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When we moved to our current home in the spring of 2012, I noticed a big, bare tree at the bottom of our slope. It stayed bare for a long time. “Is it dead?” I asked several master gardeners. And, of course, “What is it, anyway?”
Just because I’m writing about my garden for the A to Z Challenge doesn’t mean I know a whole lot.
“It’s a fig tree. Give it time.” Okay. I’d eaten figs a few years before and wasn’t impressed, but gardening brings out the adventurer in me.
Waiting, however, is not something I do well. This makes writing novels a particular form of torture, since each story must marinate for a time, and I often feel when I’m looking at a draft that I’m staring at a bare tree, waiting for the leaves to come, and wondering if they ever will.
Yet those gardeners were right. Around May of 2012, the first hint of leaves appeared. By summer, the canopy was full and glorious…and choking the light from two of my vegetable beds.
I had to learn to adapt. I handle adapting about as well as I handle waiting. Still, I took a deep breath and kept plants in those beds that get along better with less light and heat, such as lettuces and spinach.
Come August, the figs grew large. When do I harvest figs? I wanted to know. I found photographs online to show me. Sometimes I picked one or two to test them. Just in case you were wondering, unripe figs taste like cardboard. Yet as I checked, and checked, and checked (yes, impatience again), I started to notice a difference. They softened a bit and turned downward, each fruit heavy with sweetness.
And the taste of a ripe fig? Oh, Lord, I had no idea how good they could be. I ended up buying the book Under the Fig Leaf to help me with recipes (my favorite is a chocolate layer cake with a fig-based filling). Our second summer, I had enough figs to give away to friends…which to me, is the best part of having a garden.
The deer like to sit in the grass under the tree when it’s hot in the summer. They also like to feed on the leaves of the lower branches. Ms. Figgy is a generous sort, and it doesn’t seem to hurt the tree if I share her with our hungry friends. We keep them out of most of our yard with strategic fencing, so I feel better about giving them something to eat.
Am I learning patience and the ability to adapt? I think so. I hope so. At any rate, the fig tree is a beautiful, power teacher.