What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Apricot season

One of my fondest boyhood memories is riding my bicycle down a country road to buy apricots from a u-pick orchard for my grandmother to make apricot cobbler. 97% of the apricots in the United States are grown in California, and I'm proud to say that I've planted at least fifty of those apricot trees myself. Although this hasn't been the best season for apricots - bees were scarce during the bloom - we've already been treated to my wife's delicious apricot crisp, apricot jam, and apricot smoothies. She has a dozen or more jars of apricots sitting on the counter waiting to set for future enjoyment. As for what's left on the trees now, they are suffering from a variety of ailments including a peculiar disease that is rotting them quickly. Having neglected to spray last winter, nature is having her way with what is already a small crop.

The origin of the proverb "to plant a tree, to have a son, to write a book" - three things every man should do before he dies - is disputed. It has long been claimed by the Spanish and Portuguese, but sometimes the Spanish add "fight a bull". The dictum is also reportedly found in the Talmud. Russell Kirk was known to be almost obsessed with planting trees, finding significance in the fact that men plant trees out of faith in the future, and from generosity toward one's progeny. So it is also with children and books, things we leave behind for the enjoyment and advantage (let us hope) of future generations. Men have motives beyond generosity, to be sure, including an ineradicable desire not to be forgotten among the living once they have passed from this earth. The motive seems selfish, at first blush, but I think it natural and completely healthy if kept in perspective - a shadow of man's God-implanted thirst for immortality. Furthermore, the planting of trees provides an opportunity for the rest of us to remember the dead as we should. We are fortunate to live in a place where many of our neighbors can tell you precisely who planted which of the century-old trees on their inherited property.

Ah, the sound of gravel under the tires. Mrs. C. just drove up with a van full of strangers' children who will be staying with us all week while attending a classical music academy. I should go out to meet them. She's also brought me dinner, God bless her. And then we will say our prayers and maybe I'll read a book, if the house is quiet enough. With the new job I must get to bed on time these days, which robs me of my best hours for writing serious blog posts. I have nothing profound (or even coherent) to say tonight, but if you happen to eat a California apricot this summer, think of me.

Comments (20)

You seem to enjoy an idyllic life out there among the apricot trees, Jeff.

The spiritual pleasure - if that's the right phrase - of living amidst extensive natural surroundings is something I enjoy only on holiday these days. As I gaze out of my window right now I can see a couple of apple trees, a flowering cherry, and laurel bushes etc. From outside, in my garden, I can see a magnificent cathedral sitting high on Lincoln edge where it has dominated the landscape for over 900 years.

So I do not have an insignificant or an unattractive field of vision when at home; but happy is the man who can step out of his own backyard and into the wilderness.

Beautiful, Jeff!

A lovely snapshot of your life and family.

I miss the old apricot tree at the house we bought from Grandma... my dad grew up there, and my grandfather had an obsession with all the nifty new things you could do with trees, so they had a three-cherry tree (baking, canning and eating all on one tree!) a golden cherry, a couple of "new" apple crosses, some pears... and the apricot tree. Great for climbing, all of them had small fruit that ripened quickly (important, in the high desert) and it seems to me that there were apricots falling off the tree all of summer vacation.

Since my folks sold the place to a valley couple who had three small kids a decade ago, I hope that they're enjoying the fruit now!

Alex, it often does feel idyllic, and I love the country life, but it's nothing I wouldn't give up to have the view of a 900 year old hilltop cathedral from my own garden! You Europeans, living in the shadows of ancient cathedrals, in lands where saints were cradled ... what's not to envy?

Beth and Gina: thank you. :-)

Foxfier: Your grandfather sounds like an uncle of mine, always grafting and experimenting. Ever tried a plumcot? It would be interesting for you to go back and see those old trees now, maybe talk to the "new" owners about them.

Thanks for this, Jeff.

We have planted exactly one tree on our property--a blue spruce. (It joins the several mature maples that were there when we bought the house.) Every year after the growing season is well underway I go out and try to estimate its height. It's now about ten years old. Now that it is getting deep-root fertilized every year, it has "shot" up (as much as a spruce can be said to shoot), and we estimate it at twelve feet. Gone are the days when the father of our family could simply stick out his arm to measure it, but the growth is still fairly slow.

By contrast, our neighbors allowed a maple to self-plant in the corner of their property. It shot up incredibly quickly, and sheds leaves over the fence into our yard every fall accordingly. However, it was struck by lightning a couple of days ago (or so we believe, from the damage and the blackening at the breaking point) and what is left standing will have to be cut down. Considering the (relatively mild) grousing I've put in about it in recent years, I'm surprised to find that I feel a bit nostalgic to see it come down. My elderly neighbors (now no longer able to live in their home) were proud of it and of the speed with which it grew. Perhaps someone should plant a spruce there instead...

"Europeans...what's not to envy?"

Um, the socialism? Sorry, couldn't resist! :)

Not just plumcots, but a couple of the other plum/apricot hybrids. Nothing like growing up in that sort of environment to open your eyes to all the wonderful things people have managed! (If you get a chance to try golden cherries, do it! No idea why they're not more popular.)

Lydia, it's too bad about that lightning-struck maple, but that's what chain saws are for. Maybe you can replace it a corner of your own yard? Wish we had maple trees around here. Yes, I'd probably be a tree-hugger if I didn't like chain saws so much. :-)

Most of the naturally planted trees around here need to be removed. There are two fig trees growing under our redwoods that needed to be dug out yesterday. Someday I'll get around to it. Last year, instead of just killing three natural elms growing out of place, I dug them up and re-planted them near the vegetable garden, where they could provide some much-needed shade and would be irrigated with stray water from the pasture. Two of them died, but much to my delight one of them is now about five feet tall. In 30 years there will be a towering shade tree for someone to enjoy while taking a lemonade break from weeding the garden.

Jana - I saw that one coming as soon as I hit the "post" button! I'm surprised Lydia didn't beat you to it.

Foxfier: I think I've had golden cherries and remember liking them. But I probably didn't pay enough attention. Will pay better attention next time.

The young musicians staying with us are an interesting bunch. Very bright, happy, talented children from good families. For the most part. One of the boys is 13, and he lives with his single mother. He's a good-hearted kid but he's loud, goofy, a know-it-all, and an irrepressible smart-aleck. And he's an atheist. Exactly like I was when I was his age (well, just a little younger) and living with a single mother. I see something in him, pain and conflict behind the non-stop jokes. I laid down the law last night, and he's tried to be respectful ever since. He's a good kid and would respond well to a decent father. He talks about his mother's boyfriend. Say a prayer for Preston.

Are those kids keeping you up all night, Jeff? (3am!!) I'll certainly say a prayer or two for little Preston. I guess we should just be glad that his mother doesn't have a "girlfriend". Here's to hoping a good, strong father figure like yourself can help keep him on the good path (and keep him from being attracted to other men).

.....living in the shadows of ancient cathedrals, in lands where saints were cradled ... what's not to envy ?

Jeff: It's certainly delightful to have a medieval cathedral on the skyline. And I'm not blasé about seeing it every day. Visiting the place is another matter. It's best in the winter when hordes of tourists aren't around.

But I want what the other fellow's got - wide open spaces, 'real' mountains, deserts, salt lakes, giant redwoods, lonesomeness, and silence.

Books for the tree-lover:

Meetings With Remarkable Trees and Remarkable Trees of the World, both by Thomas Pakenham.

The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis, esp. the second part of the book titled "The Wood."

The Land Remembers by Ben Logan

What types of music are they studying? I assume the academy is not at your house.

"to plant a tree, to have a son, to write a book"

If you have a chance to do only one, by all means, go for the son. What is a book, but a tree filled with ink; what is a tree, but a book unwritten, but a son is a soul filled with lavish thoughts to move the ink and wishes filled with laughter to hang on the trees.

The Chicken

If you have a chance to do only one, by all means, go for the son.

Or daughter. :-)

(I say that knowing that my fiercely anti-feminist credentials are already established here, so no one will misunderstand.)

Man oh man. I love Jeff's views, but my wife likes mountains closer - like in her back yard.

We have planted about 10 trees in our yard. A locust shade tree, for shade over the kids' play yard: it blew over at age 4. A dwarf apricot tree outside my mother's window: it got diseased and we could not get fruit from it. It finally had to come down last year. Two apple trees: one blew over altogether in a windstorm, one split down the middle and could not be saved. Four dogwood trees all died of drought - they were cheap and probably could not have made it even if we had been more careful with them. We put in an english walnut tree. It almost lost a major limb about 6 years ago, and we debated whether it had to come down, but we managed to support the limb while it repaired itself, and now we have the oddest shaped walnut tree you would ever hope to see. And I think it lost about 2 years maturing in the process - it's SLOW. Maybe in 30 more years it will be a good climbing tree, well after the kids are grown. And finally a maple. Strong, healthy, fine specimen, but young.

Yes, we have at a minimum 4 brown thumbs between us. At the nursery the trees whisper to each other about us, and shove the unfortunate ones forward for us to see and pick. You can't be good at everything. We are not good with plants. We have even managed to kill silk plants on occasion.

Yes, we have at a minimum 4 brown thumbs between us. At the nursery the trees whisper to each other about us, and shove the unfortunate ones forward for us to see and pick. You can't be good at everything. We are not good with plants. We have even managed to kill silk plants on occasion.

I love this, Tony. Sounds like me. House plants know I hate 'em, so that explains their dying (if I ever let them inside in the first place). I have, however, succeeded with a bed of lily of the valley (transplanted by hand in the days when I had more energy). They're tough and aggressive. Make beautiful ground cover.

Here in Holt, Missouri, it's been an awful year for fruit.

Back in April, there were countless little green cherries on the cherry trees I planted four years ago, and dozens of nectarines on the nectarine trees I planted the year after that. But all of them dried up and withered away between May and June. And the apple trees that I planted two years ago, which surprised me by giving me some small but tasty apples last year - same story. Nothing.

The trees are growing like crazy. But fruit? Forget about it.

I'm seriously bummed about this. All told, I've planted about two or three hundred trees in the past few years - and, much as I love them, they just don't seem to love me back.

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.