Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh, deer me . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

For some months now a little doe has been visiting our back yard every morning for breakfast. Deer in our back yard is not unusual. ONE lonely little doe is. They usually come in herds of six or so. She travels alone. No spouse. No babies. No friends.

She seems to have no fear and no sense of manners when eating in a human's back yard. Early in the spring we moved several Hostas from the front yard, because the hot sun every summer burnt them up, and put them in the back yard under a row of trees where they could flourish. And they were flourishing, until she started snacking on them. Sigh.

Then she discovered hubby's tomatoes. She knocked down the protective cage and ate the unripe tomatoes and a goodly part of the plant. He is not happy. So far (rapping quickly on my desk and hoping there is some real wood in there) she has not discovered my tomato plants, tucked beside the porch steps with SEVERAL large tomatoes ripening as we speak. The tomato variety is Brandywine, by the way, and the tomatoes are VERY large and delicious. And NOT planted for wandering deer. I hope.

If you look closely at the pictures above, which I took while standing right by my tomato bed, prepared to defend it to the death, (my death, not hers) you will see that she is in my rock/metal garden. I love old metal tools and collect them for this garden. It's pretty close to the house and deer rarely wander this close to the back door. She seems to have no problem wandering anywhere in the yard and she didn't run when I stepped outside to take the pictures. In fact, her attitude struck me as: What are you doing in MY area? Sigh. Perhaps it's this sort of attitude that causes her to be a loner? That'd be my guess.

Recently, on our morning walk, hubby and I stopped to chat with our neighbor, Jack. I'd been dying to talk to him ever since I'd spotted an ancient lawn chair plunked down in the middle of his yard with a fake deer sitting upright in it. I almost tripped over my shoes the first time I saw it. And the fake deer was obviously holding a sign in its lap. Too polite to dash through Jack's big yard to read the sign, I contented myself with lying in wait, hoping to catch him coming or going. The sign was ruined in a recent storm, but you can still see the deer in the chair.

Jack laughed when I asked about the sign. Seems like a certain little doe has been sauntering through his yard as well on a regular basis, stopping at his (huge and lovely and makes me envious) vegetable garden to eat his tomato plants, tomatoes and all. She takes very large bites out of the green tomatoes and lets the rest fall to the ground.

Which brings me to what passes for humor in southern Illinois. Someone (Jack suspects either another neighbor or his son) sneaked the lawn-chair-sitting-deer into his yard, facing the house, complete with a sign that said: "Free 'Maters."

Bawhahahah! Okay, it isn't exactly funny to him, the damaged and destroyed tomatoes I mean, but the deer sitting in the chair is a real hoot. And who knows, it might spook the real one off, safely away from his tomatoes. If so, I'll be in the market for a chair and a fake deer. And a sign.

Someone suggested spreading Cayenne pepper on the ground near the plants to keep away the marauder, but I can't risk burning her mouth. Human hair scattered around plants doesn't seem to discourage predator deer or bunnies, though it's supposed to. And don't even get me started on the moles. I've tried chewing gum (chewed and unchewed) and everything else I can think of, and the little hills and holes just keep appearing. Our ground is very well aerated. Grrr.

Living in the country is lovely. We've had lots of different animals visit and/or set up housekeeping, including foxes, turtles, rabbits, lizards, snakes and all variety of birds from hawks to hummers. All are welcome. Please, just don't touch the tomatoes. Mine OR Jack's.


Sandra Parshall said...

Lonnie, we use something called Not Tonight, Deer on our garden. It's powdered rotten eggs -- you mix with water and douse the plants. Stinks to high heaven, and the deer won't eat anything that smells of it. You have to reapply it regularly. Anytime we're lax about reapplying, leaves and flowers begin disappearing from the hostas and daylilies again. I've learned that deer love every part of true (bulb) lily plants and will eat the stalks before they ever have a chance to form flower buds.

We live adjacent to woods with a stream, so although we're in suburbia, we have plenty of deer. Sometimes they come in the yard in broad daylight. I enjoy the wildlife -- we have pileated woodpeckers as well as every other sort of bird, and the usual battalions of squirrels (including flying squirrels at night) and chipmunks and raccoons and possums, and now we have a young groundhog in our yard that comes close to the house to eat sunflower seeds and nuts with the squirrels. But like you, I hate the moles and I also wish the deer would dine elsewhere!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Lonnie, I think your neighbor was lying about the sign. I bet it really said "Better 'Maters Next Door." One of the best presents my husband ever gave me was a deer fence. I couldn't believe how many tulips and lilies, including daylilies, came up in my garden the first year I had it. I hadn't seen them for years and had forgotten I'd planted them.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Heheh, good advice, Sandy and Liz. I'll look into both.

Julia Buckley said...

My dad hangs little bars of soap in net fruit bags. They're supposed to discourage the deer.

Pattie T. said...

That deer in the lawn chair is a riot! :-)

Sorry about your deer troubles. I no longer have that problem, my nemesis is squirrels. I shoot at them with a makeshift blow-gun made up PVC pipe with Lemon Heads as ammo, but that's another story.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Pattie, I gotta get something to shoot with. Squirt gun or whatever. Lonnie

Margot Justes said...

I love the doe in the lawn chair. We have baby skunks in the back of our yard, no one goes near them, they trespass at their leisure. We have many other creatures who dine in our garden.
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

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