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More on deer-proofing

More on deer-proofing your yard and garden as a result of a letter from Emily Fulkerth at Didsbury, Alta. She wrote in part, “I just have to share my experience living with deer and elk. We have tried everything to save my garden, flowers and trees. So after reading your article last spring, I decided to fence my garden.” As a followup, I, Ted, had the good fortune to speak with Emily in early January via telephone and am devoting part of what you read further on to some gems from our conversation. You’ll be glad you stuck around.

CURIOUS CREATURES OF HABIT

Once they pay a visit, your yard or garden can become a familiar and regular deer and elk stop. But how do you give them the “brush off” with quick action? That’s usually easier said than done.

During winter they’ll chew away on woody shrubs, hedges, fruit and ornamental trees. Even bird feeders aren’t safe. Although it sounds odd, some deer are known to check them out. There’s the true story of a deer hoisted on its hind legs while investigating the contents of a bird feeder and was attacked by a squirrel. That deer fled in disordered haste. The aggressive squirrel appeared to resent any competition near its turf from an encroaching invader, regardless of size. However, we can’t rely on squirrels to become watch-squirrels. During summer, don’t be surprised to catch deer digging up carrots, nibbling away at roses, lettuce and even tomatoes. A bed of petunias is certainly to their liking and rarely are tulips left untouched. Here comes the question: What can a gardener do to provide a sense of security for precious things green and growing?

SNOW FENCING

… is usually seen standing upright to hold back or catch snow, but here’s another use for it. Place sections of orange- or black-coloured snow fencing laid flat and touching each other. Raise them up about a foot off the ground on something like cement blocks. That’s right! You want them lying flat (not standing up) on cement blocks all around the area you wish protected. Ring with a second row of snow fence lying flat and butted up against the first row. Deer will usually not jump over nor place their hooves into an entrapment or compromising situation.

Snow fencing placed as described can be left year round depending on deer presence. It may show like a sore thumb at times, but provides useful service over many seasons and works quite well if you do it right. For an added deterrent sprinkle some dry, hot cayenne pepper, diluted hot pepper sauce or diluted Tabasco sauce over and along the snow fence barrier. Have you ever seen a sneezing deer?

Remember those days before underarm deodorants? This one’s worth a chuckle. Get a man’s old, unwashed shirt that’s well worn and has become a nose pincher from strong perspiration and body odour. Drape it on a shrub or over tree branches. It may take many dirty, smelly shirts to do a thorough job. Recycled shirts are usually available cheap at thrift stores. Can’t you just imagine someone coming up the driveway, wondering why you didn’t use the clothesline? Deer quickly get used to dangling foil pie plates, coloured ribbons and plastic bags strung on a line and left to blow in a breeze. Bars of strong-smelling deodorant or carbolic bar soap hung inside old pantyhose seem to work a little better and may bring some measure of relief.

NOW SOME HIGHLIGHTS

… from my telephone visit with Emily Fulkerth. She and husband Raymond live five miles east of Didsbury, Alberta on their quarter section farm that she manages. When it comes to deer and elk, Emily said, “I’ve had no end of trouble. They like my yard and ate my broad beans right at the gazebo.” One morning when she rose early to work among her flowers, she recalled saying to her husband: “Come here Raymond! I saw the biggest of something this morning. Them’s not deer droppings, them’s elk droppings.” Elk had eaten away parts of full-size bur oak trees and nibbled on twigs and pulled branches down. “They’re scary. They’re such big animals and to think they’re right on our doorstep.” As for deer, Emily recalled, “The biggest herd that ever came into the yard was a group of 20.” Visitors have also included three big bulls with fully developed horns and two “spikees” (youngsters with spikes not fully developed). “I’m telling you, at times I never slept with all the deer and elk and everything.”

Emily decided enough was enough and as a result bought some deer fencing from T & T Seeds in Winnipeg. She described it as “a plastic of some sort, kind of like a durable mesh.” The material comes in rolls seven feet tall by 100 feet in length. With assistance from her daughter and husband, they tightly pulled, wrapped and attached the mesh to the outside of poles placed at each corner of the garden. The poles were 11 feet long with two feet of each pole having first been sunk into the soil. I, Ted, took that to mean a lot of elbow grease was required (i.e. time, work and energy). According to Emily, “We must have put up 400 feet of the plastic netting.” The benefit of fencing has given her some “peace of mind” and says she’ll rely on it again this upcoming season. “It’s pretty strong. When deer did appear, they’d walk around that fence but wouldn’t attempt to climb it nor break through. We’ve repaired it a bit but it’s still standing out there and hasn’t been taken down. I will not go through another year without fencing. It’s costly I know, but so is the garden. We hadn’t had nice green peas for years. I’ve lost nice, sweet, green onions in past and a whole lot more. When you lose a whole garden you lose a lot of money.”

FLOWER POWER AND A MUSEUM TOO

Emily has taken prizes with her gladiolus entries at Bench Fairs in the past. Here’s one experience she recalled after planting about 300 glads one year. “Those deer would pick the blossoms right out of the stems. It’s impossible to win when there is no gladiolus to enter.” Prior to the fencing, Emily had “tried so much stuff to save her garden, flowers and trees.” The list included radios, tin lids, egg formulas and water, but all to no avail. There are two other things that did help her out a lot. She bought Skoot at Home Hardware and sprayed it on shrubs and trees resulting in a good deterrent effect. Emily described it as almost like milky, sticky glue when thinned down with water. Marigolds (the smelly ones) that were planted in front of and throughout her perennials were not touched.

If all the above weren’t enough, Emily then informed me: “We have a nice little museum here. Raymond’s mother who lived to age 100 just kept sending everything to us on and on.” When Emily asked her husband, “What are we going to do with this stuff?” Raymond responded, “I shall build a museum,” and he did. Emily described it as “a nice little barn with an upstairs, galvanized siding and a bell roof. It’s so cute. We started with a barn dance and then we had birthday parties before we began to fill it.” Emily concluded: “It’s full now with a lot of tack, a hosier, treadle sewing machine, wood and coal stove, antique beds, a complete sitting room and children’s area, all kinds of fishing gear and a whole lot more.” When I said to Emily, “You must get some tourists in summer,” she replied with two words: “Well yes.” I also learned she plays electric piano with 88 keys and taught music lessons for many years until, as she told me, “My husband taught me to drive a truck.”

We talked about so much more, but hey! I can’t wrap up my literary sojourn without this acknowledgment. On behalf of our Grainews readers and myself, allow me to extend many happy returns of the day to Emily and Raymond Fulkerth on the occasion of their 59th wedding anniversary coming up on February 25, 2013. We wish them many more anniversary celebrations to come and extend these lyrics from a well-known song that may be familiar to many.

Our best to you, may your dreams come true,

May old Father Time never be unkind.

And through the years save those smiles and tears,

They are souvenirs; they’ll make music in your heart,

Remember this each new day’s a kiss,

Sent from up above with an angel’s love,

So here’s to you, may your skies be blue,

And your lives blessed, that’s our best to you. 

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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