Welcome to Day 1 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge! During the month of April, I, along with hundreds of others, will blog every day but Sunday. Each day’s subject will start with a different letter of the alphabet. My theme for this year is Dishing the Dirt…thoughts on life through the lens of gardening.
My apple trees are stretching and yawning from their winter sleep, with tiny leaves unfurling. (I cheated — the photo is from last year — they’re not flowering yet.) They don’t look like much right now, but soon they will be thick and lush. I will coax them into the springtime with sprays of nettle teas, with neem to prevent fungus, and with a fresh layer of compost to feed the soil. Dandelions, comfrey, and fava beans will fix oxygen in the soil and nourish their immune systems.
As I dodge raindrops outdoors, indoors I am pruning, feeding, and weeding a novel. In the winter, writing comes easily, because the garden is dormant, but when the sun lengthens in the sky after the equinox, the garden and the writing fight for attention. I’m often pruning one plant to protect the space of another, and it is the same with my writing life.
When the first fruits form, those tiny, precious apples, I turn ruthless, removing at least two-thirds of them. It’s tough love. Last year I thinned my plum fruits six times, and I still lost a few branches due to collapse. Though the tree recovered with incredible resilience, I was devastated. That won’t happen again. Ever.
Not only does thinning protect the wood of young trees, but it also gives the surviving fruit needed air and sun. Thinning prevents worms from sneaking in and munching the harvest, and it keeps any developing fungus from spreading too much. The remaining apples will grow larger and taste sweeter.
I’ve been editing What She Knew, as ruthless with the text as I am with the baby apples. A few months ago I lopped off the entire last third of the novel because I didn’t like its direction. Neither gardening nor novel writing is for the squeamish! I’m feeding it new words and adding dimension through a subplot. Soon I will send it on to my editor for the first round of professional edits, though I’m sure I’ll end up doing some vigorous rewriting.
Come September, I check the apples frequently for readiness. They’ll be ready for sure in October. It’s a heady time as I gather and process the harvest, storing the best apples and turning the rest into applesauce.
After multiple rounds of edits and proofreading, it will be time to harvest What She Knew, too. Let’s hope so, anyway!
And then, oh then, the taste…that first sweet, juicy bite into the meat of a large Golden Delicious or Fuji. Not a bit of sugar goes into the applesauce, just a bit of cinnamon to enhance its natural sugary goodness.
Will the sweetness of What She Knew resonate with readers as my apples do with me? Only time will tell, but with any harvest, there is deep satisfaction with completion, with the tangible results of another year’s hard work and loving care.