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.