Country Living Series

Friday, July 8, 2011

D&%$ deer

Behold my strawberries, those 200 precious bare root plants I've been pampering and babying and which with I'm finally achieving a measure of success.

Night before last the deer got to them.

I tell you, it is a constant struggle to succeed on a homestead. Yes we have fences up, but clearly they weren't high enough to deter an ungulate in search of a snack. Probably a third of my beloved starter strawberries look like this:

More than a dozen plants were simply yanked out and left exposed, roots and all.

They're all salvageable, thank God. I soaked the pulled-out plants briefly to rehydrate the roots and then replanted everything. I originally was going to let one bed of strawberries blossom and fruit (as opposed to pinching off all the first-year flowers), but after seeing this pathetic specimen...

...I knew I had to let the plants spend their energy re-growing leaves rather than forming fruit. So I pinched off all the blossoms.

Okay, time to cover the strawberries. We purchased some bird netting...

...and began assembling a frame to hold it up.

We tied the tops of the sticks together...

...and then connected them with string tied to a nail at the end of the bed. This kept all the sticks braced and in place.

Next we unrolled the netting and draped it over the frame.

We anchored the netting with lightweight PCV poles (actually, we used the cows' pushpoles, so we'll have to get more for pushing cows around).

All this took about two hours yesterday evening, but we knew we had to get the strawberries buttoned up before nightfall or the deer would be back.

As of this morning, success. No more damage. Now the strawberries can recover in peace.

Honestly, if it ain't one thing it's another around here.


  1. Save the Canning JarsJuly 8, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    If it happens again, looks like you'll need to put a deer into the freezer!

  2. Blood meal as part of a home mixed fertilizer seems to do a good job at keeping the deer and rabbits away. I also plant marigolds in among my plants for the same reason. I have no fence around my yard or garden and we often see deer in our yard. The one year we neglected the marigolds was the only year we have had any significant losses.

    I wonder if you could save blood soaked hay from the slaughter of you steers and spread it around the outside of your strawberry bed?

    Now the rats with tails are a whole 'nother ball game. They chewed right through the net I used to protect my blueberries and grapes. Perhaps I should plant marigolds between those also?

    Southern Gal

  3. Better to learn these hard lessons today than after TSHTF.

    I'm so frustrated that I just have to speak out. One thing I've noticed, and I apologize in advance for the criticism, is that you and Don seem to do things the cheap way first, then the right way. Wouldn't it be more cost-effective in the long run to do things right initially? For example, even if the deer didn't get into your strawberry crop, chances are the birds would once the berries mature. So netting would have been good right from day one.

    It's all about making good choices...where did I read that wise advice? :)

    From building strong fences before the cows got out for the 10th time in one month or from trying to fix a broken-down tractor for the umpteenth time, sometimes you will have to spend the dough upfront in order to make good use of your money and your time.

    Again, I'm sorry to sound so harsh or "superior", but I've seen this time and again and it's frustrating to watch good people struggle when for a few dollars more, they could succeed and move along. In a disaster, we may not have a chance for a do-over.

    Anonymous Patriot

  4. Mom always told me to plant onion bulbs around the perimeter of my raised garden beds. I've seen deer across the street, but no deer in the beds yet and it's been 2 years. I left the onions over the winter and just let them come up again this year. Boy, have I gotten some weird science-fictiony looking plants now!

  5. I'm sure you've heard them all, but I read that old VHS tape strung around where deer hang out is a pretty good deterrent. I can see why, in theory, but I haven't tried it for myself.

  6. Good luck with that, but I've had very poor success with it. The only thing that keeps the deer (and rabbits, turkeys, squirrels, rats, possums, raccoons, sheep, horse, dogs, hens and chicks, ducks and ducklings) out are conestoga wagon-type coverings, built out of a bottom plate of 2x4s with PVC ribs with welded wire stretched over and attached with to the ribs with ties and the wire attached to the other wire runs with hog rings. It is pretty light weight and easy to lift for weeding, then replace. I use 'em for pastured poultry and raising broilers, too.

  7. Man, I HATE it when that happens! I hope the bird netting works.

    The same thing happened to me in April. Now, I have chicken wire around and on top of my little patch. It keeps everything but mice out, but it's hard to weed.

    I'm the human. I have a bigger brain and I have tools.

    Just Me

  8. I was gonna mention blood meal, too, but Southern Gal was quicker :)

    Still, it's so heartbreaking to wake up and see a mess like that.....Man vs Beast, Version One Million + + +

  9. I tried blood meal, and the dogs ate it. I found something called Deer Off at Lowe's/Home Depot, and it works 100%. You can make your own much cheaper - sour milk, garlic, rotten eggs, hot pepper - you get the idea. Shake it up real good, put it in a spray bottle, and let it sit in the sun a day or so. You'll have to hold your nose when you spray, but it works.

  10. We net our strawberries as soon as we plant them to keep the birds out. So far it has worked.

  11. @Anon 3:13 - (nose wrinkled) - I can see that mixture working to keep the deer away, but would I want to eat the berries after that was sprayed on them? LOL

    Southern Gal

  12. Patrice,
    This has nothing to do with this post but I was wondering if you'd seen this:

    Now you can get jail time in MI for trying to do a little urban homesteading.


  13. High voltage electric chicken wire cage built around it. Even if ya didn't get one to put into the freezer, I seriously doubt that one would ever come back ;)

  14. hardware cloth is better and more durable than bird netting or deer netting. also, if you use hardware cloth under the dirt it will help keep digging pests out. and the hardware cloth makes really good "cages" or "covers" for the plants that is gonna last you many years. the marigolds also work too.

  15. Southern Gal - Regarding the smelly spray, I don't spray directly on berries, peppers, or anything we eat - spray the ground, leaves, etc. We even sprayed around the outside of our garden fence because the deer were jumping over it. They stayed away. Works great on hostas, lilies, etc. also.

  16. Oops, I said I used welded wire on my raised beds to keep out the varmints. I tried that at first and while it DID keep out the deer and sheep, the squirrels and rats just marched right in and ate up my strawberries and 'maters. I have to use the chick poultry fencing.

  17. Oh dear!! How awful after all that work. We have tons of deer, but have never had any trouble. Could be the Bumpus dogs on the next 5 acres? I really appreciate the idea of the marigolds, Anonymous. I'm going to try that next year for rabbits. And Kay, that mixture sounds like a fainting spell waiting to happen!! Oh my gosh. Just give me the deer!!

  18. Years ago I read about a homesteading couple who were having trouble with deer getting into their corn. They set up a floodlight shining into the corn and plugged it into a Christmas light flasher.

    The deer perceived the flashing light as movement, and avoided the area. The people said it worked keeping virtually ALL pests away...except the raccoons, who wanted to see what was going on.

    Of course, before setting up a flood light, you need to know if you'd be annoying any neighbors, depending on how it's pointed.

    But since it's *movement* that scares away deer, you could put a narrow pole - say, a 2 X 2 - with it sticking up about 5 or 6 feet, and drape a trash bag over it, tying it near the top. We used one in our garden as a scarecrow, with the bag snapping in the wind serving as an effective deterent.

    A doctor with a 100 acre hobby farm for whom my wife does landscaping hangs a bar of Lifeboy soap anywhere he doesn't want deer. It seems to work.

  19. I just ordered a solar powered, flashing light that's supposed to keep predators away. I need to keep foxes out of the chicken coop, but it's supposed to work for deer, too.
    Maybe a big dog positioned nearby would help?
    I'll let you know if the light works.
    From Glory Farm,

  20. the soap on a rope (string) is great for fruit trees and bushes. you could also plant some squash on outside edges of tender plants and corn..the racoons do not like stepping on squash vines at all.

  21. We tried hanging 8 bars of Irish Spring soap and something actually ate the soap. By the teeth marks I think it might have been raccoons, but I'm not sure.

  22. It's always something, isn't it? If not deer than rabbit, or geese, or who knows what else. I can't tell you how many times we have had those "Oh, so cute" animals make appetizers out of our garden. We had deer and geese at our old house, now rabbits. Life on the homestead, never the same and never boring.

  23. Take some 15lb mono-filament fishing line and string it up about 3ft outside the beds up to 4'high. About 1 ft increments.

    The deer will feel it, but not be able to see the line and therefore not push into the beds to feed.

  24. A couple I used to know in the Santa Cruz mountains had deer trouble with their garden(I lived up there for 14 years - I left...what was I thinking!!??!).

    They solved it by double fencing the garden. The main fence that was quite tall, but becuase they were on a hill, the deer sometimes got into - not as often out of - the garden. They added a second fence (not as tall) about four feet outside the first. This was more effective (and simpler) than building a truly tall fence that was also strong.

    The theory behind it is this: The space between the two fences makes the inner fence effectively taller, because the deer had the challeng of not only jumping over, but now spanning that distance as well. They could get into the no-man's land (no-deer-land?) between, but there was not enough room for them to get a running start to clear the second fence. They could not clear both in a single leap and the could only clear the first back out not the inner to the goodies.

    I thought it rather clever.

    Man... I miss the mountains...