The Homestead Survival
When fall comes and my arms are not long enough to reach all the peaches, apples and pears on our trees, I turn to some homemade gadget or other to harvest that fruit.
A ladder? No! Ladders are great on flat, level surfaces, but nowhere on our mountain-side property is there a flat surface: Everything is a slope of some kind, and most of our fruit trees are on a steep slope.
In the past I’ve used a mini-rake with a couple of pegs in a cross-bar on the end of a stick to pull fruit down. Unless someone else was there with a catcher’s mitt, the fruit hit the ground, which bruises it. Often it rolled down the hill necessitating pursuit. I’ve fashioned a “claw” by mutilating a wire coat hanger into two fingers above and a “thumb” below. If the thumb is more of a ring, the piece of fruit could sometimes be lowered down from the tree for retrieval. Sometimes. Other times it would fall off, hit the ground and skitter away.
This year I saw an idea on the Internet – the photograph I saw was a Facebook repost from Pinterest. It’s hard saying where it originated. It uses a plastic beverage bottle on a stick as a picker-catcher. I decided to try that this year.
You will want a plastic beverage bottle – the kind with “feet” on the bottom. These add rigidity to the picker part and help for a claw that captured the top of the fruit. The picture I saw used a 2-liter soda bottle. I don’t have a 2-liter bottle today so I used a 1-liter vinegar bottle that I do have.
Use a marker to lay-out your cut-out. You want to cut away one “toe” and a portion of the bottle side large enough to slip the device over the fruit you’re harvesting. The size of the fruit you’re going after will determine the size of bottle and the opening you need. I’m going after fist-sized apples, peaches and pears; if you’re harvesting grapefruit, you’ll need a bigger bottle!
It’s important to make the cut at the bottom of the bottle between the toes so you leave as much rigidity there as possible: Some of your adversaries will not come along willingly.
Making the Cut
Next you need some way to get this up into the tree beyond your normal reach. How long it needs to be depends on your height and that of your trees.
The handle will be inserted into the screw-cap mouth of the bottle: something round makes it easy. A long dowel rod or closet rod would work. Even a long, reasonably straight tree branch could be pressed into service.
I happened to have a 6-foot-long oak 1x1 that was a cut-off from some project or other. To make it work, I needed to round off the end so it would fit into the mouth of the bottle. I did that on a sander. I could have used a wood rasp and probably would have gotten it done just as fast, but I like playing with power tools. I rounded it off then worked the end down a little at a time, test fitting frequently, until it was a perfect fit.
Drill a pilot hole through the bottle neck and into the wood, then insert a small pan head screw just to hold the bottle onto the handle so you don’t end up with your snazzy new fruit picker hanging in a tree well out of your reach. Talk about embarrassing!
I think I like the smaller bottle better than I would a 2-liter because some of the spots I needed to get into were a bit tight as it was. I don’t prune as much as I should, I guess.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy-to-make tool for picking fruit this fall, try this. Mine took only about 20 minutes to make (I’ll put in some more time later being fussy about it, but you wouldn’t have to do that). By using a screw to hold the picker on the end of the handle you can easily make and install a new one each season if you’re rough on it and it cracks, and it costs next to nothing to make: 3 cents for the screw, the rest was scrap that was laying around.
I deem this project a winner!