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Bird netting keeps everything out of the orchard...!

 
Shep Wallaby
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Rivers NSW Australia
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Hi All

I recently bought a lovely little farm in northern NSW Australia. It has a fully developed orchard over about 2.5 acres, which was formerly a commercial stonefruit orchard but is now planted for commercial production of custard apples. The previous farmer was not an organic farmer, used sprays, monocultural planting etc. Also a lovely guy. I am embarking upon rehabilitating the orchard into a diversified, complex permaculture system. This will take a long-ish time and much work, I know. One of the big infrastructure features of the property is the complete containment of the orchard under fine black bird/hail net, like a massive net circus tent. This kept the flying foxes (fruit bats) and hordes of parrots off the stone fruit. Actually it is really quite a feat of engineering. Anyhow, I was sitting in the orchard with a friend the other day and we sat quietly for a few minutes and...nothing happened.

Now, anyone with a rich spray free environment will know, these spaces hum, chirp, flit and buzz with living activity. I love to sit quietly and watch the wrens and finches and lizards darting about, listen to the insect chorus and consider the manic mass of life all around me (generally I refer to my 'workforce'). But sitting in the orchard, with nothing of the sort happening around me, I was struck by the silence and stillness. Not natural. Not right. Of course, years of spraying and artificial fertilizer, and a mono-culture has probably done its part in making a less lively space, but I reckon mostly it has to do with this massive net.

So, my question to permies out there is how might I make the net passable for smaller birds, insects etc?
I do not want to get rid of it, it will serve a terrific purpose in protecting crops from marauding bats and parrots. Please understand we have these species in the millions (bats) and thousands (parrots) and they will take any crop to pieces overnight. I have plenty of bush foods and there are several thousand acres of National Parks at my back... my little 2.5 acres of fruit makes not such a vast input to them; I like to share, but I know what the farmer was protecting against!

Anyhoo... I have considered making a series of cuts in the net at the height of the top wire of fence outside the net, and inserting a 2 inch collar made from large plumbing pipe or similar, fastening the bit so the net does not unravel, and the little collar of pipe is firmly held. My idea is basically to make little portals through the net large enough for insects, wrens, finches etc, but not large enough for the big raiders. If I did a large number along the forest edge it would look like a wide perforated line along the net. I thought then to plant millet and other tasty treats along the fence line to encourage the small birds to the 'portals'. I reckon, if there is a lush food site through the holes, they will figure it out and enter and leave the orchard without a problem. Critters are smart! A similar arrangement along the bottom of the net could provide ingress points for lizards, frogs etc...

Well..those are my thoughts...
Anyone else have a brilliant idea to let the world into the orchard without entirely removing the net?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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if you have fruit you have pollinators..so something has to be getting in unless you are hand pollinating.

birds have a tendency to forget how they got in..they may get in and not be able to get back out...they do that here with our porch, theyh'll fly in when the door is left ajar.
 
Shep Wallaby
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Rivers NSW Australia
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Brenda Groth wrote:if you have fruit you have pollinators..so something has to be getting in unless you are hand pollinating.

birds have a tendency to forget how they got in..they may get in and not be able to get back out...they do that here with our porch, theyh'll fly in when the door is left ajar.


Yep, good point about the pollinators, certainly for the former stonefruit... and yes I have seen the phenomena of bird lost in a room. Hmmmmm... still thinking...
 
Milan Broz
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
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Like you have a huge bird cage, but the birds are outside. Buy or catch birds that you want in your orchard and keep them in. If neccessary, build a bird boxes. If neccessary, grow some food for birds you will keep. Hopefully they will reproduce in orchard, and you might start selling birds some day
 
Shep Wallaby
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Rivers NSW Australia
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Milan Broz wrote:Like you have a huge bird cage, but the birds are outside. Buy or catch birds that you want in your orchard and keep them in. If neccessary, build a bird boxes. If neccessary, grow some food for birds you will keep. Hopefully they will reproduce in orchard, and you might start selling birds some day


Hmmm, this has tipped my thinking slightly. I have been concentrating on coming and goings of birds, not so much on the provision of habitat for birds to move in..
I think this points to a different starting place, and that is growing habitat for a resident workforce. 'If you build it, they will come' lol

I just felt my brain grow a bit! Thanks!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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IF YOU KEEP birds inside the netting, first they likely will get tangled up and die..but if NOT, then you must provide for all of their needs..food, water, shelter, mates..etc just as if they were caged in your home
 
Milan Broz
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
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Like birds in the zoo, only this cage would be million times bigger
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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After listening to Pauls latest podcast on fruit trees I'm prompted to ask what else is growing in the orchard? Specifially are there a variety of herbs, wildflowers, a little pond or water feature? Over the last two days I have spent way too much time just sitting next to our small (300-400 gallon) pond watching the new toads make thier way out of the water, bees galore at the waters edge and dragon flies.

Another big draw in my garden are the flowers of the mustard plant early in the spring and soon the mexican cosmos will flower. Bees all over those. Along with this come the ginkos and skinks.

The netting actually sounds like a good idea in your situation if you can create a little micro climate underneath it.
 
John Polk
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That sounds like a geodome without the cement. With careful planning, you could build a healthy little environment there.
Be certain to leave an abundance if twigs, straw, mud, etc laying around so they could build their nests.
Brush piles also serve as home to many species.

Hopefully, you could plant some berry-type hedges there that they might prefer to your fruits.
WATER is essential to ALL living life...make sure there is some standing/running water available.



 
Shep Wallaby
Posts: 16
Location: Northern Rivers NSW Australia
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Hi Everyone
Thanks for the generous input, all of which I entirely agree with.

At present the orchard is of a commercial design, monoculture. Ponds and other water sources will be introduced as a matter of priority, and I can see the immediate wisdom in developing habitat for small folks of the winged, scaley and buzzing varieties using a variety of shrubby and grassy varieties around the edges and by the small ponds.
Over time this orchard will be converted into a diverse permaculture food forest and market garden, so variety of flowers and plants will be the goal, but in the first place, I can see building habitat will be the priority if I want to be regarded as a good proposition for the workers.

To Brenda, the net spaces is so small, even small birds don't seem to get tangled in it. It has been up for a long time, it even has Spanish moss and stuff growing on it, and very very few breaks or repairs in it; I feel it would be festooned with little skeletons if it was a bird trap. Not really, but you know what I mean.

Actually, so obvious lol, thanks everyone.

I think probably a combination of solid habitat features as well as some sort of entry / exit system may be the plan.


 
Hey, sticks and stones baby. And maybe a wee mention of my stuff:
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