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Drawing in green pencil or crayon of the leaves of a growing tree
Illustration by Fred Munch

Hello out there. My name is Annie. I’m a baby apple tree growing in prison. 

I was born on May 26, 2021, in a prison where I live with my father, Fred, who is serving a long sentence. While inside my mother’s core, I began to swell and sprout, then I pushed out a tiny pale root. I had germinated. 

Young tree with green leaves
Illustration by Fred Munch (Click to enlarge)

I was cooped up in that dark core for eight months. Finally, I felt some movement and heard a loud crunching sound nearby. My mom was being eaten and some big sharp teeth came very close to me. Thankfully, they stopped a second before ending my brief existence. (My dad is in the habit of eating the seeds because someone told him they can prevent cancer.) 

When some fingers picked me up very gently, I realized that they belonged to my dad who was bringing me into the world. With the utmost care he planted me in some moist soil that he had collected from gopher mounds on the exercise yard. 

Looking around, I found myself sharing a planter with an onion. Turned out, we had a lot in common. We were the same color, and had both sprouted while sitting on my dad’s food shelf. 

It made me feel welcome, happy and safe to be living with a nice neighbor and to have a father who had been a farmer. He knows everything there is to know about plant-parenting. Whenever I’m thirsty, he gives me a drink of water. When the bothersome weeds keep trying to grow around me, he pulls them up. 

In a mere two weeks, I was 2 inches tall. I wanted to make my dad proud, so once he helped me shed my outer husk, a set of leaves emerged. He got excited when he saw them because I was becoming a little tree. I would need a planter of my own before long. 

My new roots were very thin and fragile. If they were damaged, it might cause me to wilt and die. Knowing this, he carefully transplanted me into a new home, which was a small empty milk carton he’d saved from his lunch. It’s not permanent because he’ll have to move me again when I get bigger. For now, I’m comfortable sitting on the windowsill where the sunlight will help me to grow and stay healthy. 

My father said he had a friend for me; he would be coming to stay with us in the near future. Sure enough, another tiny apple tree appeared a few days later. He had his own milk carton to live in, but was shorter than me and had fewer, smaller leaves. Dad named him Albert and said he was a “preemie” because he was less developed at birth and may never catch up with me in size. 

Some folks might think my dad is an oddball for trying to grow apple trees from seed while living in a prison cell. I know he worries about me. Growing up this way, without enough sun or soil, is not good for a baby tree. 

There is much uncertainty about whether I will ever be a real tree living a normal life in the ground with a thick trunk and stout branches covered with leaves and fruit. But we have each other, which, for now, sustains us both.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Fred Munch is a writer for The Mule Creek Post, a newspaper published out of Mule Creek State Prison in California, where he is incarcerated. Munch attended the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, from 1967 to 1970.