Last year it was the fruit rats. And the year before. And the year before that …
We had initially thought that it was birds though and I spent hours going through old CDs for the ones I didn’t want or need, and then hanging them with shiny Christmas ribbon in the hope that as they danced in the breeze the reflection and movement would scare the birds away.
It didn’t happen. However brilliant the idea, it was never going to save the grapes.
As we waited for the grapes to grow large and succulent and turn deep red in the hot summer sun, so too the rats waited. I remember last summer the tomatoes had survived, so maybe the rats weren’t around? Each day I’d go and check on my crops and put off harvesting for just one more day of ripening and developing flavour.
But that one day was crucial. How could so many bunches disappear in one night? Exactly how many rats were there? It seemed impossible that they could feast on so many grapes and not be lying in a overindulgent heap on the ground the next day. Instead the ground was littered with the remains.
So this year the grapes were still green and the vine was prolific. We’d never had so many bunches before. I was optimistic that we would finally get to taste them or, dare I say, eat some. The grapes were still at least a couple of weeks from ripening when I saw the debris, a few discarded grape skins and stems scattered on the ground at my feet.
Was it the unusually hot weather causing the rats to change their eating behaviour? Did they now like the unripened grapes or were they simply trying to make sure they were one step ahead of me? The following day the mess below the vines was worse and the day after that more grapes had been plundered.
Should I get a cat? My dog would not like that. I scoured the internet for fruit rat deterrents, to no avail. The next morning as I sat on my deck pondering and drinking my first cup of tea for the day, a noisy chatter and fluttering of wings announced their arrival. Right there in front of me, not two meters away, the thieves flaunted themselves, hanging upsidedown and sideways, defying gravity and eating my bloody grapes. Their screeching and whirring was incessant and even when I stood directly underneath them they were so confident they were reluctant to leave their morning fruit platter.
I’ve resigned myself to sharing my food with the ‘neighbours’. Even though they are a pest, they bring colour, vibrancy and life. Again I pondered at how with their beauty I allow them to feast, whereas had it been the not so beautiful rat what would I have done?
I wonder is this a parable to how we treat people differently according to their outward appearance?
The rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) is a declared pest in Western Australia (WA). It is a small, brightly coloured parrot that was introduced to WA during the 1960s.