Saturday, February 23, 2013

insert swear word here





There are times when organic farming feels like the most wonderful profession in the whole wide world. When working for Mother Nature, growing delicious, seasonal, old fashioned produce with intent and love feels like the most honorable thing to do. It makes sense.

And then there's this.

A crop that takes an entire year to grow devastated in a few hours by a bunch of birds. No Cox's Orange Pippins for us this year.

I hope the greedy cockatoos enjoyed them.

Over the past 12 years we've tried hanging shiny, noisy things from the trees in our orchards, a gas gun, fake hawks, netting a few trees and probably a few more things I've forgotten to keep the birds away, but nothings worked. We've also had quotes written for netting the entire orchard but the cost is prohibitive and would take years to pay off.

Realistically, we'd be happy for the birds to take 10% of our apples. We live in a forest and that seems fair.

But this mess doesn't seem fair.

This makes me question everything. This makes me wonder about the hours and days and weeks and months spent growing those apples. The irrigating, the fertilising, the worrying, the weeding, the thinning and then some more irrigating. This makes me yearn for a regular job with regular hours and a regular wage. Something safe and predictable. 

Sometimes farming hurts. All that hard work for the birds! And some scraps for Jo Jo too. At least he look happy with himself. I feel awful.

We're going to start picking some of the other varieties this morning, earlier than we intended but hopefully in time to save them from the birds.

And I'm going to enjoy the sunflowers. I can't believe there's only one week left of summer, I'm not ready to say goodbye just yet. Are you?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend peeps.
And do me a favour when you take a bite of a fruit over the next few days, just imagine the miracle that it took to grow it to full term and get it delivered to you. And enjoy it, the farmer would be so happy you did.

xx

62 comments:

  1. So, so sorry. I think I would definitely question all that work just to give a banquet to a few greedy birds. Grrrr. Thinking of you but not having any suggestions. Cherrie

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  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. I am going to the farmers market tomorrow and I will think of your words. I don't think I can stand how cute your dog is.

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  3. Oh Kate I am so sorry I can't imagine how difficult it would have been to see the destruction of those birds after all the time, love and work. I just know from my humble little veggie patch how difficult growing is and cannot begin to even think what I would do without farmers like you and how grateful I am that you are there to produce fruit and vegetables for us when my growing fails which is often. Take care enjoy your last week of Summer I hope it is a good one. xx

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  4. Kate, reading this makes me so sad and so angry.

    Cockys are not my favourite birds, I don't enjoy hearing their cry in the evening and I've seen what they have done to people's houses.

    It's devistating to read what they have done to your apples.

    I hope they leave the rest of your apples alone.

    C x

    PS got some chooks yesterday!

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  5. I'm so sorry to hear this Kate - I know how you must feel!
    I remember once we had a beautiful crop of tomatoes. They are ready to be picked the next day, they were so large and tasty looking. The next morning we discovered that a couple of rats had beaten us to the crop. What was more annoying was that they had taken just one bite from each tomato, leaving all the fruit unusable.
    This was just on a home-scale veggies garden. Our income didn't rely on it, but it was horrible none the less. I can only imagine how much more disappointing it must be when it is part of your lively hood. I hope all your other crops grow perfectly, with no nasty pests getting them.

    Sarah xx

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  6. Oh goodness, I feel so angry on your behalf. Sure, the birds know not what they do, but all your hard work laid waste ... devastating! Everything we eat that grew is a small miracle isn't it!

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  7. I only have a small home orchard (about 30 deciduous trees and 15ish citrus) - but I know exactly how this feels - every year our apples and stone fruit have been decimated by bower birds, parrots, and other assorted free-loaders.... it DOES make you wonder about it all.... we are saving up $$ and materials to put an enclosure over the deciduous trees as we've worked out that is the only way we will harvest anything....

    I think most folk don't realise just how very hard farming can be - but believe me I say I TOTALLY understand the heartbreak (our dairy herd was decimated by theileria..... we battle on...)

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  8. Farmers are the only true ,professional, gamblers in the world. But they are probably some of the most resilientpeople in the world also. And being a true 'it's in the blood farmer' you just pick yourself up and keep on going. The natural elements have the control on 'success' or 'failure' - I have seen it happen many times, experienced it many times. BUT the farming life is equalled by no other. A childhood on a farm is equalled by no other. And when the crops are good there is no other feeling in the world that can beat that feeling of satisfaction.
    Hopeing the remainig crops of this season are a success for you - to balance that loss and to hopefully balance that budget!!

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  9. Oh Kate, I so understand the despair and disappointment of having either animals or the elements destroy something that has taken time, effort not to mention blood, sweat and tears to grow. Organic farming is good, very good, but also very hard. Farming doesn't pay well at the best of times so to have pesky birds decimate a precious apple crop...ouch!!
    Thank you for being brave organic farmers, for trying to do the right thing for our environment and growing food that is good for us, untainted by nasty things.
    Have the best weekend you possibly can in the circumstances. Thinking of you and your lovely family.
    Anne xx

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  10. This is most unfair Kate. It can be so difficult can't it? On the bright side your sunflower complete with bees it beautiful. I cant believe summer is almost over either, I am ready for some cooler, gentler weather. Have a lovely weekend, good luck with the remaining apple crop x

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  11. Oh Kate, that's so awful! All that hard work. I've just had a crazy idea... Why don't we all start a crochet project - fine crochet cotton with big-sized hooks and make up net-like meterage? We'd have a few 'nets' for next year maybe? How amazing would that be? I'd love to do that. Community project for your fabulous apples :) Kx

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  12. I' so sorry. this made me so sad tp see your beautiful orchard so ravaged. Prayed for all of you.

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  13. Oh Kate, the pain in your words comes thru so clearly; would that you can feel the love we, your readers, return unto you for all you do to sustain our diets. I am so sorry about the apples and can only send a thought skyward in hopes that the rest of the orchard is left to you to harvest.

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  14. Oh Kate! My folks are on a farm and it is a devastating profession - Mother Nature can be cruel. In our little back yard plot the birds got almost all of the nectarines this year but have been very kind with the plums (only taking a few from the top)and so far (touch wood) our apples haven't been touched. Maybe having a labrador helps?

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  15. The cockatoos seem to destroy everything. They were even eating the fruit off dad's trees last year, so he got no peaches or plums, just a big mess to clean up. I cant believe all that mess they made. Pity you cant have a pet hawke as it might have scared them off. Hopefully they might come back and eat all their leftovers and leave the other stuff alone. It must be so frustrating for you and Bren to deal with, especially when the fruit trees are part of your income.

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  16. i feel so sorry for all this vandalism caused by the birds....
    a big hug, xxx Ale

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  17. Oh Kate, you poor thing ,we live at the foothills of Melbourne's Dandenong ranges and we hate cockies Never thought I would say that about any living thing but they are the most awful, destructive things ever. They are not even native to this are a few were released from a cage way back in the "60's and now there is a flock off 100. They destroy everything, and as they have done with your apples, they don't even eat what they take, just snap it of eat one seed and move onto the next. At least parrots sit and enjoy an entire apple! Pick up those apple and throw them - hard - at those pesky birds. Next time net as many trees as you can, it's no fool proof but at least you will have soothing. Also let them know you hate them, sho them away whenever you see them, they are really smart birds and will fly off whenever they see any of you. I'm loving my farmers apples, blackberries and plums this week. Thank you to all our. Amazing farmers. xxBrenda

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  18. To grow food cleanly and ethically - even to eat food that is grown cleanly and ethically - and at the same time hold true to a value that protects wildlife and the biodiversity of the planet - it's not a simple, black and white thing. It's nuanced and complex and has knock on effects all the way along. Farmers do it, well or badly, but to the best of their ability in the circumstances, all the time. It takes such skill and judgement to calculate risk, and such character and resilience to do it over and over. I feel for you, and admire the taking on of the task.

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  19. OH no! :( Our two peach trees were more or less eaten away... we got a small handful of fruit off them which was amazing.. but the rest went to the birds! :( I'm sorry you lost such a large crop and something so significant and important to your life, work and heart.

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  20. I feel for you Kate. Must be heart-breaking. If it makes you feel any better, your photos are beautiful. In terms of telling a story, I think these are my favourite pictures you've taken (albeit wishing of course that instead you'd taken pictures of tubs of just-picked apples)....

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  21. I have uttered those swear words too, the birds seem fiercer this year and have take all our apples, pears and plums, only a few netted nectarines saved. Even the dog looks bummed in your pics, food does not get made easily.

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  22. Since I started my balcony garden I've struggled with the damn birds picking my little crop to bits. I've often stood and thought of how bad the problem must be on a full scale farm where the birds can destroy an entire years work & wage in one day. I know it's just nature but those birds are big fat bumholes!

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  23. How devastating for you. Parrots got all but one of my backyard apples this year - started on them when they were small and far too green to pick. Second time so the tree comes out this winter. We will replant our mini orchard and keep smaller to enable netting, guess it is the only way.

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  24. we do, oh we do think of the orchard and farmer who tended our fruit...thats where we buy our fruit directly from. we get to walk amongst the trees. but oh, to see such a mess by those birds...i am sorry. that sucks, it truly sucks.

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  25. Oh I am sorry to see all that fruit eaten and destroyed. But please don't despare you don't want a boring old desk job...my husband and I would love your farm experience.
    We once picked apples in SA and always value where fruit and vege comes from. Where I worked the gas guns worked a treat. Love your blog!

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  26. What a massive disappointment - those wretched Cockies. And they always seem to destroy the fruit right before picking, just for a few seeds in the middle. Would it be possible to net some of the trees next year? I know netting is quite a palaver, but might be worth it for the Cox's.

    Try not to be down hearted - hopefully you've got the rest of the crop saved.

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  27. I know lots of swear words Kate- would you like to borrow some?!

    I feel so sad for you guys. I know how pissed I get when the rabbits steal a few things from my little veg garden so I can only imagine the hurt & anger you feel....

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  28. Oh Kate.... I'm sorry. Hope picking the others earlier somehow makes everything feel a bit better. Enjoy the sunflowers xx

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  29. Oh Kate hugs to you all!!! I know a hug isn't going to fix the situation but its all I can think of right now. I don't know how farmers manage financially through all the things mother nature in all her forms throws at them. We struggle with a regular pay but I don't know how you get through all the uncertainty of farming.

    I hope you are able to get the next lot of apples before the cockies do!!!!

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  30. Beautiful Rozellas eat our fruit- apples, apricots, pears, quince - no discrimination. I love them so much I dream of blowing them to bits . . . . . is that wrong . . .

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  31. Ooo! A REALLY BIG swear word. Even bigger than BUM!

    Sorry to see that nature got the jump this year. Fecking cockies.

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  32. Oh how devastating for you all. Grrr! We used to be farmers and I know there's times where it's one of the toughest jobs in the world. Sometimes I just wish that everyone who isn't a farmer (or gardener) could truly appreciate all the passion and hard work that is required to grow the food that sustains us all. You're doing an amazing job. I hope the rest of the season is wonderful for you. xx

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  33. I only have a couple of fruit trees so I just net the crowns individually. Although last year the birds worked out how to get inside the net, take the cherries, and then get out of the net, so it was a waste of time!

    I don't know how you feel about it, but in the UK you can hire falconers and other birds of prey handlers to control pests. It's organic, but obviously does involve the killing of the pest. Maybe a few visits by a real bird of prey would make the rest of the birds more cautious about stealing your crops.

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  34. Well written - and a timely reminder for the work (and miracles) that go into getting organic produce to our kitchens. Keep up the good work. And thanks for sharing your experience.

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  35. I am so, so sorry! The frustration must be difficult to process. You are courageous and hard-working with wonderful principles and I admire that enormously.

    Stephanie

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  36. Gosh Kate, seeing all those tortured apples just laying there makes me feel so sad. Such waste the way they have a bit here and a bite there. Has this never happened before? And I'm guessing netting is way too expensive. I was pretty upset when the wallabies came into our veggie patch and decimated pretty much all of it overnight so I can only imagine your frustration. So sorry. Mel x

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  37. A 9 to 5 job is akin to taking anti-depressants so you never have to feel deep sorrows. But also never getting to feel elated.

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  38. Kate, I read what you've written with tears in my eyes. Please know that our thoughts are with you and that we'll appreciate the apples we eat SO MUCH MORE knowing what you go through just to provide them. Thank you so much for your wonderful words, your hard work and your wisdom, it's not wasted (although sometimes it may seem that way) and we LOVE you for it.

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  39. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your apples...greedy birds indeed. You must be heartsick. I so admire you and other organic farmers...thank you for what you do. I agree with Vanessa, you've done a remarkable job telling the story with your photos. I hope that the rest of the season is peaceful and bird free!

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  40. Can I say that while I really do feel terrible for you, I can't bring myself to dislike the birds as I don't think they are 'greedy', just hungry. The world's resources are for all. It would be a sad planet if we just lived here alone with no other animals. Man is far more greedy and destructive, yet we call every animal that is just doing what it does to get by greedy. Man lays waste everywhere he goes. He devastates forest, chops down habitation of both man and beast, is violent and wasteful.

    I do sympathise and empathise, really I do. I imagine it must be absolutely heartbreaking for you after all your hopes, dreams and hard work. But there is nothing you can do, or could have done. We share the planet and its resources. If there was no farming then people and animals would exist in numbers that could only be supported by what is available for them naturally (some suggest that the garden of eden was that time before agriculture). Now though, we have produced extra food for ourselves which have supported the increase of human beings and we have so many people and that makes extra demands on the land as we try and feed everyone. Possibly the earth was not meant to provide food for so many. It means now that we (you the farmers) have to work ever harder to produce the food for everyone, with all the pitfalls it entails.

    As an example of people's greed I give you this. In the UK at the moment supplies of certain baby formula has run out due to a shortage of a key ingredient, so production ground to a halt. Have people with excess supplies run to help babies literally left with no food (it's a comfort formula, intended for babies who can't accept any other)? No they have not - they are selling it on eBay for £100 a tin. Exploiting people's real concern and misery. That is what us human beings are like. That is true greed - not animals feeding themselves. I know it seems like they are monstrous and they are nibbling at them and not eating the rest and it seems wanton and purposeful and against you but honestly they don't know better and they don't know your investment in them, so they act as if it is a free for all. I don't suppose that helps any and my comment probably annoys you, I wouldn't leave it if I hadn't seen that so many people do care and have left kind comments - this isn't meant to be unkind either, and I care too. I know that sometimes it is them and us even if like me you love animals.

    I do hope they leave your apples alone now and go and eat somewhere else and that you are able to protect what you have left. It isn't easy, I understand that. In fact your story shows how difficult survival is for everyone. I hope you make some good come out of this for yourselves.

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    1. you obviously haven't seen some of our birds in australia at work! some are just purely destructive... many don't peck at food to eat it, and it's not done out of hunger... i don't know why they do it? pure destructiveness? sharpening their beaks? i've had birds (including cockatoos)just peck things off and leave them or gouge holes in them and leave them! it is heartbreaking after all the time, effort and money that goes into growing a crop... we are working towards netting everything on our place, but it is very $$ and i expect it will take many years to pay off the netting... sometimes i wonder if it's worth growing at all- and having been raised in a farming family i do so appreciate the work that goes into our amazing food

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  41. Awful, just awful. Cheeky birds!
    Hope you can put it behind you, you have such a lovely life. X

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  42. Feeling for you Kate. The cockatoos decimated our mandarine trees last year. What anooys me most is that they spoil all the fruit without eating it..Just big gouges here and there. Anyway, I sending up a prayer for you and your family. Hope you can get the rest of the apples picked. Bev

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  43. A few years ago I had a beautiful garden of daffodils which the cockies came and snipped off at the top of the stalk. I was not happy. The next year my son got a water pistol and squirted the cockies every time they came near the daffodils.I didn't really think it would work but it kept him busy so I left him to it. Not only did he save that year's daffodils but the cockies didn't come back the following years. Mine were the only daffodils in the street which didn't get destroyed. Apparently the birds have a good memory. I know you can't run around the orchard with a water pistol but it might be an idea for home gardeners.

    Lynda

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  44. Oh Kate, that is heartbreaking. You really are at natures mercy. I hope they leave the rest of your crops alone. And yes, I am ready to say goodbye to summer. A cyclone, floods, and now more heavy rain forecast. We have had enough.

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  45. aww that makes me so sad for you, all that hard work :( I hope the early picking of the rest goes well.

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  46. So sorry to read this Kate. Sending love and apples...
    Have you considered trying the biodynamic way of making 'peppers'? I know people use that for other pests and I think it would work with cockatoos as well (involves phases of the moon and burning a dead pest)- I have a friend who made one for foxes and only her chooks never get harmed. Another thing to try is chili spray on the trees/ leaves or maybe apples, as long as the flavour doesn't soak in?

    Lots of love xox

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  47. Oh Kate!!! I can imagine because the buggers got into our one blood plum, despite it being netted and the buggers only take a bite and then move on!!! Such lovely cookers too. If I were closer I'd come and help you pick to get in ahead of them.

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  48. My one attempt at growing veges ended with some very satisfied possums and one solitary cucumber for the rest of us. Cannot imagine the devastation you must feel when this is your very livelihood. And can imagine how noisy and messy that arrogant feeding frenzy would have been. Good luck saving the rest of your crop. mel x

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  49. Kate that is horrible, I often wonder how farmers have the strength to cope with the ups and downs.
    I hope you have more ups than downs.
    Robyn

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  50. oh crap babe. My heart just broke. xxxx

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  51. How heart breaking for you guys :(
    Hang in there. And yes, every time I eat a piece of fruit I do think about the incredible effort that went into growing it... Amazing job you are doing xxx

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  52. ohhh such a shame!
    I know how you feel......we had a beautiful apple tree in our old house that would sprout the most incredible amount of fruit. A couple of months before they were ripe the parrots would do reconnaissance flights over the yard. When they were ripe they would return in droves and we would sort of get along ok the tree was big enough for us to eat the lower branch apples and they would take the top ones we couldnt reach. It was when we met in the middle that things would get a little sticky trying to pick an apple with a parrot screeching in your face is not a pleasant experience.
    But at least we got some apples 3 seasons of a heavily laden cherry tree we got to eat 2 cherries one each.....I would look at the tree in the morning full of cherries come back a couple of hours later no cherries not a sngle stalk or pip nothing. It was very disheartening.
    I cursed those damn parrots every year but the funny thing was on black Saturday they flew to the apple tree for refuge and I stood outside in the searing heat spraying them in the tree with the garden hose it saved them and the tree.

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  53. I can't even imagine how I'd feel. I came out this morning to find my olive tree out of the ground with rain, wind and waterlogged boughs - for the second time. It didn't crop well this season, my garden plot has been plagued by rats and heat and rain and I feel like throwing it in and putting down grass. Like I said, I can't even imagine how you must feel.

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  54. Oh Kate, my heart breaks for you. Those horrible birds. We have had them here too and they have eaten the kids poles on there brand new Tramp. What they have done here is nothing compared to what they have done on your side of the range:(

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