When my daughter was in the second grade, she wrote and illustrated a little book for me for Mother’s Day. In the book, she answered such questions as what is Mom’s favorite color? And what is Mom’s favorite food? She listed my favorite color as purple, and my favorite food as apples.
It’s true. I love apples. If I had to pick only one food in the world to survive on, I think it would have to be apples.
So, you can imagine my joy when two years ago, for Mother’s Day, my husband bought me two young apple trees. We planted them. They blossomed. The bees did their pollinating thing. Six of the blossoms swelled into baby apples. Pretty exciting stuff. The baby apples grew bigger. The trees flourished.
That is, they tried to flourish.
We live in the countryside in a forested area. We have deer. Interview any deer, ask them their favorite food, and I’ll bet money they’d mention apples near the top of the list, too.
So much for my first apple crop. And so much for my fledgling trees. The deer mowed off the tips, broke branches and ate the leaves as fast as they could sprout. Not just once, but time after time.
Alpacas to the rescue!
We brought home our first alpacas that fall. As much as deer love apples, that’s how much they detest alpacas. Alpacas have a few things in common with deer – they sway toward the timid side of the gregarious scale. And they also adore apples, acorns and brush. But, apparently to deer, alpacas smell strange, look strange and act strange.
Shortly after we brought the alpacas home to join our menagerie, my husband watched a deer jump the fence into their field. That doe took one look at the curious, long-necked alpacas, launched right back over the fence, and booked off down the road.
In the past two years, my apple trees have once again flourished. The deer damage was so great that we got no apples last year, but this year we got our first crop.
A crop of one.
That single apple was highly prized. I tied a net bag around it when it was still just a tiny pup. My sons and I checked on its progress daily.
It was a September harvest at the Cahill orchard. We picked that apple, carried it carefully into the house. Washed it. Polished it. Quartered, cored and sliced it. And then we partook of the crisp, sweet flesh.
Hands down, it was the best apple we have ever tasted.