Our Department of Fruitland Security has tried many things–with mixed success–to keep squirrels and other rodents, as well as birds, from getting the fruit before the humans can harvest and enjoy it. But a snake in the tree could be the most effective yet.
The problem with the snake-in-the-tree solution is, of course, that the snake doesn’t like to hang around in one spot. This one did, however–literally. It got itself caught in the bird netting draped over the cherry tree. To say the least, it was quite a shock for your orchardist as he went to harvest the cherries and was just about to sit down on the ground underneath the tree to untie the netting when he noticed the snake! (And I will admit that snakes give me the willies bad. I’ll put the photo on the inside branch in deference to others with the snake-willies. Click “more” at own risk!)
I know to watch for snakes around the finca, but I do not expect them inside the corralito, which is fenced (with fairly narrow openings in the fencing material used from the ground upwards for a few feet–see the background of the photo).
Fortunately, Merry has a friend who loves snakes. She came out and was able to save the snake. It was quite a delicate piece of surgery, and the bird netting did not fare so well. The snake, however, was last seen crawling away under a grapefruit tree outside the corralito where the snake charmer set it free. (Note the pieces of metal: these I had tied around the bottom of the tree in an effort to prevent rodents from climbing. Their being scattered here was a result of the frightened snake’s thrashing as it tried to free itself while our snake-charmer worked to free the poor victim.)
This incident actually happened just over two years ago–before the virtual orchard had been planted. But right now it is cherry season again, with the ‘Stella’ currently at its peak. Yes, you can grow cherries in San Diego County, and not only at higher elevations. I believe the tree in the photo is the ‘Royal Rainier.’
‘Stella’ has fruited three or four times for us in the approximately seven years that I have had it–first in Carlsbad and now at Ladera Frutal and ‘Royal Rainier’ has fruited just the one time in the four years it has grown here at the finca.
In 2007, Stella fruits all by herself, despite the fact that Royal Rainier also bloomed well and, for the first time, ‘Craig’s Crimson’ and even ‘Bing’ bloomed. Bing appeared to set a couple of fruits, but they do not seem to have developed–pollination failure, most likely. All of our varieties except Bing are self-fruitful, and there is some evidence (so I have heard) that self-fruitful cherries are more likely to fruit in lower-chill climates. Of course, this year, with probably 750+ chill hours, the lack of fruit set must have been attributable to something else (too hot briefly and unusually in early April? too gloomy as usual in late April and May?).
Cherries are not easy to grow here, but they are worth the trouble. Stella is certainly less delicious than Royal Rainier, but it is quite good (and better than most cherries you can buy around here in markets, even farmers markets). And it is a beautiful fruit to look at, too. At least when there are no snakes in the tree.