Dear Editor:

Sometime in the 90s I tried to start an apple tree from a seed ... since you do not know what kind of apple will come, this appealed to my sense of mystery and the unknown. It did not take much to entertain me.

Nothing happened. I put the dirt back in the potting soil sack. The next year I used the soil to start tomatoes and four apple seedlings came up also. I babied them along for a year inside and then planted them outside. They all grew ... but the apples were crab apples and only the one I planted outside the kitchen window tasted good, just a little tart.

The trees grew, rabbits and deer tried to kill them ... they hung on. I marveled at the white blossoms outside my kitchen window every spring. Michael moved in and started trimming that tree. He strung up Xmas lights, we decorated it with left over ornaments. 

One year ... a bad apple year ... none of the apples fell off. A robin came early that winter ... in February ... and lived off the apples. It was below zero. We cheered him on every day. I expected to see his little feet sticking straight up from a pile of snow ... but ... he survived.

Now we shovel the snow around the bird feeder that is close to the kitchen apple tree. I make suet. We spread seeds on the ground, thistle seeds and black sunflower seeds are in two feeders. I saw six cardinals in that wild apple tree at dusk today. Last week, we saw a Northern Shrike swoop in and carry off a vole.

On any given day during the year we watch the song birds come, the finch turn color, the fledglings learn, the woodpeckers work; the orioles sit in the apple tree with flashes of indigo bunting and grosbeaks.

Hours of wonder … we can amaze friends and family with the cost of a little birdseed. But it is the tree the birds turn to for protection and a place to wait their turn. They chat and preen and fluff up to twice their size to keep warm.

The tree ... very little investment, incredible returns.

Nancy Eldridge