13 June 2012

Deer Patrol

Throughout the course of the summer, we get grief from all kinds of animals that do damage to our crops.  Woodchucks nibble our peas and turkeys scratch into our hills of potatoes to dig for bugs, but deer are the worst of all.  An adult deer eats more than 6 pounds of vegetation PER DAY.  A whole herd of them, moving around at night, can decimate our crops.  The deer that live here at Brittany Hollow seem to have favorite foods that they target year after year.  These foods include: lettuce, green beans, peas, broccoli, beets, and tomato plants.  I can’t say that I blame them, as these are some of my favorite veggies too…but c’mon guys!  Why can’t you just eat alfalfa and clover and grass?  We have plenty of that to share.

A doe in the background with a newborn fawn in the foreground.
By day they are adorable, but by night they are ruthless killers of beets!

In our attempt to fool the deer, we employ all sorts of tricks.  Our farm is too large to fence, and we don’t use any chemicals, but we come up with other ways.  I have already talked about companion planting, which is one way to deter deer.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we sometimes use cloth row covers to “hide” our lettuce and beans from the deer.  We uncover the plants during the day, and cover them back up at night when the deer start their prowling.  Sometimes this works, and sometimes we find that the deer have held a county-wide barn-dance on the row cover at night, puncturing holes in it with their sharp hooves and eating plants through the holes.

Cloth row covers over the beans.

One of the oldest ideas for keeping deer and birds out of crops is the idea of a scarecrow.  We used to make elaborate scarecrows in the fall to put out in the front yard as decorations.  When it comes to deer, we follow the mentality that scarecrows are more about quantity than quality.  We just use a rag or scrap of old fabric and tie it to a post in the field.  We make little armies of these rag people and they seem to do a good job of scaring the deer.  The downside is that we have to constantly be moving the scarecrows around.  If they stay in one place for too long, the deer get wise to the ruse.  The scarecrows seem to work…they sometimes scare my dog Sheeba as we walk around the fields.

Part of the rag-people army.

The Ross-man posing with a poor-man's scarecrow.
Speaking of Sheeba, she has inspired another technique.  I sometimes brush my dog and scatter her fur around the fields that the deer are bothering.  My hope is that the deers’ sensitive noses will smell Sheeba and know that there is a ferocious guard dog on duty.  So far, this has not worked well.  I wonder why…

Yawwwn...what am I supposed to be doing?  Chasing deer?

The other morning I woke abruptly at about 6:10am to the sound of my mom (Debby) screaming, “You get outta heeeeeeere!!!!”.  I looked out my window and saw mom running around in her bathrobe, chasing a deer out of our bean and tomato field.  The deer looked terrified and ran away.

My sister-in-law’s mother, Lydia, recently mentioned that she had tried fencing the deer out of a garden using fishing line.  The idea is that the deer can feel the fishing line press into their fur, but can’t see the thin line and therefore can’t jump over it.  She didn’t think it had worked for her, but it sounded so easy that we had to give it a try.  So far it has worked well on the tomatoes and summer squash.  My fishing line trap did work on my mother however…the other day she drove a tractor through my fishing line fence because it was so darn near invisible!

Fishing line fence around our squash and tomatoes.  Does it work?  Too early to tell, but at least it makes us feel better.

None of these methods works perfectly…so we just plant extra.  I asked my mom the other day why we plant so many beans (there is no way we can pick them all), and she said, “We plant a row for the deer, and then a row for us…another row for the deer, and another row for us.”  That just about sums it up!

1 comment:

  1. Good ideas on how to keep them pesky deer out. I have always found that a shotgun with load of rock salt sends a good message. But I can see how alternative ways might be easier. Have you thought about making a food plot for them away from the garden?