In my yard there is a pear tree that was part of the small kitchen garden that came with our house. (If I’d started this blog then, it would have been called Your Small Home Orchard.) The first year I harvested pears from that tree, they were terrible. In an earlier blog post, Harvesting Pears, I explained a simple solution that I learned years ago, probably from an article in the local newspaper. But, before I learned the correct way to harvest pears, no way was I going to let those horrid fruits go to waste.
So, contrary to the spirit of Your Small Kitchen Garden, I harvested those horrid pears when they were dead-ripe, sliced them into little bits, cooked them till their juice ran free, and strained that juice through a tee shirt so I could make a few quarts of pear jelly.
Hot tip of the day:
- If you grow fruit trees because you absolutely need to have fruit in your small kitchen garden
- If you end up with way more fruit than you can possibly consume during the growing season OR You’d never actually eat the fruit because it’s ucky
- You can rustle up the gear
Then Make Jelly
With pears, it’s a balancing act between what we’ll eat and what will simply be too much. I wait for the first pear to fall, then I pick several dozen of the nicest ones for cold-storage ripening. The rest, I leave on the tree to ripen naturally. These I’ll use to make jelly.
This year, Mother Nature has thrown a curve ball. Here’s where the anecdote starts:
It’s dinner time, and we’re all sitting on the screened porch chewing and chatting. Earlier in the day, I’ve learned that a lot of people have read my blog entry about harvesting pears, and I comment about it now; I mention that I plan to pick our pears when the first one drops from the tree.
With that statement, I look across the yard at the tree and see a squirrel jump from the ground onto the tree’s trunk. The squirrel scrambles into the branches, and moments later a pear falls to the ground! As I proclaim annoyance, the squirrel charges down the tree, pounces on the pear, spends a few seconds with it, and then romps back up into the tree.
The Thieving Varmint
On this trip up the tree, the squirrel (whom I can see clearly through the entire caper) squats on a branch on its hind legs, holds a pear with its front feet, and quickly gnaws through the pear’s stem. Moments later, the wily rodent charges down the tree and bounds across the lawn with my pear in its mouth; with its pear in its mouth.
By my measure, the first pear had dropped. The next morning, I picked all the pears I thought the family might eat, and left several dozen on the tree. And don’t you know? The squirrel returned for another pear during our next dinner on the screened porch. In fact, I’ve seen the squirrel steal pears many times since I posted that blog entry; it seems to be taunting me: plucking pears while I’m dining on the porch.
How to Stop a Squirrel
I understand that squirrels aren’t great connoisseurs of pears. Supposedly, they eat pears and other fruits when water isn’t available–and so it isn’t this growing season. We’re not in drought in central Pennsylvania, but I’d guess we’ve had less than an inch of rain in the past six weeks—maybe in more than two months.
I could divert the squirrel from its pilfering ways simply by leaving a dish of water for it someplace near the pear tree. But I won’t. I enjoy watching it during dinner, and a quart or two of jelly is a small price to pay.