Saturday, September 7, 2019

Trying To Stay Ahead Of The Marauding Birds

In past years, we've lost a lot of our apple crop to blue jays and robins pecking on the nearly ripe apples.  This year, Papa Pea declared official war on them and is determined to thwart their efforts to eat our apples before we can.

Our little orchard of dwarf fruit trees are the only ones that have a significant number of apples on them this year.  The semi-dwarf trees across the yard are much bigger, impossible to efficiently cover with bird-proof netting, and have few apples on them this year.  I have a suspicion they have lived out their productive years of bearing fruit and need to be replaced.  At any rate, those trees and their small quantity of fruit are on their own this year.

But back to our project.  Yesterday Papa Pea, daughter and I took on the task of building a cage around our dwarf tree orchard to prevent the birds from getting at the fruit.

Dear daughter cut two pieces of fencing, connected them with zip-ties to make a solid covering for the top.  It's hard to see her handiwork while the fencing is lying on the ground.

We sank t-posts into the ground and attached 7' high fencing around the whole perimeter of the planting.

Papa Pea and daughter unrolling the fencing.

Attaching it to the t-posts.

We didn't get completely finished yesterday because of a couple of interruptions so Papa Pea and I did the little bit that had to yet be done this morning.

We left a "door" (which Papa Pea is clamping shut in the above photo) so we could easily get in and out when needed.

I say it reminds me of an aviary in which you see birds flying hither and yon.  Except this is our attempt to keep any and all birds out!


Leigh said...

Wow, that was quite a project but I know how those birds can be! Definitely worth it. I need something like that for my blueberries, figs, and elderberries. I hope it works!

Michelle said...

Here I think the deer would break through that fencing; I hope yours stays intact and does the job!

Leanna said...

Awesome idea. I hope it holds up. I keep thinking my husband would have done something like that.

Kris said...

5 years ago mom said her old semi-dwarf unproductive apple tree had to go. A friend sawed out all the big branches, pruned back the remaining and said he would come late fall to take down the rest. He never did. Ever since that tree has produced bumper crops every other year. Who knew? Hope you get good crop from your protected trees.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

That's a great cage! I didn't even know you could get seven foot high fencing like that! -Jenn

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - Protection from the birds is so hard to attain! A couple of years ago robins were taking all our blueberries the second they were halfway ripe. We had to cover our 21 bushes with Agribon which did the trick but removing it every other day to harvest the berries was a real pain. Since then the blueberries haven't been bothered. Go figure.

Michelle - This is the same fencing we've had around our whole gardening area for close to 20 years now and, thankfully, it has kept out the many deer we have here. So the fruit trees have always been protected from the deer, but not the birds!

Leanna - Those pesky birds would have trouble, I think, to get inside the fencing and at the apples now. Let's hope that's true!

Kris - I know pruning every year is necessary to a good crop. Because Papa Pea worked in an apple orchard all through high school he knows how to prune and has kept our semi-dwarf trees in good shape. It's just that they aren't expected to produce as long as we've asked ours to! :o(

Jenn - The fence is a plastic coated wire that has proven to be very, very durable and strong as it's the same fencing we've had around our whole planting area for about 20 years. We put it up to keep the deer out and had this left over that we've now used to make a "cage" (within the perimeter of the deer fencing) with fencing over the top to keep the birds out.

Michelle said...

Oooh, I didn't realize the fence is wire; all I see around here is the plastic mesh of about the same spacing and it tears relatively easily. I didn't realize fruit tress have an expected lifespan; I've seen a lot of very old fruit trees that still produce. I wonder if it depends on the part of the country? Yours have to endure MUCH harder winters than ours would....

Mama Pea said...

Michelle - Frankly, we've been more than pleasantly surprised as how long this particular fencing has held up. If a hungry bear decided to get at our apples on the trees in the orchard of "big" trees, I have no doubt they could try to climb the fence and it would probably be destroyed. (We have electric fence installed on the outside of the 7' high fencing that encircles the whole planting area for that purpose.) Curiously enough, one fall when apples were ripe on a tree on the far corner of our fenced in area, a mama bear with twin cubs spotted the apples and wanted them. First one cub tried to walk through the fencing and got zapped and backed off. They all paced back and forth for a few minutes, then the second cub tried to go through the fencing and got zapped giving off a high yelp. That seemed to convince mama bear getting at the apples wasn't worth it and they all trundled off into the woods.

Our semi-dwarf trees that I fear are dying of old age have been here and produced far longer than the variety is said to be productive. They aren't standard trees that do, indeed, seem to produce forever. There are many old abandoned homesteads (from the early 1900s) back in the woods around here. You will occasionally find an old apple tree or two on those sites and darned if they don't sometimes have apples on them. Gotta admit the apples aren't very flavorful but back then maybe the homesteaders planted what was available and although the trees were hardy, they weren't a variety developed for flavor (and size!) that is available today.

Lynne said...

What a great idea, but a lot of work. Those little birds can do a job on the fruit. At least you will hopefully have a little peace of mind with them enclosed. We're having great weather right now. hurricane Dorian just brushed by us, thank goodness. Take care!

Katie C. said...

Wow, that’s great. I can no sugar applesauce. I make two batches in the slow cooker and then reheat it to can it. Usually pint jars. I purée mine but that’s just how I like it. You can freeze it too but our freezer is getting pretty full right now so canning is the way to go for me.

I’m planning to plant some blueberry bushes in the spring so I’ll be needing something like this next year.

P.S. I left you another message on the tea cup post.

Mama Pea said...

Lynne - Thank goodness you escaped the storm damage. Glad to hear it.

Papa Pea says even if we don't see an apple-eating bird this year, he feels better knowing he made the effort to protect the apple crop.

Katie C. - I put very little sugar in the applesauce I make . . . depending on the taste of the apples. You like your sauce pureed and we prefer ours with some chunks in it. I also can mine and I've always done mine in quart jars, but this year I'm wondering if pints would make more sense. But we do like our applesauce and the smaller jars would be more work . . . oh, decisions, decisions!

Got your message about the cup and saucer rack and answered you there.

NanaDiana said...

MAN! That was a big job-well done! I hope you get a bumper crop after all that work. We used to 'tent'our cherry trees on the farm when I was a kid. xo Diana

Cockeyed Jo said...

Great idea! But whoa the work. We did something like that with our raspberries, grapes, and blueberries. But let the fruit trees fend for the most part. We do sock the fruit as they just begin to form to prevent moths and stuff. It seems to work against birds pecking the fruit also.

wisps of words said...

Fantastic idea!

Lot of work!

But fantastic idea!


Mama Pea said...

NanaDianna - When I was growing up, we had a huge cherry tree in our back yard. My mom would have loved to harvest and can the cherries but the birds always got to them before they were entirely ripe. And because it was so big, there really was no way to protect the fruit from those darn birds!

J. L. Murphey - I'd love to know more about what mean by saying you "sock" the fruit!

wisps of words - It actually went up pretty quickly . . . except for the rocks Papa Pea kept hitting when trying to put in the t-posts! :o(

tpals said...

How did he get the tposts in the ground when they're so tall?

Cockeyed Jo said...

I bought footie nylon socks in bulk and put socks om the fruit once the fruit. The footie expands as the fruit grows. I also plant tons of garlic and onions around my trees. It helps mask the scent of ripening fruit. It does wonders for keeping moths away.

Mama Pea said...

tpals - He used a post pounder while standing on a ladder. Did he have sore muscles that night? Yep. Especially from the three of them that he tried to pound through the ledge rock that covers the back of that area. He took Arnica that night before bed and had no aches next morning. He's tough. ;o}

J.L. Murphey - Aha! Footie nylon socks! One year we encased each apple on half of each tree in a plastic baggie (yeah, I know, not great for the environment) having read that would make a miniature greenhouse to enable the apples to ripen faster which is a problem we have . . . getting enough warm weather in the fall before frost for the apples to mature. Our consensus was that it didn't help one bit plus the birds pecked right through the baggies!! At least we don't have problems with moths.