The Peach Harvest

Over the past few weeks, our Reliance peach tree has bowed ever more under the weight of all its fruit:

It's a little hard to see because the photo doesn't really do justice to just how laden the tree is, but you can see the arc of this major branch pretty well. The whole tree is being bent into a cascading, peachy fountain.

So much so, in fact, that a few days ago I had to prop up a branch with a bucket because several feet of it were trailing along the ground. It's an almost shocking embarrassment of riches, considering how last year we only managed to snag four or five peaches before the squirrels got the rest. Something is eating the fallen ones, though:

I'm not sure what creature lives in this hole, but it only has nibbled peaches that are already on the ground, as far as I can tell. Fletch has more than earned his keep by keeping the critters at bay, and today when I showed him that hole, he put his hunting face on right away. Woe to whatever thing burrows there.

Anyway, here's what I picked today, courtesy of time and sunshine and the world's friendliest barn cat:

I can't say that I weighed this, because I was staggering to get the basket from the orchard to the porch. The basket (handmade to order from the awesome guy at Wicker'd Good Baskets in Billerica, by the way) is super-strong, thanks to excellent craftsmanship and its wooden feet, and it proved itself today. I'm guessing this is 40-50 pounds of fruit. Or put another way, the basket is 10"x12"x18" and its overflowing. I wish I had put a child in this photo for a better sense of scale.

It's a lot.

What to do with it all? For starters, everyone gets to eat as much out of hand as he or she would like (Tiegan, for example, already had four today). They are so juicy and (today) sun-warmed — it's like eating summer.

After that, I'm planning a pie, peach ice cream, jam, and a chutney. And after that, we'll can a bunch plain for the winter.

Did I mention that there are still a bunch left on the tree?

Even the windfall peaches are getting put to good use:

Tiegan gathered all the fallen, blemished ones and fed them to the chickens. They do like their sweets, and are happily pecking away at them in the run:

The white hen is Martha; the bearded lady above is Abigail. She is back to her chipper self after her sanitarium days taking the broody cage cure, so that really does work. Dolley and Martha haven't forgotten her attitude problem yet, though — they are still giving her a wide berth when they all gather to eat their special treats.


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