Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Well, well, well. Haven't I been a terrible blogger. But, you know, I've only been a terrible updater. I've been writing, writing, writing. And taking photos. In fact, I've been so busy doing those things on top of hundreds of other things that I just haven't had time to post anything.

C'est la vie, as the French say. Or shoganai, as the Japanese say. Or mai pen rai, as the Thai say. Or, tough p'toodies, as we used to say in grade school in America.

But seriously. If you would be so kind as to scroll backwards...


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stone is Best, Mon (Revisited)

The last time I wrote that title, I was talking about stone crab claws, but if you visit the ranch now, you'll see we are buried in stone fruit.

Last year was a fab year for pommes. We had the best tasting apples ever. 2013, however, is Year of the Stone Fruit at El Rancho.

The Absolutely Best Tasting apricots ever. The sweetest, juiciest yellow peaches. Heavenly nectarines. Plums of all sorts, with amazingly complex flavors. Ahhhh. What could be better? (Well, a ranch without squirrels would be better, but...)

We've been picking and eating, canning and freezing and drying and there is still more to come. I made deliveries to our local Food Bank, I take bags and bags to neighbors and friends. Everyone I meet during this season gets fruit. I am Fruit Pusher Supreme.

"First one's free!"

But so is the second one, and the third, and... for as long as they will take the fruit.

"Yours have a much higher sugar content than the ones I bought at the farmers' market," my neighbor phoned me after I took a sample of our stone fruit to her. "I feel like I wasted my money canning the peaches I bought."

"My husband and I were so impressed. Your plums are so incredibly sweet and tasty," commented my activist friend.

I smile. ("I know," I want to say. "Our carrots are also sweeter than any I have ever tasted." I want to brag.) It makes me so proud and happy when others tell me how good my produce is. And that's when I realize how much of a farmer I've become!

This year, many trees are so overloaded, branches are breaking.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Alamo

"This is the Alamo and we are the Texans!" Big Dog tells everyone who will listen.

We are overrun by ground squirrels and nothing we do makes a bit of a difference.

We didn't used to have these critters. They only started appearing two years ago and we only really began noticing them last year. But like many things on the ranch, left unchecked, they've also gotten completely out of hand. In fact, they are so out of hand, I don't even think about the gophers any more.

Big Dog, like many Americans of Anglo-European backgrounds, believes he OWNS this land. Things encroaching on his land, his work, his ways, are The Enemy. And right now, the ground squirrels are Enemy Number One.

"So far, they only eat the fruit on the ground," I mention.
"Yeah, but they dig giant holes everywhere."

True. Ground squirrels burrow giant tunnels that are big enough for a small dog to fall into. Our squirrels are well nourished and super sized, meaning their burrows are also gigantic.

"And, if we don't keep their population under control, the place will be amok with squirrels," he adds.

The idea of the entire ranch crawling with monster-sized squirrels gave me the willies. I'd already been through a rodent infestation at the House in the Woods a couple of years ago and did not want any similar experience with squirrels.

At the very beginning, we trapped and released them. However, squirrels are not easily removed from their homes. We read blogs that talked about marking and releasing squirrels 5 miles from their property and trapping THE EXACT SAME SQUIRREL a few days later.

We tried different traps. We bought multi-squirrel traps, giant jaws of death, all different sizes of traps. (And caught everything from our resident cat -- boy, was she embarrassed -- to a beautiful little fox and even a skunk.) Big Dog tried shooting them...and filled his tool shed with holes. A worker at the nursery next door told him about warfarin -- the same blood thinner our parents use -- and we spent a bunch of money building PVC bait stations. He's smoke bombed a few nests.

Over the last 2 years, we've sullied our karma with the souls of dozens of squirrels but that was hardly even winning a battle.

So, I am doing what any good Texan would do, faced with a war you cannot win. I am barricading what I don't want to lose. In my case, it is the produce. I've put bird nets and screens over one part of my veggie garden. (The squirrels love the lettuce and tomatoes as much as I do.) I've put up bird net "walls" around my best peach and nectarine trees. (They climb right over chicken wire and hard plastic mesh but bird nets are apparently too wobbly for the squirrels.)

Someone suggested putting giant speakers near their nests and playing hip hop at distortion levels. Maybe. But I think we have Gangsta Squirrels and I can't help but picture them actually enjoying that kind of music. Yo, yo yo!

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