Cheryl Hughes: Bright Idea
Sometimes, I get a bright idea. When I get a bright idea, I am so convinced of its worth that it’s hard to turn me in another direction. If the idea works, you will find me congratulating myself and telling others of my accomplishment. If it doesn’t work, however, the idea tends to fail on the colossal end of the success/failure spectrum. In June of this year, I had one such idea.
It’s really all the fault of the rabbits that aren’t satisfied with what God provides in the wild for them to eat. They prefer instead to eat my green bean plants as they pop out of the ground. I had to replant three times, and yes, I’ve tried all the deterrents, both organic and chemical. The list includes human hair, my own, as a matter of fact. It didn’t work. On the upside, I noticed a few wrens used it in their nests. In the past, I’ve tried fox urine (you can get it from those hunting magazines), but that didn’t slow them down either. I also used Seven Dust, but they kept on eating, and evidently the insecticide didn’t kill them, because there were no rabbit carcasses anywhere around my garden.
Recently, I heard a story on NPR about elephants that were ravishing farmers’ crops in Kenya. One very smart person noticed that elephants are afraid of honeybees. It turns out that bees go for the elephant’s eyes because of the fluid there. You can imagine how painful it would be to get stung in the eye by a swarm of bees. The farmers put up beehive fences, poles with beehives attached, surrounding their crops. Problem solved.
Anyway, after planting the beans the third time, I decided to cover the whole area—forty-eight feet of wire panels—with bird netting, you know that nylon net that people use to keep birds out of fruit trees and away from strawberry beds.
I covered the panels on both sides then dug little trenches in the dirt in order to stretch the netting away from the plants a bit. I buried the extra netting in the dirt trenches. It took hours to do this, but I was determined to keep the rabbits out of my beans. I checked my project daily. The beans came up, the rabbits stayed out, and I congratulated myself on my bright idea.
The first sign of trouble began when the beans put on runners. Instead of reaching for the wire panels, the runners grew toward the nylon netting. That’s okay, I told myself. The vines should come full circle and eventually make their way back to the fence panels. If I hadn’t lavishly watered the plants with Miracle Grow every few days, that might have worked, but right beside the fast-growing plants were fast-growing weeds. Now, besides keeping the rabbits out, the net was keeping the weeds in. I watched helplessly as a tangle of bean vines, morning glories, and various weeds inundated the area under the net.
There was nothing to be done but to start cutting the net, redirecting the beans and pulling up the weeds that weren’t part of the support system. It was at that point when I came up with my second bright idea. I could take my weedeater and make short work of the weeds growing at the base of the netting. Do you know how long it takes to disentangle a three-foot section of nylon netting from the spool of a weedeater? Too long, that’s how long.
I ended up on the ground, crawling down the row, releasing the net from the dirt, then cutting and pulling weeds. For hours. For days. I finally finished last Thursday. The vines survived the ordeal, and I picked enough beans for a meal on Friday morning.
I hesitate to congratulate myself, however. On the outskirts of the bean row is a tangled mess of nets and weeds that I will have to haul off. That is only the half of it, though. I know that under the dirt is more nylon netting and more plastic pegs that won’t make themselves known until next garden season, when they will wrap themselves around the tines of our tiller. I will be haunted by the ghosts of gardens past for years to come, as well as by the bright idea that wasn’t so bright after all.