not so fast, deer

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By and large, we take a live and let-live attitude toward the deer. They provide endless entertainment from our dining room windows, and in return, they are allowed to browse at will. I will buy strawberries at the Farmers’ Market because the deer nibble the flowers before they can begin to develop into anything humans deem edible. Trees are a different matter. After the deer stripped a young eucalyptus of every trace of foliage (who knew that they would go for something so aromatic?) a remedy became necessary. Richard drove metal pipe into the ground to support deer netting that would surround each tender young tree. It proved effective and not especially unsightly. Still, those poles seemed to be begging for adornment.

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This picture shows a hose guard made by a local ceramicist. I bought three of them several years ago because I fell hard for them. I don’t know about you, but try as I might, I just can’t make hose guards work for me. These beauties sat around waiting for the deer fence epiphany. The stake, meant to go into the ground, fits snugly into the top end of the metal pipe. Cute, huh? The first picture (above) features glass electrical insulators (hope I got that right) slipped over the tops of the pipes. These things always appealed to me, so whenever they popped up at garage sales, I would buy them. Never had a clue as to their fate until now.

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I ran out of stashed goodies before the corralled trees ran out, so off to the local craft store for me. These 3″ wooden balls were intended to become dolls’ heads. With the application of red spray paint and a big long screw to slide into the top of the pipe, they become a variation on my post cap theme.

Visiting gardens and nurseries is a sure way to fill one’s memory banks with ideas . They might mingle in there for years before they pop out disguised as your own brilliant brainstorms. One garden owner (wish I could remember, so as to give full credit) had taken a paint pot to some poppy pods left standing after the petals fell. The result was a surreal parade of sculptural unflowers in an array of colors alien to most gardens. At Dancing Oaks Nursery they had crafted special stakes to hold their collection of electrical insulators, which spring, flower-like, from various beds. In other words, truly original ideas are few and far between, but out of the stew of influences we can often pluck a tasty morsel or two…and, in this case, deprive the deer of a few tasty morsels until the trees get big enough to fend for themselves.

dear deer

This morning, as I dragged my sleep-addled self and my therapeutic coffee to the table, planning to ease into the day by doing the midweek, mildly challenging NYT crossword, I happened to glance out the window. There was a fawn, still with its spots, cavorting about. The mom was nearby, keeping an eye on things, but she didn’t seem to see me as a threat. I got to watch the show for a full fifteen minutes. They sniffed every plant, nibbled on a few, then chowed down on dandelion greens and dogwood. The little un would every so often spin about or leap into the air with sheer exuberance. They can have the dogwoods.

More on hummingbirds

Check out the comments on my earlier hummingbird story for another related tale. Lately, the hummingbird feeder on the deck has been, effectively, an ant trap. It was billed as insect-proof, but the ants are determined to storm the sugar-water source. I have tried cleaning and replacing, on the theory that ants might have some sort of communication system, like bees. But no, like so many armies they blindly march to their deaths, where I find a thick layer of them floating on the surface of the nectar in the morning.

Don’t tell me that hummingbirds lack communication skills. While I was cooking up a new brew, etc., the lead hummer was gesticulating at me through the kitchen window. His message was clear: “where the heck is our breakfast?”,

Moles, Chapter 2

So, I bet you thought I was going to come up with a story of vengeance. Surprise! I still like them, and here’s why: they push up these mounds of fluffy soil. All around them, the soil can be compacted like cement, but the hill of mole dirt is light, it’s airy, it’s the consistency of couscous.

One day Richard sent me out to shovel up the molehills in preparation for the arrival of the Kamoda to come in and mow the entire area (to call it a lawn would be presumtuous). As I approached each hillock, I became ever more aware of the treasure trove I was facing: each one offered a shovelful or two of delightfully aerated soil. I filled a wheelbarrow, and then it hit me: I could mix it with corn gluten meal to solve several problems at once.

Corn gluten meal is a weed seed suppressant. Locally, there is a place called
Concentrates where you can buy it by the 50# bag, as apposed to buying the name brand for many dollars more. It is pretty effective at surpressing weeds, but it is a sort of brilliant orangey-yellow that is not at all attractive in a flower bed. Here is what I do: I fill my wheelbarrow with molehill dirt, add corn gluten at about 6parts dirt to 1 part meal, which tones down the color of the stuff to an acceptable level, then apply the mixture in a number of ways:

Berms: I love berms, because they are a way of sculpting the land. When I dig a new bed, there are clumps of earth that pile up. I just move them to an area where mounded earth can create topographical interest. I feel like a force of nature, as I build new land formations at will. Once the configuration pleases me, I spread the surface with many layers of newspaper. If you saturate the newspaper thoroughly, it will cling nicely to the contours of the berm, and hold the mole mix in place as you shovel it on (next step). All you need to do when you are ready to plant is cut a hole in the newspaper. By the time the paper begins to decompose, you will have covered most of the surface with plant material.

If no berm is in the works, I simply use my mixture as a top dressing for existing beds. The weeding has become much easier since I devised this plan. Once summer heats up, the moles slow down…but then so do I.

Moles, Chapter 1

Back when my gardening took place on an exposed corner lot in industrial NW Portland, people would often stop by to declare “We could never do this! We live in the country, and the animals destroy everything!” Guess what? We now live in the county.

Today, I will share with you a piece of writing I did when we lived in the city, and tomorrow I will update you on my newly countrified stance.

Consider the rare and elusive mole. If you have an expanse of lawn regularly punctuated by domes of fresh earth, you may dispute the use of the word “rare”. Think about it. The mounds are evidence of mole activity, sure, but how many times have you seen the critter himself? I’m pretty sure you would have a hard time maintaining a high level of indignation if ever you came face to face with one of the little fellers. A mole has a gray coat leaning towards brown…one of those subtle tones favored by Calvin Klein. It is eiderdown soft. Mr./Ms. Mole looks like a puff of smoke with a delicate, pink snout and a pair of outsized paddle-shaped front paws specially adapted for tunneling. Moles are classified as insectivores, meaning they exist on a diet of many of the culprits you are hot to exterminate. With their tunneling, they improve soil aeration and drainage, all the while circulating soil minerals. So what’s the harm of a mound or two, on balance?