Thursday, June 29, 2017


We have an apricot tree.  A petite little apricot tree (given my tendencies toward tree carnage), but it makes lots of delicious Blenheim apricots every year.

Sadly, the squirrels (AKA Voracious Verminous Rats of the Day -- VVRDs) usually get most of the fruit before it is even fully ripe.  Their favored evil strategy is to pick an almost-ripe apricot, take one bite of the ripest part, and then shred the remaining fruit and throw it on the grass below before moving on to the next apricot.  While I don't mind sharing, they don't share.  They just destroy.

Last year, I picked what fruit remained a little early, before all of it could be shredded, and ended up with 31 pounds.

Somehow, in my head, this was not enough.  I've tried bird netting in the past, to no avail, as the VVRDs would chew right through it.  This year I opted to escalate, as I saw bunches of orchards full of fruit trees covered in white bags on a road trip earlier in the year.  Apparently what amounts to be white tyvek bags with zippers are used for both frost and pest protection for fruit trees.  They let air and light and moisture in -- and can be had cheaply off of Amazon.  Naturally I had to try one out.

I didn't want to get a bag that was too small for the tree, so maybe overcompensated with one that was a bit too big.  Not really a problem, except while I was trying to get it on the tree by myself in the wind, while avoiding the power and phone line into the house.  Some trimming of the tree was involved...

Once installed, it reminded me of a giant tent caterpillar next -- except it whoofled around in the wind a lot.  I used a big binder clip to tighten some of it up so one could walk around the corner of the hose without being flailed by the excess fabric.

For a while, it looked pretty successful.  The beginning of June came, and there were no shredded green fruits on the grass.  Yay!

Of course a week later, the VVRDs had figured out how to untie the drawstring at the bottom and had started their usual tricks.  I retied it and taped it down to the trunk thoroughly with clear packing tape.

That lasted another week.

By then, some of the fruit was starting to ripen, which motivated one brave nasty little beastie to launch onto the scary white bag from the neighbors' tree and chew its way in through the top of the bag near the ripest fruit.   Its friends then followed.

Well, at least it slowed them down a little.

Yesterday, after assessing that they had probably ruined 1/3 to 1/2 of the fruit, I decided to pick the remainder even though I had wanted to leave it to ripen on the tree longer.  They already got their share.

I started out by trying to pick with the bag unzipped but still on the tree (it was nice and shady and cooler underneath it), but quickly realized the sticky misfortune of trying to do anything inside a large bag covered with squirrel-shredded apricot detritus.  I could just imagine the monsters making little spitballs out of fruit and shooting them in all directions to cover the entire interior surface.

Now covered in sticky slime, I removed the bag and picked the rest of the fruit.  There were a number of apricots that were half-eaten, but still hanging on the tree, which are disconcerting to grab when all you can see is the good side.  Eeew!

I got lots of fruit, though :)

This heap is estimated at 70lb -- more than twice as much as last year.  Which was too much...  Wait -- what was I thinking???

I blanched and pureed the first 25 pounds that was soft or damaged enough that it needed to be dealt with right away yesterday; some of that is currently drying into fruit leather so that I have enough containers to deal with the onslaught of apricot processing that is still coming.  Fortunately, the oven's "Cook and Warm" setting is low enough that it can act as a dehydrator; I figure I'll let the remaining fruit keep ripening on the counter and just process the ones that are soft every day for some number of days to come...

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