Too Quick To Judge


Img_1134 Last summer, my little second-season peach trees expressed their profound enjoyment of our sandy soil here in Saratoga Springs, NY by bearing really early, at least a dozen peaches each. I was out of my mind with delight as my first peach harvest got closer by the day.

We have a unique kind of pest, however, in Saratoga Springs in August: the track people. They rent houses here at exorbitant rates in order to gamble at the thoroughbred races, eat at our surprisingly good restaurants, and drink to excess in our shockingly many drinking establishments. Actually, they are only pests when I have to drive, because they clog the roads and hog the parking spaces. Otherwise, they are kind of amusing. Many of them are very rich, very Southern, and kinda fun when tanked.

"Ohhh,” my neighbor Peggy said when she saw my peach trees, “the drunks are going to get those."

"They wouldn’t dare!” I huffed back at her.

Sure enough, just as I was thinking I’d be having a cobbler in a day or two, I woke up one morning to find my peaches gone, gone, gone. Every last one. Not so much as a pit left behind.

I’ve spent the last half a year grumbling about the track people until yesterday, when a light bulb went off as I was reading a typically puzzling New York Times gardening piece about a new vogue for fruit trees. Why was the Times reporter mostly talking to people who didn’t seem to know what they were doing?  And why he was mostly talking to people in California, where the experience of growing fruit has zero relationship with the experience of doing it in the Times’ home market?

Oh, never mind. Somebody in the piece mentioned his peaches being stolen by squirrels. Could squirrels have stolen my peaches, too? Possibly this makes more sense than what I’ve been envisioning: some horsey lady stuffing her handbag full of them under shade of darkness, having had one too many gin and tonics on the rooftop of the City Tavern up the street from me.

And what to do about it, if the umpteen squirrels scampering on my power lines are to blame? Will bird netting work against them? I consulted my resident fruit reference, Stella Otto’s The Backyard Orchardist. No mention of squirrels, though raccoons and porcupines are blamed for some ills. “Shooting it is…an option, but is not well received in a suburban environment,” writes Otto rather primly.

Here in August, we have enough excitement on the streets when the bars close without adding firearms to the mix.


  1. Michele, I have two peach trees, and I lose the ripened peaches to the squirrels, the deer, the birds, and anything else that reach. They always wait until the perfect sugar level is achieved. Then, wham, they grab them in the dark of night.

    One year, I was so disgusted that I picked the peaches early and ripened them inside. They weren’t as good, but I comforted myself with the thought that I didn’t lose them to furry creatures.~~Dee

  2. Didn’t Ed Bruske have a blog post about this involving a shed load of horticultural fleece doing the job? I’m still chuckling at the thought of a heavily armed suburban homeowner indulging in Elmer Fudd style combat with a rascally porcupine in mid-cul-de-sac.

  3. My dear old dad never went on a family vacation as a child that didn’t involve at least one stop at a horse track – so I loved your tale of the missing peaches. I must say I can picture my grandfather (God rest his soul)swiping a peach or two as he strolled passed, so don’t let those squirrels off the hook too soon! Thanks for my morning smile.

  4. I lost my peaches, pears and persimmons – even my only pomegranate – to squirrels last year. I’m guessing that those very southern folks weren’t the culprits (plus, we’re talking the south, these are folks that know peaches).

  5. I love it! I had a neighbor in Atlanta who grew 2 peach trees by the sidewalk. He put up signs stating thieves were stealing from children, he patrolled and lectured those passing by. Walking home one day when he wasn’t there, I saw a squirrel on a wire above, holding a peach, taking one bite and throwing it away. I had to laugh.

  6. Naomi’s comment makes me remember my parent’s plum tree. It always had such a ridiculously extravagant crop that it didn’t matter when the squirrels descended: pick one, take one bite, drop it and go back for another. Many, many plum casualties on the ground – maimed but not finished off… It almost looked like the squirrels were drunk?

  7. While Five-finger Blight is a concern, I would always look first to the usual suspects – the squirrels. There isn’t anything in the garden I can’t blame on them unless there are hoof prints or rabbit droppings nearby.

  8. I think the squirrels would taunt you with large pieces of fruit left on the ground (as if the peach isn’t quite good enough!)

    As the mother of 2 teenage boys, I suspect that roaming teenagers had a hand in this….

  9. Ha! I was the same way, angry at the local vandalizers pulling out my tulips by the roots or decapitating them. How and would would passers-by do that to my tulips? What jerks! …. And then one day I saw the squirrel digging up the bulb, and a bluejay swooping down to decapitate my tulips like it was sick game of theirs. The squirrels dug up every single bulb planted by a neighbor this year. Nasty things!

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