the apple tree and our “friends”

Last fall I spread a lot of compost underneath the apple tree, in hopes of harvesting a lot of apples this year.  I had plans to prune the apple tree back in February; there are a lot of shoots on the top of the tree.  My thought was to get the tree shaped nicely so it might be easy to spread some netting over the tree and protect the apples from the birds that have stripped it the last several years.

However, February came and went, without me finding time for the pruning.  As warm as our late winter was, the tree burst into bloom in early March. The compost seemed to do the trick, lots of blooms and I saw continuous pollination going on with our bees and other insects. By May the tree was covered with apples.

Unfortunately it is now mid June to early July. The week that we spent at the farm, we noticed that not only birds seemed to like the apples. We saw a squirrel that the daughter has nicknamed “Sammy the Squirrel” climb up the tree, chew through the stem of the apple, climb down and pick the apple up in its mouth and haul it back to its nest. It seemed like it was all the squirrel could do to lug the apple off, it was almost as big as the squirrel!

Having watched this routine at breakfast one morning, we got into a discussion about why it was the first summer we had the house, we were able to get an ample apple harvest. I pointed out that the previous owners had a big dog that was usually chained in the backyard somewhere in the vicinity of the apple tree. He probably did a good job of keeping deer (which we have seen come up and nibble off the lower apples), the squirrels and the birds away.

Now before I relate where the discussion went next, I have to explain a bit of family culture. For many years, the Wife has had a mantra of no other living creatures joining the family. Every time the kids start begging for a pet (which usually coincides with one of their friends getting a pet), the Wife is steadfast in her rule.

Now, to be honest, I can easily support the rule, it seems like we have more than enough complexity with the three “animals” we already have in the house. We travel as a family pretty frequently and it would just be difficult to keep up with a pet. And I am also sure that no matter how much the kids claim that they will look after the pet, a lot of animal care will come back on the adults.

This rule applies to the Raleigh house and the farm. It is one of the main reasons that we have not given any serious thought to chickens, turkeys, cows, horses, ponies, dogs, cats etc at the farm. The farm has the additional complexity that no one is there full time to look after the animals.

Now in spite of all this engrained beliefs, I was amazed that as we watched the squirrel cart off the apple, the wife just blurted out that maybe we should get a dog for the farm. This was really surprising because the daughter, who has been the main champion for a pet, was sitting right next to the Wife. Of course the daughter didn’t miss a beat, I think she was almost out the door, on the way to a pet store to get a dog, before the Wife finished her statement.

It was really interesting to watch the Wife back peddle and explain that we would consider a dog when and if we live at the farm full time. Needless to say we don’t have a dog, yet.

As I visited the farm this week, I noticed not only Sammy, but the birds were going after the apples in full force. I saw several birds hanging from their own apple, pecking away at it! At this point I would bet most of the apples are almost gone. I seem to recall it was last year this time that the apples had disappeared and I had been able to solve the mystery of where they had gone.

Note to self, prune the tree next winter and spend some time on a netting solution.  I made apple butter from the apples the first year and it was absolutely delicious. I added no sugar or spices and it was very flavorful.  I really would like to make some more in the future, it is so good on potato pancakes in the winter!

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