Sunday, June 29, 2014

More Berries

The raspberries continue to produce well, so far I've frozen 2 gallons of them and eaten almost that many fresh. I remembered to walk down and check the wild blackberries the other day, and was rewarded with the first ripe berries. Although not quite as prolific as they were in Oregon, the wild blackberries seem to grow most everywhere here. It is a problem with cultivated raspberries as "they" recommend you keep them far apart to prevent cross pollination and I try to be ruthless about mowing them down within the yard itself. The wild area behind the house heading down to the bottom of the holler is another story. They are everywhere down there, encroaching on the path and stretching out to grab you as you walk along. If I though raspberries were well-armed, then these blackberries are the ruthless kings of self defense.

The branches sport thorns that are razor sharp, carefully angled to cling and tear flesh and cloth, both when reaching into the brambles and when trying to retract your hand/arm from the tangled mess. Even the underside of the leaves have an arsenal of thorns making picking the fruit hazardous at best. You think you can just reach out and gingerly pick them from the stem? Not so fast... the 6-10 foot long canes arching over your head react to this assault by whipping around and securely stabbing into the offending intruder as soon as a berry is plucked. Combine that with the steep angle of the hillside they're growing on and it's a major chore to try and harvest most of them. I'm hoping to be able to pick and freeze a good number of the ones growing right along the path, as long as I don't collapse from blood loss.

This little chipping sparrow chided me the whole time I was carefully picking the blackberries. When I moved from one spot to another it would flit 5 or 6 feet ahead and continue to scold me.

The apricot tree and the two cherry trees bloomed this spring, then the blossoms promptly froze in a cold snap so no fruit this year.  That's not so bad as they are young trees planted just 2 years ago, but now tent caterpillars have moved in at the top of the apricot tree. I have no way to reach them to destroy the nest, so I'm just hoping the damage isn't too great.

The poor peach tree isn't faring much better. Last year was the first year it produced, so there were not a lot of peaches and they succumbed to brown rot. This year there is more fruit. But if you look closely, you can see the bad ones.
Brown rot is a fungus which can live in the soil for a very long time. The tiniest bit of damage to the peach allows the fungus a foothold to grow. It takes mere hours for the entire peach to become covered with nasty brown fuzzy spores and to rot. I pick off the bad ones on a daily basis, and with luck I may get enough fruit to make a small cobbler like I did last year. I could spray a fungicide at blossom time and again just before they ripen, but I'm seriously considering cutting the tree down and planting a variety that has more resistance than this one does.

At least the little blueberry bush is doing well. I ate the first 6 blueberries a couple days ago, and there may be a gallon or so ripening if the birds don't get them first.

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