Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Thief in the Cherry Tree

Today's prompt for Sunday Scribblings - "thief"

We have a cherry tree at our back door. When we moved here, I didn't know it was a cherry tree. I didn't take much notice of it for several years. Eventually I noticed that it had started to bear small, hard red fruit that the birds seemed to enjoy. I assumed they were sour, like the crab apples that the birds also liked. I didn't think much about it until one year I spotted two dark red, plump juicy berries that the birds had missed, hiding under a leaf. I tasted them and found they were sweet, ripe cherries.

The next year we tried to pick some of the berries before the birds got to them, and ripen them on the windowsill. It wasn't very successful - even at the ripest we could get them, they were still a little hard and tart. Then we tried covering branches with netting. It was a big tree. Perhaps if I had realised early enough what it was, we could have pruned it and kept it to a manageable size. The branches were spreading and far apart. We thought we had covered the lower branches, but the birds found a way in underneath the netting and stripped them once more. One year we were on holiday in an area where there were many cherry orchards. We stopped at a roadside stand to buy fruit, and I asked how they kept the birds off the cherries. They told me they fire gas guns. The noise frightens the birds away. If that stops working, they shoot a few birds. The sight of the dead birds scares the others off. Unfortunately that's not a practical solution in a built-up area. I found another, though - pantyhose. The leg of an old pair of pantyhose stretched over a branch protects the fruit from the feathered thieves. Or at least, it does until they have stripped the rest of the tree. Then they start pecking at the pantyhose until they have pecked a hole through, and they steal those as well. Still, as long as I am quick and pick the cherries as soon as they are ripe, I do get a couple of pounds of sweet cherries this way. It is slow though, covering the branches one at a time. And it requires a ladder as the tree is so high. Many branches are out of reach. In fact I would be glad to share the cherries with the birds, if they would only feast on the upper branches and leave the lower branches for us. But every year it is the same. One day they seem to be leaving the unripe cherries alone. Then suddenly the sun is shining, and the birds are flying in and stripping the branches again - at first, all in a day. Now that the tree has grown, it takes a little longer, but the birds take all. They probably think of us as thieves if we try to compete with them.

There are other problems, too. Our cars are parked near the tree. It overhangs the translucent roof of the conservatory which contains our spa pool. In cherry season the birds drop cherry stones all over the cars and the roof, and poop cherry coloured poop everywhere. And the tree towers over the two storeyed house. Its roots spread far across the garden. They are undermining and cracking the concrete driveway. Shoots come up all over the back lawn. I imagine falling asleep for a hundred years, like Sleeping Beauty. The cherry tree shoots would have grown into a thick forest. I have serious doubts that any handsome prince would be able to find his way through.

Sadly, the tree has to go. Already my husband has removed most of the lower branches, and one of the two trunks that was rubbing against the spouting of the house. Eventually the whole tree will come down. It is easier, anyway, to buy my cherries from the supermarket. But they will never seem quite as tasty as the ones we fight the birds for.

11 comments:

Deb R said...

Aw, that makes me a little sad that the cherry tree will be coming down, although I certainly understand why.

We fight the birds for wild black raspberries here. The birds always win. I'm lucky if I get one small dish of them per season!

Catherine said...

Deb, it makes me a little sad too. Though I won't miss the cherry stones and poop all over my car.

indigo said...

Hey Catherine... I've got a similar problem here in Singapore. One of our fruit trees, a "rambutan" is very popular with the green parrots and crows. They attack the fruit and drop seeds and skins everywhere. We have to attach plastic bags around each clump to protect them but those clever birds now know how to rip the plastic to get to the ripening fruit. Like you, we now buy most of the fruit from the market when they come into season.

And oh! Michele sent me.

paris parfait said...

Sounds like collecting those cherries was more trouble than they were worth. Sad about the tree, but I know what you mean when growth gets out of control and affects everythng else. Lovely post.

Florence said...

Hi Catherine, Michele sent me.
I'm from Brisbane Australian, nice to meet you. I recently saw, on a gardening show, a cd mobile that is supposed to scare birds - but your birds sound pretty clever. We have a Mulberry tree that is a favourite for the birds, its so big that we manage to get a few bowls if we time it right:)

GreenishLady said...

Cherries are my favourite fruit. It must be so frustrating to keep losing to the birds, and now, when the tree is gone, none of you will have them. Will you be planting a couple of dwarf cherries - that you can protect more easily - when the big tree is gone? I think I would.

Shane said...

i find that theory works well with disobedient children. if you shoot a few of them and leave em laying around, it scares off the others. MUAHHHHAAAAAAA

Kim G. said...

I'm sure the battle you fought for these precious cherries made them taste all the sweeter! Best of luck with the tree removal, I hope all goes well!

Ravvy said...

i agree on your last point where you say that they wont taste the same as when you have to fight the birds for them... working for your food makes you appreciate it more, i find, than just plodding along and getting things along the way... so... that to me, makes sense!! But its a shame that your tree has to go, tho you will be less cherry pooped on everything and have your concrete last a little longer... we used to have a HUGEmungeous Mulberry tree that did the same thing, it was totally awesome to go and climb the tree barefoot with a couple of containers and pick them and then make stuff out of them, or just to play underneath and get the berries squished between each others toes... yeah... that was fun!

PS - i'll so help motivate if you still want - im so thankful that you stopped by, and i'll tell you anything you like - im very forward and honest! Have a really great day (i think you may not have any comment space left now :D)

chiefbiscuit said...

We've got big trees around us too - so far we haven't done anything about it, but we are going to have to soon ... Shame. Glad you got to taste the cherries for a little while anyway ... Yummmm ...

Verity said...

Shame about the tree! But you're right, the supermarket ones are never as good.