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The Cycle of Life and a New Year: Figgy Survives!

Ink and watercolor illustration of bare fig tree
Figgy Lives to Fruit Again, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

Poor Figgy! I knew when I planted her (him? if it fruits is it female? do trees have genders?) from a little twig that it might be too close to my old clay pipe sewer line. And it was: the roots grew down and my drains clogged up.

Baby Fig's First Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5x8"; a watercolor sketch of a figs
Baby Fig’s First Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

I have documented this little tree’s life since I first planted it as a cutting (see planting a stick, 3 leaves, and skinny trunks) and for the first time it had produced several delicious figs (sketched above). There were still a few on the tree (can you find them in the sketch below?).

Fig Tree: Tall as My Pocket, Ink & watercolor, 8x5", drawing of fig tree
Fig Tree: Tall as My Pocket, Ink & watercolor, 8×5″

After several approaches to fix the clog failed, the plumber had to dig a huge, deep hole to reline the pipes. This required moving the tree, which it turns out, I’d planted RIGHT ON TOP of the sewer line where it met the street.

Digging out the tree, ink & watercolor sketch
Digging out the tree, ink & watercolor sketch

The plumber is a good man who loves trees.While I watched and sketched, he had his crew very carefully dig the tree out, gently arrange and trim the extensive roots (it’s true: trees have as much below the ground as above). Then they dug another big hole several feet away and replanted Figgy.

Critical Condition, ink & watercolor, dying fig tree drawing
Critical Condition (both me and Figgy).
I never seem to have enough information when working with contractors and often make wrong decisions. I cropped off and spared you from most of my journal scribbling on that subject.

By then it was getting dark, I was getting panicky as I’d been without water and bathroom use all day, and the job was extensive and expensive. They set up lights and kept working, finishing around 9:00 that night.

A few days later I could see Figgy was in critical condition. The leaves were dead and the branches were shriveling. That called for emergency surgery; I cut off most of them and as you can see by the sketch at the top of the post, it was successful.

So Figgy is a stick again, but full of potential, just as the year ends and a new one begins. I will spend this evening reflecting on 2012 and 2013 and will post about that soon. Meanwhile, best wishes to all for blossoming in a lively and good new year !

11 replies on “The Cycle of Life and a New Year: Figgy Survives!”

Well done for saving your little tree. We have two small fig trees in our garden but no fruit yet, think they need to grow a bit bigger. I heard somewhere that the fruit stays on for 2 years before you can eat it. Really like your drawings of your trees journey. Happy New Year.


Thanks! I planted the tree in March 2011 and it had fruit in September of 2012 so it was about about a year and a half. It was delicious and would have been wasted to just leave it on the tree. Besides, squirrels started stealing the fruit so even if I left it there, they wouldn’t have. Happy New Year to you too. Jana


This is exactly why I love your work, simplicity and honesty, no fear of failor, just fun and love for drawing and painting. This is the closest thing I now from the art world to the history making process. Well done, and all the best I can think of for you in 2013.



Reiro, That’s one of the nicest and most meaningful to me comments I’ve ever received! Thank you so much. It also made me laugh since I often have fear of failure but I try to remind myself it’s just paper, it’s just a sketch, so just go for it and have fun. That usually works. And sometimes when I fail I just do it again, better. I often will return to a scene and getting to know it better or looking at it differently can really help.

And I just looked at your blog…I’ll leave a comment there…and your work is wonderful, just as fun, honest and direct as you say mine is. I love your dinosaurs! Thanks again for your wonderful comments! Jana


Thanks Jana,

Funny, the failure thing 🙂 I think that as we grow older we lose the ingenuity that makes children be so light on the pencil and so creative. For my 6 years old son there’s no need to a tree to be always green, he’s right :-). We lose that, permanently, and then we start thinking in the viewer, not in ourselves as artists 🙂
I just started posting my Blog that I started because of yours, to be honest 🙂 I will try to update it as much as I can, especially with the painting stuff 🙂
All de best



I am so glad that your tree was saved!! What a treasured time you have had in bringng Figgy to fruit the first time around and now to do it again. Many might have given it up. God’s dear blessings to you, Jana, and to yours in the New Year of 2013.


I certainly hope Figgy makes it. I think you did the right thing in trimming it, now it has less work to try to support what is above ground, especially now when it is getting ready to go dormant. It does not have enough cues from the weather to know it’s time to sleep for the winter. A tree can be male, a tree can be female, or a tree can be both at the same time. Fig trees have a pollinating relationship with wasps.
You might take the trimmings from Figgy and start new fig trees.
Good luck.


Yay!!! 🍀🍀 We have had freezing nights in Fairfield. I got my big glorious blooming jade in after one bad night and it is trying to make it inside. Find fallen leaves each Morning. Gave it quite a haircut and took all the blossoms off so it could focus on surviving. Gave it vitamin B-12 from the nursery. It’s trying. Glad figgy made it! Love your blog. Linda

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