Monday, October 18, 2010


I've always walked a fair amount.  It helps keep me centered and fit and helps me at least pass for sane.  So it was a source of some dismay this spring to discover that our new puppy didn't make the best hiking companion.  Long leisurely meditative walks are hard when one arm is attached to a creature that seems intent on heading in any direction but the one you're heading in, and the other arm is attached to a bag of poo.

Now that my dog is reaching the point where she's got a tiny bit more focus, and will walk with me rather than roaring off like a squirrel-seeking missile every 15 seconds, I'm finding my Monday morning rambles through neighborhoods and nearby woods have returned.

This morning as I wandered through the bright briskness of a Virginia October, I found myself noting the absence of something.  Back when I was a kid, my parents had an apple tree in their front yard, right outside of my window.  It was quite productive, and one of the primary yard tasks I had as a teen was to collect the best of the tart green apples for the occasional pie, and to rake up the rest for composting.   It was also an amazingly friendly climbing tree, one you could scamper up easily.  In the summer of 1989, a big storm took it down.  It felt like a loss.

I make a point of mixing up my walk routes, wandering through neighborhoods in such a way that I'm always exploring somewhere new.  But though I've hit most of the nearby neighborhoods, I see pretty much no fruit-bearing trees.  There aren't apples.  There aren't pears.  There aren't cherry trees.   I don't see blackberry vines, or raspberry vines.  Virginia soil is perfect for these fruit, and yet my neighborhood seems devoid of it.

I suppose it's a bother having to clean up, or feeling obligated to make preserves and pies.  We're just too busy.  We're willing to spend endless hours mowing and trimming, or perhaps growing tomatoes or zucchini.  But fruit?  Apparently, at least in my neck of what used to be the woods, we don't have time for it.  It's just not part of our suburban desert.

So we get our apples under bright florescent light, wrapped in plastic, sprayed with pesticide, trucked in in bulk.

For some reason, the fence in my back yard suddenly looks like it might just be the ideal place for a blackberry planting or three come spring.


  1. Fruit trees provide children an ideal introduction to nature and conservation.

    It's a shame that adults treat landscapes like status symbols or museum displays. As a kid, I used my dad's ivy as ropes in some imaginary adventures. Playgrounds and soccer fields are fun, but they're not natural places for children to play. Kids need wild play spaces that aren't graded, manicured, and cordoned off. Throwing in fruit trees makes nature play all the more rewarding.

    This spring I planted blueberries, raspberries, grapes and lemons. They're all in their infancy, so it will be a while before I enjoy any fruitful bounty, but I'm looking forward to that day. I hope to read about your blackberries next summer.

  2. I once took a class on edible landscaping. It was pretty popular in Seattle when I lived there. I think there are books around on the subject too. I love a yard you can sink your teeth into!

  3. Missed this one. Ever read any of Bill Mollison's work? He pioneered the idea of permaculture. A very common-sense approach to utilizing the land upon which you find yourself, imho. Unfortunately his work is out of print now but there are alot of books and guides dealing with the proper engagement of 'permaculture' methods.