The apple ATM

As mentioned in past blogs, we have a number of foxes who have made their homes on or around our acreage. There is one in particular that I’ve noticed on a fairly regular schedule; he typically shows up in our orchard in the middle of the afternoon, looking for lunch. Earlier in the season, he considered the fallen plums a daily treat. After the plums, he shifted his focus twenty feet or so to the south where our pear trees were dropping overripe fruit that we hadn’t kept up with. When the pears were all gone, our raspberries were — and still are — producing heavily, so our fruit-loving fox moved over to our raspberry patch. I would often find the tips of low-hanging branches all chewed up and red/purple from the berry juice. Foxes obviously don’t pick the berries; they simply chew on the bunches of raspberries that they can reach.

Last spring we finally replaced most of the fruit trees that had been lost when the June 2014 tornado went through our orchard. Of course, the new trees are still very small — maybe four feet tall — and have only a couple of branches. We chuckled a bit when we planted the two little apple trees, because in spite of their diminutive size, each carried three or four apples at the top. We didn’t expect the fruit to ripen, but to our surprise, most of them didn’t fall off; we lost one, but the other small apples of early spring continued to grow and mature throughout the summer.

As fall approached, Rick and I watched the progress of the apples on these small trees, knowing that it would be only weeks, and then days, until they were ripe enough to pick. We were waiting for a bit of a blush as an indicator of ripeness, but little did we know that someone else also had his eye on our apples! Those few fruits never survived to achieve that ripe blush.

The small apple trees lay directly between the fruit trees that had fed our fox so well throughout the summer and the raspberry canes that were a good portion of his meals this fall. As he made his daily way past the pear, plum, apricot, and peach trees, he skirted the two little apple trees on his way to the raspberry patch. I suspect that each time he went by, he’d take a good long look at those apples, knowing that they were just out of his reach. If only he could figure out a way to get those apples!

As the apples ripened, I began to notice them disappear from the two trees — one apple each day. First there were six, then five, and so on, until one day only one lone apple swung from the top of the taller of the two trees. I had no idea where they were going, as I didn’t find them at the base of the trees, but it was obvious that Rick and I weren’t going to enjoy any pie from our own apples this year!

Early one afternoon, with only one apple left on the tree, I sat at the kitchen window working on my computer and happened to glance outside. There came our friend the fox, intent on his midday meal of raspberries — or so I thought. Instead he walked calmly to the apple tree bearing the last orchard apple. He stood at its base for a few moments and then sat back, raising his front legs onto the trunk of the tree. With one effective shake, the lone surviving apple landed on the ground in front of the fox and became his lunch! So that’s where our apples had gone!

By this sixth apple, our fox was very efficient at knocking the fruit from the tree. He knew exactly how high to stretch and how much pressure to exert on the trunk to get the apple to fall. I’m sure that by now, he likely considered these trees to be his personal apple-ATM machines: he simply had to walk up and make a withdrawal of one apple each day for his lunch, without even a personal identification number (PIN) required!

Although we won’t get any apples from our orchard this year, I know our little trees will grow and we’ll have an abundance of apples in future years. Eventually there will be enough apples not only for our friend the fox and us, but also for our flock of sheep, who all love fallen apples! It is only a matter of time and patience.

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