5/52: rescue of the robber bird

Netting the plums for protection against birds appears to have been somewhat in vain.

the bird netting was supposed to prevent this

While it may have put some off, on a number of occasions I have found a bird on the wrong side of the net. Obviously my method of application was not perfect. In retrospect I should have made sure the net was tied underneath the trees. Next year I will try to prune so that I can do this.

Some fly in, peck a few plums, then manage to get out. However, one little colourful bird was not so lucky. Noticing a flurry of wings, I found this rainbow lorikeet caught in the net, where he must have panicked and turned a number of times, ending up almost being strangled by the net.

a flurry of wings

sharp little beak

Although he was actually a robber, my love of animals won the day, with compassion and mercy overcoming my annoyance at his thievery, prompting my rescue mission. At least he appeared to be smiling for the camera.

With some help, we managed to untangle part of the net, and what we couldn’t do manually necessitated the careful use of scissors.

smiling at his rescuer

After the rescue, I held him for a photo, which I surely deserved, after which he flew off to safety.

rescue mission accomplishedIf that wasn’t enough, the following day there he was again, assuming it was the same bird. Look closely to see if you can decide whether it was the same one, but this time there was even more tangle, and when he was trying to talk no sound was coming out, so it must have been like a noose around his neck. The blue on the underside of his belly looks a little lighter in one photo, but it could just be the time of day and amount of light available.

magnificent colouring

second rescue mission achieved

This time his wing seemed to be a little damaged so we put him behind the shed so he could take his time to recover from his shock, and avoid our cats.

behind the shed recovery

The whole exercise prompted me to pick the rest of the crop of plums and remove the netting, because that was easier than a third rescue mission.

1/52: yum – plum jam

After netting the plum trees and picking about a kilogram of less-than-ripe plums just after Christmas, I allowed them to ripen up for a week or so, before making jam yesterday. I am really happy with Batch #1.

plum jam

This morning I picked another two kilograms, concentrating on choosing fruit that was peeking through the netting and tantalising birds.

some plums too close to the net

After doing this, the net is now providing a better barrier for the rest of the fruit as it ripens and becomes even more appealing to our winged friends.

removed the protruding plums Having just made one batch, suddenly I have another basketful awaiting my attention.

2 kg of plums ready for jam

As plums ripen, it may be necessary to add some pectin, the setting agent, such as lemon, tartaric acid, or even a commercially bought jamsetta. Less mature fruit has plenty of pectin but requires more sugar. A mixture of fruit is good, to provide enough pectin and enough flavour. My first batch has a rather thick consistency, proving there was plenty of pectin available.

This year I am committing to posting weekly on princessprattles.com, usually on Wednesdays. That way I can have “weekly on Wednesdays” in my head as a reminder to myself.

364/366: containment issue: english ivy

You might plant an innocent little cutting, and within a few months or years it has insiduously taken over part of the garden. However, some of these plants are very attractive, so it becomes a containment issue, such as with seaside daisies, fishbone fern and in this case, English ivy. Left to its own devices up in the top tier of the back yard, it spread to such an extent that it was becoming a pest.

looking between the plum trees before minimising ivy

My circle of shame was testament to its hostile takeover, but that transformation will be revealed on New Year’s Eve. Last time it was mentioned it had become a semi-circle of shame.

The giant mountain of mulch has helped spur me on to create places in which to spread it. It’s a win-win situation, getting rid of both the pile in the driveway and creating a new look for the back yard.

last piece of ivy containment

a sense of order restoredA sense of order has now been restored, and will allow much easier access to pick plums.

357/366: a plum’s net worth

When you find a plum on the tree pecked this much, it is time to net the rest.

a bird's ripeness test

bird netting

Determined to cover as much of the fruit on all three trees with the 4 x 10 metre netting that I had purchased, necessitated some manoeuvring.

In the end I realised I should have either bought the larger roll or two of the smaller. I made my choice, so I took an alternate route. I pruned the tree early, with plums attached, and then put them in a basket. I’ve never picked plums quite this early before but for jam-making there will certainly be plenty of pectin! Only one way to find out, and that is to do it. It will be interesting to ascertain if there is sufficient flavour so early.

maybe ready for jam

pruning for plum jam

the final result - practical though not pretty

I might leave them in the basket for a couple of days (inside) to ripen a little more before the attempt at cooking up a batch of jam. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, although in this case it will be the proof of the jam is in the spreading (and eating goes without saying).

352/366: plum pecking alert

My plums are growing beautifully. Plenty of rain interspersed with days of sunshine have aided their growth. The severe pruning I gave them earlier has helped condense their nutrients into where they are needed most, but some fertiliser is imminent.

eight green plums

However, now is the time the birds have also noticed the hint of colour change in the fruit, and have tested it out. Not quite palatable or soft enough for their liking, it is time now to consider some safety measures on my part.

bird plum pecking alert

I went down to Bunning’s and found the only netting they have for fruit trees is in white. Apparently they stopped stocking green last year. That’s unfortunate, as I prefer something that blends with nature, but maybe white scares the birds off as an added deterrent to the discomfort of the netting?

plums starting to get some colour

280/366: green plums

The blossoms have come and gone, the vibrant green leaves have flourished, and now in place of the pretty white flowers plums have appeared as they start their long journey towards fruition.

These green plums are only the size of my pinkie (smallest finger), just a fraction of the size they will attain when they ripen in January. Plum jam seems so far away at the moment.

247/366: busy bees pollinating my plums

It is no easy task trying to take photos of bees busily buzzing from blossom to blossom.

When you look at the results you can see how fast they must be moving their wings to stay upright. With a fancier camera you might get better results, but the ones taken with my Canon Ixus 120 IS will have to do.

Taken with total disregard for my safety, I took three dozen shots to get these two photos.

14/366: pruning the plum tree

Last Winter I had pruned the top of the plum trees, but due to our extended holiday, during Spring more branches appeared and were shooting skywards.

My plan is to lop the tops off to encourage lower growth and ease of fruit-picking. A facebook friend told me that her 82-year-old father was still climbing a ladder to pick fruit, with the assurance that her mother was holding the ladder. I do not wish that scenario for myself, so I am taking affirmative action now.

Possibly Summer is not the recommended time for undertaking such a task, but I like to strike while the iron’s hot. If I happen to be motivated, I do it, in case the momentum doesn’t last.

I have pruned the second-largest tree, but still have to attack the biggest one. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I have found that to keep going in a large garden one has to take it in stages. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So rather than getting overwhelmed by the big picture, I try and focus on one area at a time, and vary the chores to keep myself entertained.

Now I have discovered that we possibly have a fourth plum tree. Again, it is quite small so I might even pot it to give to someone who can replant it in their garden. Another generation of Satsuma plums may live on!

A good reward after the pruning was to enjoy a bowl of stewed plums with some yoghurt.