Monday, June 29, 2009

Save Some Cherries for Me!

Frost nailed the blossoms on our sweet cherry tree this Spring, so no black cherries for us this year. We have a standard-size self-pollinating one. It's 25 years old, and I think it's called a Garden Bing Cherry. The aphids go really go for this tree though, at least until they die off in the summer heat. I've looked occasionally at other sweet cherry trees, but any Bings I've seen are either extra-dwarf or need a pollinator. I might have to try a Sweetheart Cherry - they're supposed to be a really late bloomer and self-fruitful as well. Anyone have any experience with them - especially in zone 5-6?

I also have a Montmorency pie cherry tree, and this year's crop is looking pretty good. They're just starting to color up - it'll be time to start picking in a few more days. So I needed to get the bird-scare tape out there. If you get the tape on the tree too early, the birds get used to it; too late and they'll clean-pick the tree just before the cherries get ripe (notice in the bottom photo: the earliest-ripening cherries, in the top of the tree getting the most sun, are already almost gone). Scare tape is a flexible shiny 1" wide tape; some red on one side and silver on the other, this particular roll is silver with holographic angles that flash different colors in the sun (beware: 8-year old neighbor girls find it fascinating - they'll be asking to steal the tape right off your tree).

I headed out to the tree with the tape and some scissors. The birds have started on the upper-most cherries - only bare pits left clinging to the branches. But I find it a bit odd that the ground underneath the tree is also littered with pits - birds don't usually drop the pits. Cutting long strips to flap and flash in the sun, I tie one end (with a loose overhand knot - I reuse the tape all summer, moving the pieces to other trees as their fruit ripens) to outside branches all around the tree. Then I duck under the branches, adding a few more strips hanging down the inside. I step back to see if there are any glaring tape-free sections. And am a bit startled to notice a ground squirrel, high up, clinging to a thin top branch, holding perfectly still. I've been out there at least 20 minutes - I can't believe he's been swaying over my head all this time.

He was still holding so still - not even blinking. I got a stick and reached up to tap him to make sure he was still alive. That was enough to scare him down out of there and off into the brush. I don't mind sharing my harvest - the birds will get the cherries above where the scare tape is, and there should be enough this year to put out the "free u-pick" sign for the neighbors too. But I've found that once ground squirrels (not cute fluffy-tailed tree squirrels - these are more like rats with scruffy tails) get a taste of something, they won't share with me. So I put the little plastic owl in the lowest crotch of the tree, hung a few mirrors on the bigger branches, and got out the box trap - time for greedy squirrels to go bye-bye (and since yesterday, I've "relocated" three to over by the creek away from any other houses - plenty of cover, natural food and water). Oh boy, cherry time! Dried (my favorite!), pie, flavored vinegar, and maybe even enough to try making some hard cherry cider?


Anonymous said...

I wish wish wish I had that sight over here in CT.... no cherries here yet, but I'm on the lookout. I love dried cherries too - they never seem to last in my home though :-)

Anonymous said...

dried cherries are da bomb! Here is to hoping a community member will let me pick some off their unused trees!