The Birds 25, Birds 10, Cats 2

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I was going to name this post the "June Explosion," but seeing that we're nearly halfway into July now, well, I'm just a little late. Venus and I have just finished off the last of a very delicious harvest of June Pride peaches, and the score in the title is fairly close to describing who got what.

The Birds (Venus and I) got about 25 very delicious June Pride peaches. The neighborhood birds pecked ten of them right down to the peach pit, and for those unfortunate birds who flew to the ground to take advantage of the peaches they pecked clean off the tree -- our cat Precious just cleaned up.

Poor birds.

That tree to your immediate left provided the good stuff. This is the June Pride peach tree, which I purchased last February from Silverado Nursery. They, in turn, received the tree from the Dave Wilson Nursery near Modesto, which has been putting delicious fruit trees in California backyards since 1938.

In short, they kinda know what they're doing.

I've shared my love for backyard fruit trees on this blog in the past. I grew up in a Modesto neighborhood built for returning World War II veterans. By the time I was growing up in the 1970's, these 25-to-30 year old peach trees were massive in size and producing buckets of fruit. You could sit there all day and eat your fill, and still not come close to harvesting one-quarter of that rich, summer bounty.

My friends, there is nothing quite like a true tree-ripened peach. And no, I'm not talking about some peach that's been plucked from a tree while it's still as hard as a Major League baseball, put into cold storage, then rolled into your nearest supermarket a few weeks later. Why on earth someone allows these growers to market that stuff as "tree-ripened peaches" is beyond me, but c'mon now, who are we kidding?

A true tree ripened peach is a peach that stays on the tree until it's soft from the outside in. A true tree ripened peach is a piece of fruit so packed with sweet nectar that it literally explodes when you cut it open or before you can even bring it inside to cut it open. A true tree-ripened peach, like the one I'm holding, tastes like heaven on earth. There's nothing in the world quite like it, and we're darn lucky to live in an area of the country that abounds in trees like the June Pride and hundreds of other varieties.

My friends, we're in peach heaven.

I grew up with two peach trees in my Modesto backyard. I'm not sure what varieties they were, but I strongly suspect they are the same two varieties that I have planted in my backyard. The Modesto trees featured peaches that ripened on one tree in late June and early July, and another variety that produced peaches the size of softballs in mid-to-late August.

That's a picture perfect description of the June Pride and O'Henry peach trees that I have growing in my North Natomas backyard. The June Pride is now finished for the year. The O'Henry is still another month away.

I'm very fond of fresh fruit trees because that's exactly what fed my brother and sisters while we were growing up in Modesto during the late 1960's and 1970's. Single mothers raising four children don't often have a lot of money, and we were no exception to that rule. Mother simply didn't have the money for "luxuries" such as cookies. Our "treats" came straight from our backyard fruit trees. Not a peach went to waste during peach season. Oh, sure, birds and neighbors got their fair share back in the day, but by the time fresh peach season ended, every tree had been picked clean.

Those trees sustained us. They provided breakfast in the morning. They provided a sweet treat for dessert after dinner. They gave us snacks after school. I will never forget those two workhorse trees in the Modesto backyard, and I wonder sometimes how they survived with four kids climbing all over them during the harvest. Somehow, they did. I never did get the chance to thank my mother and father for planting those trees, nor did they ever know what kind of impact they had on my life. If they could see my North Natomas backyard now, they would.

This was the first year of production for the June Pride peach tree. The nearby O'Henry tree is so loaded with fruit that I've probably had to cull the tree of half of the fruit, and may be forced to cull even more. That tree is still fairly small, as is the June Pride. If I were to allow every peach to stay on the tree, I wouldn't have much of a peach tree left. It would be more of a peach stick, as all of the branches would have snapped off under the weight of still-growing peaches.

In a few years I probably won't be forced to cull as much, but you still have to watch it. This isn't like growing cherries. Peaches are heavy. If you get too greedy, you can easily lose five years worth of tree growth. We don't want that to happen, now do we?

I still have many friends in the Modesto area. One of them is Larry Darpinian, who works the family farm called Darpinian Farms. Larry and his family grow peaches.

They grow acres and acres and acres of peaches. As you might guess, Larry and his family are just a tad busy with the harvest at the moment.

When I think of that family operation and all of those peaches? I consider Larry to be the luckiest man in the world.

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