Science, Blogging and Peaches


Allow me the privilege of taking myself to task. Last week I proudly proclaimed that I had solved the squirrel problem once and for all by covering our peach tree in bird netting. A week later I’m not so sure of my pronouncement.

The simple problem is that there’s no scientific control in my little backyard study. On Friday, Kelly and I took the netting off the tree and picked most of the peaches. Guess what? The peaches we left on the tree are still there. At least for now, the neighborhood squirrels are eating something else.

Now let me dream for a moment. Imagine if Elon Musk would stop his silly attempt to put people on Mars and would, instead, fund research into more down to earth subject matter: how best to grow tomatoes in a backyard? Does tap water kill sourdough culture? Does hugelkultur work? These are, of course, the sorts of subjects our underfunded Extension Services could look at if they had more resources. Right now they have to concentrate on commercial agriculture with backyard horticulture taking a distant second.

Until Musk has that low-tech road to Damascus experience, we may have to crowd-source some answers ourselves. While still anecdotal, I really appreciate your comments on my posts. It may not be scientific but it’s a start. And, of course, it’s always good to remember that great Socratic lesson: that we don’t know and may never know the answer to a question especially when it involves something as complex as life. In short, we may never outsmart the squirrel.

But I think we could do a better job leveraging our experiences using the power of the internet. While I don’t have the educational background or temperament for this, let me put this idea out there: how about putting together crowd-sourced experiments and observation into backyard food production? It seems like some great apps could be developed to do this.

What do you think? What are the first questions you’d like answered?

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  1. Well, for science, I have only used tap water in my sourdough starter. It’s alive and well (and delicious).

    • Me too! Of course tap water varies widely, but in the small city where I live we’re lucky to have water that tastes good, and seems to have no detrimental effects on my sourdough whatsoever.

    • Sure! I’ve lived in several states and so far the tap water has all been harmless to the starter. I do use spring water for my water kefir and jun.

  2. I’m wondering what would happen if you put a bird feeder filled with peanuts or seed on the peach tree. Would the squirrels use all their energy trying to get into it and not eat the fruit? I’ve noticed that the squirrels stand around plotting on how to get into my bird feeder for many hours of the day while nearby there is a persimmon tree that remains untouched. It could be that they don’t care for persimmons though. Thanks for the post and I’m curious what advice others have!

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