It seems almost every year, but possibly more recently, the robins somehow spotted the big strawberries in the garden. Initially, they pursued the garden for the worms and bugs, which in my recollection is their normal food. But for some reason, maybe lack of their favorite bugs, they drifted toward the patch of just-ripening berries where they would extract a large single slice out of our spring-time desserts. Never did they eat the entire berry but rather just went from one to another and taking one large beak full as if exploring for strawberry worms. It had gotten to the point where fifty percent of the berries were scarred and violated.
Truth is, we still ate them but not happy about sharing them with the wildlife that seemed really uninterested in actually consuming them. Initially, I tried putting net over the entire patch but discovered it was no fun trying to free the damn birds form the netting, much less having to move it every time we needed berries, which was every day. I even found myself tangle in the stinking netting looking like a giant carp trying to extract one more dough ball from the bottom of the river.
I was telling this story to Carmen just last week as the berries for this year began to ripen and I was seeing numerous robins eye-balling the red fruit. “Listen, all you do is find some round stones and paint them red, put them on the edge of the patch right where they can see them. Couple of whacks at the rocks and you’ll see those suckers head to the dentist with a chipped beaks,” She offered.
It’s been a week of eating unmolested strawberries. Interestingly, as a biologist and gardener, this got me thinking about other possible non-lethal ways of solving similar problems.
I recalled another individual who, like Carmen, had a great imagination by the name of Edward Abby. He lived in a rather broken down abode off in some distant Arizona desert (the same guy wrote Desert Solitaire) who on a non-stop basis, had a mouse and pack rat problem. He puzzled over the issue for some time and didn’t like the “nuclear option” of killing them with traps, or more particularly poisoning them only to kill every predator around who managed to get ahold of a sick rodent. Like many of us who have had to run a substantial trap line to control the rural pests, he began looking for a more natural solution. As a naturalist, rather like me, he found by placing a large bull snake in his house, the problem of rodents quickly disappeared and the snake, it was rumored, went from 4.5 ft. to 6 ft. in a single year, and was free to come and go, but was always welcomed.
In a fit entrepreneurial spirit, it occurred to me that I might be able to generate income by employing natural solutions to other ever-present problems. How about taking a serious dent out of the fly, or even mosquito population by selling and propagating insect eating Venus fly traps and pitcher plants. Each, if I recall, exude a subtle stench, not unlike rotting meat, or maybe a stinking human, that attract pests that target humans. Plant these fascinating botanical wonders all over the yard and problem solved.
In a bit of historical contemplation, it also occurred to me that some groups of people have used similar rather natural methods to hinder human movement into their communities. It has been rumored that a group of people referred to as Norwegians developed a process of ‘preserving’ fish, I believe mostly codfish, to make it such that their neighbors would never intrude on their sovereign space. The legend has it, they were targeting Swedes, my people, by soaking the aforementioned fish in lye and then encouraging microbes to do their work. This created “a product” (lutefisk) of such objectionable nature the peoples of this Norwegian persuasion were seldom bothered. Through time those same folks actually learned to like “the product” as a consumable food. This is one of the reasons why when one finds one Norwegian, we find more. History has found this to be most clever and really a win-win for that ethnic group.
I no sooner was reviewing this historical tidbit, when Glenn of Colorado called and went to great length to describe how his daughter had parked her hybrid auto for a tiny two hours only to find on her return, the catalytic converter had been cut off and stolen. Now there is a tough one but maybe there was a natural solution. Initially, it occurred to me that it might be possible to make a cage, under a car, very close to the converter that contained either a 30 pound snapping turtle, or a poorly fed badger (a great Wisconsin solution). If the converter was violated, a trip wire would drop the beast on the thief. Well, a car owner would have to maintain the animals and that might require staff and special feeding, so while it is innovative, I opted for a small hornet swarm that would be easier to maintain. I realized that the vibration of the auto would keep the insects in a high alert state all the time and once the trip wire was dropped the outcome would be spectacular.
The most important aspect of the suggestion by Carmen, is that the robins have been held at bay and we can fully enjoy the shortcakes. The other ideas, be they historical, or just brilliantly innovative, are just mind exercises and may not represent total reality, still, it is hot outside and the mind has to be activated.
Side note: I have not been bitten by a wasp, bee or hornet in years, but leaving the post office I go nailed. Message?