It’s almost time for the annual pecan harvest, which promises to be the best yet. Bill is tending about 30 pecan trees on our 31 acres here at MeadowKnoll, with four or five varieties. Since he doesn't harvest mechanically, these trees are not arranged in rows in an orchard. Instead, he has grafted the native pecans where they have “volunteered,” in the fields, along the watersheds, at the edge of the woods. His theory has been that the native stock has a strong root system, and when a nut finds a place where it can happily germinate, put down roots, and flourish into a small tree, a mature tree will be happy and productive there, too, without a lot of extra water and special care. So he grafts a cultivated pecan--his favorites are the Kiowa and the Choctaw--and lets nature take its course: a non-invasive, non-exploitative, low-input way of cooperating with the land to produce the land's fruits.
Every year, we compete for the pecans with the crows. Now, we enjoy crows: they’re sociable and interesting birds with complex personalities and a strong sense of humor. But when one crow—usually a juvenile who doesn’t yet have a territory—finds a few ripening pecans, he perches in the tree and calls for all his teenaged buddies to share in the feast. This is not philanthropy, mind you: crow-watchers say that crows are willing to share the plunder because a mob of young crows can more easily overwhelm the resident property owners (a dominant crow pair) than a single crow. So when Bill hears one crow calling the gang to come and feast, he takes out his shotgun (loaded with #8, a small shot), not to kill them but to let them know that it’s time to get out of Dodge. They learn fast, he says. The pecans will be ready to harvest by this time next week. Ah. There are pecan pies in our future!
Reading notes: The cawing of a dozen or two of crows, who were talking politics among the pines on the New Hampshire hillside, affected me most agreeably. There was something of real neighborliness about it. I would gladly have taken a hand in the discussion, if they would have let me . . .--Bradford Torrey, Nature’s Invitation.