Tales from an Organic Orchard

plum curculio damage on immature nectarine 6/09

I: The Plum Tree

The old man had said to cull. But for two years in a row she’d gotten only a single plum–both times they were out of this world divine. So all winter she dreamt of a tree full of the fruit.

Finally spring came and Mother Plum bore thousands of babies. Was he mad? Cull? Never. She wanted to see them all to divine ripeness.

“Nature has a way of taking care of its own,” the old farmer said later, shaking his head when he saw she hadn’t culled.

“Piffle,” she answered. To herself, of course.

Now at the end of June, nature was taking its course. The plums were dropping nightly. Babies, shriveled, unculled, and illegitimate. They shouldn’t have been there. Nature was taking care of its own, aborting the unwanted.

To punish herself she picked one of the lost ones up, imagining how it would have been had it lived. Or maybe thinking about how she would do better next year.

Waspish sting holes extruded jelly from the skin of the dead baby. She looked at another. Another tiny hole with goo dripping down. She looked at another and another. They all had sting holes, and some even bore crescent-shaped scars.

“Nature my foot,” she said to herself. “It’s the curculls.”

And so now she stood, gas can in one hand, bandana in the other, slathering the truth all over the trunk.

She stayed close to watch. At first it was only one or two curculls crawling up the trunk and falling when the burning poison took its effect. She slathered on more, covering scaffold limbs and fruit bearing branches.

The curculls came on, thicker than before.

She starting pouring the gas directly on the bugs, shaking it out through the open top of the can.

Curculls fell to their death in droves. She stomped on them to make sure. More came and fell. She squished or stomped as the need arose. Soon there were too many to squish, so she lit a match and threw it on the fallen bugs. They ignited into a tiny puff of flame which instantly extinguished. She enjoyed this.

More weevils came on, they marched from the far corners of the orchard or their place of birth in the ground. Millions swarmed to the tree and began climbing.

She became frantic and threw the gas can lid to the ground and poured the contents onto the tree trunk. She lit a match and tossed it at the trunk from a safe distance.

The entire tree was a blaze in a matter of minutes. And soon after that it was a crisp skeleton of charred wood.

The whole squadron of bugs was consumed.

She retrieved her gas can, her bandana, and returned home, job done.

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