- 2016 Elections
- Special Reports
- Maps & Data
- Dear Abby
- Games & Puzzles
- Events & Exhibits
- Food & Drink
- Arts & Music
- Movies & TV
While toiling for hours the other day to fix netting over my blueberry bushes that had been damaged by last winter's heavy snowfall, I reflected once again on the exhaustive efforts one must expend simply to enjoy a few measly fruits and vegetables.
The repair was necessary because much to my chagrin, the overwhelming flurry of flakes had not fluttered gently through the plastic grid as I hoped but clung to the enclosure like cement and formed a massive, frozen roof that pulled down netting and in some places even snapped 2x4 support beams.
With bushes now beginning to flower and soon to form berries, I need the barrier in place before greedy, freeloading birds have a chance to chow down.
As I struggled on a ladder with saw, hammer, nails, wire snips and other tools, a gray catbird perched on a nearby post, its head cocked.
"Sorry, my little feathered friend. Say farewell to your meal ticket," I said, stretching a fresh length of netting over the wooden frame.
The bird flicked its tail and replied with its signature mewing call.
Working with netting is one of my least favorite jobs – the wretched material is constantly snarling and snagging, but it is effective at repelling most flying critters.
Except the wily catbird.
No sooner had I finished stapling the last section in place and begun carrying equipment back to the tool shed than I spotted the beady-eyed creature flapping happily inside – INSIDE! – my fortress.
"What the …?"
I flung open the gate and raced back inside just in time to see the bird dive and scurry back out through a skinny gap between the bottom of the netting and the ground. It then flew back to the post and mewed.
"So, you think this is a game?" I snarled. "You don't know who you're up against."
Loyal readers will recall the elaborate deer barrier I've constructed in escalating stages over the years, as well as various anti-slug devices. When it comes to gardening, I am a virtual Department of Homeland Security.
Like all my solutions to vexing invaders, the latest catbird deterrent required prodigious labor.
First, I cut 2-foot-wide strips of netting into lengths sufficient to circumnavigate the 100-foot-or-so perimeter of the blueberry bush enclosure.
Next I snipped dozens of 4-inch lengths of baling wire, which I used to attach the new netting strips to the bottom of the existing pen.
Finally, I collected hundreds of pounds of rocks from various locations near the garden and lugged them to the enclosure. I then placed them over the folded edge of the new netting, so that a catbird would have to dig beneath the heavy weight and risk getting crushed if it tried to penetrate.
I check the barrier each day when I visit the garden to water and weed. So far it seems to be holding – but the proof will be when the berries ripen in a month or so, and kamikaze-like birds may not be able to resist such sweet, plump enticements.
If and when that happens I'll have to come up with a more aggressive strategy – but I hope for my sake and the birds' it doesn't come to that. Actually, that's a hollow threat – I don't trap, poison or shoot anything.
As is the case with all the produce I grow – this year, tomatoes, peppers, brussel sprouts, chard, spinach, beans, peas, garlic, onions and shallots – I'd be happy to designate a portion of my blueberries to woodland visitors if they only left the rest for me. But the problem with deer, slugs and birds is you can't negotiate with them. It's all or nothing.
Many people I know share my passion for outdoor recreation but I also have a little secret: Between rounds of kayaking, hiking, gardening, wood-splitting and other activities I also savor the simple act of lounging quietly on a sunny day in a...
A refreshing breeze cooled me despite a blazing late-afternoon sun as I scrambled up the final rocky slope to the 4,121-foot summit of Maine’s Saddleback Mountain earlier this week, but I paused for only a moment to gaze at the glorious,...
During decades of traipsing through the wilderness I’ve slept, or attempted to sleep, in every conceivable indoor and outdoor quarters: in freshly dug snow caves; alongside bug-infested swamps; during thunderstorms with no tent; in the...
The awful story this week about a 2-year-old boy who witnesses said was pulled by an alligator into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel in Orlando, Florida and later found dead serves as a reminder that danger lurks even in "The...
While kayaking the other morning I spotted a small, dark object poking above the lake surface 100 yards or so ahead, and I was pretty sure it was the head of a turtle until I drew closer and realized the sad truth: just another beer...
Shortly before the start of the late-great Rose Arts Road Race several years ago, a 10.47-mile running competition over the hills of Norwich considered one of New England’s toughest courses, my friend Bob and I decided to jog a couple miles...
Lugging back-country skis and poles on our shoulders, my son Tom and I trudged along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway at Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, searching for a section of road that had not been plowed.
As I clambered toward the crest of the Mist Trail in California’s Yosemite National Park a couple weeks ago, spray from the thunderous Nevada Fall washed over me, but I was already soaked, with sweat, after gaining nearly 2,000 feet of...
Just between us, don’t you hate it when friends or coworkers post photos on Facebook of awesome journeys to exotic destinations – or if they’re really old-school, send postcards depicting glorious sunsets, sparkling lakes,...