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Cherry season is here: Pick or you will miss it!

Cherry season is here: Pick or you will miss it!
The birds and bugs reduced my whole crop to two handfuls!

There is something about cherries. No wonder George Washington got in trouble for cutting down his father's cherry tree all those years ago. And I'm not lying when I say the best thing about cherries is how they taste in a cherry pie.

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The bad thing about cherry trees in this part of the world is that they are prone to disease and dying young if you don't spray them. I'm not much on spraying – not that I want to be organic. I just spray once and forget when you're supposed to spray again. Pretty soon, I figure, what's the use?

Slim pickings: I was dreaming of bright red cherries for my first cherry crop, but all I got was a couple sour cherries and a lecture on bird flu. (Thinkstock/zvonko)

I replaced dying trees with new ones a couple years ago. I planted three trees. Two of the three bore fruit this year. The third is iffy on ever producing fruit. The main trunk appears dead already, but a healthy offshoot still holds promise.

At any rate I was mowing the other evening and noticed bright red fruit on one tree. It was a bit early, but they looked ripe. When I got off the mower and walked closer, I could tell the birds set their "ripe" detector to a finer dial than I do. About half of them were already gone. Just the stem and pit remained.

I went to the shed, grabbed a quart picking box, and began picking. Then I went to the second tree. Same story – many were already gone. I picked my entire first crop in 10 minutes. It covered about two inches in the bottom of the quart basket.

I took them to the house, after sampling a couple. They were a bit sour, but hey, they were my cherries. The fruits of my labor! The next evening I inquired where my cherries were. My daughter informed me she tried a couple, found out they were sour, and threw out the rest.

"Dad, every one had some blemish on it anyway," a disease or something.

"And some had what looked like peck marks," my wife, Carla, said. "With all this avian flu around, you don't want to run the risk of getting something."

Avian flu? Really? According to the CDC, humans aren't affected, and while 40 million birds have died in the Midwest, the only ones in Indiana to die so far were in one back yard flock 150 miles away. I mumbled something that sounded like "nonsense" and moved on. So much for my first cherry crop.

Related: Fewer bird flu cases may signal disease's end

The rest of the story? The next morning amongst my email was an alert from some watchdog center. You guessed it – it was giving precautions for how humans should be careful to avoid getting avian flu. Maybe I'm as dumb as my wife and daughter say I am, at least sometimes.

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