About three and a half years ago, Steve and I planted a cluster of peach trees in our back yard. The very first spring, we got a couple of delicious peaches, and the numbers have climbed each subsequent year. Only now, however, have we begun harvesting real drama.
This spring the “May Pride” tree produced several dozen fruit. Many were very small, but all were beautiful, and the taste was complex and intense. Eaten alone or cut up and put on our cereal, they were everything I’d hoped for when we planted the trees.
We tried to pick some every day, gathering any that had fallen to the ground; we worried that if Kyndall noticed how tasty they were, she might begin helping herself. And she did indeed start to raid them a few days ago. We responded by virtually never letting her out in the yard, unleashed. Instead the big trouble came from a different quarter.
About a week ago, we started seeing chunks torn out of some of the fruit. The trees have had bird netting over them for months, but we figured some sly creatures had figured out how to sneak under the bottom of the nets and help themselves. So Saturday morning, we got out the roll of netting and covered the tree cluster much more thoroughly, draping the spidery barrier all the way from the crown to the ground. Sunday morning Steve checked and found many more gouged peaches. He added stakes to better secure the edges of the netting.
Toward the end of yesterday afternoon, I took Kyndall out to pee and noticed a slight commotion from the peach cluster. It was a sparrow, trapped inside the netting and frantically trying to escape. Enraged, I responded by grabbing some of the netting. I tugged and bellowed, and the little brown bird somehow slipped out and flapped away. Then I noticed a second sparrow on the other side of the tree cluster. I went to tug at the net near it and scare it away too, and suddenly Kyndall appeared by my side. I screamed, “No! Don’t! DON’T!” But in an instant, she darted down and closed her jaws around the little bird.
She couldn’t run away with it, because the sparrow was still on the inside of the netting. I was in a panic. As mad as I was at the sparrow for savaging our succulent harvest, I hated the sight of the helpless thing locked in Kyndall’s toothy grip. (Plus the last thing one wants to train a CCI puppy to do is to hunt and murder sparrows.) Still screaming, I grabbed her mouth and pried it apart. The sparrow fell out and lay still. It stared, frozen and dying, I was certain.
But I couldn’t minister to it. I yanked Kyndall inside, and then I couldn’t bear the thought of going to retrieve the dead bird. A while later, Steve went out instead.
And here’s the mystery: the sparrow was gone. We speculate that Kyndall actually didn’t injure it but only sent it into temporary shock.
We’ve picked off almost all of the remaining ripe fruit. But here’s the other mystery: how in the world are we going to protect future harvests so that more marauding and murderous rampages doesn’t ensue?