For the first ten or so years of growing vegetables I didn’t have too much of a problem with birds eating my crops. There would be a few nibbled leaves and I didn’t mind sharing. Then one year, almost all my Brassicas were stripped of their leaves in one afternoon by a marauding flock of louries. I tried shiny reflecting CD’s and twirly scarecrows, and I tried smelly seaweed spray but nothing prevented hungry mid-winter birds once they had discovered my garden. And they retained the memory. The following year, the louries were back, this time they were joined by mouse birds. So I went out and bought bird netting and battened down the hatches.
One of the great pleasures my garden gives me is the beauty it provides. Almost every morning I find something new to photograph or look at in wonder. (This morning it was a hover fly, back lit in the bright sun, suddenly dropping a little hover fly sized poop which made me laugh!) The netting bothers me aesthetically because it is a barrier, albeit a delicate green one, between me and the visual smorgasbord of the plants. So it was with mixed feelings that today I again covered up my luscious brassica beds with netting.
I am quite a scavenger – if I see an abandoned wooden crate or pallets on side of the road, I go back with the Kombi to pick them up. A tree being cut down in the neighbourhood means firewood to be collected for our pile. And I throw very little away. Old wooden fence slats, bamboo poles and tyres are piled behind my shed and in the shed are stashes of shade cloth, hessian, chicken wire and pots, all used and reused again and again. Many things are collected without a specific purpose – like the stack of worn down brooms and rakes in the corner.
When I put up bird netting for the first time, I hunted through my junk treasure trove to find something to support the netting – and spied the brooms. We use grass brooms with wooden handles and they have turned out to be the perfect bird netting support. The remaining bristles on the top hold the netting in place and the wooden handles are firmly pushed into the ground. I peg the edges of the netting into the ground using rosemary twigs – which are easily pulled out if I need access under the netting. The only thing I had to buy was the netting – which is reused year after year. As I am forced to put up a barrier between me and my vegetables, at least it is one that is as much recycled, reused and reinvented as possible.