To thank the apple tree.

This weekend I learned how to prune an apple tree. Strange to think there was a time when most humans were all connected to the land and knew how to care for it. Living on 14 acres, there is a lot of work to do. Trees and bushes and flowers to be pruned. Dead stuff to be cut away to make space for new growth.

I watched Mike with the lopping pruner. It’s basically a small saw at the end of a long pole that also has a pruning mechanism you can activate by pulling a rope.

“Is that fun to use?” I asked.

“Do you want to do it?” He was relieved to hand it off to me and fire up the leaf blower instead.


I Googled how to prune an apple tree and learned the basic techniques:

  1. The most important thing is that the branches get sunlight, so you want to prune the tree to maximize sun exposure among the branches.

  2. Cut the branch above an outward-facing bud so that the next branch that grows does so outward.

  3. Remove downward sloping branches to keep creatures from nibbling.

It was exhausting holding the lopper upright while also using my strength to cut the branches. My arms ached as I squinted into the sunlight. It’s silly but I felt sadness when removing the branches, like the tree had an opinion and would rather grow wild. But the truth is, for this tree to thrive and bear fruit it cannot become overgrown and shade its own branches from sunlight.

I am learning to understand the role we play in caring for plants. The relationship is sensitive. We expect fruit from a tree and flowers from a bush, but the plant has its own rhythm and its own capacity. I was overwhelmed with gentleness as I let the branches fall and collected some of the last apples to ripen. We expect a lot from nature, and it only seems right to thank every branch.


May you thank a plant today.


Karlee PattonComment