It's that wonderful time of year when the garden is bursting with life. You wake in the morning and rush out to water if needed, check for bugs, pull weeds, and dream of the harvest of vegetables that awaits you in a few weeks.
But, wait! Where are the new buds on the green bean plants? Where is the spinach? Where is the lettuce? A few chewed remnants of the luscious plants you saw yesterday are all that remain. The telltale hoof prints in the garden soil are a sad, grim reminder of the presence of deer in your garden overnight.
The white-tailed deer is a marvelous animal, beautiful in its appearance and amazing in its adaptations. But keeping deer away from the salad bar that is your garden, your lawn or your flower bed can be exasperating.
Years ago, when I was younger, and far more agile than now, we planted a truck patch up by our barn. An acre in size, it took weeks of preparation and hours of backbreaking stooping and bending to plant. Located several hundred yards from the house, it is not readily accessible nor visible from the porch. We already had a large garden located near the house with no problems with deer, so I naively assumed that my presence in the truck patch on a daily basis would deter any activity there as well.
It only took a few days for my theory to be disproved. Fencing the entire acre was not financially possible at that time so I quickly researched known deer deterrents. I proceeded to hang aluminum pie plates all around the acre. This took a considerable amount of work for which I hoped to be rewarded by success. Wrong. The deer paid no attention to the banging and swaying of the plates.
So, I added bars of soap to the lines. Lots of bars of soap. This was not easy either. Soap is slippery and hard to punch a hole through without breaking. After several days of work, the lines were filled with pie plates and various kinds of soap bars. For sure there will be no deer passing into my truck patch, I thought.
Wrong again. The deer on my farm "slipped" by the bars of soap and the plates as "easy as pie." I did more research and added bags of hair — any hair I could find. I cleaned the dog's brushes, I brushed the dog daily to get more hair, I filled bags with sheep fleece, and even saved the hair from my family member's haircuts.
Additionally, I filled my blender with garlic, hot peppers, water and a dash of dish detergent. I made gallons of this concoction and sprayed the plants for hours. I walked up there daily with the dog, skirting around the edges, a safe distance away from any remaining produce so he could leave his scent. I added pinwheels at each of the fence posts. Why not, I thought?
When I initially planted the truck patch, I looked forward to early morning walks up to it. I envisioned rounding the corner by the barn, seeing my luscious acre of vegetables bursting with produce, soaking in the warmth of the sun and enjoying the view of the woods and barn behind the fruits of my labor. Ha.
Instead, as I rounded the corner, the vegetables, whatever remained of them, were hidden behind lines of clanging pie plates, bars of soap, wet bags of hair, and twirling pinwheels. Instead of being greeted by the smell of basil and good soil, a strange combination of wet hair and garlic wafted towards me every day.
Was I at the end of my rope with this? You bet, because all my rope was used up in hanging deer repellent devices around an acre of truck patch!
The next year we turned the truck patch into a sheep pasture.
Photo property of Kathryn Randall.