Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Battling the Birds

I'm still tearing out the old perennial border to create the new Kitchen Garden, but today I battled the birds.
Monday afternoon found Skye and me cruising the gardens before taking off for her clarinet lesson and finding the first nearly red strawberries of the spring. She dove for the first one she saw, and I was right behind her, telling her not to pick it, that it wasn't really ripe yet. And then I spotted a second nearly ripe one -- with a bird peck in it. "Go ahead and eat it," I told her, "before the birds get it."

Now, I had no plans to battle the birds this year. The strawberries are supposed to be in a keeping year -- just biding their time until the Kitchen Garden is ready for them. I have two beds planned, one for production and one for growing young plants. I did take the time to set the strawberries into a grid so that I could put down landscaping fabric and mulch in my efforts to get the Berry Patch into good shape for the summer. And now I have these beautiful plants with huge berries on them -- totally unplanned, totally unexpected.

I've never done well with strawberries. Weeds. Birds. Bird netting that has a mind of its own. And now I have these beautiful berries that I'm simply not willing to share with the birds.

I came home from work this afternoon, unloaded the groceries, left Skye in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies and Love in his shop working on the lawn mower, and began building strawberry cages. The first one was about 4' by 4' of PVC pipe (from Skye's wonderful stash of various PVC lengths and connections that Love created to allow her to build life-sized projects) and covered with bird netting taped down (and patched) with duct tape. I realized I had created the perfect Redneck (which I can say because of my Redneck heritage) strawberry cage -- PVC AND duct tape in the same creation! Then I took apart two tomato cages that aren't in use, created a mountain-shaped cage, and covered it in more netting. I also made a wire and netting cage for the strawberry plant in Skye's garden (where the sunflowers and cornflowers are beginning to emerge).

Now all my pinking berries are safe in their little cages, and I have plans to create more as the crop continues to ripen. The Berry Patch looks great: as well as the strawberries, the blueberry bushes are loaded and just beginning to purple, and the blackberries are covered with blooms. I had to dig out two small blackberry bushes last week -- orange rust had struck and I wanted to prevent it from spreading. Still, I think we will get our first blackberry cobbler -- made in Mother's cobbler pan that I hauled home from Louisiana last year -- this summer. The raspberries are beginning to set berries on the floricanes of our existing crop. The new crop of red Heritage and gold Anne have sprouted new growth and are looking great. 2008 looks like the Year of the Berry around here! Take a look at Skye's pictures from the Berry Patch a couple of weeks ago.

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