Even after my elaborate system of metal sleeves on the legs of the grape arbor, the grapes were still disappearing. At first I thought birds, because it started with one bunch. Birds can fly anywhere on the arbor. Though their mischief is slight, they can work it anywhere. However, night after night, more grapes were ravaged. Each morning, a bunch or two down, and three quarters of them wasted on the ground. It was progressing from one corner of the arbor. At that rate, a week or two, and all the fruit would be gone. I never saw any creatures at the vines. A late night visitor. I think, raccoons.
The most annoying thing about raccoons is they force me to think like a raccoon. I want to go on a hike or something, on my weekend. I want to work on interesting human things. Instead, in my mind, I have to become a raccoon. I guess I don’t have to. But otherwise, the grapes will all be gone. A lot of the them, before they’re even ripe.
So I think like a raccoon. I look at the system. I cannot see any way they can get up the metal sleeve. It looks like the sleeve has a lot of rub marks on it, though. Maybe they are getting past it somehow.
I got one of those apps that lets you use an old cell phone as a security camera. The next morning, I had dozens of muddy pictures to look through. Most of them were of cars going by in the night. But then, a series with what looked like a banded tail. And a masked face. Finally, one with, clearly, the four fingers of a little hand, across the metal of my sleeves.
So, the raccoons, somehow, can climb past the metal sleeves. Once again, I have to think like a raccoon. If I were me, looking up at the slick metal, I would be discouraged, and not bother trying. But instead, I am a little animal with nothing to do all night but try and try and try to get at those grapes. I grab the sharp metal edges with my little hands, tough like gloves. I put up with falling off, multiple times. The photos series are five, ten minutes apart. It might have been comical, seeing the little ringtails slip off and tumble to the ground, time after time. But finally they made it up. And destroyed their modicum of grapes for the night. Not greedy. Just enough to be satiated. But they are going to keep coming back, night after night, till every last the grape is gone.
How are they getting up past the metal? I squint at the muddy photos. All they need is a toehold. Those little toes can catch on one screw hole, one crease in the metal. I am the little animal, with my toe in the crack. Maybe it hurts, but I want those grapes. I’ve got nothing else to do all night but keep trying.
So, I guess, myself, I have nothing else to do but keep trying to thwart them. It’s hard to get motivated on something you’re not sure is going to work. What if I spend all day fussing with this, and the coons are still eating my grapes? Maybe I’ll just write off the crop. I find myself scheming again how to kill those darn coons. But I know that will not work
I think, maybe the sleeves are just not quite long enough. Maybe another tier of metal. I think, maybe like shingles on a roof, you never want nails exposed. On a roof, rain can work its way down a nail hole. For coons, they can get a toe hold on any nail or screw.
So I put another tier of meal sleeving below the existing one. I loosen the upper sleeve first, so I can tuck the support screws of the lower one up under the upper. I overlap about four inches. When I put the upper one back, I put the screws only at the top, so there is nothing for a toehold below. I spend all the long, hot afternoon on this possibly futile task.
But it works. So far. The next morning, no new grapes squished on the sidewalk. We humans will get to eat the grapes, ourselves, at our leisure. And dry the rest for raisins.
But it looks like more of the raspberry canes are broken over. Again, I am a little animal. I can’t get to those grapes any more. Maybe there’s something else to eat. Those fruits up on the prickly canes. Let’s see. Crack goes the stiff cane. Coons are not greedy. They don’t mean to be destructive. But they can’t neatly pluck a raspberry from above. They clamber up. They don’t realize, if they break down a cane to get one berry, that stem, which could have produced dozens of future berries, will never bear any more.