Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deer Diary

Just when I'm starting to understand & resolve myself to some of the difficulties of being a West Coast gardener, Mother Nature returns with new lessons. One of the lessons of 2010 has been instructed by 'The Deer'...

Last year it was such a wonder to know that a doe had survived the winter & had twins wandering around the penninsula. Most of us had not seen deer in Bamfield for many, many years (decades I've been told). What changed? Who knows - that's for a Naturalist to investigate. It might be fewer packs of dogs running around, fewer full-time residents, more gardeners & even fewer predators (cougars especially, although I just heard one was sighted in the townsite a few days ago!!)

Whatever the reason, this year we have any where from 5 to 7 deer populating the west side of Bamfield.

My instructor for the summer was the yearling buck. He would wander in at all times of the day & from many access points. Usually, he'd hit the raspberry bushes.

And for some reason, he choose to ignore my veggie gardens! In this shot, he was checking out the sorrel but after a nibble realized that it was a little too lemony & tangy for his palate - I think...

I would talk at him (yell, hoot, holler, wave my arms & growl) but that didn't seem to bother him too much. I thought about getting a sling shot, but knowing my abilities of aim, I'd probably hit the truck & break a window or puncture a hole in the greenhouse plastic...

Whether we were home or not, he'd calmly walk across our little plywood bridge to hit the other raspberry patch. When I saw him in this shot, sniffing around my purple lilac, I was actually hoping he would munch on it! It's been there for almost 4 years & has yet to flower... Maybe a good deer pruning is what it needs. But he showed little interest...

He is a rather pretty animal - it's hard to stay angry at something that moves around so quietly & delicately...

Even when people are walking down the road, barely 30 feet away, he pretends he's invisible...

But my wonderful husband knows that I pull my hair out each time I see evidence of his buffet-browsing, so will go down with either a broom or a rake in his hand (purely for personal protection in case the deer decides to go on the offensive - been known to happen!) & will chase him off.

For the most part, the deer doesn't go very far when we do convince him to move on. As you can see, he's not that big an animal! Thank goodness for that! I've seen the deer in Alberta at my sister's place & I would have a heart attack if something that large were being fed off my gardens.

 The latest to fall victim has been my weigela shrub - broke my heart. Today I will rig up some sort of net-protection & prune back the damage in the hopes that it will recover & grow up instead of down & out because of the improper pruning techniques of the deer. It's actually flowering again on the other side by the big rock. Thought the deer would have gone for the flowers, but I guess he's not interested in them.

So, I just don't know what to do. I'm not about to install fencing all around the property to keep them out - they jump quite high anyway. I'm not about to get a dog to keep them out - we aren't quite ready for the responsibilities of a dog. Using other deer deterents is more money & effort than I'm willing to spend on something that's supposed to be here (hanging bags of hair, or bars of soap, or using motion sensor water sprayers, or electric fencing to name just a few). I did have moderate, if only short-term success, with blood meal (meat meal was weird) & the Plant Skyyds worked on the veggie beds - I think because I sprayed that on the wooden boxes & the scent lingered longer than just sprayed on the actual plants.

I will write up a list of things that the deer seemed to like this year & the ones that were ignored. I enjoy the constant evolution of the gardens & will try to go in that direction - plant what the deer doesn't eat! 

I will, however, get proper netting & stakes for the raspberries & blueberries for next year - just the vertical ones as I don't like to see birds getting caught up in the netting that completely covers the bushes. 

So, deer - now that it's officially Autumn, what do you have in store for the winter?

No comments: