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The cross-country science project fail

Submitted by on Friday, 20 August 2010 No Comment

Boots wanted to grow apples – “nice, fresh apples, but for the people, not the deer,” he explained, eyeing the trail of half-eaten fruit the previous night’s marauders had scattered across his pawpaw’s yard.

Never mind that Pawpaw has 24 acres and more fruit trees than he can ever harvest. Never mind that as long as Mawmaw and Pawpaw remember to turn on the electric fence, the deer can’t raid the crop.

Boots had it in his head that he had to grow an apple tree for the people.

The idea captured my fancy, too. It would be my little boy’s permanent mark on the place where I’d grown up, something he could look forward to seeing every year. It would be his long-distance project with his grandparents, who could photograph its progress and share it with their grandson 3,000 miles away.

Sadly, it is not to be. I guess I was standing close enough that the bad karma from the Black Widow of Horticulture polluted his precious crop.

Well, that and the fact that we did it all wrong. Sheesh, and all these years I thought my folks knew what they were doing when it came to gardening.

We’d used the same method Pawpaw had used years ago, after I’d delivered a big crop of pecans that an extension agent had given me. “Don’t try to plant them, though,” he warned. “It won’t work.”

For years after that, Pawpaw thought he had the last laugh. The tree grew and grew and grew, its lush canopy pushing higher every year. If his goal had been shade, it would have been a roaring success. Since he was hoping for a pecan crop, it was a failure. Sixteen years later, the tree has yet to yield a single nut.

Did anyone learn from that? Noooooooooo. Instead we saved Boots’ apple seeds just like Pawpaw had accumulated seeds from prize tomatoes over the year, spreading them on waxed paper to let them dry. A few weeks later, I showed Boots how to plant them.

I tried to get out of it. “Please, Mom, you do it. I kill plants.”

She actually laughed at me. But that was then. A month later, it wasn’t so funny.

“I keep watering these things but nothing is happening. Nothing.”

I thought maybe the apples had been genetically modified to prevent farmers from using the seeds. I googled a bit, though, and found out that it’s nothing nearly so evil.

It turns out that germinating apple seeds takes a long, long, loooooong time. Like, months.  And it takes cool temperatures, which pretty much rules out a home in a pot sitting on a steamy patio in West Virginia.

“Huh,” Mom said. “This is never going to work, then. I might as well throw it out.”

Sadly, I had to concur. We cannot agree, however, on how to break the news to Boots.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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