Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I planted the first trees when we first moved here about ten tears ago, five trees I ordered from Fedco in Maine. Two were Northern Spies, one was a Golden Russet, and two were Cox's Orange Pippins in honor of Susan my wife, because she's English and they are a venerable old English apple variety. Over the years I figured out how to graft and planted about fifty more trees of about eight different varieties. The oldest trees, all in a row near the house, have started to get heavy blossoms, but we have yet to get any fruit to speak of. You see, we are died-in-the-wool organic farmers, and there is an insect pest of apple trees here in the Northeast called the plum curculio which knows no bounds in its greed for apple fruits to lay its grubby little eggs in. The only organic solution is to spray heavy coats of a clay compound called kaolin, coats and coats of it, but as far as we can tell, the curculio just laughs at the clay. It isn't even bothered by it. The Cornell agriculture experts term kaolin clay "virtually useless" or words to that effect. In other words, if you want apples, you won't get them using organic methods in the Northeast. Even out west most of the organic apples are grown in blocks on the inside of large orchards, the outer perimeters of which are heavily sprayed against insects. So though they are technically organic, the term is slightly misleading.
This year I decided to compromise, and tonight I went ahead and sprayed the fruit bearing trees with Imidan, a heavy duty, broad spectrum insecticide. Compared to other insecticides, it is relatively inert, but it's still bad stuff. I put on protective clothing and donned backpack sprayer with a heavy heart. My wife stood at the backdoor and glared. She would rather not have apples if it involves poisoning the land. I'm not sure I'm as much of a purist. I'd rather get some apples after all the work I've put in. Was it the right choice? Only time will tell. If I can kill the curculio back, by the time all fifty trees start to bear, the kaolin clay may be enough of a bother to them that I can live with 20 percent damage, as opposed to the total annihilation we have been suffering at the insect world's hands.
When you're young you have pure ideals and you sense the world's demise with any deviation. I used to side with the anarchists at the conventions of the world's powerful bankers, trying to throw a monkey wrench in the system to bring it down. Now I see things differently. The world is more resilient than we know or sense when we are younger. That doesn't condone wanton destruction. We must always strive to live within our means, but despair and wringing of hands when your ideals are breached is akin to panic. I hope Susan comes around, but she might not. I'm thinking the sight of apple trees laden with fruit will gladden her heart.