On the other side of the coin, I’m beginning to think we should be praying for hot dry summers and cold, prolonged winters. In the wake of a brutal 2009, we keep witnessing a robust natural rebound. You want to learn about self-preservation mechanisms — watch Mother Nature this year. She is all about demonstrating that she was down but not out. Yesterday it was clovers, grasses and flowers, today it’s peaches.
Let me start by reminding that the purpose of the orchard is to supply seasonal fruits for our porkers’ diet. Sure, we want to eat some fruit too, but it’s mostly there for our pigs. Peaches will be the first grown-on-the-farm fruit to supplement our pigs’ finishing diet. Then melons, then figs, all from the farm one day soon. And did we get peaches! So many that branches were breaking off of the trees from the weight of the fruit. We tried our best to keep them pruned back, but it seemed that for every young peach we pruned, 2 more would grow in its stead. Ultimately, we couldn’t make ourselves kill any more young peaches, but that was a mistake. The heavily pruned trees made larger, sweeter peaches. The ones that were crowded made poorer peaches - good enough, but smaller and less sweet. This was our first serious peach growth year, so now we know that a tree will only grow so much good fruit. Each tree can make 50 good ones or 100 average ones. We’ll prune down to 50 per tree next year. 2,500 peaches will be enough. At 5 peaches per pig per day, that’s 500 pig days of peaches.
We also learned lessons on when to pick and how to store. The peach has to have turned red on the sun side and yellow on the shade side and then give a little to the touch. The peaches nearest to the end of the limb and to the outside of the tree ripen earliest. You can pick them when they are still hard and ripen them in a paper bag, but they will not be as sweet. We tried all manner of storage, from jams to jars to peel-and-freeze to bagging them whole and freezing them. Peaches ripen quickly and therefore get overripe quickly as well, so you have to move quickly to preserve them. We know the jams and jars are good. We expect the peel-and-freeze to work since we added some pectin. And we shall see about freezing them whole, which took most of the harvested peaches. The pigs will tell the tale on that method, but so far, so good. The pigs have big grins on their snout when they see us approaching with a bucket of peaches.