Hocus, Pocus, Magriculture!

Hocus, Pocus, Magriculture!

Artist Sam Van Aken is making magic with agriculture (magriculture?), creating a tree that blooms in various colors and then produces over 40 different fruits.  No, Van Aken is not trying to play God, though he was inspired by the Catholic rite of the priest transforming the wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ.

Sam had been performing “hoaxes” on the radio, hijacking commercial stations with his own versions of ads and songs.  Researching the etymology of the word “hoax,” he was led to the transubstantion of the Eurcharist in the Catholic church, as “hoax” is derived from “hocus pocus,” which is in turn from the Latin “hoc est enim corpus miem,” meaning “this is my body,” the phrase the priest uses to bring the mystery of the body of Christ into the present, physical space for the people of the church.

As an artist, Sam was intrigued. How could he alter the appearance of a thing while the reality of it remained the same?  Combining his childhood, growing up on the family farm, with his work as an artist, he began to build a fruit tree.  To graft together the more than forty stone fruits, he approaches local farmers and growers for their fruit, adding an element of the political surrounding the diversity of food production to his growing statement on art and commerce.

But, Sam told Epicurious in the interview, “first and foremost I see the tree as an artwork. Like the hoaxes I was doing, I want the tree to interrupt and transform the everyday. When the tree unexpectedly blossoms in different colors, or you see these different types of fruit hanging from its branches, it not only changes the way you look at it, but it changes the way you perceive [things] in general.”

You may not get the chance to graft together a fruit tree to blow your mind and neighbors’ preconceived notions about life.  So how can you see the daily or mundane in a new light?  Oftentimes all it takes is a shift in perspective.  Growing your own fruit tree, caring for it, nurturing it, watching it finally blossom and produce delicious fruit can be a way to see your world through new eyes.

If you want to plant a peach tree, put it on your calendar for this spring!

  • Peach trees grow best in full sun, in sandy soil, in USDA Zones 5 to 8. If you live in colder regions, check with your local nursery about varieties that will do best in your neck of the woods.
  • Choose a young tree to transplant, approximately one year old. If possible, plant the same day that you adopt your tree.
  • According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, if you have a container-grown tree, remove the plant from its pot, lay the root ball on its side, and cut away any circling roots. For grafted trees, plant the inside of the curve of the graft union away from the sun.
  • Dig a hole a few inches bigger and deeper than the reach of the root ball. Make a small pile of dirt to set your tree on in the hole, and gently spread the roots away from the trunk.
  • If you’re planting more than one tree, give regular sized peach trees 15 to 20 feet of space; if you’re growing dwarf trees, place them 12 – 15 feet apart.

I admit, I take compliments ALL the time for remembering birthdays, anniversaries, and first dates and I don’t give Google calendar ANY credit.  But it’s the only way I remember to do anything. Mail my rent? Check. Eat lunch? Check check. Fertilize my peach tree three years after planting?  Definitely need to set an e-mail reminder for that.  It’s like a free personal, electronic assistant. To take the best care of your peaches, add these dates from the time you plant your peach tree:

  • 6 weeks after planting, fertilize your peach tree with one pound of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Year 2, use 3/4 pound of nitrogen fertilizer once in the spring and once in the early summer. Year 3, add approximately one pound of nitrogen to your tree(s) in the spring. (The Old Farmer’s Almanac)
  • Pruning your peaches is critical. Check out these videos on YouTube for a how-to from Dr. Mike Parker, Tree Fruit Extension Specialist with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at North Carolina State University: click here to learn about pruning your two-year-old tree, and here what to do with your three-year-old.

How do you see the magic in your daily surroundings?  Tell us in the comments or over on Twitter @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm.

(Photo Credit: Epicurious.com)

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