When I was a kid, my parents had a garden.  But before you envision a Hidden Valley commercial, let me qualify that first statement.  My parents did not use pesticides, but they certainly used a lot of manure.  Think flies and plenty of cutworms.  That being said, you will understand why as a child, I had never looked forward to having a garden of my own.  That is, until I met my husband.

Randy’s parents owned a ranch in Oklahoma.  Every year, he and his 5,ooo brothers and sisters would put in a huge garden.  Okay, maybe 5,000 is an overstatement, but the resultant garden produce would have fed a crowd twice that size.  They’d plant enough strawberries to feed everyone, including Aunt Viola and Uncle Hershel.  And even though I’d work with them in the garden picking berries, I never did find out who Aunt Viola and Uncle Hershel were.  Randy was kind of hazy about that as well.  I never met them, but I picked plenty of berries for them.

Randy loved going out to the garden before dinner was ready and picking fresh produce to add to the table.  He would take me out on those rambles, pulling fat onions from the earth, plucking warm tomatoes from the vine.  He would bring a kitchen knife – and in this, he differed from his brothers.  I’d watched his brothers on many occasions scrape a scab off of their arm with their penknife, wipe the blade on their shirt, then cut up some candy and offer me a piece.  Needless to say, I never accepted.  But back to the blog – Randy would bring out a clean paring knife, a salt shaker, and cut open a ripe tomato as soon as he’d plucked it.  He’d salt it and offer me the first bite from the tip of the knife.  I had never tasted a tomato so good.

Twelve years ago, Randy and I moved into the house we live in now.  The back yard is pleasantly sized, but only a small strip is open to the sunshine.  Just big enough to plant a tiny garden.  I started a few years ago with three tomato plants.  After a long bout of watering, fertilizing, and plenty of tlc, I got exactly one tomato.  It grew to the size of a walnut, split, fell off, and it was carried away by squirrels.

I’d tried various projects over the next few years, but was methodically thwarted by moles, cutworms, birds, Japanese Beetles, and, of course, squirrels.  I guess the locusts couldn’t make it as far as Arkansas.

Giving up on the more tender plants, we decided to plant fruit trees.  We chose a self pollinating cherry tree know to be resistant to insects and repulsive to birds, and two apple trees, a Golden Delicious, and an Ozark Black.  I hoped for success, especially with the Ozark Black, a tree that has been known to grow wild in Arkansas.  I imagine it propigates much like this: A bird eats a seed, poops, and the next year you have apples.

The first year, our cherry tree produced 5 cherries.  They were eaten by birds while they were still green.  Our apple trees didn’t produce anything, having had all their blooms frozen off by a late frost.

The next year, the same thing happened except the cherry tree didn’t produce at all and the apple blossoms were beaten off by hailstones.

This summer, we finally got an apple.  Never mind that the birds ate the cherries from the trees, leaving the bare pits stuck to the stems, we GOT AN APPLE!

We were proud of that apple.

We even got some mulberries from the old mulberry tree that year.  We were the Waltons, the Ingalls, and the Garden of Eden all in one. Our land was suddenly fertile.

Ahh… the bounty… Even our butterfly bush flowered . . . too late for the butterflies, but no one cared.

So every day, we would go out and visit our apple, counting the moments until it ripened, talking to it, handling it, hoping to leave our scent on it so the squirrels would LEAVE IT ALONE . . .

Then, in November, it was time to pick it.  Like proud parents at their kid’s graduation, we took our camera out to record the event.

"Are you ready?"

"Uh... Babe, I think we picked it too soon."

“Does that stem look too green to you?”

It didn’t matter.  We took it into the house and tried it out in various settings.

It was time to cut it open and taste it.

“Oh, wait . . . tv’s on . . .”

I sliced it up . . . our apple from the apple tree we’d spent money on, buying first the tree itself, then lavishing the tree and the apple with fertilizer, pesticides, and countless hours of care.  I sliced it up and made a tart.

Wait  . . . On second thought, maybe I should have just called this post ‘The $50 Tart’. . .

Do you like growing your own food?  Or have you even bothered since the advent of shopping in bulk?  Remember, to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog, and don’t forget to check out the latest Photoblog on the right.  Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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6 Responses to THE $50 APPLE

  1. Grizz says:

    Our garden produce costs nearly a thousand dollars. We had to put in a green house because was getting froze out. Plus we had to put a fountation in first to insulate the cold from the ground. 2″ thick styrofoam. Not to mention now getting up early enough to open the doors and windows before the sun gets on it and burns everything to a crisp. And don’t forget to shut it all up at night or it will freeze overnight. But this is Montana!

  2. Thea says:

    Wow, Grizzbear.
    A thousand dollars.
    That produce had better be good.
    I remember the long growing season in Florida. One year I planted four tomato plants and the darn things grew over 8 feet tall. I had to get a step ladder to pick the tomatoes. And they produced like crazy. We had to stake them and tie them to keep them from falling over. One crop, the last one before I mowed the plants down, produced over a hundred tomatoes – from only 4 plants. I made about 3 gallons of salsa. The only problem was, the sun was so hot in Florida, the tomatoes developed a really thick skin, then cooked on the vines.
    Anyway, will we see some of this produce of Montana when we visit?

  3. Curlyhead says:

    Great job as always Thea! That apple was of course the most beautiful apple I’ve ever seen. Same thing happened with out tomato plants this last year, grew about the size of a golf ball, but that was a feast for the bugs I guess.
    Love ya!

  4. Thea says:

    Thank you about the apple :) It was pretty near perfect. I guess that poor tree put everything it had into it. It only had one to worry about.

  5. snuffygump says:

    In our quest in producing the ever elusive tomato, one summer, for some unexplaned reason, we grew 3 cherry tomato plants in our little green house. They were so prolific that I was not only unloading them on every willing friend and neighbor. There was one partucular restaurant in town where we enjoy the food and are friends with the owner. She agreed to take all of the cherry tomatoes off of our hands. I mean, we had millions of cherry tomatoes! The plants kept on bearing bodaciously. like little round red bunnies. I began to feel enslaved to their unending demand to be harvested and became callous towards ones that were brushing the green house floor. I stepped on a couple and at that moment I came to realize that popping a cherry tomato beneath my feet was far superior to a box load of bubble wrap! Each time I went into the green house to fill a bag, I would purposely step on all that lay in my path. Finally, it came time to do our final harvest. I can still feel the tiny burst of tiny tomatoes as I crushed more than I harvested. This may be appalling to some, but just try it sometime! Trust me, bubble wrap will just not do it for you anymore.

  6. Thea says:

    Were you barefoot?

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