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Gardening is for the Birds

It's also for the bunnies. And deer. And chipmunks. Welcome to the number one resort for Highland Park's Wildlife.

Gardening is for the birds.

More specifically, our garden is for the birds. And, judging from the traffic I’ve witnessed in the past few weeks, it’s also for the bunnies, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, insects, grubs, skunks and apparently, some unknown dirt biker.

I can’t complain too much though. My husband David and I made a conscious choice to opt for beauty over function when it came to vegetation protection. No fence would obstruct our view of the budding plants as they emerged from the soil. What would stop the hungry predators from taking a turn at our free salad bar? The prayer method would have to do. Planned Gardenhood would not approve.

Lovely as our raised stone garden is, a barrier for hungry seed and soft tender root eaters it is not. So, tens of wasted compost, tilling, planting and watering hours later, we will head on over to the Ravinia Farmers Market this summer, and fill our fridge with a plethora of colorful and nutritious offerings from someone else’s soil. 

It doesn’t matter, because if we’re looking for bounty from the earth, we can count on our peach trees. The Brint Orchard consists of three fruit trees: one cherry tree that turned out to be a crabapple, and two peach. This year we have finally given up hope of harvesting cherries, but we still feel there is a fifty-fifty chance we might end up with a few peaches… if we can just find a way to outwit the neighborhood squirrels.  Enter my husband, Farmer Dave.

Now growing up in an apartment building in Philadelphia, Farmer Dave learned from an early age all about squirrel abatement options for the purpose of maximizing orchard productivity.  So he put on his new white golf shirt was ready to hit the dirt.

First on the agenda was to find a way to ensure the tree dwelling creatures could no longer reach the fruit. So, after a few trips to the hardware store, Dave came back with a surefire plan to keep the squirrels out of the trees. First, he rigged them with chicken wire fencing (in green so it looked really nice) around the base of the trees. This way, the squirrels would have trouble climbing. I tried pointing out that the chicken wire acted more like a ladder or a jungle gym straight up the trunk, designed specifically for rodents, but Dave assured me that the wire made the ascent more difficult. 

Step two, which I call, “Make Sure No Human Ever Eats Our Peaches” involves a generous application of, and I am not making this up, a product called “Shotgun.” The main ingredients in Shotgun are: dried blood, putrescent egg solids, garlic oil, and just a hint of dead fish for that je ne sais quoi so desirable in animal repellent. Sure makes for a fine afternoon, lounging on the deck as the breeze carries a waft or two of Shotgun through the air.

But I have to give my husband credit. Even though he is out there mucking through the mud in white sneakers instead of proper gardening clogs while he is laying and re-laying soaker hoses day after day. The fact is, he is out there. And, even better than that – he gets our whole family out there.  

So this summer we can look forward to many more weekends of aching backs, dirty fingernails, sweaty brows, sore knees and good old outdoor time. It most likely will feed our neighborhood wildlife many vegetables. I am sure they will thank us.

And come harvest time for the peaches? I say, let’s just feed them to the birds.

Betsy Brint June 03, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Thanks for your suggestions - anything for peach trees?
Molly June 04, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Betsy, loved this opinion piece. Welcome to the wonderful world of spousal gardening. Currently I'm in a waiting phase as my husband contends that OUR rose bushes will be ignored by japanese beetles (because he says so!). We have a baby cherry tree that again because of those beetles will probably never reach fruit stage. Our pear tree had one pear last year (hard as a rock) but I've not seen a peach tree in HP. Perhaps you need to hang out at the bacci court in Highwood and get some advice from the best gardeners around - those "more mature" italian guys know their stuff.
Betsy Brint June 04, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Thanks Molly. As for your cherry tree... are you sure it is not a crabapple like ours? Ha!
Molly June 05, 2012 at 01:03 AM
I'll probably never know as it hasn't yet surpassed 3' ft tall. I'm fairly positive it's not a pine tree...that's as good as it gets.
Molly June 05, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Check out the website, deadsquirrels.com ...it won't solve the squirrel problem but you might be able to laugh at the tree rodents as they feast on the peaches. Seriously, a friend suggested encouraging hawks to prowl your yard by building a perch, 8-10ft above. Not wise if you gave outdoor cats.

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