Story telling from Australia
I moved two fruit trees last year. An old shack on the corner of Zebina and Wyman was being knocked down to make way for three new houses and the small orchard at the back was earmarked for demolition. It was spring, the trees were laden with blossom, and all the books said don’t do it. But I had to. The alternative was to watch them be destroyed.
I picked out a mature nectarine and an almond tree, the first around two metres taller than me with a canopy almost as wide, the second slightly smaller. In return for fresh eggs and fruitcake, the builders uprooted them with a JCB digger one Friday afternoon, hauled them onto the back of a pick-up and drove them the few metres across the road. The almond tree dropped easily into the hole I’d dug in the back garden but I had badly underestimated the size of the nectarine. Its root ball was massive.
The builders threw ropes around the tree, hauled it off the truck and stood it on the nature strip, where I had intended to plant it. The size and weight of the root ball kept the tree upright but it was in full sun. I soaked the roots, covered them with mud and straw, threw beach towels over them and turned the hose on the roots again. Three hours later I had a larger, deeper hole but the builders were long gone. With a broken vertebrae Clyde couldn’t help so I took a chance and waited until Monday.
Temperatures rose to over 30 degrees that weekend and every few hours I went outside to soak the towels. Bees buzzed around the blossom.
On Monday morning with no sign of any builders I rang around and found a tradesman willing to help. Two sweltering days later a beefy guy turned up. He hacked off parts of the root ball (after all my efforts the hole still wasn’t big enough) then he tied ropes around the tree and fixed them to the back of his truck. After several false starts and snapped ropes, he managed to drag the long suffering tree into the hole. One of the savvy builders had painted a red dot on the trunk, telling me that the tree’s best chance of survival would be if it faced the sun as it used to, so I made sure the red dot was facing the sun. I forked in good quality soil, added mulch and watered every few days.
To my surprise and delight both trees survived, helped by Joe’s insistence that we cut back the canopy by at least a third. This year the almond tree produced a handful of nuts and the nectarine was laden with fruit.
I’m reminded of those trees when I think of moving to Sydney in a few months. My heart tells me it’s the wrong time, I’m not ready, I like Broken Hill and I don’t want to go. But I know I’ll survive and, when I’ve got over the shock, I hope I will thrive.
I might just need to lie down for a while with a wet towel on my head.