Sunny Slope Orchard

Sunny Slope Orchard
In the coast range foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Finally, signs of ripening!

It's been an unusual year so far, with almost continuous below normal temperatures. As a result some of the fruit is very late in ripening. Surprisingly, we were still using the wood stove just a week ago when most years we would be needing to cool the house starting in May. But at last we're seeing some progress.

Peaches are coloring up nicely and we are just doing the very first picking here on June 12th, not much later than usual. The first few to ripen are always "seconds", with split pits or other imperfections. But we expect to have good supplies of quality Springcrest peaches starting around June 15 - 18.

The apricots are another story though, still mostly green and hard. We don't expect to be picking many until around June 20th or later. Just a few are starting to get a tiny bit of orange color, about what you would find advertised at Safeway as "Ripe Summer Fruit!" But we insist on letting fruit ripen on the tree as far as possible, picking when it is just a couple of days from dead ripe. We lose some to wind, rot, and birds that way, but the taste difference is night and day compared to fruit picked too green.

Frequent spring rains keep fungus spores active, so this year we expect to lose more fruit to brown rot, a nasty fungus that can spread quickly over a fruit both before and after harvest. So the fruits' keeping quality will probably suffer a bit. This year the apricots also have much more "shothole fungus," those freckles visible in the picture above. This is mainly just a cosmetic problem though, and after all who among us is completely free from a few warts and moles?

Santa Rosa plums will be later than usual as well, probably starting around the end of June. Please bear in mind that these dates are just rough estimates; hot weather can and often does fool us. So check back here often during the season for updates and feel free to call with your specific needs. We won't be setting up the fruit stand outside the gate until we have cots in good supply, but are happy to take specific orders for fruit ahead of time for customer pickup. Call us at 707-448-4792, or email to

While we wait for the fruit to ripen we're busy setting up our famous bird scare machines, a variety of home built contraptions that limit bird damage and amuse passersby. This photo shows one device in action, with flying plastic bottles tethered to gyrating ropes. An electric motor drives the system and is controlled by an intermittent timer. Videos of the machines in action can be found here:
Follow the link and click on "slideshow." Don't laugh, they work!

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