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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Penury Is the Midwife of Invention



     I was planning to make a pinwheel out of a Chipotle takeout lid, a sort of aluminum pie pan stretched into an oval. Two fabulous steel pinwheels already stood in one of my backyard peanut patches, but they were too darn expensive for doodads with no other purpose than to amuse the eye and make me feel cool and modern. Pinwheels are also supposed to scare squirrels. Though I could almost hear the little blighters snickering when I installed the store-bought ones, I decided to make my own pinwheels to stand in my raised garden beds.
     So there I sat at my kitchen table with a paper pattern, kitchen shears and a Chipotle takeout lid. I figured if I trimmed off the heavy crimped edge, I could flatten the rest of the lid, snip toward the center, turn in the corners, stick a small nail through the center, and voila. The shears bit in and made their way around the edge of the lid where it bent outward. As the trimmed bit grew, it began to curl, and when it dropped to the table, it looked for all the world like a snake.
     I did make the pinwheel, and it spun all sprightly on its bamboo stick, but my mind kept revolving around the aluminum snake. I set it in the garden with a chunk of concrete on one end. It was wonderfully reptilian, curving about and moving a little in the breeze. With another lid, I began cutting at the edge, and snipped around in a spiral all the way to the center, leaving an oval at the end as the snake’s head. I shook it out and exulted at the way it shimmered and shimmied.
      Last year, one of my adolescent fig trees produced a dozen or so fruits. Squirrels ate all but one of them, before they were even ripe. The only survivor was hidden under a leaf and discovered by a party guest. We shared it. Few things are as luscious as a ripe fig fresh from the tree. This year, the tree repeated its performance, only draped with aluminum snakes. We humans ate all the figs except one, which ants got into. What a triumph. Now the garden is swathed in snakeish effigies, and I’m—well, sort of proud of myself, but more than that, thankful to have stumbled on a solution to rodent depredation. I even sent a photo and description to local ag agent emeritus Tom MacCubbin, whose book The Edible Landscape, or, as my brother-in-law calls it, Eat My Backyard, inspired my plantings. He said he’d try it.
     So, after all the trapping and shooting and throwing stones at the squirrels, the sprinkling of cayenne and the dripping of peppermint oil and growling fiercely at the critters that ventured close to the porch (Yes, I confess I growled at them. I may have used some unkind words too.), the solution needed only Chipotle and cheapness to reveal it. Come around next summer. We’ll eat figs.
 

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