The Story of the Backyard Fruit Trees

Once there was a young person who wanted to get back to nature, grow their own food, and be more independent. They remembered that old cherry tree at Grandma's that they would climb in as a kid. They thought, I am going to grow some fruit trees. They went to the library (this was long ago) and read about fruit trees. They learned about root stocks, hundreds of varieties of fruit and looked at all the beautiful pictures of perfect fruit. They went to the local nursery. They listened attentively to the sales clerk with a healthy weathered face in a gimme cap and well worn jeans. They learned about the options for what grew well in their area, how to get a pollinator when necessary, and how to plant and nurture the tree. They bought some trees, including apple, pear, peach, apricot and plum trees.

They took them home. They carefully dug holes, added compost, and staked up the trees to withstand the wind. With great anticipation they waited three or four years for the trees to mature. That great year came when the trees started to set fruit. There must have been 10 or even 15 apples and at least that many peaches, too, that first year. Most of the apples were pretty good. A few had worm holes, but they were so good. A year or two later some pears appeared.

Harvest time came. The first bad news was the birds seemed to know just when the peaches got ripe. Each peach had been attacked and 1/3 of the peach was missing. They did not mind sharing with the birds. They are part of nature, too, but the birds could have just eaten one or two whole peaches. Did they have to ruin every peach?

Then it was time to pick the apples and pears. But, each apple and every pear had a worm hole, sometimes two or three. Well they had put a lot work into that fruit so they would just cut around the worms and eat what they could. Next year they would spray and the problem would go away. They would have that beautiful fruit they had seen in the books.

The next spring came. They went back to the nursery. They learned about how to spray. They saw the great variety of chemical sprays available. They read through the labels to find a spray that was supposed to work on the kind of bugs they thought were ruining their fruit, but that did not seem too dangerous. They bought a sprayer and a cocktail of chemical sprays. They waited for the right time to spray. They read the instructions and mixed up the spray. They faithfully sprayed through the first month. And then they realized they would have to spray at 7-10 day intervals all summer long. And they thought to themselves, this whole process does not seem very "natural" to me.

And when would they go camping? When would they go golfing, riding their bikes or to the lake, or hiking in the mountains. When would they travel to see their  friends and family? Work got busy. The summer flew by. Pretty soon, the sprayer started collecting dust. They decided, "Grocery store fruit is really not that bad."

Harvests came. The birds got nearly all the cherries and peaches. There was a bird hole pecked in every piece of fruit. What few cherries the birds did not eat each had a wriggling little maggot inside. No wonder the birds liked them so much! The worms got all the pears and the apples.  As the leaves fell from the tree, they looked at all the rotten moldy fruit on the ground and mumbled to themselves, "This is not what I planned."

And each year the struggle continued. Chemical sprays and organic sprays were tried, but success was elusive. One day on a business trip in Japan, the now middle-aged wanna be orchardist found an apple tree arrayed with a paper bag around each fruit. He went to his hotel, logged on to this new Internet thing and found some pictures and videos of how to keep the insects out of his apples. Upon returning home, he proceeded to put a few hundred bags around his new little apples.

At harvest time that fall, he was elated. The bags worked! The apples in the bags had hardly any worm holes.

The next year he bagged every single apple on three large trees. It only took all of his spare time for three weeks. In the fall, the harvest was wonderful, the three weeks of springtime slavery was forgotten.

And so it was for many years. In the spring literally thousands of bags were affixed to apples and pears. Friends were recruited to help. Local teenagers were hired to help. Harvest time was amazing. Neighbors thought he was crazy. But the fruit was wonderful.

But there had to be a better way. And finally, there was.