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When Nature Attacks: Episode 8 (at least)

Less than an hour ago, our mandarin orange tree attacked me with my own pruning shears, leaving a good sized red welt on my face (about an inch under my right eye).

You may be thinking it must have been my fault, but that isn’t the case. That tree has always had issues. And the facts are fairly indisputable, as follows: I had finally picked all of the fruit on the outside of the tree over the last two months and had finally ventured into the interior to (1) harvest the ones closer to the trunk and also (2) try and get the ones on some high branches by pulling those branches down enough (without breaking them) to snip the little stems that hold the oranges to the tree.

We almost always snip rather than just pulling the orange off the tree. Why? If we pull it, it leaves a little orange cap of orange peel behind, attached to the branch. And then there’s a missing piece of peel on the top of the mandarin orange. If instead we just snip the orange from the tree, the tree looks better and the orange looks better. It’s a labor of love. Plus, if the little cap is missing, I feel like we need to eat the orange right away, so it’s better if the perimeter hasn’t been breached, right?

Anyway, this tree has an attitude akin to a split personality.  She lavishes us with fruit – hundreds of yummy oranges every season, all within easy reach. She wants us to pick those. They are her beneficence.

But there are hundreds more in the interior of the tree, and that’s where she starts to get wonky. She does not want us to pick those, and makes that clear in dozens of ways. For one thing, it’s dark in the interior and the climate is different from the sunny outside. There are thousands of thick leaves and branches hiding the interior fruit, making it a virtual jungle. Meanwhile, parties of ants literally party in the interior, so once you venture into that world, you can expect to be coated with ants within seconds. They aren’t just eating the oranges – I think they’re fermenting them, because honestly, they are hepped up on something. And trust me, they bite.

The bottom line: that tree doesn’t want us there. I get that. And frankly, if it were possible, I’d just let her keep the interior oranges. But all gardening experts agree that if you allow the fruit to rot and mold in place, those spores (or something like that) will fester and infect next year’s crop.  You have to get those out of there before they drop to the ground, lest the spores  go into hiding, waiting for the next season. If that happens, even the happy, sunny exterior fruit will be damaged.

I don’t expect the tree to understand this science, since it’s fairly sophisticated, but sheesh.

Anyway, back to the facts. I’m left-handed, but since I was using my left hand to pull down one of the long interior branches, I had the wide-open pruning shears in my right, ready to snip the eight or nine oranges on that branch that were still above my head. Without warning, the branch snapped back, knocking the shears from my hand, and since I was looking up, the shears fell on my face.


Paul finds it disturbing that the sharp implement landed so close to my eye, but I think the tree knew what she was doing. She tried to warn us, right? Ants, darkness, cold, dense foliage, suffocating weather – she probably hopes this will do it and we’ll be content from now on to eat the yummy, sweet, juicy exterior gifts she gives us every year.

I can see her point, can’t you?


p.s. I’m seriously regretting the fact that I bought this tube of Neosporin at the Dollar Store, but it was such a great deal and I didn’t think I’d ever need it. Now it’s the thin line between me and spores – ugh. Maybe that’s the real lesson from all of this. Oh, and in case you missed Episodes 1-7, there was a banana slug incident, a rabid squirrel, an avocado, and a labyrinthine cave in Oregon, just to name a few. This is why I usually give Nature a wide berth. Sure, she’s beautiful, but she’s also kind of a Borg queen, right?



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