As you may know, Barto and have a country escape near Mansfield. Barto is in big-kid heaven there with grown-up Tonka toys such as a tractor, ride-on mower and log splitter, while I’ve become chief gardener.
The previous owners planted a garden across the length of the house with 45 roses. Last autumn and winter, I spent countless hours dead-heading and pruning. Yes, my friends, I have become The Rose Lady. When spring arrived and flowers burst forth, I took it as a personal compliment. Barto might get performance reviews at work, but me? I get roses. Red ones, white ones, yellow ones, orange ones.
Just when my flower babies were in the height of their first bloom, I had a month or more with commitments in Melbourne, so I couldn’t get away on weekends. At last, I returned, full of high expectations. Devastation. The leaves on my roses had been eaten. The stalks remained, but the greenery, except in the centre of the bushes, was gone.
Had they been attacked by a plague of locusts? Caterpillars? I saw no insects en masse on or around the plants. Kangaroos? We’ve had plenty of hopping guests on the property and they’ve never been a problem before, so why now? If not them, then what? Or who?
Barto suggested another feral friend. There are deer in the area, although we rarely see them. They’re more skittish, more stealthy than the kangaroos. As it turns out, they’re also more deadly.
That night, determined to catch the culprits in the act, Barto and I donned our camo and set up a stake out. We sat up all night, waiting, watching …
Okay, we weren’t that diligent, we actually went into town for the Mansfield Show, but we returned around dusk, ready to rumble. There were no deer along the driveway or near the roses. I stepped out the back. A giant buck startled, then stopped and faced me.
We froze. Eye contact.
I recalled my dubious track record with animals. I’ve been attacked by an emu, a dog, a cow (yes, really, she was mad), a magpie and a duck (you may laugh, but never underestimate the protective instinct of a mother duck. Never mind that I was trying to usher her 10 ducklings away from certain death on a busy road, I swear that little duck inflated to six feet tall with an identical wing span.) But I digress.
I was NOT going to let this buck destroy my garden, so I charged, yelling, “ARHHHHHH!”
He took off and leapt over the fence with such grace that he took my breath away.
Barto charged outside. “What was that weird noise?”
When I told him, he shushed me and we tiptoed further around the back. Another 10 deer looked up. Sleek and elegant, some even had white spots. They were so beautiful, I almost forgot they were the perpetrators of a serious misdemeanour.
Andrew recovered first and charged. In a flash, they darted to the fence and over they went, each as glorious as the one before. I wish I’d shot video.
We walked around the garden to determine the damage. Our cherry tree was stripped from about five feet to the ground. All our fruit trees, except the citrus ones, suffered a similar fate. Our row of grape vines was denuded. Beautiful or not, the vandals had to go.
How do you get rid of deer? I consulted Dr Google and found a variety of solutions:
- Six-foot high fences – an expensive option for a five-acre home paddock.
- Hunting – too squeamish. Bambi. Need I say more?
- Spraying the leaves with a concoction involving cayenne pepper – not very practical, as it has to be reapplied every time it rains and we’re not at the farm every time we have bad weather.
- My personal favourite, coyote urine – for a start, there are no coyotes in Australia, and how, for crying out loud, do you approach a coyote and ask him to pee in a jar?
So what are we going to do?
Stay tuned, and hopefully we’ll figure it out, because so far, I haven’t a clue. Suggestions welcome.