Our 17 foot tall (my conservative estimate) Brown Turkey Fig Tree is about 11 years old and a survivor in real terms of occasional past screw-ups of my own and often times – sheer neglect. But since 2011, under our solicitous and loving care, it has been a loyal and generous tree; often allowing us to generously gift others with fig preserves, awesome tasting Fig Hamentaschen during Purim, and of course, prove to others the knowledge that a true fig is really not that tasteless unripe fruit one buys in the grocery stores. To see a person’s face after they’ve tasted a ripe fresh fig is a somewhat joyous event, akin to moving back in time over a hundred years when people ate real food, knew where it came from, and enjoyed it enough to not over eat. The picture above, by the way, is by S.A. Fifer showing you what a ripening turkey fig tree looks like.
My beautiful tree stands in testament to the fact that in the end, nature always wins, no matter how hard we misunderstand it, damage it, and plow it under, all the while screwing up the atmosphere and climate to our own demise. If the damage is not fundamentally out of scale such that a resetting takes place with new species, Nature often finds ways to heal itself, whether it does so with each creature, or plants, or perhaps entire species. Oceans and air benefit
My tree is wisdom in and of itself, wiser than me and still teaching me. I mentioned past screwups – here’s one for you; about 3 years ago, I shared the fruits of my tree with many others, the local possum family, a couple of raccoon brothers, wasps, moths, and of course, birds, tons of birds. With all this sharing, we had enough to gather, to eat, to make jellies, and to give to friends. I just got irritated with the birds, thinking it better to have a bit more for us and to not have to put up with all of the bird shit and the bi-weekly hard scrabble fights of my dogs barking ferociously trying to catch the birds. So after ‘much thought’ and some semi-serious research, I found a non-lethal solution; holographic scare tape. I hung what seemed to be over a hundred of these shiny ribbons in my tree and lo and behold – it worked. Birds really don’t like the stuff. I was in heaven, waiting for my figs to ripen, for more figs to call my own. I only had to share with the possums, the raccoon brothers, the squirrels and the wasps, I would have my big haul.
But it didn’t work out this way. the absence of the birds produced so many moths and infestations of the opened butt ends of the figs such that huge numbers became inedible. The faintly sweet wafting smell of the tree and it’s formerly tasty fruit gave way to hundreds of figs rotting on the ground, our Pups in confusion or (whatever), ending up using the back patio for numbers one and two and the two ever reliable raccoon brothers, the possum and her kids and the squirrels disappeared, leaving me, the environmental halcyon and traitor, to face the consequences of my own short-sighted actions.
What can I say? I learned, but this past year, for some reason, all of my small plots of crops, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, muscadine grapes, and of course my fig tree did horribly; 2 muscadine grapes and about 30 figs (and late ripeners at that). Of course I was in the same boat as others who had backyard gardens and not so great harvests this year, likely due to regional weather shifts (notable – really). We’ve all noted a higher prevalence of mosquitos with the wetter climate, yet a lower incidence of the typical insect populations we used to get in the spring and summer. The mosquitos in fact managed to chase many of us indoors as they seem to be immune to the typical repellents. Ah, but now going off track here….. even though it may be all related ?