A Royal Harvest

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ripe Royal Rainier Cherries-Bird Back 40
What's better than a bag of freshly harvested Royal Rainier Cherries? This is a trick question. There can be only one answer. And that answer is two bags of freshly harvested Royal Rainier Cherries.

What's better than two bags of freshly harvested Royal Rainier Cherries? Nevermind...

Welcome to the Bird Back 40 where the 2012 fresh fruit season is officially ON! The first to ripen up? You might have guessed it by now: Royal Rainier Cherries. This is is Year 4 for the Royal Rainier Cherry tree. Last year's harvest of 4 lbs. was "decent" in my opinion.

A Sweet Treat: The Royal Rainier Cherry
This year's harvest of 20 lbs. is off the hook. My friends, we are truly blessed.

My deepest debt and gratitude to sister-in-law Leana Stromberg who snapped these incredible harvest photos with a camera not purchased from something closely resembling a gumball machine. I've got to stop doing that. I never do learn my lesson. Cameras purchased from something closely resembling a gumball machine just aren't going to pay off as the "world's wisest investment."

Not only did Leana volunteer her photographic talents, she also drafted the services of her son, daughter and husband. Unlike last year where we had the kids for "fun," and really didn't need them for a 4 lb. cherry harvest, this year was somewhat different.

Celina & Marquitos: Ready for Harvest
This year was work. Do you know what it's like to harvest 20 lbs. of cherries? I can tell you that they don't just fall off the tree and into your collection bag! This is difficult work people! But the sweet payoff is well worth it.

The wife that is Venus and I, with an assist from my brother Andy, netted the tree about two weeks ago -- just in the Royal Rainier nick-of-time. The two pesky mockingbirds that made a mockery of my netting efforts last year made a return visit to the Backyard of Bird just a few short weeks ago.

If there's anything I did learn about my netting efforts last year, it's this: I'm terrible at putting up nets to protect fruit trees against pesky mockingbirds intent on stealing the crop. Not only did I manage to break off a number of branches during my initial effort, the birds kept finding a way in. No matter what the fix -- a bird with a pea-sized brain ALWAYS kept foiling this Bird's best netting efforts.

Last Years Netting Effort: FAIL!
Intent is a wonderful thing. I had INTENDED to build a PVC cage to hold my netting this year at the advice of a gardening mentor and others who had undertaken the same task. But "intent" doesn't always equal results. That was certainly the case when it came time to net the tree this year. The intent to build a PVC cage never did grow into an actual result -- so it was back to the old netting experience that I failed so miserably at the year before.

If there's one caveat in this repeat -- it would have to be the X-Factor that is Venus. See -- the wife has no problems reminding me of what works and what doesn't work in the Bird Back 40 garden setting. As soon as she saw me dragging out last year's netting setup that failed so miserably, she immediately reminded me of my multiple failures last year and promptly took over.

The Royal Rainier Cherry Tree
Leave it up to the wife to devise a plan that foiled the best intentions of a flock of mockingbirds. Despite numerous attempts to foil her fine work -- they never did find a way in. They would have to be content at stealing the one or two cherries that were closest to the net opening. The vast majority of the crop remained unmolested.

That's why I'm writing about a wallop of a harvest this year. And it's quite the wallop indeed. It's also the harvest that brings about the most pride in backyard harvests.

You see -- the Royal Rainier Cherry is fairly unique. Although it may resemble a normal Rainier Cherry, there is a considerable difference in appearance, and more importantly, taste. Royal Rainier Cherries are sweet treats to the taste buds indeed. This is a Dave Wilson Nursery Taste Test Award Winner -- a certified treat for any fresh fruit grower.

Weighing the Crop
So -- what's the plan for this year's Royal Rainier crop? Fresh eating is almost certainly on the menu. Bill Bird can polish off a pound of cherries in a single setting. It's not that difficult once you get started.

Leana, Mark and the kids also received a bounty's share for their help in getting the harvest down off the tree and into the house, where it could be processed and weighed. Unlike last year, both children have grown quite fond of cherries. My guess is a pound or two of them probably never made it into the collection bowls.

I can't blame them. My love of cherries was born years ago in the countless trees that grace nearly every backyard of those older Modesto subdivisions. There was nothing more heavenly to climb into a giant cherry tree and eat my fill before literally falling out. I wasn't the world's best tree climber to be brutally honest. I could climb like no other. Getting down was a different story entirely...

Cherries Anyone?
Although the Royal Rainier and Black Tartarian Cherry trees that grace our North Natomas spread aren't quite to "kid-climbing size" just yet -- with every passing year they do get closer. I may be a very old man indeed before I can witness the joys of another child climb those branches for a warm spring afternoon meal of cherries, but it will be well worth the wait.

Perhaps they will be kind enough to bring down a bag or two for me.