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Yes, the bird issue is a tough one if you hope to harvest any cherries. Last year I managed to collect a bowlful of Stellas for the first time in about 6-7 years on account of my daughters put a couple of horses in the orchard to graze for a few weeks. They frightened off most of the birds but also started to eat the cherry tree while they were about it! Doesn't pay to get your hopes up.
Anything that won't be plundered by slugs, greenfly, blackfly, birds, squirrels, rabbits etc, etc, way before it's ready to eat by humans, is a pleasure to grow. Half of my gardening life seems to be pest control.
It could take a few seasons to give up the ghost....I've got one that has been in decline for 5 years...... so you can take some time to make a decision. Yes, I grew PHM rose up mine and, with a little careful pruning/guidance at the start, you can let it take over, with spectacular results.
Not usually a fan of sweet liqueurs but sloe or damson gin has a character all its own. I am though pondering Cape Gooseberries steeped in vodka to develop some very subtle fruit flavours with a pale yellow hue.
I've had problems in the past with planting in heavy clay. If the hole you dig retains water at the bottom then it may be wise (apart from relocating your hole) to dig a bigger/deeper one, back fill with broken bricks etc, then organic material before planting. Look for signs of poor growth/yellowing in the next few months after because you can save the tree for a better location before the wet conditions kill it entirely.
I find this quite helpful:http://www.orangepippin.com/
Yes, the budding figs have no future and most will drop off over the next few months. Any left in the Spring, I pull off before the real crop begins to show.
I always understood that you wait until all the plant has died off, leaving the squash plain to see. It won't grow anymore or ripen in colder weather. Make sure you give the growing fruit a 'dry bed' so it doesn't lie in mud and rot. I use folded cardboard rather than more traditional straw etc.
As has been said, they are ready to pick when they come away when you lift them with a slight twist. If you have to pull, then it's too soon. In any case they will be rock hard, which is the way my wife likes to eat them but I don't. I put them in a bowl on a windowledge for a week or two to soften slightly.
I have a Vranja in my orchard which is about 10 years old and 25 ft high. It's in heavy clay and a sheltered spot, and produces a modest but not bountiful crop of around 40-50 fruits each year. It gets some shade from nearby hawthorns. I have pruned it once to try to improve the shape because it's a vigorous grower. Nice pink flowers in May.