Spring 2015 Update:
The good news: this year I had a bumper crop of red raspberries on my bushes. I watched them ripening for a month and a half. My mouth watered. I smiled inwardly in anticipation.
The bad news: I had two worthy adversaries who I suspected liked raspberries as much as I do. We shared ownership of the bushes and the battle ground.
The good news and the bad news: last year I won the battle for the raspberries. I picked more than I could eat in the Spring and then again in the Fall. Each morning I looked out the window and smiled. I got my coffee and made my toasted peanut butter sandwich. Then I grabbed a metal bowl and released the locks on the sliding door. I slid the door open, turned the corner and there they were–50 or more just slightly purple, plump, juicy red raspberries waiting for me.
Of course there were usually three or four handfuls that never made it into the bowl. The ones at their peak or just past the peak of ripeness demanded eating now. They would not keep. But there were still plenty for the bowl to eat later or share with my wife:)
My two primary adversaries were one long-known and one relative newcomer. The newcomer was the Berry Bird who nested strategically just 3.6 feet from the edge of my raspberry patch. He/she was amazingly talented. Berry would flip out of the nest above or below, well even beside, a bush or a branch, and acrobatically pluck a ready ripe raspberry at its peak with its beak. Berry never missed. Berry could procure 2, 3, 4, seemingly as many as 5 berries a minute. Each time Berry would dart back to its nest and then flip out, always on target, plucking the raspberries with ease. The challenge I had, was that I had to go to work leaving Berry lots of time to pluck, devour, digest, perhaps rest, and then pluck some more.
Solution: so after studying Berry’s tactics I thought I could protect at least part of my crop by pulling out the trusty bird netting and spreading it out over the bushes. I could not spread it too tightly, or I would not be able to harvest my own share of the ripe berries.
This is when my long-known adversary came into the picture. Chip, a rather plump, I know why he/she was plump, and rather intelligent chipmunk/perhaps a ground squirrel, but they all look like chipmunks to me, recognized an opportunity. Since I was using the bird nets, he/she could swoop in and clamber a foot or so up the bushes; since red raspberries are not really thorny, no problem. Chip would hoover, like a vacuum, up a few ripe red raspberries here, a few not quite ripe red raspberries there, and then a third and a fourth branch would be denuded. So Chip pretty much owned the lower 50% of the patch.
Well Berry, perhaps observing Chip’s tactics, decided that flipping out of the nest, then swooping down an extra foot, and plucking up a few raspberries from the branches under the edge of the net was great sport, a new game, and a bit of good fun. He/she got quite good at the game and never had to land or rest on a branch. Berry never missed a raspberry.
Then Chip and Berry realized they could work the patch at the same time. Chip would climb and hoover, Berry would flip under the net and then hover and the monster crop of berries would disappear before my glaring eyes. I watched in frustration from my windows inside my house before I had to go off to work.
I had a pretty even chance on weekends, when I was home, since time was on my side and Chip and Berry were willing to wait patiently when I was out working the patch. Then one day to my amazement I saw a huge, relatively fast-moving box turtle walking past my patch. Well, I have lived at this same home for 15 years and I had never seen a turtle. I thought it was just a random harmless episode. I shared this with a friend, who shared back, “you know turtles like berries?”
Still the score was about 95 berries to Chip and Berry for every 5 that I got during the Spring. I think Yertle the turtle was just passing by, perhaps scouting territory for another year or scouting a patch with less competition where he/she could be ruler of the patch.
Fall 2015 Update:
Luckily there is a two month break between the spring and the fall season for red raspberries. In September, Berry had moved on. Chip was still around, but he/she usually focused on the bushes and branches at the back of the patch. This was actually helpful since it harder for me to get to those bushes anyway.
The nets finally proved their worth. After two months the branches had grown through the nets and now there were lots of ripe raspberries clustered along the tips of these branches. Chip could not get to them and Berry had moved on. This evened the score out nicely. I got about 50% of the berries and Chip or other friends got the other 50%.
It is now mid-November. I have been picking raspberries just about every day or two for three months since we have not yet had a killer frost. Yesterday I picked eight large beautiful raspberries. Life is good. I have a lot to be thankful for, even if Chip and Berry made it an “interesting” year.
Bruce Summers is a Personal Historian with Summoose Tales, email@example.com. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving.