It is time for the world fig netting championship – and Cruella steals the show

Yes it is that time of the year again when you have to net your figs and other soft fruits, as failure to do so will only make the local birds happy and fat, whilst driving you insane. Regular readers of this blog will know that as part of my committment to international gardening and world peace I encourage fig netting teams from across the globe to assist me in this annual event. Past competitors have included teams from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Hemel Hempstead and Wigan.

This years competition filled me with a frisson of excitement as not only were last years champions from Wigan returning, but they would be facing a crack French team with all the bad will of Brexit adding a competitive edge. Anyway on with the gardening.

5th July 2022. Things I have been doing lately:

Preparing figs for netting. I have two fig trees one is a standard tree that I prune and pollard every winter whilst the other is an espalier that I have been gradually growing up a wall for about 8 years. The first photo below shows the large fig after its Winter pruning whilst the second shows the espalier in Winter. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Before netting your figs check that the tree is in good condition to ensure maximum fruiting. From the photos below you can see some yellowing in the leaves of the espalier, denoting chlorosis or lack of iron. This was quickly overcome with a good feed and a large dose of iron, and in a few days everything was looking good. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The next major problem before netting was to try and get the large fig to an appropriate size for netting. Now you should not prune figs in the summer for two main reasons. Firstly, they will weep a stringent sap all over you and it burns. Second, there is a possibility of letting in disease. However, needs must it had to be lightly pruned or the net could not go over.. The photos below show me manfully trimming a few of the longer branches whilst dodging the caustic sap shown in the final photo. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The last thing you have to do before netting, is to make sure you have the right size mesh netting. Too small a mesh means that the birds wont see it and will damage themselves flying in to it. Too large a mesh then the birds will think they can get in and you will end up with a lot of fat birds hanging upside down in your net each morning. The photo below shows the right size net as chosen by Goldilocks.

The world fig netting championship. With all the preparations done, the waiting was over and it was time to introduce the teams. I normally start the contest with a team line up, photos and playing of respective national anthems, followed by an opening speech of welcome given by me. However, this years opening ceremony was somewhat chaotic as Cruella (my wife) insisted that she should be involved and give the opening speech. However, this proved to be extremely problematic. As regular readers will know Cruella has recently purchased 5 fancy chickens which she dotes on and has even taken to speaking to them in what she calls ”chickenese”. Because of this she insisted in conducting the whole opening speech in chickenese, whilst simultaneosly placing her arms on her hips like wings and bobbing up and down like a demented chicken. The photo below tells it all.

The speech went something like: puck, puck , puck, squawk

Throwing down the fig challenge. Before things can start the captain of last years winning team from Wigan has to throw a fig at the opposition team, and if they pick it up then the challenge is accepted. The photo below shows Gordon the captain of Wigan throwing the ceremonial fig at the French, before John the French captain picks it up. The second photo shows the French ceremonial bow in accepting the challenge. Throughout this ceremony Cruella can be seen shouting out instructions in chickenese whilst still doing her chicken dance. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Stretching the net. The first stage of fig netting is the ceremonial stretching of the net. This stage encourages teamwork and lowers the potential of violence later in the competition. The whole process got off to a shaky start with the two captains adopting macho one handed net stretches. The first photo below shows the French captain adopting his aggressive one hand net hold. The second photo shows that the Wigan captain reciprocates. The only redeeming feature about this stage was that both the women competitors could be seen working in cooperation whilst I tried to calm the whole situation down. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The photos below show some other aspects of the net stretching that may be of interest to gardeners and anthropologists.

Unfortunately this stage ended slightly acrimoniously (as can be seen in the photos below) when the French captain accused the Wigan team of flying a drone overhead to spy on their technique, whilst Cruella insisted on showing everyone how to tie a net around your waist and do the chicken dance. Luckily I was able to calm things down by doing the ceremonial jog around the net which seemed to distract everyone. Click on each photo for a larger view.

This is harder than it looks as it involves 20 circumnavigations of the net running forwards and 10 backward

Raising the net. This stage is the most complex part of fig netting as it requires close cooperation between the teams. To be honest it should have gone far smoother than it eventually did, as I had already laid out all the necessary equipment and tools as can be seen in the photo below.

It is all in the preparation, or so I thought

Things got off to a pretty friendly start as can be seen in the photo below. But I knew there would be trouble as Cruella demanded a leading role as main net lifter. I only agreed because it was the only way I could keep the aggression low between the two captains and keep them apart. Click on each photo for a larger view.

However, the whole thing started to go wrong quite quickly when Cruella began to cry and hyper ventilate saying she was trapped in the net and wanted out; at first no one understood her as she was speaking chickenese. The photo below shows Cruella in distress.

I had to place Cruella in her chicken coop with her flock to calm her down

With Cruella safely out of the way I took over and we soon had the whole process back on track as can be seen from the photos below. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Tying down the net. As the evening drew on the final stage of the netting process; tying down was soon upon us. Basically this involves using lengths of string to tie the net to the lower branches of the tree. This is usually a non contentious stage as most aggression has been used up in the early stages. The photos below show a high level of cooperation between both teams. But the final photo shows one last flare up between the two team captains as they unexpectedly come across each other in the foliage. Click on each photo for a larger view.

I had to throw myself between them to stop violence

The annual fig netting championship dinner. I am pleased to say that overall things went well, we managed to get to the annual dinner and award ceremony in the evening without too much violence. The only problem was that Cruella insisted on giving the annual dinner closing speech; yep, you’ve guessed it, in chickenese. The photo below shows Cruella mid flow whilst Camilla from the Wigan team looks on mystified, Ann from the French team looks away in bewilderment and John the French captain can’t suppress a laugh. Meanwhile Gordon the Wigan captain is a seething mass of inchoate rage.

The main thrust of Cruella’s speech was: puck, puck , puck puck-puck-puck; it went down very well

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

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