So I had a big payoff.
The War has dragged on for a long chunk of the Summer, with attacks on three fronts, air (Flitty), ground (Slinky), and, most annoyingly, tree (Fluffy). While I do counterattack, including pointless and potentially embarrassing bouts of fury that see me rush outside early in the morning, sometimes in various states of undress, waving a broom, towel, pan, cup of tea, machete, or whatever I can lay my hands on, most gain is made by thinking through useful purely defensive countermeasures (perhaps in another post I will share with you a rogue’s gallery of the results of other countermeasures – see e.g. here). These were first laid on in July, while the figs were still far from interesting to the enemy, and also while they were less prone to damage from the deployment of said countermeasures. Encasing the entire fig tree in a giant net is tempting, but this is difficult for one person to do, and also, it is hard to find nets that are large enough. My fall back plan was to net sections of the tree. This has advantages. The first is that if a breach happens, the whole tree is not suddenly accessible. (Moreover, one does not have the annoyance having to let birds out from under the net on a regular basis.) The second is that one inevitably has to leave some of the tree accessible in doing sections (tall bits hard to reach) and this helps distract the enemy from the harder to get to stuff under the nets (and after all, I don’t mind sharing with the enemy… But they will maul, peck, and bite everything given a chance, even if they do not eat it all…).
So in the end, I did two main sections, and a third sort of halfway (prickly and delicate flowering lime tree right next to it that I did not want to disturb further). You can see in the photo that it does not look so appealing, but this is not about aesthetics, and in any case it is temporary. For each section protected I’ve built a cage of chicken wire first, scooped a lot of branches into its framework, and then covered the whole thing with the thin, more flimsy bird netting, probably invisible in this picture. Why? Several reasons. The first is that this netting is a devil of a beast to get on to the tree, as it snags on even pockets of cool air if you’re not careful. There are fewer branches sticking out using this method. It is still hard though. The other reason, the primary one, is that the framework keeps more figs in the interior of the arrangement, and away from the perimeter, where happy nibbling, pecking, and other assaults could happen throughout the net anyway.
This is for the black Mission figs at the back. The white/green Calimyrna figs at the front, that I reported on already this season, have a large branch sealed off in a similar way, but without the framework. The was something about the structure of the branches that meant this would be more or less ok, and overall it is a smaller section that would have suffered under too much external weight. One of the drawbacks of all of this is that fact that it is such a pain to have to undo and redo all the ties that pull the net together, calmly walking out to ones tree and picking a fig and eating it is an ordeal, and then then is a danger that one just can’t be bothered. So I will admit to losing a few due to waiting too long before I found the motivation to do a harvest. They don’t all ripen at the same time, you see. I want to work on new ways of securely sealing the net while being able to release it rapidly. A breach that I had to seal, made I think by Fluffy, gave me an idea – make a few access holes and then seal them up with these handy mini-clamps I found in the hardware store, originally intended to be used for carpentry projects I think.
Well, after all that, what is the payoff? Less stress, disappointment, and feeling powerless over stolen fruit, and …lots of figs!! The picture at the top is of a harvest of Mission figs from this morning… and below is a shot of some Calimyrna ones harvested in the same session. (Do you know the remarkable story of how figs ripen and come to harvest every year? Worth reading…. See for example, here.)
This (including some that you can see that were on the tree a tad too long) is a good amount…. Enough to make a batch of delicious fig jam for the Bleak MidWinter months to come… . See a previous post (or two) for a recipe and pictures of the process.
Some Related Asymptotia Posts (not exhaustive):