« If we don’t make any money on them again this year, I’ll burn the whole lot down » said my husband darkly.
I looked at him, surprised by the outburst, but not by the proclamation. In the roller coaster world of farming, his views on our apple orchard changed on a regular basis, depending on what we made or didn’t make on the sale of the crop. Over the last few years, he had respectively decided to plant more apple trees because that’s where the future lay; dig them all up, because apples were worthless; cover the whole lot with netting to shield future crops from hail; cover nothing at all because there was no point in throwing good money after bad.
This was the first time that he had talked about burning them though, and I could appreciate his frustration. Last October, French apples on the whole had sold reasonably well for the first time in years. Not ours however. A serious error of misjudgement from our intermediary meant that by the time we had paid off the costs of picking and packing our beautiful Golden Delicious, we pocketed the perfectly round figure of ‘zero’.
The problem now, as I understood it, boiled down to the weather. The continuous storms and rain meant that the trees ran the risk of becoming a hotbed of bugs and diseases, deforming the young, ping-pong ball sized apples. Added to this, was the omnipresent threat of hail that could destroy a year’s work in a few minutes. Part of the orchard was covered with protective netting, but a large part was still open to the elements.
He gazed out of the window for a long time, all traces of anger finally receding from his eyes. There was nothing he could do about the weather; and even though his livelihood depended on it, he accepted the follies of Mother Nature with quiet resignation.
He was a farmer after all.