Thursday, May 27, 2021

Nets and Gleaning

About a decade ago, I planted four blueberry bushes near the front of our house.  One was inadvertently destroyed by an errant lawnmower driven by a teen.  One struggled to thrive, and remains barely more than two lightly leafed branches poking wanly from the ground.  But two grew and grew well, and every spring for the last five years, they've burst forth with clusters of pretty little white-prayer-bell flowers, striated with a hopeful pink purple.  

Those clusters of flowers draw the bees, then fall away, as the berry beneath plumps out and ripens.  Every year, they swell out by the hundreds, and their color turns from a pale green to deepening hues of deepwater blue.

And then, as if I were some sad suburban Tantalus, they are plucked away at the last moment.  Not by capricious Mediterranean deities, but but by the sparrows and starlings and grackles.  The sparrows in particular seem fond of depriving us of the literal fruit of our literal labor, as they flit from branch to branch, pecking one plump, nearly ripe orb after another.  In the last five years, I could hold our total blueberry harvest in a single cupped palm.

It has not endeared the sparrows to me.  I mean, they're already more than a little on the obnoxious side.  When they're not arguing, they tend to sit on the sides of my raised beds sharpening their beaks ostentatiously, like tiny winged hoodlums in an all-bird production of West Side Story.  They are not doves.  They are not wrens.  Or even crows.  I do not like them.  I have, on occasion, harbored dark fantasies of the Standard American Solution to yard varmints, which can be found by searching on YouTube, keywords "sparrow" and "high powered air rifle."  As vicariously, morbidly satisfying as those slo mo feathered explosions might be, that just isn't me.  Or legal.

And so this year, after two years of failed efforts to net my plants, I've upped the game.  Fifty strong mesh bags, too fine to get around, now are tied in place around fifty clusters of berries. I think, finally, that I have them.  Most of the berries are covered. 

Most. But not all.  

Because although house sparrows are not the most genial of birds, and the enemy of many of my efforts in the garden, I can't quite bring myself to starve them, in the same way that I don't feel like blasting them from existence with a small projectile travelling 1800 feet per second.  

I do not need all of the harvest.  I do not need to maximize my yield.  I will have plenty, and there will be plenty of berries left for the gleaning.  Why take every last thing?