by Cheryl Brooks
Sometimes we wish we could make everyone and everything behave the way we think they should. Case in point, the local wildlife.
There have always been plenty of deer and rabbits living around here. Some things they liked to nibble on, and some
things they didn't, but we managed to coexist without too much trouble. Then the construction of I-69 began less than a mile north of my farm. I did the best I could to fight that highway, donating a fair amount of money to the cause, but in the end, I-69 turned out to be yet another thing over which I had absolutely no control. 2015 marks the third year we've had to deal with the nearly continuous convoy of dump trucks and cement mixers on our unpaved county road.
With the loss of hundreds of acres of their habitat, the wildlife have moved south, many of them taking up residence in our woods. As a result, they soon discovered that there are gourmet delights to be had in my yard. I had some trouble last year, but nothing like this.
In May, I planted my vegetable garden as usual, but the moment the beans sprouted, the leaves began to disappear. Assuming that either deer or rabbits were eating them, I sprayed the remaining stalks with a nasty-smelling commercial repellant. Unfortunately, the plants didn't seem to like it either and became spotty and unhealthy.
My flower beds were also in danger, so I downloaded a
list of plants that deer wouldn't eat and went to the local nursery. The eight Dusty Miller plants I set out (they were on the list!) didn't make it through the first night. The next day, I couldn't even tell where they'd been.
I can handle the loss of annuals, but destruction of my perennials is harder to bear. In 2013, my perennial bed looked like this:
Now, it looks like this:
The lilies have been severely depleted and the roses are barely hanging on. The deer don't seem to like the black-eyed Susans or the Lamb's Ears, which have spread considerably as a result. I figure I'll let them take over the bed, but I suspect the deer will eventually develop a taste for them, too.
I had about given up when a friend of my husband's recommended baby powder. It's cheap, readily available, and it smells nice, but animals don't like it at all; it even made my dog sneeze. I sprinkled it on the endangered plants and hoped for the best. A dry spell set in and during that time, the roses actually bloomed and set on new buds.
Then one night, a thunderstorm rolled through the area.
The result was a rose garden only Morticia Addams could love.
The mice have also been thriving, setting up shop in our garage and subsequently, our vehicles. My husband replaced the cabin air filters and found a nest in his car. My car has become their source of nesting material. Not content with the used Kleenex in the trash basket, they went after the whole box!
The traps and poison I've set out for them have been completely ignored, but when I went out on the porch a while ago, I discovered that I might have help with the mice, if not the deer and rabbits.
I pitched this rat snake into the thicket next to the garage, hoping he would go after the mice instead of the baby birds nesting under the eaves. My dog doesn't chase deer unless I go out and make them run away, but she has been catching enough baby rabbits to keep their population in check. As for the deer, I still have the shotgun my father gave me when we first moved here twenty-five years ago. I've used it on occasion to keep the rabbits from running amok, and I'm sure that with the proper ammunition it would take down a deer.
Now if I could only develop a taste for venison...