at home here. I can look to the east out my kitchen window and see an old barn, some pasture land, and an orchard filled with peach, plum, apple and cherry trees. I watch them through the seasons and sometimes take walks there at twilight. I love the feel of being in an orchard.
At the west end of our block was another orchard, a beautiful old orchard of apple and cherry trees, tended by a father and son who loved them dearly. Last year that father died. The next month the water was turned off, and all through the hot dry summer, we watched, horrified, as the trees fought for their lives and lost. It was almost unbearable. I was not the only one to shed tears over the loss. I can’t imagine how that farming son has borne watching his trees be murdered in a slow and torturous way.
It shouldn’t have happened. A farmer should never have to watch his trees die such a cruel death. But for some, it’s all about money and keeping inheritances tidy and divisible. You can’t divide a farm. I learned that with my father and brothers. Someone always loses. This time it was the farmer. My heart breaks for him. I understand a bit of his loss.
Our farm in California is still in tact, still farmed, still producing. I was the one who lost in that battle. But it’s OK, in losing, the farm was saved. Not the case here. My heart goes out to my dear neighbor and friend as he continues to watch the destruction. I’m sure there has been some small amount of solace in being able to put down his own trees, rather than see someone else do it. I’m sure he knew every tree by heart, just like my father did.
The family members are telling us that a new subdivision will replace that orchard and the trees that were 80-100 years old. Progress?? I don’t think so. It should not have happened. A few weeks ago I shared one of my favorite Wendell Berry books with that farmer and his wife. I love Wendell Berry and how he loves the land. Everyone should read his words and appreciate the land we live on as he does. Here is a note I just received from Nancy, the farmer’s wife:
Thank you so much. I started the book and then life got a little hectic. I can’t wait to pick it up again. Thank you so much for bringing it to me. I have some video of John and Kevin trying to take out some of the 80-year-old trees with the bobcat and tractor. It was heart wrenching to watch the tree fight to not be pulled out of its long time home. It was a real battle. The trees ultimately lost, as did we.
Farewell to life as it was, as it should be.
I have just finished reading Jayber Crow. I can’t wait to start reading it again! Absolutely remarkable! Thank you for sharing it with me. It was fascinating. It gave me so much to think about. It has become assigned reading for my family! And thank you for sharing your notes on Jayber Crow. I loved the idea of taking notes on the book.
8 July 2016. I’ve just found this poem written by Minerva P. Shaw about the orchard that belonged to my 3rd Great-grandpa, Frederick Barker, who farmed in Ogden:
THE BARKER ORCHARD
I stood and gazed in mute dismay, upon the havoc wrought,
This cherished scene of girlhood days, unheeded and forgot
Till now, your trunks are sear and bare, beneath the burning sun,
By woodman’s axe and human power, this grievous was done.
You dear old trees, you’ve stood the test of winter snows and sleet
And summers sown your luscious fruit beneath the children’s feet.
When mountain winds like hurricanes have swept the valley through
Your towering crests and sheltering arms proved valliant and true.
Your foliage and blossoms, swayed by every gentle breeze,
Gave rest and joy to warbling birds, and succor to to the bees.
When nestlings chirped their baby songs, amid your welcome shade,
They little dreamed what would befall the home their God had made.
It wrings my heart to see you torn by man’s relentless hand,
And in your stead to gaze upon a stretch of fruitless land,
Though time may glide on golden wings, as floats the summer breeze,
Yet, memory will cling to you, You Pioneer Old Trees.