by Caroline

I remember so vividly helping my dad lay out his orchard. I was around ten years old, and my dad hadn’t entirely finished clearing the area, so we both had to tramp through lots of briar and brambles. Dad positioned me where he wanted the first tree and gave me the end of a spool of twine to hold; then he paced off thirty or forty steps in a line, unspooling the twine as he went. After he marked the spots for each tree, he dug the holes and planted the trees, staked and fenced them, and then we watered each one, hauling buckets of water over from the swampy area that’s now a pond. There wasn’t any house on my parents’ land yet — nor even a road to the property — just their vision of what this place could be.

Now Ben is the ten year old, and yesterday he and Eli planted their first trees in my parents’ orchard: a nectarine for Ben (the first on the property!) and an apple — one of many varieties here — for Eli.

they dug with a mattock
they dug with a shovel

they checked the depth of the hole

they stomped the dirt down around the roots

they staked and fenced each one
they watered
and now we wait

I think back on the day when my dad and I planted this orchard’s first trees and I wonder, was I patient? Did I complain about the heat (or was it cold?), or about the briars, or about the long walk back to the car? I’m sure I didn’t see what my dad saw that day: a clearing in the woods, an orchard asserting itself, children and grandchildren fed from its trees. It’s an easier vision for my kids –- the orchard is established now, as well as the kitchen in the house in which we cook and eat its fruits –- but still, it takes a certain optimism and a certain patience to plant a tree. I’m glad they’ve shared that with my dad.