Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Apple a Day

I have four apple trees on my place.  I can't tell you how much I have learned about life over the years while pruning my apple trees.  Part of the life lessons were inspired by the movie Baby Boom. I made as much applesauce as we could eat.  Have you seen the movie?  It's a good one to watch while you are In The Trenches.  Diane Keaton is a corporate mogul who inherits a baby and boy does her life change when she moves from her high paying job to a big very old home in New England.  If you are out of ideas and enthusiasm it is a must see.

I could probably write a series just on apples.  Just thinking about them I think of Johnny Appleseed, canning, pies, pruning, pregnancy cravings, my favorite varieties, and they are the one thing I was allowed to throw from the car window when I was a kid.  That was before we had the word bio-degradable but the idea was to plant a tree along the highway.

Excerpt from In The Trenches - Financial Survival During Times of Hardship:

The fruit of our labor

Every year I prune the apple trees. Fruit bearing branches are trimmed back. Branches too close together are taken out. Each and every twig and branch is looked at and trimmed in one way or another once a decision is made. If I let it go for a year the work is so much harder because the branches that need to be trimmed are much bigger around. Usually because of time constraints and energy levels I can’t trim them all at once. I just do a little at a time, step back and look at it, then go at it again a couple days later. The whole process usually lasts a month. Most of the time I am actually up in the tree stepping out on the branches and working my way out as far as I can until the branch feels shakier than I feel comfortable with. I really feel like a monkey while I’m doing it. The rest of the time I am on a ladder. Often on the top step on tiptoe. I am very careful and have never fallen but each year I know that it is a possibility.

So what does that have to do with finances? Everything.

Over the next few months you will be looking at every expenditure, every check written, to see what can be and needs to be trimmed back. If this has not been done in a long time it will take a bigger effort and you may have to call on some professional to help. Before you take action you need to study to do it correctly so that in the spring the tree will come back full and produce plentiful fruit. If you trim back too radically it will take longer to bear fruit, if you don’t trim enough the tree will be weak and the fruit measly. Pruning is really art coupled with function.

Over the years I have seen many things happen to trees at the hands of those who are taking care of them. Pruned back so far they die. Trimmed lopsided. Not trimmed enough and the branches will break off. Bad pruning year after year will kill the tree or at least stop the fruit.

The other similarity is that whether you are reckless or use extreme caution there is always the possibility that you may fall. There is no way around that possibility. Knowing that comes that strange almost paralyzing fear occasionally. Fear is such a strange thing. It can come upon you almost without warning and change your whole body chemistry. It grips you and you feel powerless to overcome it.

In times of financial concern this can and will happen. There is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders and you might have many that you love that are depending on you to make it right even if they are still in diapers and don’t know how to express it. They are counting on you. And you’re not feeling like you can even count on yourself. And you certainly can’t count on the employer who just told you that you are no longer needed, or the spouse who walked out the door, or the illness or injury that caught you unawares. Oh yeah, I know that feeling. And you will too at some point in time. The only thing that I can tell you is don’t look down.

Let’s go on with our example of the apple tree.

A tree can die from disease. If the tree is your finances we will equate that to any financial activity that can ultimately destroy your finances. These must be treated. Drugs, alcoholism, chronic compulsive spending, and any hobby that becomes excessive. These are just examples. You will have to look at your own situation to find yours. If you are married your spouse may have been telling you about it for years, you just haven’t been listening. Maybe now would be the time to quietly admit they were right.

Roots not deep enough. It always amazes me to see huge trees that have been blow over by the wind because they did not have enough roots. With our finances that would be not having reserve. It is recommended by financial people that we keep 6 months to a years worth of bill money in the bank. If you’ve been living payday to payday for whatever reason then your tree has no roots.

Lack of water. A tree can put out numerous buds to make fruit but if the tree doesn’t get enough water the fruit will be pitifully small. We will liken this to maintenance and finishing projects. We get so busy and try to spread ourselves so thin that often the things that we have start suffering from lack of maintenance or projects get half done or even almost done and just set aside.

Rest. Many people don’t know that a fruit-producing tree needs rest. Every seven years they are to sit and rest to go through their annual cycle without interference. Finances are the same way. Investments often just have to sit to produce.

Old age. Even a tree can die of old age. Certain careers become obsolete. The moneymaking opportunities of past generations can dry up and be useless. Sports personalities are well aware of this but we must be also. Technology and lifestyles change. What was hot today may be passé tomorrow. We need to look at what we are doing and how we are doing it in relation to the trends to make sure that we will be able to make a living tomorrow.

Why all this talk about trees? Study them and you will see the balance needed for fruit production. The storms will come just like they do in our own lives. If we will spend our time and energy to take care of our financial tree it will make it through the storms.


Everyday Tips said...

These are some really great analogies.

I envy your mini apple orchard. I bet you have a great time with it, even though it is a lot of work.

Very insightful post.

Carol said...

Thank you. There is so much to gain by watching the little things around us everyday.

Jackie said...

Nice analogies, and good points about taking care of our finances.

Carol said...

Thanks for visiting Jackie!