October 18th, 2009
A little over a week ago, I was picking the last of our pears off the trees, and thinking about what a really worthwhile fruit pears are for us. Unlike apples, which we have in extreme abundance, pears seem to have no insect or disease problems, a big plus since we do not spray. Unlike plums, they are very long lived trees, and even self-pollinate pretty well.
We have two pear trees, a Nova we planted about 25 years ago, and a Luscious planted about 15 years ago. The Nova has been bearing pretty well for more than 10 years, the yield increasing nearly every year. The fruit is good enough to eat out of hand, the skin is a little thick, and it goes from delicious ripeness to mush really fast. Some grit cells, but not bad at all.
Nova, left; Luscious, right
The Luscious tree has been bedeviled by deer. It was chewed down nearly to the ground twice, fortunately not below the graft. It took nearly 10 years for it to build up enough of a root system to send up a tall strong shoot to above deer reach in one season. I pruned it lightly to encourage height for many years, and finally last year we had our first crop, about a dozen pears… and they were indeed luscious! Almost no grit cells, a nice red blush, thin skin, sweet and fairly firm textured.
This year, Luscious fruited amazingly well, considering the size of the tree. Nova had a moderate crop (I think it may tend toward biennial bearing). We like to hold the pears in cold storage, then bring them into room temperature for a day or two to come to full ripeness. Theoretically we should be able to hold some into December like this, but up to this point we’ve eaten them all well before that time. Figuring out when to pick is tricky because if you wait too long, when a lot of the fruit is showing ripeness, you’ll have to do something with all the fruit at once (or compost). But, if they are picked too green, they’ll never ripen.
So, daily I did the ripeness watch, and noticed someone else was doing the same thing. I wasn’t finding many ripe drops, only a handful, max, on a given day… and I found some very large teeth marks in some green fruits, which evidently had not passed this someone else’s ripeness test.
We have been living with a moose in our yard on a regular basis for 2 years now. A few weeks ago, she came up to the kitchen window while we were preparing dinner. She has tromped through the newly planted garlic beds, but usually keeps to the paths when she strolls through the gardens, and hasn’t been eating out of them. She has even contributed to the compost pile. However, she evidently discovered the pears this year, and got quite a few of them.
Damage to Luscious
Under this pressure, I picked all the pears a tad earlier than I would have preferred to. I don’t mind sharing a little, but, hey, it’s been a lot of years of care and waiting to get to this point. These are MY PEARS. Anyhow, we got about 3/4 bushel from the two trees, and they are good. And they’re MY PEARS…
Next morning when I went out to hang up the laundry, I noticed a, well, severely broken Luscious pear tree. This was hard for me to grok immediately. I first thought “wind??”, but there had been none… and then I knew. Ms. Moose had showed up for pears, there were none, so she mauled the trees trying to find them.
Only one, albeit large, branch was broken off Nova. Luscious was badly damaged, but will survive.
My husband’s electronics fetish has come in handy. We’ve posted infrared detectors at the trees, and whenever the signal goes off in the house, we run out and blast ultrasound squeals towards the pear trees.
Damage to Nova
For three nights after the mauling she returned to the scene of the crime, but we screeched at her each time and she seems to be staying away from the trees now. We’re not so concerned about her totally destroying Luscious at the moment; however, this is not a long term solution. My experience with deer and bear is that once an individual discovers a particularly delectable food source, they will return for it year after year, and normal deterrents won’t work when they can smell the pears/carrots/honey ripening.
Now, I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life, but I’m ready to shoot her myself. Unfortunately we don’t have a high enough caliber firearm to do this. Instead, I’m calling in a hit on her. I spoke to the game warden, and asked him to point someone with a moose permit in our direction. She’ll be easy to track…