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I was fast asleep on Saturday morning when the phone rang. It was cloudy outside, and it seemed like the perfect sort of day to lounge around, reading books, and otherwise not doing much.

The phone call was from my father. He and my mother had gotten up at some absurd hour to stand in line at the Urban Harvest annual fruit tree sale. I knew that they were going, and I wasn't all that surprised that they called. I figured they needed help getting the trees from the lot to their car. No, no, that was taken care of, but. . .

Are you guys doing anything today?

I looked at Celosa, who looked back at me.

Um, we were planning on taking Celosa to the dog park.

Any plans for tonight?

I looked at Graham, who shrugged.

Not that I know of.

Can you come up to the ranch and help us plant these trees?

I loooked at everyone, and they looked back at me.

Oh, ok. I don't see that'd be a problem.

Oh great! Bring a shovel.

An hour later, we were in the car, wearing grubby clothes, heading west. We brought the hamburger meat that we'd planned on cooking that night, plus bacon. And we had a shovel and a spade. The puppy was ok with the idea of going to the ranch instead of the dog park. Zapata would be there to play with, and there was more than enough room to run around in.

We coincidently met up with my parents in Brenham, and we drove the rest of the way to the ranch together. When we got there, we found it to be colder inside the house than out, and my dad immediately brewed a pot of coffee for him and Graham. There were fifteen bare rooted trees in the back of my dad's car: apples, cherries, peaches and plums. Oh, and a potted Satsuma, which was payment to me and Graham for dropping our weekend and heading up to the ranch. Apparently some avacados, maybe some persimmons and another Satsuma were dropped off in Houston, because they were not bare rooted and couldn't be put into the ground until after the fear of frost had passed. I loaded all of the trees in a cart, along with the shovels. My mother hunted down some gloves. It was lightly drizzling when we got there, but not so much that you noticed when you were standing outside.

Fifteen minutes after arriving at the ranch, my parents, Graham, Zapata, Celosa and I were standing in front of the gong at the far end of the "yard" with four cherry trees--two Minnie Royal and two Royal Lee--trying to perfect their placement. Finally, when everyone was satisfied, we started digging. It had clearly been raining a bit before we got there, because the earth was pretty easy to dig. There were only three shovels and four people (Celosa helped at first, too), so I helped with back digging and filling in holes after the trees were placed. We were supposed to let the top two inches of the graft show, but a lot of the trees had pretty deep tap roots. It actually didn't take us nearly as long to plant those trees as we had initially thought it would.

My dad broke a few vertebrae in his lower back about a year ago, and he has a bit of trouble bending down and getting back up again, but he did devise a pretty good system of using shovels for leverage. Still, I'm really glad that Graham and I came up, because my dad would have felt obliged to plant every single tree himself had we not been there.

Satsified with the cherries, we moved on to the spot where my mom has decided she'll put her new vegetable garden, complete with fruit orchard on the side. This area is next to the small pond by the house, and eventually, there will be a shipping container that serves as one wall to a green house, several raised beds for vegetables, and a patio area between the garden and the pond.

Since we'd been at the ranch last, a few loads of mulch had been dropped off. My dad had run into some guys who were clearing out brush on the side of the road for the county, and he asked them if they could dump the chipped debris on the ranch instead of wherever they usually drop it off. The guys thought it was a great deal, because it meant they could do their jobs much faster. We thought it was a great deal too, because pretty soon, those piles of plant debris will be compost. I think they ended up dropping off three loads of mulch. Apparently, though, they got stuck in the mud when they dropped off the mulch, because there were huge ruts in the earth. Of course, that's exactly the area where my mom wanted to put the orchard.

The dirt in this part of the property was harder to dig, though the rain had gradually picked up in intensity as we kept on going.

First, Graham and my dad dug two holes at the what will one day be the entrance of the vegetable garden. The remains of two long dead citrus trees marked the spot where they dug. Apparently only Satsumas grow in the dirt in this part of Texas. All other citrus has to be in pots that can be moved into a greenhouse when it freezes. My parents had picked up two small peach trees that are apparently quite lovely for that spot; apparently the limbs resemble weeping willows, and the fruit is so hidden that the birds can't get to it. The dirt in this area was so compact that we added extra earth to the holes just to ensure that the trees were well planted.

Then, after marking off the approximate location of the shipping container and vegetable beds, my mom and I figured out where the rest of the orchard would be. We had three additional single species peach trees, a three-in-one (where three varieties of peach were grafted into one tree), two single species plum trees, and a three-in-one plum. My mom wanted to make sure that the "Red Baron" peach was the most prominent in the orchard, because apparently it's the prettiest of the trees.

We dug some more. During this part of the planting, the dogs wandered a bit. Zapata and Celosa headed over to the pond to see what was going on over there. Then they headed into the woods to ensure it was safe. Then over to the mulch piles because they smelled good. They also came over to us a lot to ask if we could go in.

None of us really noticed that the rain had started to get heavier. It was such a gradual increase, and we were so busy with the trees, that we didn't really notice. At some point, I got hot and took off my hoodie. My dad took off his leather jacket. All of us were covered in mud.

Soon, though, we got all of the rest of that part of the orchard into the ground, and while my mom, Graham and I finished up, the dogs and my dad headed over to where the apples would go in. The apples couldn't be in with the rest of the orchard because they needed to be away from the cedar trees, and there wasn't a spot in the orchard that was far enough away. There were spots where other plants had died along the fence by the front of the driveway, and after digging a bit, and some Hurculean root pulling on Graham's part, we got the old roots out and the holes big enough for the apples.

After two hours working in the rain, we were done.

Of course, as soon as we were finished, my dad wanted to immediately start on the next project, which was the rehabilitation of a recently vacated house on our property. "We need to participate in the dream," my dad said. So, covered in mud and suddenly aware of how wet we were, we climbed into his car to go to the house and inspect it. A lively 20 minute discussion of the rehab of the kitchen ensued, and then suddenly, I started shivering. I didn't realize how wet I was, and I needed to get out of my clothes and into something drive ASAP.

After a long, hot shower and some dry clothes, I was as good as new. We spent the rest of the suddenly really rainy day inside. My mom and I worked on the kitchen with the IKEA kitchen design tool, Graham worked on dinner--bacon-beef burgers and homemade french fries--setting up the Blu-Ray player on my dad's entertainment system, and otherwise being generally useful, and my dad worked on his iPad. That night, we watched The Girl Who Played with Fire.

We came back to Houston on Sunday, and on Monday, my mom and I went to IKEA to place the kitchen order. I'm always shocked at the prices at IKEA. Appliances, sink, cabinets and countertops included, the kitchen ended up being well under budget.

I suspect my next summons will involve an allen wrench.


( 1 comment — Say something )
Jan. 19th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
Mama's satsuma fruited this year. So did the kumquat, which made the gutter-minded boychild say "what was the name again? A what?" just to hear his grandmother say kumquat. He's 17. I was giggling myself silly right along with him.

Satsumas, kumquats, quince, and a HUGE fig bush that was a cutting from my granny's house. (bless that woman, she could stick a twig in the ground and it knew better than to not grow. She liked hibiscus and Esperanza.)
( 1 comment — Say something )