Monday, June 4, 2018

The Stuggling Orchard



Sorry I haven’t reported back in so long, but it’s been a really rough spring for my mini-orchard. 

First there was the treacherous weather.  A delightfully mild and wet winter encouraged a lot of growth, but it was followed by an early and devastatingly hot and dry spring.  I’ve had to water all the trees and the grapevines every other day, if not more – and remember that water is expensive here in Arizona.  Our single biggest expenditure of water has been for irrigating the plants.  It doesn’t help that the irrigation system that Bill put in sprang a serious leak and became useless, so I have to water by hand – which wastes a lot of water.

Even so, all the trees suffered, and some of them – and one of the grapevines – died.  The Bears Lime died back almost to the roots, then put up a new sprout – but unfortunately that sprout came from below the graft, which means that it’s going to be a Sour Orange tree.  Oh well, Sour Oranges make great marmalade, from what I’ve heard.  The Pawnee Pecan died well and truly, and the last fig tree seems to be dying to the roots.  If it can’t regenerate, I’m just going to give up on figs and replace it with a new Bearss Lime.  The almond and apricot trees suffered severely, but seem to be making a comeback.  The tangerine is surviving well, but looks squat and dwarfish.  On the other hand, the Moringa tree is growing tall and spindly, putting more effort into growing new seed-pods than leaves.  The Papershell Pecan is surviving, but won’t put out any fruit unless it cross-pollinates with another breed of pecan, so I’m going to have to replace that Pawnee.  The problem is that I can’t replace any trees until after what looks like it’s going to be a brutally hot summer.  *Sigh*

When I do replace them, I’m going to make another stab at planting an American Chestnut and a Macadamia as well as the Pawnee Pecan and the Bearss Lime.  I’m not sure I want to replace the dead Flamme Seedless grapevine, since the Thompson Seedless is doing so well that it’s spread across the top of the front porch trellis and is happily moving in on the section of trellis where the Flamme used to be.  I’m of two minds about it, especially now that the Thompson has begun fruiting.  We didn’t get that fruit ourselves, since the bird-netting we put all over the whole plant didn’t succeed in keeping out the bugs.  I’m just going to have to cut that netting all away and replace it with small netting-bags to wrap over each bunch of fruit as it shows up.  That, and spray like hell with Neem Oil and Pyrethrin.

Other problem: this is the worst year for house-flies that I’ve ever seen here in the valley.  They’ve been coming in through the cat-door, apparently taking advantage of the cats going in and out.  The house is strewn with fly-paper streamers, and Rasty swears that he’s getting more exercise “going on fly-safari” with a fly-swatter than he gets from his Gazelle Walk-Master.  I have no idea why there’s such an overpopulation of flies;  these are house-flies, not horse-flies, so the presence of horses around the corner at the end of the block wouldn’t account for it.  Also, some of the horses have been sold, so their number is fewer.  I can’t figure it out.    

On the other hand, the pomegranates are thriving.  All but the smallest/youngest are putting out fruit already.  Their only problem is that I didn’t get to prune them last winter, so there’s a helluva-lotta scraggly growth.  There’s also the problem of the runaway Bermuda Grass, which of course has gotten the benefit of all that hand-watering.  It’s put out runners six and seven feet long, some of which have climbed up into the pomegranate trees, and trimming it out is going to be a royal mess.  *Sigh* again.

 So why didn’t I get the pruning and mowing done during the winter?  Well, the simple answer is thievery.  Four hired handymen in a row have ripped off both me and Sharan next door.  They’ve stolen power-tools, hand-tools, building materials, tires, wheel-rims, and even a whole septic tank while we were out shopping and Sharan was out at work.  Sharan took the legal route and reported all of them to the cops, besides getting restraining orders on all of them.  I took a more practical road, doing some shooting practice in my yard with homemade targets, and letting all the neighbors see it, so as to spread the word around.  The four handymen have quietly vanished from the neighborhood, and it’s anyone’s guess whose tactics – probably both – were more effective, but the damage was already done.  Among other things, one of them did such an incredibly bad job or repairs on Sharan’s house that she would have fallen through the floor if she’d ventured up onto the second floor.  When our pal Larry visited and looked at the damage, he commented that it looked like a deliberate booby-trap.  Sharan’s had to come out of retirement and go back to work for the county in order to make enough money to repair the mess those so-called handymen left.  Rasty and I managed to replace the stolen hand-tools, but the power-tools are going to cost a bit more.  We’re hoping to have enough cash to get the new mower/weed-whacker this week, but replacing the power-saw is going to take a good bit longer. 

I’m sorry to have to say it, but all of those thieves were Mexican – and of very questionable immigration status.  Though they did make good effort to conceal it, they constantly dropped unconscious clues to their general sexism, racism, ethnocentricity, and self-pitying, self-righteous arrogance;  characteristics too common to all of them to be just individual oddities, but had to be cultural.  Bear in mind that “Mexican” is not a race but a nationality and a culture;  genetically, all Latinos are a mixture of White and Indian, and so are a lot of perfectly good Americans – including me.  It’s that culture that’s the problem, as many an honest historian has noted – though you can’t say even that in public in these days of rampant Political Correctitude.  As I grumbled to Sharan, I never disliked Mexicans until I met some.  Her response was: “I resemble that remark.”

Anyway, I’ve been looking up local licensed general contractors in town, and getting bids on what it will take to fix up our house – after which I’ll refer them to Sharan.  We’re both applying for a USDA grant for a couple thousand bucks to get our houses repaired.  There may or may not be other USDA grants that would cover yard-work for my orchard, on the grounds(!) that I’m trying to preserve rare and endangered species of fruit-plants, but I haven’t been able to find out much about that yet. 

Meanwhile, we’ll get the mower/weed-whacker this week and go after the Bermuda Grass (and the plethora of weeds hiding among them).  By the time we can save up enough to replace the reciprocal power-saw, it just may be late enough in the year to do the pruning.  Ah, well. 

So, all my pals who’ve seen my Go Fund Me site (the one named Rare and Endangered Orchard), I’ll be eternally grateful for any help you can chip in.  Any fans who already have albums and books of mine, let me know what you’ve got already;  for donations of $50 or $100 I’ll send you an album or book, and I’ll want to give you something you don’t already have.

Best wishes to all of you, and Happy Summer Solstice.

--Leslie <;)))><      

2 comments:

Joel C. Salomon said...

“I’m going to make another stab at planting an American Chestnut”

One of the blight-resistant Asian cross-breeds, or are you far enough from other chestnuts to chance a pure American?

Leslie Fish said...

There is a resistant strain of pure American Chestnut that I'd like to try. To the best of my knowledge, the Chestnut Blight never came to Arizona, so it's worth a shot. Hmmm, I can't find out; are American Chestnuts self-pollinating, or will I have to get two for it to fruit?