I've been psyching myself up for pruning the apple tree for months now. I read about pruning in books and on the interweb, and bought myself the most highly rated pair of pruning shears. Everyone said not to skimp on tools, and that it's important to get a quality pair of pruners. I bit the bullet and spent nearly fifty dollars on some Felco's, and even paid an extra fourteen dollars for the nifty holster so I wouldn't lose my expensive tool.
Last Saturday was the big day. During a break in the house renovation where I wasn't being very productive, I grabbed my new pruning shears, clipped them on my hip in their lovely leather holster, and approached the tree. It took about two seconds for me to realize that pruning shears are not the right tool for a job this size. I didn't want to surrender, so I scrounged around until I found a rusty bow saw (why does Brandon keep this in his truck?), some loppers that appear to have blue plastic melted on the blade, and a cordless saw with a half charged battery. Who needs quality tools anyway, right?
I was really hoping for a dramatic before and after photo so I could brag about my hard work and get lots of compliments from Brandon. Unfortunately, the after photo looks only slightly different to the casual glance, and since I had to explain to Brandon what was different, I don't think I got the transformation I was hoping for. I didn't use a ladder, so all of my pruning was done within lopper reach. I focused on sawing off some half-dead branches and opening up the center of the tree to improve airflow. I can't remember the last time I sawed with a hand tool. Maybe never. I'm amazed that I can remove limbs from a tree with my muscles, but even more amazed to find out that if my feet are cold in damp boots, all I have to do is saw a two inch branch and suddenly everything is too hot, including my feet! I was glad to get a work out, but found myself easily satisfied, and I left some branches that I would have removed if only I had more stamina. After all, I didn't want to be greedy, so I left some fun for next year.
I cut off all the low water sprouts, and cut down the three inch thick wild vine that was growing up the tree. Some of the folks I read talked about how pruning really puts you touch with your tree, and how it's a time of communication with a tree. Eh, maybe... I did apologize to the tree several times when I made accidental nicks in the bark, so maybe we did do a bit of bonding after all.
I read that it's not good to remove more than a third of the tree at a time, and after cutting a few big branches I got nervous that I was taking too much (and my right arm was like jelly), so I piled up my cuttings near the edge of the woods, and called it done for the year. I really hope I didn't kill the apple tree!