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Oh, deer

August 5, 2012
By SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor (sdunder@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

Oh, dear.

Or, maybe I should say oh, DEER. I've had just about enough of these hoofed, furry animals tramping through my yard and eating everything in sight.

Not only that, but their presence also makes our dog charge after them, vanishing into the woods and making the unlucky person left at home in the morning (usually Justin) late for work.

Actually, our dog, Nya, has been better behaved with the deer lately. We try to be more vigilant about not letting her outside when we see deer in the yard, but even the times we don't see them, she doesn't chase them. Sometimes she'll rush quickly to the edge of the yard but stop before she reaches the wooded area. But, there are times when she gives chase like she's been shot out of a cannon.

One particularly cold winter day early last year, Nya took off after some deer milling around our backyard. She shot up into the woods, and Justin quickly lost sight of her. It was already dark out, there was a blanket of snow on the ground, and the temperature was bitter cold. We both called her for hours, and Justin even took his car up and down the road on more than one occasion trying to locate her. At first, we were angry with her for taking off, but the longer she was gone, the more worried we became. And because we were so worried about our dog, Justin could not focus on the Steelers playoff game on television (the horror!), and I couldn't appreciate the fact that Pittsburgh was losing (albeit momentarily, but still...).

After approximately three hours, Justin and I heard a scratching at the front door. Nya was back! We let her in and ogled over her, glad she was home. Not surprisingly, after she settled herself back in, Justin announced that now he could finally focus on the football game. Well, at least we all had our priorities in line!

But back to the deer.

You'd think if you pulled up in your own driveway, music blaring out of your windows, you'd scare away any woodland creature within 20 yards. Not so with these deer. They stand at the top of the hill, watching us pull in the yard, brazenly eating the grass right in front of us, and just stare at us. We blow the car horn. They don't budge. "Move!!" we shout while clapping our hands and making a lot of noise. No reaction from the deer, just staring. We even let the dog out and they still don't really care.

Now we have some deer toting around little ones. Aw, yeah, the baby deer are adorable with their spotted coats, and we see them in our yard with their mamas at least five times a day. But let's just say these fluffy little creatures aren't so cute when they have half of your flower garden hanging out of their mouths.

Last year, we lost all our tomatoes to these scoundrels, but for some reason they left our flowers alone. This year, we decided to forgo tomato plants and stuck with peppers. Justin rigged up a pretty good fence around the back corner of our patio, and so far, it's managed to keep the deer away. However, this year, the deer are way more interested in the smorgasboard that is our flower garden in the front of the house.

While we were only slightly aware that deer prefer certain types of flowers over others, we spent a small boatload of money on flowers, mulch, decorative stands and landscaping tools. Then we took the time in the hot sun to ready the flower beds, add new soil, and plant our flowers. With the heat this summer, we've really had some trouble getting our plants to grow, but our vincas seemed to be doing well. In addition, our day lilies were full of blooms, as were the Asiatic lilies we planted in the small flower bed by our mailbox. The real prize, however, was the box full of petunias that re-seeded and grew back from last year's group we'd planted there. We couldn't believe how gigantic and hearty they got in what seemed like only a few weeks.

Unfortunately, the Asiatic lilies didn't even make it one day. Justin texted me at lunchtime with a photo of one of our Asiatic lilies reduced to green nubs. "Wasn't this plant full of blooms?" he wanted to know.

Yes, the plant was in full bloom with beautiful bright orange lilies. Grrrr. This looked like the work of our devilish hoofed friends. Over the course of the next two days, the remainder of our lovely lilies were gnawed off to stumps.

The next victim? Our leafy pink and green caladium. When we'd planted it, it was bushy and bursting with color. The deer didn't take long to find this one delectable and the poor plant looked as if one whole side had been sheared off.

Justin purchased some deer repellent sticks online, and we set them up strategically in our flower beds, but these proved to be nothing more than decoration. I envisioned the deer walking up to our flower bed and laughing and pointing at our feeble attempt to keep them out.

For a while, things seemed to calm down. After all, the Asiatic lilies were just tiny blips now, and everything else was so dry from the long stretch of hot weather. However, the recent rain provided a nice growth boost to the plants. Apparently it also invigorated the deer as well.

The last straw came when we left the house early one morning admiring the beautiful box of petunias growing on the porch - the only truly healthy plant in our entire flock. When we arrived home later that afternoon, I stepped on the porch and looked down to admire the colorful petunias, only to find myself staring into a box of mangled green stems and dirt. No flowers. I wasn't sure if I wanted to cry or if I wanted to scream. The deer! Blast!

All that time, effort and money we put in to raising what basically amounted to deer food - what a huge disappointment! Next year, I'm putting in a rock garden. I just hope these bionic deer don't develop a hankering for non-nutritive substances.

 
 

 

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