Early in the spring of 2021, I took a page from Mr. Linton's gardening playbook.
His gangster style involves standing over the lychee tree or the pomelo with a pair of gardening shears.
He'll give the tree a sidelong look and whisper something like, "Right, here's how it goes: grow fruit or get this <brandishing the snips>. Your choice."
It works more often than not.
Farming is brutal.
As it happens, the soil is thin just there, with bedrock only a short root away. And the wind whistles up and over the little bluff. I imagine it's as bitterly cold a spot in the winter as any I could have found had I been looking for it.
But trees can be stubborn, and though it looked as if they froze back to the rootstock year after year, the pair o pears did keep sending up wistful fronds in the spring.
They were a Mutt and Jeff pair: one short and bushy, the other tall and spindly. During the summer of 2020, they –– like all the fruit trees we've planted –– benefitted from a whole summer of care.
I watered them. I sprayed with Neem oil. I plucked nasty caterpillars and hungry Japanese beetles from their limbs. I snipped off unhealthy-looking stalks (I fear fireblight) and weeded. They still looked pretty wimpy.
I didn't say anything to the trees –– after all, winter does a lot of my hatchet-work for me.
Come spring, however, I pushed a shovel into the dirt around the littler of the two, apologizing as I tussled it from its shallow home. I held the truncated rootball in my hand for a long moment next to the neighboring pear tree. "Look, buddy," I told the tree. "I don't enjoy doing this. I'm going to give you another summer. Think about it, okay?"