Once upon a time, a middle-aged couple departed from their suburban home and moved out to the middle of nowhere so they could grow more of their own food.
“Dear husband,” said the wife, “thou must put a fence around yon orchard, lest the creatures of the forest eat all the crop.”
And so the husband put up cedar posts and wrapped it all in bird netting.
“Dear husband,” said the wife, “the rats and mice will strive to chew through the netting. Thou must put metal flashing all around the bottom of the fence.”
The sweet husband, desiring to please his wife, completed the task with a whistle on his lips and a song in his heart. And the strawberry plants and apple trees and goumi bushes therein began to produce much fruit.
But lo, one day the wife discovered that many nibbles were being taken off the strawberries. She walked around the fence and discovered several holes in the bird netting above the flashing.
“Woe is me!” she cried to her husband.
And so he set about mending the holes with fifty-pound fishing line. “Wouldest thou have me to put a roof over the orchard, as we discussedeth earlier?”
The wife felt the burn of the Southern late spring sun and the oppressive humidity and lo, felt sorry for her dear husband. “Oh, no,” she said. “I thinkest not that any creature is climbing all the way up and coming down into the orchard.”
The next day, all of the goumis had disappeared off of the bushes.
“Dear husband,” said the wife with a sigh, “Methinks that putting a roof over the orchard would be a lovely idea lest the birds steal everything away at night. But wait, pray thee, until the fall when the weather doth cool off a bit.”
Then the wife noticed that the strawberries continued being eaten.
“Dear husband,” said the wife, “Thou must put hardware cloth all around above the flashing so that nothing can get through the bird netting.”
The husband smiled through clenched teeth. “Doth thou desire that I cover the entirety of the bird netting, all the way to the top, with hardware cloth?”
The wife patted his shoulder. “Nay, ’tis sufficient to affix but one layer of three-foot-high hardware cloth.”
With some relief, the dear husband obeyed with much sweating and wiping of the brow. But he completed the job, and the couple believed the orchard to be protected.
Until the week that the apples began to ripen. Some developed mouse-sized nibbles. Others disappeared altogether.
The wife began to pull out her hair. “Dear husband,” she said, “I cannot see how a bird can carry the apples away in its beak. Nevertheless, thou must cover the front of the orchard with hardware cloth, for yonder mice can fit in through the holes of the chicken wire.”
For the sweet husband, wishing to follow his wife’s desire to save money by reusing what materials he had for the door to the orchard and the wall surrounding it, had used old chicken wire to close in the area around the door.
Finally, the entire orchard was completely covered in beetle netting, and the front wall of the orchard had been mouse-proofed. And the husband wished to flee to an uninhabited tropical island where fruit grew in abundance and required no maintenance and no fence.
Upon seeing the completed fence and roof around the precious crops, the wife clapped her hands with glee. “Yea, dear husband, now nothing will be able to get into the orchard and stealeth away our harvest.”
The winter passed, and spring came. And lo, there came signs that something was digging up the mulch in the orchard. Then, entire strawberries began to disappear.
Both husband and wife were confused and confounded. What manner of creature could be getting into this critter-tight area, and how was he getting in?
One evening, the wife entered the orchard after dark with a flashlight and a rat trap. She shone the light toward the northeast corner of the orchard, and behold! There sat the culprit.
“A raccoon!” she cried in dismay. It was gone before she knew it, and could not see where it had exited.
Several days of fretting and arguing commenced. The wife began to search online for uninhabited tropical islands.
“No!” she cried, slamming down the lid of her laptop, “I shall not deign to run away from this problem! I shall find a solution!”
And so she lifted the lid of her laptop once again, and within fifteen minutes had discovered a nuisance wildlife removal expert who lived ten minutes away.
Nay, the man was not the nuisance, but he removed animals that were. He came and, looking with new eyes at the orchard fence, found several holes in the bird netting above the hardware cloth. Indeed, there had been a mischievous creature climbing up the cedar poles to gain entrance to the orchard. The wife quickly surmised that the previous year, it was a family of raccoons which had cleaned up the goumis in one night, and stolen away the few apples that had grown that year.
And so, the husband covered the newly-discovered holes with hardware cloth, the expert set up live traps, and lo, within a week four raccoons had been captured and taken to a land far, far away.
Not really. The expert lived on 150 acres where he released the animals. But they were far enough away that they would not return.
The husband believed his work was done. Until his wife said, “Dear husband, but what if a raccoon decides to climb all the way up a post and tear apart the beetle netting roof to get inside?”
With much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the sweet husband returned to the Internet. With much reluctance, he closed the tab with islands for sale and searched for ideas on how to keep raccoons from climbing fence posts.
And lo, soon all the posts were covered with four feet of metal flashing, for the claws of woodland creatures cannot get hold of such a slippery surface. And the creature troubles were over, and the couple stayed on the property and forgot about buying an island. They could not afford one, anyway.
So they decided they might as well live happily ever after with their orchard that now produceth ten-dollar-apiece apples and three-dollar-apiece strawberries.
But probably not really. That would make life too easy.