Friday, June 8, 2012

Hiding the Apricots from Mr. Squirrel

'Cots not quite ripe but warm from the sun against my hands.

The little Blenheim apricot tree my mother planted a few years before she died--I don't know exactly when, but perhaps five years ago now?--has finally produced its first real crop of 'cots. The rain didn't fall at blossom time--and that helped. I added some compost--and that helped. What else went right? I don't know. But as I've said before, it is always better to be lucky than smart.

I probably have enough beautiful apricots to fill a good-sized lug this year, if I can keep those nasty squirrels from poaching all of them. Last year, of about a dozen 'cots--I was able to save only one.

The little Blenheim is now about seven feet tall.

The manager of the local orchard for a certain famous foundation told me I should just get myself a .22 rifle. Taking out the squirrels that way doesn't bother me at all. I have a good recipe for squirrel pie! But I'm afraid my neighbors might have me arrested. This is Northern California.

My father used to catch the squirrels in a live trap and relocate them to the Sears parking lot across El Camino Real. He then learned it was illegal to "relocate" "wildlife." He threw his hands up in despair.

Last year, a lady at the garden store told me, re my pumpkins, that squirrels and rats aren't very smart and if you can hide the pumpkins with frost cloth the rodents won't know they are there and thus won't eat them. It worked on the pumpkins so, this year, I'm trying it on the apricots. 

Hard to find frost cloth bags big enough to cover a whole tree. So I bought three of the biggest size I could find and started to work.

Bag number one covered a few branches ...

Bag number two covered a set of lower branches.

I guess the sun still gets through the fabric so the 'cots can ripen. Honestly, this is just a nutty experiment. But if it works, I'm going to have my reward:

There is nothing like a warm, sweet, ripe, peachy apricot, fresh off the tree ...

My 'cots--how sweet that sounds to me! My 'cots won't be ripe for another two weeks or so. My friend Kathy says they are always ripe just in time for the 4th of July: I've been away from California long enough to have to be reminded of that.

The other old trees having died off--this tree is now my only apricot tree. I bless my mother for the optimism involved in planting this one when she was already late into her eighties. 

It is serving as a kind of lucky charm for me--since I'm just about to start writing a book about the history of the apricot business in the Santa Clara Valley. Now, I can work and wait for the little tree's fruit to ripen.

And that is why the poor thing can be seen wearing a sort of tree hairnet. Not a glamorous look. But if it works, it might save the fruit of my own little apricot tree--the one my mother left behind for my sister and me--in its first big year.

It was either this or training on a .22 caliber.

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