We had long dreamed of having an orchard and are lucky that this property already has several mature fruit and nut trees – walnut, cob nuts, different types of cherries and apples, a Mirabelle, fig and a pêche de vigne.
As mentioned in a previous post, the Mirabelle lost most of its fruit during some windy weather, but the cherries and apples were prolific. As sugar is pretty much removed from my diet and as I only have freezer space to keep a tray of water iced, the usual methods to prolong their eating window are not available. Next year I will need to be more organised if we’re to use more of the fruit before it rots. This year we are relaxed in the knowledge that we have been very generous to the neighbours – and the birds, mice and insects.
The peaches never seemed to mature sufficiently before they fell on the ground in the bad weather and rotted. I’m not sure if this variety does mature in the same way that other peaches do, they may be just for compote and jam. Anyway, ours definitely didn’t ripen this year.
I managed to wrest a couple of unripe figs from the tree’s second crop before they are attacked with gusto by the local fauna. Sometimes they leave marks as though a human has taken a bite, other times the flesh of the fruit is completely stripped and only the storks and portions of the skin remain, dangling from the branches like little skeletons.
The figs, I know, are not eaten by the dog; they are too high off the ground. However, he does eat a lot of the cob nuts and even the walnuts that have fallen. He spits out the shells but the cherries earlier in the year he swallowed whole. I have no idea if this is bad for his stomach, but short of banning him from the garden or destroying the tree, neither of which I’ll do, it’s sure to become something of an annual event. He does seem to poop all the stones out though. In fact, it wouldn’t take the skills of Bear Grylls to discern what fruit was in season from a glance at his stools – cherry sundaes, nut rissoles…
When collecting the nuts and cherries, the dog likes to come and do the same, collecting them straight into his stomach. His constant crunching on the nuts is a particularly funny track to work to. I also have to keep an eye on my harvest because if he doesn’t find what he wants on the ground, he’s not above stealing from mine. Not that I let him get away with it. In an attempt to teach him that’s not done, I’ll chase him down and make him spit it out. Or rather, he lets me do that as my two little middle-aged legs could never keep up with his made-for-speed four. It’s just a good game to him.
He was an abandoned dog and I like to romanticise that his love for foraging comes from his days alone on the road, even though I have no idea what his background was. He has always liked eating blackberries direct from the bush and now he has also taken to eating overripe grapes from the vine – our decorative, more edible species of grape vine that is, but I will keep a very close eye on him when out for walks close to vineyards or we will definitely not be very welcome in these parts.
As winter approaches, I will need to decide on how much we cut back the fruit trees. As I understand it, the more you cut the less fruit you have, but the cherry and peach trees are spreading too much so we’ll just have to forgo a good cherry crop for a year; we’re not losing anything with the peach.
I have added various other fruit varieties to our collection including some more exotic fruits such as apricots and kiwi. Ever since I saw it available at my usual online plant shop, I’ve also been dreaming about getting a paw paw. It’s ambitious and whether any of these will grow well here is to be seen. Update on that next year.