Today I ate three small, round, plump persimmons. They were of an orange hue, tasting somewhat sweet, a little juicy. Fleshy. I didn’t know much about persimmons until recently. Probably I ate one or two somewhere along the line but when and where and why I cannot say. These persimmons were from a stately tree with silver-green leaves that stands out now in the north end of the cattle pasture at a place I call Farm, a plot of sixty acres of mixed pasture, scrub, and hardwood forest in eastern Miller County, Missouri.
This past winter I set out to begin relieving this land of the burden, of the scourge of eastern redcedar infestation. These cedar trees, which aren’t actually cedars at all but a type of juniper that grows as a tree, grow at a quickened pace. With speed and numbers on their side, a gang of cedars will take over just about any landscape, encircling older and taller trees, choking them out, robbing them of water and other resources.
I have seen some of the best trees at Farm destroyed by cedars. I am fighting back. Case in point this fifty-foot persimmon, which had been duking it out with a cluster of four stout, rusty-green cedars swarming its base. In January, with the help of a couple of friends, I took a chainsaw to the cedars, slicing their trunks from the ground. But the tops of the cedars had grown so intertwined with the lower branches of the persimmon that I still had to cut their twisted upper limbs with a handsaw, climbing the cedars themselves to undo the tangled knot they had forged with the persimmon.
At the time, I wasn’t even certain that the tree I was rescuing was indeed a persimmon. Persimmon trees have very distinct block-like bark, the bark nodules making square or rectangular shapes that have relief, protruding out an inch or so from the trunk. Then this spring the persimmon was very late to leaf out. I feared it might already be dead, my effort having come too late.
The onset of tick season in late spring meant I had to keep my distance from the tree. As the summer wore on, the pasture grew high and weedy. But I could see from afar that the tree was still alive, its leaves rippling with pleasure in the pasture breeze.
I did not until this past Sunday go out to check, to see if the rescued tree was indeed a persimmon. And it was, and it is. I am tall enough to be able to pick the fruits straight from the tree, these fruits being yellow-green, tight, not yet ripe. But there were persimmons also on the ground, ripe ones. I picked some of them up, and I ate them, and I saved the seeds. The unripe persimmons I brought back home with me, and some have ripened, and some have yet to do so.
*Author’s note. I wrote this essay in 2020. It was published online earlier this year by the journal Temenos, which for better or for worse you can read by clicking on this link, maybe. I have one other piece published there as well.