The One-Two Punch of Epic Crop Failure

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Plum Disaster: Snapped Branch
Yes -- it does indeed happen to the best of us. Or -- in my case -- the worst of us. Not everything is a screaming success at the Bird Ranch for Wayward Heirloom tomato plants. That's all I ever let you hear about -- the screaming successes. There are failures. Trust me. There are failures and plenty of them.

But what happens when you combine an epic failure with a natural disaster? The end result is a dramatically reduced Santa Rosa plum crop. You know this crop. You know it well. It's the crop you've been tending and babying through the spring months. From the very first flower, to the first hint of fruit on a branch, it's the first tree you see every time you step outside the front door.

Hello Santa Rosa Plum Tree. How are you feeling today? That's a nice looking tree of fruit, my friend. I look forward to sampling some of it in a few months.

Avoidable Disaster Unless You're a Glutton
You see -- I talk to my fruit trees because -- well -- if you haven't guessed it by now -- there's this slight edge of insanity that runs in my family. We like talking to inanimate objects. We even think the family dog is listening to our deep conversations, when in all honesty, all the family dog can hear is "blah, blah, blah, FOOD!"

The pictures above right and to the left should more than demonstrate the first part of this year's tragedy. The broken branch picture above and the plums in the wastebasket are what greeted me when I arrived home from work a week ago last Friday. You see -- I had failed to cull the tree of plums properly. And this is what happens when you dismiss the talk of mentors who know more than you do. They say "cull, cull, cull," and you think: "blah, blah, blah, PLUMS!"

Plums Needlessly Gone to Waste
I had cast more than one nervous glance at those branches slowly bending in a downward direction thanks to the weight of a massive plum crop. But rather than react with a cull party, I prayed for salvation. I hoped the branches would survive long enough for that massive load of plums to ripen and then: PLUM CITY!

I'm such a glutton.

But there would be no such plum party. Salvation would not arrive in the form that I expected, but I would hear from Mother Nature a short time later. First things first? I had a broken branch to deal with. There were a lot of plums to get off the ground. And there were other branches to save from a similar disaster. This wasn't the only bender. Others were straining under the size of the biggest Santa Rosa plum crop I've ever grown.

A Little Rope Goes a Long Way
Rather than taking the wife that is Venus out for a much deserved dinner out last Friday, I spent the hours cleaning plums off the grass, chopping up a broken branch and -- thanks to an assist from a friendly neighbor -- propping up other branches that were also close to snapping in two. I had already lost one branch loaded with plums. I dare not lose another. I might not get 80 plums off that branch. But at least I'll get ten, right?

Or so the thinking goes.

But that fickle thing called fate has a funny way of screwing with this thing called life. This wasn't the only disaster that would befall the Santa Rosa plum tree. It was the first of two big jolts that reduced what should have been a healthy crop to "better luck next year, kid."

AT&T Park: San Francisco
You see -- last weekend was a birthday weekend for yours truly. That's right. Bill Bird turned the ripe old age of 39. Again. I can't tell you how many times I've turned the ripe old age of 39. I've sort of lost count. But it was the anniversary of that date -- that much I can tell you. Since I am the luckiest man on the face of this planet, with the greatest wife in the entire universe, I was treated to a San Francisco Giants game the very next day.

A blast of wind greeted us as we pulled out of the driveway that Saturday. Both Venus and I agreed that if we had wind problems in the valley -- the Bay Area would probably be perfect. And it was. Sitting in those outfield bleacher seats, watching the Giants clobber the Rangers ("Whatsa Matter With Gentry??? He's a BUM!!!), was the best gift any 39 year plus man could ever ask for.

Wind and Plums do NOT Mix
There was no wind to worry about in the City by the Bay on that particular day -- but guess what? It was blowing pretty fierce through the Sacramento river bottom. Although I had prayed for salvation -- I got a surprise late spring sustained gust of wind instead. Wind and plums do not mix well. Wind tends to blow plums right off the tree.

And that is exactly what took place on Saturday, June 9th, 2012. While I was vainly chasing balls that Giants outfielder Angel Pagan was tossing into the centerfield bleacher seats, a rather unexpected jolt of wind blew through and blew what was left of the still unripened but oh-so-close Santa Rosa plum crop to the ground. The carpet of plums was so thick in some places that it covered the grass. I would spend that Sunday loading up the green waste can with what I had hoped to be a massive plum harvest.

Better Luck Next Year Kid
Those recipes I'd printed out for plumtinis? Plum cocktails? Plum punch? Plum cobbler? Those can wait for another year. While a few plums do remain, it's not going to be the large-scale harvest that I had hoped and dreamed for.

And that's my personal one-two punch of Santa Rose plum tree epic crop failure. Better luck next year kid.

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