Location: Palm Beach County, Florida, United States

Recently have been told I look like Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island. I hadn't heard that in years, but that is a good place to start as to what I look like, although she had a better bod. I have three boys and have been married for 13 years. Born of a Navy family, in Hawaii, one Mom, one Dad, one sister and one brother. The eldest of three children. BS in Applied Mathematics. Consider Pensacola my home town although I moved every 2-3 years of my life growing up. Currently work in the aerospace industry in an engineering position while being a Mom. Of Celtic heritage and very proud of it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Saved... By the USDA...

When you live in Florida and you have a citrus tree in your yard, you get used to having the Department of Agriculture come to your home. Tree inspections. For Canker.

Canker is a bad bad disease that our citrus crops get and it damages the trees resulting in no fruit production. It spreads. For the longest time, Canker had never been north of Boca Raton, but after the hurricane… all that wind spread that bad disease north. Now if you happen to live in a home that has a tree in the yard and it has been diagnosed with Canker, that bad boy has to be removed as well as any tree within something like 1900 feet which means, it could be your in your neighbor’s yard. Yeah, there are lawsuits and the works. Canker is a hot topic down here and it can get very ‘cantankerous’.

Anyway, I have an orange tree and I promise you, it puts out the most sour and foul tasting fruit you have ever tasted. It could be used by poison control to induce vomiting. Sour. Bitter. Awful. The first time we tried it, I thought it was an age thing. My thinking was, perhaps a more mature tree had better fruit. Wrong. This is just a bad tree. I threaten to chop it down, but here is my problem. I have issues with cutting down trees in my yard. We don’t have many of them and I think they’re too pretty. So the tree has stayed.

Flash forward to September, two hurricanes that piece of crap orange tree survived. My neighbor came by with the chain saw to chop up our other trees and my spouse looked at me and said, “OK, here’s your chance. Let’s get rid of it once and for all.” But. I. Could. Not. GRRR. That stupid crappy tree had endured two hurricanes and then we were going to take a chain saw to it? So it stayed.

October came and the Department of Agriculture showed up to inspect it. I walked over and said, “Look, that tree produces the worst fruit. If it has canker, take it away, I don’t care. As a matter of fact, feel free to say it has canker even if it DOESN’T!” Alas, it was canker free. Again. I have no issues with it dying a natural death… canker, hurricane, 40 day flood, but it can’t come at my hands. They laughed, gave me suggestions on who to call to see if it is missing nutrients and they were on their way.

So today, I get a letter from the Department of Agriculture saying they want to use my tree as a sentinel. My best friend from high school is visiting and happened to answer the door, so she passed me this info via phone (I was at work). The whole way home I was thinking, “What in the hell is a sentinel tree?” I called my Mom. I’m laughing saying, “Surely they are not so desperate that they are looking to use my POS orange tree to help create new crops?!!” She’s been here when we’ve pulled an orange off that tree; she KNOWS how bad they taste. She’s saying, “No way!” and she’s doing a search for me on the computer trying to help me decipher what in the hell a sentinel tree is. We knew it was guarding... but how does a tree guard? It is bringing visions of The Wizard of Oz and those mean apple trees.

Well, I read my letter when I got home. You may all breathe a sigh of relief. They aren’t using my POS orange tree to spawn any other foul fruit producing trees. My tree is going to be monitored every 60 days… it is being used as part of their ‘early warning system’.

“Should Citrus Canker ever be introduced into your area, the Sentinel program would aid in identifying the infection in its earliest states and steps could be taken to eliminate or prevent further spread.”

Of course I’m going to say yes. (There’s this little permission slip thingy you have to fill out to be part of the program.) Citrus is vital to our economy. If this is what it takes to help, I’m all for it.

But all I keep thinking now is, “Damn. Now I REALLY can’t cut it down. It is serving a purpose.” In the spring I’ll be off to find out how to make it produce better fruit.


Blogger Harvey said...

Actually, I'm sensing a million-selling children's story here...

"Once upon a time there was a little orange tree that nobody liked..."

11:29 PM  
Blogger Quality Weenie said...

Up here in Michigan we have the evil Emerald Ash Bore disease. It's a little bug that gets into the tree and eats it away from the inside.

It's at epidemic proportions right now, entire neighborhoods have lost all their trees, entire forests being wiped out. We have lost 6 trees ourselves.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks, if you ever have a plant question, check with your local Agricultural Extension Agent's Office. They don't just help farmers. Here in Florida, they have pamphlets on lawn care, hedges, all sorts of fruit trees including exotics, flowers, you name it. They also have a staff of volunteer 'master gardeners' who can answer questions.
Bou: The local office is on Military Trail by the airport, next to the Highway Patrol Station.
Cheers - George

11:21 AM  
Blogger Stu said...

I'm not sure why, but every backyard orange tree I have tasted the fruit from tasted very sour. And I think I have tasted some that were left over from old groves. Who knows.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Dash said...

The citrus from south Texas is very sweet - even the grapefruit. In the piney woods it's the pine beetle and here in central Texas, it's oak wilt. Both can be very bad if not stopped. You know it's all Bush's fault, don't you? Just like the hurricanes and everything else that's bad.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe your tree is one of the variety of "bitter orange" that is used in cooking. Marinades and such as opposed a sweet juice-type.

Val at Babalublog has written about orange trees. [] Tell him I sent you.

And SteveH at is a serious amateur chef who could probably offer suggestions for using bitter orange.

Cheers... homebru

11:41 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the last few years we've had some sort of Japanese beetle that has led to the destruction of many many trees in the Chicago area (and it's not like we have a lot to begin with!) I haven't heard about it this year, but for the previous 4 or 5 they've had to cut down tons of trees in the winter - when the beetle is inactive. *sigh* Then there's always the good old standby - Dutch Elm disease. It's a wonder we have any trees left in the world!


9:20 PM  

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