Monday, September 26, 2016


I sharpened my pruning shears this week. They will be pressed into service this winter when the sap drops in the fruit trees. Pruning is vital for the health of trees as they age, and in a sense, it’s important for people too. I’ve neglected pruning chores the last several years because of an unfortunate incident while cleaning our front windows. I fell from a 10-foot stepladder. The only injury from the fall was to my pride, but it made me mindful of ladders
and my trees suffered.

Halfway down the sun-dappled path to our barn stands an apple tree we planted in 1980 when we first moved to our property in Empire. We bought it from Stark Brothers, and it was not cheap. Neither of us made a lot of money then because I had just started with Ma Bell, but we decided to invest in the future.

This tree did not let us down. Through the years, it has consistently borne fat juicy softball-sized apples. We don’t spray our apples with any chemicals, so they look splotchy when you pick them off the tree. A few swipes down the legs of my blue jeans turn them into apples worthy of being featured in a Southern Living photograph.

Several years ago, I began noticing that woodpeckers apparently love the bugs in apple wood because the bark on some of the larger limbs looked as if they had a bad case of acne. Because I wasn’t pruning, newer limbs began growing in new directions, making the tree look gnarly and off balance. This year, two of the larger branches gave up the fight and collapsed under the weight of the apple harvest. It still has a lot of beautiful apples left, but before next year I’ll need to rent a lift and do some serious pruning. I’m not sure it will survive.

We’ve already planted younger apple trees to take its place, but they have big baskets to fill.

As I sat down to write this column, it occurred to me that as we age, people are similar to fruit trees in many ways. When we are young, we grow in many respects. We try new experiences, pick up habits, meet friends, and find jobs. These things seem right at the time, but we reach a point in our lives when we need to do some pruning.

Old habits that were useful when I was 30 no longer add value to my life. The things I loved to do when I was 22 no longer bring me joy.

Both Jilda and I have collected souvenirs and knickknacks through the years that we loved. Looking at these things now, it’s sometimes hard to remember where they came from and why they are still collecting dust on our shelves.

Like our old apple tree, we’ve reached a point in our lives where we need to do some serious pruning. We started earlier this year by decluttering our house. Getting rid of “things” wasn’t easy, but taking a long, sobering look at our lives and pruning old routines is even harder. In the end, pruning is a job worth doing if we want to continue to grow.


  1. I never fell, but a few years ago I started up a ladder to clean gutters and stopped. I just can't do ladders anymore.

    Yes, pruning is good for trees and our lives, great comparison. I call it addition by subtraction.

  2. The tree is beautiful. I hope it lasts a few more years. When my grandchildren began giving me gifts I marked them all with a Sharpie. I put on the date and which grandchild gave it to me. They have only sentimental value so everyone will know who they belong to when I am no more.

  3. I love what you wrote here describing us as the tree that needs pruning. You are so right about this and I would also add this with so called friends. When we are young, we meet people we find funny or he have fun with or even we feel bad for. As the years pass, these people we thought of as friends, become very negative and constantly complain about their life, the lives of others and even discredit their own friend. Before we would take this and make excuses until we finally realize that this is not a friendship. We wish them well but we need to be healthy and grow towards the sun not be weighed down. So you are right, we need to de-clutter in all areas. I hope you can climb that would be braver than me:)

  4. Truth. My home and I both need pruning.

  5. Anonymous1:07 AM

    I wish I had the energy to prune our home!!

  6. Great post with deep thought. This good.
    Im currently cleaning and pruning my home. Getting rid of things never used in a year.

  7. I'm doing some serious pruning here too. Too much has accumulated and it needs to go for sure. I'm preparing for some downsizing that will have to be done sometime in the future and the more I can do now will only help in the end. This is a timely post !

  8. I like the comparison of people to trees and the necessity of occasional pruning. I know I could use some pruning.

  9. This made me think of my great aunty Joyce who never ever pruned her rose bush and it was the most lovely rose bush around


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