|A man and his figs shall not be separated|
|Crime scene #1|
|Crime scene #2|
Never mind that even with the birds, harvests have been plentiful.
Never mind that we give away a good amount of fruit.
Never mind that a pound of figs is about $6 at the store.
Oh no--Something must be done to thwart the interlopers!
In our initial two summers here, Ken's made admirable attempts to quell the siege and keep the birds from claiming the precious fruit. He's used reflective tape, full-size stuffed scarecrows, blow up dolls, a bobble head owl and a bird trap baited with suet. But all of these eventually failed because the birds got used to them. It got to the point that he resorted to the "running-outside-to-scare-the-crap-out-of-the-birds" maneuver which also inspired disapproving looks from our neighbors. But this method only worked when someone was watching---and of course no one has time to watch the fig tree all day long.
Operation Fig Shield
So Ken was determined that this year would be different. Clearly he had just not used enough technology in his earlier attempts. He spent the majority of his two weeks off this summer trying to design and prototype a functional solution. He aspired to build a "thing" that would vigilantly watch the tree and detect when these loathsome bandits appeared. Then it would trigger something that would scare the living daylights out of unsuspecting birdies. This posed a complex challenge since he wanted (and I demanded) something that would be more than just a motion sensor.
|Ruining a perfectly good Tupperware|
|Ultimate Garden Ornament|
Ken decided to build his program on the small, cheap and powerful platform of the Raspberry Pi. There is a lot of "magic" that goes into getting all the parts to work together but simply put, the system identifies and knows the difference between an enemy bird, an errant branch waving in the breeze and a 3-year-old child (or exasperated wife) passing through the garden. The program knows what the "normal state" of the tree looks like and then triggers the deterrent only for an avian interloper and nothing else. The deterrent is a small leaf-blower with a "wacky wavy inflatable arm-flailing tube man" duct-taped to the nozzle which fires off for 10 seconds as the birds scatter with fright.
You've undoubtedly seen these at your local Jiffy Lube. Ken had this one made at 1/3 of the scale. Initially this was placed on the garden path attached to a dolly but to really increase its effectiveness, it's been recently strung up in the tree with some bungee cords.
|Scaring birds all day long|
There's also a manual trigger (that we've been mostly using because the system is still learning) that we can access via a URL and just push a button on our phones or laptops to set it off. I won't lie, seeing those little vermin with wings bolt out of the tree makes me smile with delight--and I don't even like figs. An added bonus is that our small berry patch located at the foot of the tree receives protection from the birds by proxy.
|Is it about the figs or is it about vengeance?|
Success disaster: now we have a lot of figs that we didn't plan on. (Sidney can only eat so many.) One of Ken's co-workers has volunteered to make some jam. And yet we still have a lot left over so Ken has been giving some to the neighbors after regaling them with this story at the Block Party last week. I think we should have arranged this supply chain part better. Farmers Market? Foodie Friends? Restaurants? He says there are still 50 on the tree--so if anyone wants some this week, please let it be known.