by Morgan Heinemann

White apple flower on a branch
Apple tree flower

I have lived in the same house my entire life. Twenty full years behind a 270 acre apple farm. Fishkill Farms has provided my local community with a slew of opportunities and family-friendly activities. Personally, this farm has given me the privilege of watching the beautiful life cycle of apple trees from my backyard. I am a witness to each stage of their life cycle. Watching the growth of these trees has been a consistent memory that occurred throughout my childhood and even in my young adult life.

The emergence of Spring means the budding of flowers. The slow warming of the weather allows for the flowers inside the buds to grow. The sweet smell of these flowers attracts bees for their pollinating capabilities. Their pollen helps the flowers grow into potential apples. The bees are unaware that they are providing a new beginning for these apple trees. You can’t help but feel hopeful for what is about to come after this stage of their life cycle.

Summer means being surrounded by the presence of apple blossoms. As the buds grow, I can watch the colors of the flowers change. Initially a soft pink and then the flower is consumed by a strong white coloring. The familiar look of the apples we eat begins to take place. The excitement for future apple picking endeavors and the opportunity for family time is ever-present.

The wait is finally over, Fall brings in full-blown apple trees just waiting to be picked and cherished. I head out to my backyard where I can hear the laughter and cheer from families apple picking in the near distance. Families from all over travel to this farm for the sweet and yummy apples it provides. The anticipation of this time of year is finally over; the trees have reached their fullest potential. Personally, apple picking has provided my family and I with a collection of memories that are heartwarming and genuine. Through these memories, apple trees have brought not only my family closer together but other families as well.

Just like that Winter blows in, for the last step of the apple tree life cycle. The trees can finally rest. They develop a protective layer of fuzz to protect them from the harsh weather that they are about to endure. As the weather gets colder, it feels like everything begins to slow down. I use this time to reflect on all the different stages that I have gone through during the year.

And then the cycle repeats itself.

Morgan is a 20 year old SUNY Cortland student. Her major is Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Environmental Studies.

Photo credit: Apple tree flower by Jonas Bergsten from Wikimedia commons.

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by Christina J

A cluster of 4 mango fruits growing on on a tree
Mango fruits on a tree

Most of my memories as a kid consist of me being around my dad. My dad pretty much sleeps, eats, and breathes plants. He would always tell me stories of how as a kid in Haiti he would watch his father grow many plants and crops. My grandfather was known for his many gardens and he would allow my dad to help him take care of the plants.

As my dad got older, he kept the passion for plants going. He loves spending time outside in the backyard. When people ask me how many siblings I have, I always say about 1 million or maybe more. The way my father would care for his plants, I most definitely believe they were not just plants, but his children that he loves dearly.

I remember my first-time watering some of my dad’s plants. He had just had surgery and could not quite move around as much, so I volunteered to take on this responsibility. Laying in the bed and hearing the eagerness in my voice, he smiled so wide. “Do you even know how to take care of plants?” he asked. With my hands on both hips, I responded, “of course I do”. With his eyes closed and shoulders shrugged, he said “well, everything you need is out in the shed”.

A smile on my face, I rushed to the shed to grab everything I needed. I dragged the hose to the area I wanted to start watering.

The backyard was filled with many types of plants, flowers, and trees. My favorite was the mango tree of course, and second to that was the aloe vera plant. My father would always cut the aloes in half to give to my mom. She would scrape all the slimy parts into a bowl and massage it into my scalp to make my hair grow nice and healthy because it was rich with nutrients. My dad really loved the bush bean plants. He found it soothing to pull each bean out and he would even have a huge bowl filled with beans all from a single bush.

I opened up the water hose and gently passed it back and forth over the plants. I remembered my dad saying to never overwater the plants. “You need to have a good eye for the amount of water you need”, he would say, “not too much and not too little”. I kept watering till I reached the other side of the backyard. “Not too much, and not too little”, until I was satisfied with the way all the plants looked.

Dragging the hose back by the shed, I washed my hands to go back to my father’s room, but I saw him sitting on the porch instead. “Dad you are supposed to be in bed!”. He smiled down at me. “I know, I did not want to miss seeing this”. The joy in his eyes, and confidence in my new skill, I couldn’t wait till he was all better so we could do this together.

Christina is from Florida.

Photo credit: Mango tree (Mangifera indica) from Wikimedia commons

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by Gabriela Gallo

Large mango tree with aloe plants at the bottom, next to a chain-link fence. In a backyard in Florida.
The Mango of Gabriella's Eye

Summer air, rocking chair, and mango sweetness in the air. As a child born and raised in Cuba, mango slices on a summer day while sitting on my rocking chair watching tv are some of the most vivid memories I have of my early life. Mango slices, compote, or juice, no matter its form, I love it.

Upon arrival in the United States, it was not the same to find the mango that I loved, with all of the different varieties in the supermarkets. Then, at eight years old we moved to a house in Westchester, Florida, my current home, and where the mango of my eye resides. In the back of the home are two of my most beloved trees, mango and avocado. Not because they are my own, but because both the mangoes and avocados that are grown in my home are like no other. Since moving to this house, my summers take me back to my younger days, sucking on a mango pit as the juice runs down my hand.

My mango tree is outstretched over my home and my neighbors, offering them sweetness in their own backyards. Surrounded by aloe plants, she gives life not only to her fruits, but to the succulents at her feet as well. My perfect mango is delicately sweet, has no inner fibers, and is the size of my outstretched hand. The mangoes grown in my backyard are like no other, they bring sweetness and my childhood to life, one mango at a time.

Gabriela is 21 years old and lives in Miami, Florida. She is a full time student majoring in Biology.

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