People who pass on the road sometime slow down considerably when they see our patch of basketballs and our plastic jugs in bloom. Our gardens are beginning to look like a modern exhibit of recycled trash art. But we have gone berserk only in the sense that wild animals are driving us there. We spend as much time now protecting our food supply from predators like deer and raccoons as we do planting and weeding.

The basketballs are holding up black plastic netting above the strawberries to keep the infernal deer from eating all the plants and the infernal birds from eating the fruit. If we laid the netting directly on the plants, it would depress plant growth too much and the robins would be able to get to the berries through the netting. Spaulding may not have realized it but basketballs are perfect for this job. The netting is barely visible from a distance so there seems to be no reason for the basketballs to be there. Friends like to make jokes, like what’s our yield of basketballs per acre this year.

The balls in the strawberry patch won’t hold air anymore. We have a fairly large supply of them because our grandsons are bent on sending me and their grandmother to an early grave playing basketball in the barn all the time. The stupid balls keep bouncing up against the roofing nails projecting through the roof.

The plastic jugs on stakes in the other picture are also holding up netting, in this case over the black raspberry patch. If the netting were allowed to rest right on the raspberry vines, the brown thrashers could easily peck the berries right through the netting. Not all the berries are protected with this remedy, but at least we get most of them. The netting does not hang all the way to the ground everywhere either, and eventually the birds figure that out and get under it. But we still get our share.

I think you can see behind the basketball patch another example of recycled trash art. Those tall crooked posts you see come from our tree grove free of charge— saplings that have died for one reason or another. Threaded over them and surrounding three sides of the bean and pea patch is a length of rusty, recycled woven wire fence that sticks up into the air about seven feet. Deer can jump eight feet, but they have never jumped over seven feet of my woven wire vines. I take the fence down and pull the posts out every fall to use again around another garden plot next year. When they rot at the bottom, there are always more dead saplings in the woods.

The woven wire extends only around three sides because I have to have a way to get into the plot easily. On that side, there’s netting hanging down loosely, which I can easily raise up when I need to get inside. So far it has fooled the deer. There’s chicken wire fencing all around the plot also, to keep out the rabbits. On the entry side, the chicken fencing is only loosely affixed to the corner post so I can swing it open easily to get the tiller inside. Those other crooked sticks are bean poles, also free from the woods.

None of this defense works for raccoons. I bet that they could learn to pick bank vault locks if that were the only way into the corn patch. We have to spend precious time and money on electric fencing, the only thing I know that will keep this four-footed Houdini away from corn.

We learned to use black plastic netting from our daughter who lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area, where deer roam the suburbs like the buffalo used to roam the prairies. She covers nearly her entire home landscape of ornamentals with it. Since the netting is almost invisible, it doesn’t detract much from the beauty of her plants. Her husband used it to cover their garden pond surface. That discouraged the great blue herons from eating the fish. But here’s one for the books. Wild minks moved in under the netting and ate the fish.

Here’s another one for Believe It Or Not. My sister and her husband have a garden close to their farm pond. The snapping turtles move into her pea patch every spring to lay their eggs.

People who do not farm or garden worry about the natural world. I have a strong hunch that wildlife will be here long after we are gone.