Whitesburg KY

Bird netting saves berries, but can confuse neighbors

One late afternoon last week, while Loretta was attending a road trip Little League baseball game, a couple of neighborhood women were walking their dogs as they passed by our house on Charlie Brown Road. Ten years ago I would have known their names, their dogs’ names, their kids’ names and where those kids caught the school bus.

Now I’m barely able to understand a word the ladies say and I’d forget their names by the next day. I’m pretty sure they understand, even though they have to repeat themselves, usually a couple of times, when we make attempts at conversation between my front porch and their stroll along the road.

This particular conversation took notice of an apparition in our front yard. The women thought it was yard art and found it very attractive. If you are standing in the road and have some artistic imagination, you’d be looking at a 13X25 feet, irregular, dome shaped, piece of light green, transparent, gauzy fabric, stretched over two white and two black shepherd’s hooks that range from three to six feet in height.

The ladies decided that it looked like an exotic, seethrough, Arabian desert tent with four dark green chairs placed inside it. The tent has two peaks, one somewhat taller than the other. They decided the irregular peaks were intentional and not a design flaw.

“It’s surreal. I’d call it ghostly, but it’s a friendly ghost,” one of the ladies advised. I told them that my wife would be really impressed with their compliments, even though their impressions were not exactly what she’d had in mind when the “artwork” was being created.

I happen to know the fabric was 13X25 feet because I’m the guy who found the bird netting in precisely that size on eBay. It is intended to keep mockingbirds, blackbirds, bluejays and a solitary black and white striped, warbler from devouring blueberries we have spent most of the last two decades trying to grow big enough to raise and harvest.

The “chairs” inside the “tent” are actually four mature blueberry plants, four different varieties, in various stages of ripening.

Over the last 20 years we have probably killed at least 50 blueberry plants before they reached three years of age. At least that many azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons have suffered the same fate.

The soil around our place is neutral or slightly alkaline. All of the aforementioned plants require acidic soil. Do a Google search of soil acidifiers. You should come up with a list of over 25 products designed to lower the soil ph. Since 2020, chances are good that I’ve tried every one of these products, at one time or another.

Google “soil ph” to get a better handle on what that means for gardeners. I don’t have time, nor space, here to write the lesson.

To make a long story short, our soil tends to have a ph of 6.2 to 6.7, no matter where it’s tested. Blueberries like soil with a ph of 4.5. On numerous occasions, I have been able to get certain plots to that level, only to have them become killers when I forgot to test the soil and add acid to it in successive years.

However, this year, we have four plants from four to six years old that are thriving. So far, Loretta has picked more berries than we’ve had in all previous years, combined.

Before the netting went up, the birds had probably harvested half a gallon. A week after Loretta erected the artwork, she picked about a quart. I figure each berry was worth about $1.50 if you include all the money I’ve invested in blueberry endeavors over the years.

I have to admit that I gobbled down the lion’s share of that first picking. However, thanks to my wife’s preventative maintenance, we should be eating fresh blueberries well into July.

In the meantime, there are few things, more entertaining, than watching a stubborn mockingbird attempt and fail to fly through Loretta’s ghostly apparition.

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