cash? no thanks I'll take the fruit
A swim at the lake after school was a good call. The day had been busy and the heat relentless. I walked straight into the water, clothes and all. I figured being covered in wet clothes would be quite comfortable for what lay ahead. We headed to the orchard with empty baskets in the back of the jeep, anticipation of the bounty hanging from the trees. The sun was still hot, the air dry. As we pulled into the drive I looked over to the trees, fruit everywhere. This would be a rather productive evening.
About eight years ago I was down on my luck. I'd been out of work a while, actually I'd been made redundant as a result of unfortunate workplace politics. In a way it was a good thing, hindsight's a wonderful thing. Three months I sat idle. I struggled on many levels, the usual stuff. Not working was something I wasn't used to. I loved to work and this time off was the pits. More so because of the way in which I'd wound up unemployed. But thats another story, one of which I'm happy to leave hidden away never to be thought of again. The upside of the story is that this bloke called Pete took a chance on me and gave me a job, even after I was late for the interview. He was my boss for many years, more importantly he was also my confidant, my friend and at times my spiritual sounding board. The man's deeply religious, an admirable quality in a man, that is they live by way of their beliefs. I don't mind JC's story, in fact I think it's probably one of the best messages out there. The simplistic and sensible message of love one another as you would liked to be loved, wow, what sense.
Pete, however, is a man true to his beliefs and is a wonderful human. A rarity. A one off. So when he asked for some labour help with laying a concrete slab for a new garden shed, there was zero hesitation. The slab was laid a few weeks ago now, it's dry and a permanent mark of our work, but more importantly a stable floor for Pete's new garden shed, that we are yet to erect.
Late last year, just before we parted ways as work colleagues, I'd suggested to Pete that I'd have a bit more time on my hands and offered my services for odd jobs and such. In lieu of cash payment the concept was that I preferred to be paid in fruit, as I sadly lack an orchard as impressive as his. When I say impressive, I mean this place is a paradise. It's been a labour of love for Pete, who seems to be constantly adding to it. Each summer I've walked those tunnels under the fruit trees, that have often bulged under the weight of rare variety fruits. No supermarket regulars will you spot here, variety is the name of the game. And not just for the sake of it, no. The range of varieties allows Pete and his family to enjoy the long season of fruit as different varieties will ripen at varying times, spring to summer and into autumn. Pete tells me he's even discovered an apple that takes so long to ripen that he had still had fruit still on the tree in early spring. Amazing!
For me, as a renter again I miss not having my own fruit trees. In fact it's been years since I've had a productive bunch of trees of my own. One day if I'm lucky enough to be able to buy a few acres I'll plant the majority of it in food bearing trees, shrubs, climbers and creepers leaving only an acre or two for livestock. Why? Well it's practical. I don't have to kill anything with food plants and there is minimal cost in feeding them. But for now, when Pete needs me around I'm happy to work for fruit.