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squirrels

Megan Betz

 Squirrels seem to be sneaking off with the bulk of the Orchard's peaches. The timestamps on these photos are from six different hours; four photos are from a 20-minute period as a squirrel moves among the branches with a peach.

Squirrels seem to be sneaking off with the bulk of the Orchard's peaches. The timestamps on these photos are from six different hours; four photos are from a 20-minute period as a squirrel moves among the branches with a peach.

In my last post, I shared a link to an article I had written about the Bloomington Community Orchard's disappearing peaches. Shortly after the story published, some things moved very rapidly... and by things, I mostly mean squirrels.

For years, the Orchard has come close to having a large crop of peaches only to have them vanish just before harvesting. The story didn't seem to line up for Orchard volunteers or others to come in and snag them, and no one had shared news of enjoying a harvest--something folks aren't shy to do. So, what creature was snagging the fruit?

This year, I decided to see, but that wasn't as easy as I'd anticipated. I was granted permission to post a camera to monitor peach trees at the Hilltop Garden & Nature Center, but in the lead up to placing cameras, I learned that a late frost had taken out most of the blossoms. There were few peaches to be had, & they were small, unlikely to make it to full ripeness on the tree. 

I hated the idea of moving a camera to the Orchard. I didn't want to have a chilling effect on any of the people visiting the site, but I was close to losing my window. The peaches on my tree at home were ripening.

So, after seeing a volunteer from the Orchard post a photo to their social media of ripe peaches they'd seen at a Wednesday workday, I met my tech support out at the Orchard on Friday to place a camera. By the time we arrived, many of the peaches were gone. Within the next 48 hours, the harvesting was complete.

You  can see in the photo above the primary recipient of the Orchard's peach bounty. Squirrels stopped by regularly, nibbling the peach in the tree's open-center pruning structure before running off into the woods with the remainder.

This may raise more questions than it answers. Like, is this a success or failure for the Orchard, and how does the space measure outside of those terms? And how do you share the harvest with species who won't abide by your harvest distribution plan? Is this a relief or a frustration for regular volunteers who were looking forward to eating a peach fresh from the branch?