My love for figs is well known. My love for a particular fig tree is not so well known. I found this fig tree along the Sacramento River many years ago. Since then, a wrought iron fence was put up which while not meant to do so, protected the fig from neighbors along the levee. Consequently, the only way to get to the fruit without climbing the fence is to walk about a mile and or so from the nearest parking spot. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the levee and on this particular section there is loose gravel on the unpaved path which dissuades most bicyclists from riding there. Since this tree is on my running route I watch it as it changes through its seasons; Bare, leafed, budding fruit and laden with a black fig crop.
Over the years, I learned the best way to brave the slick grasses that cover the slope of the levee in order to get down to the tree. I learned to balance the need for the fruit to ripen on the tree versus the risk of having varmints eat it. I learned to carry bags so that I could take as much home as possible for a feast of caramelized figs, prosciutto, and goat cheese.
I do in fact have a weird attachment to trees in general and fruit trees in particular. I think that all those years of my dad tending to hundreds of acres of fruit trees rubbed off.
My mother in law cared for a giant old fig tree and made sure I ate my fill when I visited during the summer. When they moved to another house I mourned the loss of that tree’s fruit. Then I learned that eventually, the new owner removed the tree entirely. I was so sad.
My parents now have a fig in their yard in Bakersfield. My mom and dad baby that tree including covering it with a bird-proof net so that they can harvest figs all summer long. My dad picks a dozen or more every day and my mom keeps count. Last summer it totaled something ridiculous like 800 figs or so. I ate my share of those figs too.
So this tree in Sacramento was my friend. Even the dog learned how to get down there, sit on the stump of a felled redwood to the left of the tree and wait while I jumped, and huffed, and swore, and planned for which figs to take, and which to let ripen a bit more.
As you can see, the tree was very big, well shaped, and low to the ground. This is how a fig tree should look. It makes it possible for a larger crop since a fig grows from the stem of each leaf (almost) and an easier harvest.
The other day as I walked my running route, I noticed that many of the pines, oaks and smaller scrub oaks had been trimmed by either the City of Sacramento or the agency that manages the levee. I don’t know the name of the entity.
As I got closer to the where the fig is I couldn’t find it. I literally couldn’t find it. THen I saw the redwood stump that serves as a park bench for the dog and realized that I was looking at my fig tree. You can imagine my heartache when I noticed that a pruning crew had butchered it. I gasped aloud and started to cry.
It’s been two weeks since I saw this and even now am having a hard time writing about it. Just like most losses, my sadness is turning to anger. This tree will not produce fruit except for a couple of high branches.
Before you say something about how this is a public tree that needed upkeep please know that they in effect butchered all of the oaks and pines in the same fashion. This fig tree was healthy and not in danger of falling. I’m not sure why anyone would do this.
I’m so sad. Thanks, Figgy…