Due to that dry winter we had, I was disappointed with the peach crop we got this year. Last year was just a hard year to follow. I had so many last year, I resorted to juicing them when I ran out of space in the freezer. The pint containers stack real nice and take up less space. The juice turned out to be a real windfall, I used it for my morning smoothies for a couple of months before it ran out.
Many of the peaches I have on my counter are still green, but I’ve had to be aggressive in stripping the trees because of an extra big family of blue jays this year.
I used to hate jays and gray squirrels, but I’ve found, they are impossible to get rid of without resorting to really ugly means. Sure, gray squirrels completely strip a mature walnut and an almond we have, but try to stop them. A friend of ours mounted a bb gun campaign in an effort to get more out of his walnut trees, but after he’d killed some 97 squirrels, he realized, they just keep coming. Blue jays are the same – as soon as you get rid of your resident mob, a new bunch will move right in. I’ve learned to live with them. They’re actually gregarious, even friendly if you are kind to them, and there’s measures we take to prevent them from robbing us blind.
The Christmas tinsel we put in the trees actually seemed to help. Whereas I used to wake up in the morning to the screeching and squawking of a jay party in my orchard, I notice they are not so bold anymore. We also hung netting – my husband buys this in big rolls at Home Depot. We use it not only to keep birds out, but we wrap it around our tomatoes and vining plants for support. It really seems to discourage the jays, they didn’t get as many of the nice big ones as they’ve got in the past.
As for the squirrels, I just caught one in the apple tree this morning, I will have to get on the stick and get out there more often. That’s really the trick – you have to spend more time in your orchard as the fruit gets ripe. My grandparents were smart – they planted their fruit trees right alongside the house, just outside my grandma’s kitchen window. She always had a stick handy, whether to shoo the birds out of the trees or whip some errant child. And, every day, she’d be out there, several times, pinching for ripe peaches and loading her apron full. As soon as they would come off the tree easily, she’d take them in and line them up along the window sills. She ate them whole, a lot. She cut them up and put them in a pretty dish for every meal, and she ladled them onto our plates. My grandfather ate sliced peaches and tomatoes off the same plate, covering everything on his plate, from bread to meat to vegetables and fruit, with a generous sprinkling of sugar. And, at least once a week, Gram would put up canned peaches. The pantry walls would be lined with them. They would go to all the relatives and close friends. At least half a dozen would end up on the prize table at Grange bingo night. And, we’d eat them all winter until we couldn’t stand the sight of them.
You have to check them regularly to see which ones are getting ripe. And then, you got to use them or lose them folks. My son eats the yellow ones off the tree, and my husband eats the white ones for a morning tonic. I use at least one every morning in a smoothie, and I freeze a couple of big bags a day. I wash them, trim the bad spots, cut them in half to get the pit out, and lay them in freezer bags in layers. As I finish a layer I spray it with lemon juice I got from my lemons last Winter. That keeps the color nice, and it helps to keep them from sticking together. When I want them later, the skin will come off almost in one piece. They are good for baking, or you can eat them kind of frozen if you like. As they thaw, they get kind of brown and mushy, so use them fast in a smoothie, cut up on cereal, or make a cobbler. My older son likes to put them in the blender frozen with some milk or cream, even just a little fruit juice – fruit sorbet.
Fruit trees and gardening are not for looks. They are a lifestyle.