At just past 4 a.m., my gray friend starts whistling outside my bedroom window. Gracie hears him and raises her head, then looks at me. “Pavarotti’s singing for us. Isn’t it pretty?” I say drowsily. My cat, no connoisseur of music, yawns and stretches, then goes out to the screened porch off the bedroom to do her duty and protect our home against invasion by feathered ruffians. Undeterred by her stink-eye, the catbird sings on, giving us his entire repertoire of mimicry, from the alarmed cheeps of a robin to a faint but dead-on shrill of an osprey which is probably meant to scare the cat, but doesn’t. It’s just as well that I’m awake early. The day is predicted to warm up quickly, so it’s best if I get about my major chore for today while it’s still cool. I have apple tree spraying on the docket today.
Everything loves apple trees, and I mean everything, from the human who loves her cider and applesauce, to the occasional deer, to the birds that nest in the branches, to the plum curculios, European apple sawflies, and apple maggot flies. Never heard of those last three? Organic apple growers here in the northeast have them on “Wanted Dead Not Alive” posters. These three pests are the reason most commercial orchards cannot raise a strictly organic crop. Continue reading