Ack! By my count, I have got eleven more days before winter's official debut. That's eleven days to finish this project. Although I haven't posted anything for it in a bit, and although the days are becoming decidedly wintery, I haven't forgotten about it when I've been out and about and away from Flickr. So I'll dig through the last few weeks of photos for some of my favorites from late fall.
This here is an osage orange tree. Its fruits are called osage oranges or hedge apples (or a whole slew of other things: horse apple, mock orange, or, and this is my personal favorite, monkey balls) and they appear in late summer. They were originally planted very close together as living fences or hedges on farms in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma, before the invention of barbed wire. The wood is very strong, the branches are thorned, and the trees were aggressively pruned to promote dense growth. I read somewhere that the fences made with these trees were meant to be "horse high, bull strong, and hog tight." I love that!
The fruits aren't really edible by us humans, but are said to have roach- and spider-repelling properties. The first osage oranges I ever saw were at the Union Square farmers market in New York City, and I brought one back and tucked it away in a corner of my Queens kitchen during a roach episode ... and I don't have much conclusive to say about that experiment. The fruits are wacky and wonderful to look at, though!
This particular tree sits along the south pond that I drove past every day on my way to feed the chickens and collect eggs. In autumn the grapefruit-sized fruits start plopping to the ground, looking bizarre and beautiful, and making a very satisfying woody splat! when you drive over them.
I took this photo, of a few hangers-onners, just a few weeks ago. They look pretty surreal up there in the skeleton tree.
I love this ode to them, a poem by Nancy Fitz-Gerald Viens. I hope she won't mind my posting it here.
Tail end of a ragtag summer,
Horse apple time in Texas
When heat lifts its heavy hand
Briefly from my shoulder, and
The sun sinks like a golden balloon
Behind Longhorn Meadow.
Green globes of luminescent Day-Glo
Big as Texas grapefruit
Lie in the Bermuda grass,
Hefty enough for small boys
To chunk at tree trunks or a passing car
With a satisfying "thunk."
Lumpy, ludicrous fruit
You broadcast the possibility
Of autumn once again,
The possibility of cool nights
Under a down comforter,
The possibility of a giant twist
In the atmosphere, a hurricane
To stir up dregs of my lethargic soul
Worn down by one hundred degree heat--
The great, gigantic, final possibility
Copyright © 1997 by Nancy Fitz-Gerald Viens. All rights reserved.