Grapefruit harvest has become one of my favorite things about living in the Little House on the Eastside. We have many fruit trees, but the only one, thus far to produce to it’s full potential in both taste and quantity is the faithful grapefruit tree.
The meyer lemon tree is a phoenix, which is finally producing after we thought it died in 2011. Verdict is still out on the quality. The pear tree produces plenty of fruit, edible only by Florence, who also eats plastic, wood, and probably metal. The pomegranate bush produced exactly three of the saddest fruits I have ever seen. Our fig tree is really only a fig tree in theory. The loquat tree produces plenty, but who needs that many loquats? The tangerine tree, usually pretty reliable, if extremely tart, is taking the year off, and our pecan trees barely survived the drought, so we’re not asking much.
Last year, we harvested in early December in running shorts, sweaty and itchy as we climbed ladders and picked through the highest branches.
This year, the harvest came early, as I looked at the forecast and saw a freeze approaching. So I bundled up and headed to the orchard to see what I could salvage. It was 2 hours before we needed to leave for church, which is when all worthwhile projects are hatched.
Here’s how it all went.
2:50 pm: Upon inspection, Bekah determines that the meyer lemons were in fact, not ripe. Ripe meyer lemons are bright orange, and these are still a little yellow. However, while examining the lemons she did find this amazing creature.
3:05 After filling 4 grocery bags from just the low-hanging grapefruit, Bekah goes inside and fetches the little step-ladder to get the next level. Lewis is nowhere to be found, and thus the plan goes forward half-baked and without precaution.
3:10 A shrubby anacua and several hackberry saplings present an obstacle. [note: I’m not opposed to “trash trees” the way that some people are. True they will take over your back yard as aggressively as bamboo, and they are nearly impossible to kill…but they are native, the birds love them, and they aren’t ugly…well, okay, they aren’t too ugly.]
The shrubby anacua, seen in the photo from last year, was particularly obnoxious in dominating the space beneath and around 3 branches full of plump grapefruit. It had to go.
3:15– Bekah enters the house where Lewis is now working.
“Do we have a saw?”
“I’m sure we do…why?” (Lewis tries to keep the panic from showing on his face)
“I need to get rid of a hackberry tree.”
Bekah goes to the laundry room and finds the handsaw, instantly thankful for the Great Organizing Binge of 2012. Lewis gives some instruction on how to use the handsaw, which Bekah pretends to understand before she returns to the orchard and begins sawing down little hackberry saplings scattered beneath the grapefruit tree.
3:29: It becomes clear that the handsaw is not going to be enough to bring down the shrubby anacua in any timely fashion. Or maybe ever. Don’t let “shrubby” fool you. It’s a fairly mature tree, it just has leaves all the way to the ground, because it came of age during a drought. Don’t feel sorry for it though. It was a bully shrub tree.
3:30: Bekah goes to the garage to find the ax. The ax came with the house, along with several other ancient tools. It’s approximately 1.5 million years old, and the origin of the old phrase, “fly off the handle.”
3:40: Tired from swinging the ax, Bekah alternates between handsawing the tiny hackberry trees all over the yard out of spite, and returning to the shrub, which has proven harder to kill than she’d anticipated. That’s the thing about South Texas natives (plants, animals, and humans), they are built to survive forces far more lethal than a pregnant woman with a dull, million-year-old hand tool that falls apart every few minutes.
The tiny hackberry saplings prove more rewarding.
3:50: Bekah marches back in the house, sticks and leaves in her hair. Lewis, no longer masking his concern, silently braces himself for news of disaster, but wisely resists the urge to intervene.
“Isn’t brush collection day coming soon?” she asks.
“Yyyeesss….” Lewis says.
Lewis is tempted to check on the situation, but knows that not knowing is sometimes the better option.
Florence follows Bekah back outside and proceeds to wretch throughout the remainder of the project. Who knows what she ate.
Bekah returns to the ax, only to realize that the shrub is so intertwined with its little sister shrub that the only way to fell the first one is to go for both simultaneously. Another brilliant survival move by the anacua, and nascent illustration on the importance of community…or the bond of marriage…or something.
3:55– Bekah puts the head of the ax back on the handle for the final time, checks to make sure that Florence is not within range should it go flying, and keeps chopping.
4:00: Bekah finally topples both anacuas, does a celebratory dance, and realizes that she cannot lift the fallen shrub trees over the antique washing machine, that is for some reason a fixture in the back yard. She will need to do this in order to drag it to the sidewalk for brush collection day.
4:01: Bekah goes inside, asks Lewis for help. Lewis looks openly relieved to be invited to supervise this unplanned project…and he didn’t even know about the ax.
4:02: Lewis is left outside to finish the job of hauling and chopping the shrub trees into manageable pieces, because, as Bekah says, “The baby and I are tired now. We’re going inside.”
4:05: Bekah remembers that the entire point of cutting down the anacua and hackberries was to get to some of the best grapefruit. However, she’s already started a hot shower and peeled off her wet outer layers, and the grapefruit will have to wait until tomorrow.