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Three cherry trees, a hernia surgery plus one slightly deranged guy eschewing painkiller

I cannot tell a lie.

I chopped down a cherry tree two days after my second hernia surgery.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I used a chain saw.

The debut of Cherries on the Farm — the u-pick cherry orchard Ron and Susan Dell’Osso are rolling out this weekend — triggered more than a few memories.

The home we bought nearly 30 years ago had a backyard jammed with fruit trees.

The biggest were three cherry trees. Two soared upwards of 25 feet or more. The third was about 15 feet.

The previous owner was into making cherry wine.

If you venture out to Dell’Osso Farms this Saturday or Sunday — next weekend might be too late if the cherry trees are picked clean by those seeking Bing, Tulare, Coral, or Brooks — you will notice that the trees are planted fairly close together.

They have also been aggressively trimmed out of the chute to grow a certain way.

This was not the case of the cherry trees in our backyard.

As a result, it was rare that we could ever pick cherries in the upper reaches of the trees.

This meant every bird in a 20-mile radius in search of a cherry fix would find their way to our backyard for a good six weeks or so.

This meant besides the inevitable rotting cherries that eventually dropped to the ground  we’d have a liberal splattering of accent colors courtesy of magpies, blue jays, sparrows, and robins.

The cherry trees had cast an impressive canopy of shade. They also made it difficult for more than a few blades of grass to grow beneath the two larger trees.

It also made an impressive mess.

There are two things to keep in mind. Given I don’t drink, there was no way in heck I was ever going to learn to make cherry wine.

Also, while I loved cherries and can inhale them with the best of them there was no way we were ever going to consume all of the cherries that were within reach from the ground or on a ladder.

So, we started picking them to give away.

How many cherries did we pick?

One year when we were using the large brown paper grocery bags that have gone the way of 65 cents a gallon gasoline, we filled up almost four dozen bags.

While some of the bags made their way to seniors to be divided up courtesy of the late Pat O’Leary who also took a significant amount of grapefruit off our hands from two grapefruit trees to avoid filling green Toters with them, most were “repackaged” in small plastic bags.

That’s because most people were into just eating them as they were and not trying to make cherry jam or cherry pies.

We still would give people some large bags so they could distribute them to others as O’Leary said. We did the same for lemons as well as most of the oranges from three trees.

Once we sent a bag home with our granddaughter Ashley.

A few days later when her mother was asked how they enjoyed the cherries, she replied “what cherries.”

After learning  we had sent the cherries home with Ashley, her mother laughed. She now knew why Ashley had spent the better part of a day going in and out of the bathroom. She had taken the bag to her bedroom and kept the cherries for herself.

While I was enthralled with the cherry trees and their shade, not everyone in the household was. So, the decision was made that I would be taking out the cherry trees so at least part of the backyard would have grass and more sun.

This came after I took out a fig tree, almond tree, and an olive tree and allowed grass to reclaim another area of our yard.

Yes, we had a large lot which is how I was able to squeeze 163 roses over the years amid as many — if not more — shrubs and other plantings. I honestly don’t remember if I had too much time on my hands or if I preferred not to sleep.

The yard was a lot of work. Between tree trimmings, rose clippings, cutting the lawn, and weeding it was normal for us to fill between three and five green 96-gallon Toters every two weeks.

To say there were more than a few nurseries and garden departments in Manteca, Stockton, Ripon, Riverbank, and Modesto where the staff knew us on a first name basis would not be an exaggeration.

At any rate, the decision was made. The cherry trees had to go.

The two hernias came first. Although I was likely predisposed to them, the triggering event was my removal of two blue spruce trees — root balls and all — from our front yard. I needed them gone to clear a space for the formal rose garden where I eventual planted 60 of the 163 rose bushes we ended up having in the yard.

It sounds crazy but every tree I’ve removed I’ve even taken out the stump after the tree has been cut down as well as most of the roots.

And except for some heavy trimming of two Modesto ash trees that were laden with mistletoe, I cut them all of — including the root balls — and stuffed them into the green Toters.

Looking back, I was either certifiable or anal.

Dr. Jerry Weiner made it clean after my first hernia surgery I should not anything strenuous for 30 days. A week later I was mowing the lawn.

It was at that point I chucked the Vicodin because it was clear it was masking the pain too well.

So, the second time around a year later, I wanted to refuse to take Vicodin. They said I had to take them in the recovery room and after that it was up to me.

Two days later I stopped taking the Vicodin. The third day I was crazy in pain. It was mentioned again to me in passing hat I had promised to take out the cherry trees.

So that afternoon I got the chain saw out and cut down the biggest of the three.

Rest assured I did more than surprise people given they thought it was the craziest thing I’d ever done. Believe me it wasn’t by far.

The tree, which fortunately fell as I intended, covered a good portion of the backyard for a week. After that I started the task of using a chain saw, ax, crowbar, sledge hammer and loopers to get it into pieces small enough to get into the Toters.

The second and third trees followed in the coming months.

Take my advice.

The easiest way to get freshly pocked cherries — that have a taste that is 10 times sweeter or tarter based on the type than what you can get even at a roadside fruit stand —  is to go to a u-pick orchard instead of planting your own cherry trees.


  This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at