“The old orchard was good to us. Nearly 30 years,” my husband sighs. “But the replanted version will be more efficient.” He shoots me a sideways glance, his invitation to ask.
“Do tell.” I smile as I angle my eyes from the sun waking in the east.
This new orchard won’t witness our wedding, in the backyard, cooled by the fruitless mulberry shade — crystal clink, bubbly wishes floating on a rare July breeze — now 34 years later, the only home we’ve ever known.
He leans in so I can peer down his arm to the target of his point. “See the intersection of grid-ridges? That’s where we’ll plant trees — 148 per acre.”
“What was the old orchard?” I lean back to look him in the eye.
“76. More trees, more blossoms, more nuts.”
“Much more.” I consider the ridges where trees will live.
Our first stroll beneath the canopy of soft-white blossoms, delicate pistils revealed, pink-sweet to bees. A gust carries petals pushed by new fruit — we are hand-in-hand, caught in a snowy swirl, like a whirlwind of butterflies.
“More efficient harvest, too.”
“One variety, one harvest.” He scans the acres in a slow sweep, his smile like almond petals unfolding. “So, half the harvest cost.”
“Machines in and out.”
Tractor rides introduce our boys to the orchard — four years between but the same front pack, infants tucked within, ears pressed to their father’s heart. Lulled by its rhythm and the tractor rock, their eyelids droop before the first turn.
“Fewer bees, too. We’re planting a self-fertile variety.” His blue eyes catch the sunrise.
“They don’t need bees?”
“They need a fraction of the bees.”
“I wonder if some will still travel to the backyard, drink from the fountain by the French doors.”
My father atop the old Case International, red and rusted, bounces hourglass-slow from his neighbor farm. Keeping pace, like a sidecar, my mom pushes the wheelbarrow, a grandson too small to toddle but big enough to sit planted blanket-secure within. He floats amid a sea of toys, a soggy piece of graham cracker stuck to his cheek.
“We’ll finally have access to surface water — need to do all we can to preserve the aquifers.” His nod is heavy with the weight of his words.
“You are a good steward of the land.” I mirror his nod, gaze over the dirt.
Dust adrift, the residue of wheels traveling tree rows — quad whir, laughter painting child-boy cheeks; tractor roar, intention directing teen-boy eyes. East or west, the truck turns from the driveway taking them to places not here.
“We’ll have micro sprinklers for frost protection and orchard floor prep at harvest — and dripline, which we’ll use most of the time, less water.” He tilts his head toward the well pump already in place.
“You’ve done your research.” His words speak science but say love.
He’ll nurture this orchard as he did our first. He’ll know each tree — the bend of its branches, the stories of its bark. Lazy summer evenings as the sun dissolves to a fiery sash on the western horizon, we’ll pour wine, slide onto the bench seat of our open-air ride and tour the orchard — in the reflection of his dark glasses, our path forward.
Annette L. Brown lives on an almond farm in central California where she enjoys time with family and friends. She has recently become serious about refining her craft and enjoys the support of two writing groups: the Taste Life Twice Writers and the Light Makers’ Society. Annette has pieces reflecting her love of nature, family, beauty, and humor published in Cathexis Northwest Press, Twists and Turns personal story anthology, and forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine.
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