Sunday, June 15, 2014

Squirreled War I: Quick and Dirty Strawberry Cage

**NOTE** This strawberry cage didn't actually do much to deter the squirrels.  The holes in the woven wire fence seem to be too big, or our squirrels are too small.  But please! on for an epic adventure in cage making nonetheless.

One of the more important tasks on a homestead is defense against destructive marauders, those pests that pass through a homestead, wreck a bunch of stuff, then move on to the next victim. Appropriately enough, if the homestead contains a Dad, the task of critter defense usually finds its way onto his to-do list.  So, this post is a happy father's day tribute to those dads who tirelessly defend their castle against livestock-eating predators, driveway-destroying burrowers, and crop-destroying varmints.

Earlier this spring, we noticed that our strawberry patch was coming along nicely--the plants were lush, green, and full of flowers, followed shortly by green and increasingly large berries.  In short, the type of stuff homesteaders dream about all winter and spring.  Then, one day, almost all of the berries (without even a hint of red), were gone.  We were shocked and angry.  And although we were anticipating a perpetual battle with the neighborhood varmints, we knew this meant that the squirrels had struck the first blow.

What to do?  Having not yet perfected our squirrel flinger design and with the everbearing plants already on their second crop of flowers, we needed something quick.  Something that could be built in a couple hours while a frying pan of delicious root crops with rosemary graced the wood-fired grill on a Saturday evening.  And thus was born the quick and dirty strawberry cage.

The damage.  The berries, all but one plucked from their stalks.  What kind of monster would do such a thing?  They were just babies!

We constructed a 2 x 4 frame from free Craigslist wood to fit around the strawberry bed, then drilled holes just large enough to fit the wires of a welded wire fence (5/64") at the required spacing.  We figured out the spacing by holding the fence on the board and drilling next to the wires.  The wires are a little flexible, so it doesn't have to be perfect.  Remember, this is a quick and dirty project!  Also, it takes some care to not break off the drill bit, and it's probably a good idea to have an extra (or two or three) handy.

Same thing with the wire fencing on the ends, which are trimmed to wrap around the arced part.  The most tedious part is getting all the wires to line up in the holes of the frame, but once they do, the slight variations in angle make it surprisingly sturdy.  i.e., don't use a drill press! :-)  Ours can actually support the weight of the frame just from the wire cage (which also probably means a squirrel won't be able to pull out the wires, either), but we made handles for extra support.  The handles are just more pieces of 2 x 4, screwed into the frame at an appropriate spacing.  There's one on each end, partly because the frame is large and awkward to move with one person, but also partly because we don't trust each other to not eat all of the strawberries as soon as they turn ripe.  Come to think of it, we didn't actually see a squirrel in the strawberries, we just assumed it had been there because the berries were gone.  It could just as easily have been Katie!  There are no droppings to confirm one species or the other.  Now it seems like the cage is an even better idea.

Here are the strawberries, now fully protected.  Where the sections of fence come together, we "sewed" them together with one of the wires we trimmed off the fence.

How do you protect your berries from destructive marauders?  How would you do it if your strawberry patch was a lot larger (which we eventually hope ours will be)?  Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. I generally kill two squirrels with one stone, so to speak, by guarding the garden Jed Clampett style with the .22/.410. Rabbits, squirrels, and other marauding critters not only are turned away, but turned into supper to go with those nice veggies. :)

    1. That would totally be our MO also, but there are complications with discharging firearms in populated areas. Maybe with a blow gun...

  2. How do they feel about pellet guns?