Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh, Deer.

Whatever did deer do for food before discovering vegetable gardens?

A few days ago, I made the daily visit to the garden after work to pick whatever was ready.  I was shocked to see the purple hull pea plans had pretty much been "topped."  Several plants around the perimeter of the bed had all the top leaves missing.  The stems were still intact, but no leaves.  My immediate thought was to look for a worm.  Tomato hornworms can do very serious damage in a very short amount of time, but I was baffled because peas aren't something they attack, and it's too late in the year for them.  My second thought was, "Did I miss this yesterday?" Then it hit me:  DEER.  I'd been fortunate thus far to not have them bother anything.  I've seen them next door and suspected they probably stayed close by as the area is heavily wooded and there's a pond behind my house.  Growing up in the country does have its advantages; one being that you learn remedies to repel deer and other animals detrimental to a garden's well-being (except voles...don't have those in Tennessee).  Here are some of the more well-known ones and you can see why we never tried most of them:

1)  Break eggs and pour them around.  Brian would love this remedy.  Go out to potty and get a free snack.

2)  Human urine.  Nothing like eating food you're not totally sure pee hasn't touched.

3)  Human hair.  Just what I want.  Barber shop clippings from unknown nappy heads in with my vegetables.

4)  Coyote urine.  Because this is so easily available.  I'll check Harris Teeter.  Again, the pee factor.

5)  Ammonia-soaked rags.  At least I won't faint while weeding.

6)  Smelly socks.  Great dietary aid.  Walk into where food's growing and smell a locker room, instead.

My grandfather had tried many pest deterrents, but the most effective and long-lasting was strong bar soap.  Irish Spring was the soap of choice with its pungent smell.  He'd cut a bar in several pieces, put each piece in a small tied-up section of pantyhose leg, and hang them from stakes placed around the perimeter of the garden.  Even the gentlest breezes would circulate the scent.  They lasted well through rains, and rain actually helped renew the aroma.  I've used soap to help protect tulips and other precious plants that deer love, and it works miraculously well.  Unfortunately, when I discovered the pea massacre I didn't have any Irish Spring just lying around and was too lazy to drive and get some.  Moth balls work fairly well for most animals, so I laid out a few around the pea bed.  The next day, there was more damage to the peas and the beginning of the munchies on the lima beans.  I picked up the moth balls from the ground, thinking the scent must not be able to permeate the air, and hung them in a couple of old onion and potato bags.  The following day brought, "Now they're just mocking me."  They had hit both beds all around the moth ball bags.  I had stopped on the way home and got a six pack:  of Irish Spring.  I quartered two bars and cut some thin scrap fabric into squares, placing a piece of soap in the middle of each.  I loosely tied each bundle with tomato twine and hung them around the deer buffet.  It's still dark outside when I leave in the mornings for work, so I couldn't look today to see if they'd been back.

With the sheer sarcasm the deer displayed with the moth ball bags, they probably took the soap and used it to take a bath in the pond.  Complete with a tiny washcloth.

The one on the far left is singing Ernie's "Rubber Ducky" song from Sesame Street.

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