Remembering Fred
Tuesday June 23rd 2009, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I just put a container of plum sauce in my fridge.  My next-door neighbor knocked on our door earlier today with a large bowl full of plums from her tree. It was aging, she told me, and not producing as many as it used to, but she knew I loved to make jam from it and there was more than they could use.

When we bought this house, Fred had been the gardener here and for her for many years and we were asked if we might keep him on. We couldn’t afford a single extra thing, I told the sellers honestly–but what I didn’t say was, even if we could and did, then it would feel to me like it was more his yard than mine at a time I was trying to adjust my brain to feeling that this really was our place now and that the house we’d built in New Hampshire was not anymore.  Moving is hard enough.

Fred had really gotten into the art of grafting at one point in his life when a client had asked him to help them move part of their favorite fruit tree to one at their new home.  It worked! Cool!  From there, he grafted a few other things–and from what I understand, he didn’t always ask first.  Since he also worked for our next-door neighbors and they had a plum tree, the ornamental plum in our yard could use a little spiffing up.  After all: he needed to trim the one over there, and the elderly Japanese couple living here didn’t need a whole tree’s worth of fruit to worry about, so, hey!  The solution!

I don’t think they knew it was coming.  But that is how the ornamental plum with deep burgundy leaves in what later became our back yard had one large green branch off to the side that was loaded with fruit. Just enough.

I have to tell you, it was one really odd-looking tree.

It’s even odder looking now, the trunk distorted and lumpy; the producing branch, which lasted while our kids were little, died off quite awhile ago.

So my kids planted me my own plum tree for Mother’s Day last year, as I’ve mentioned, and I absolutely love it.

But having A. knock on the door with plums from her tree, the one Fred had lifted a branch from for our house so very many years ago, brought back many pleasant memories of a gentle soul.  I did get to know him over time by his working at her house for our first ten or so years here, while his health held. He loved his work and friends and kept at it into old age.

There’s the memory of the time I waved hi at him when I saw him trimming our olive from across the fence–it had gotten pretty overgrown at top and had gone from being carefully bonsai’d to looking like the branches had mohawks, and it bugged him.  I was grateful; he, though, was embarrassed at being caught and scrambled quickly back down the ladder on the other side, while I was going, no, thank you!  He was a sweetie.

I do miss him.  Maybe someday I’ll learn how to graft in a different variety plum onto my Santa Rosa to extend its season in his honor.  Or an apricot.  Jester trees are the way to go.

10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’d never heard the term “Jester tree” before. Brilliant! Think of the Jester Jammin’ possibilities.

Fred certainly found a way to keep on giving years into the future.

Comment by LynnM 06.23.09 @ 11:47 pm

I confess to doing a Fred on the term: I created it as I went about my work. And yes, he did, and I’m so glad. My kids got to have me holding them high so they could pick a plum for themselves, and it was a very happy thing.

Comment by AlisonH 06.23.09 @ 11:55 pm

Ah, a different kind of plum(bing! This one is so much more satisfactory!


There once was a man from Japan
Whose limericks just wouldn’t scan.
When he was asked why,
He said, though I try,
I always try to cram as many syllables into the last line as I possibly can.

A man and his lady-love, Min,
Skated out where the ice was quite thin.
Had a quarrel, no doubt,
For I hear they fell out.
What a blessing they didn’t fall in!

Comment by Don Meyer 06.24.09 @ 4:04 am

In honor of the College Wold Series (go LSU!) I’ll observe that in the middle of the LSU campus is a large, beautiful dogwood tree. It’s half white blossoms, half pink blossoms. Did Fred travel much? 🙂

Comment by Barbara-Kay 06.24.09 @ 5:38 am

Plums and cherries are my favorites, what about mixing those two up? Is it not wonderful, how simple good, done by one person lives on and warms the hearts of so many people, including us, your distant readers.

Comment by Henya 06.24.09 @ 6:26 am

Grafting is an art. Fred sounds like the sort of man who makes this world a better place just walking through it – or pruning through it, as the case was…

Comment by Channon 06.24.09 @ 7:05 am

You are so fortunate to have fruit trees in your yard and to be making your own jam so that you know exactly what the ingredients are is a bonus! Enjoy. Fred sounds like a sweetie. I’m with you…like to do it myself so it feels like it’s mine.

Comment by Joansie 06.24.09 @ 7:22 am

Jester trees. I love it.

Comment by Linda W 06.24.09 @ 8:15 am

Well, bless Fred’s heart, sounds like he did just want everything so so.

In no time at all you’ll be making sauce from your own tree. 😉

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 06.24.09 @ 9:54 am

I wouldn’t put it past ya, I’m sure you’ll master grafting if you try it. 😉 Such a nice story. I come from a family owned greenhouse business.

Comment by Alicia 06.30.09 @ 12:04 pm

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>