Years ago I started planting fruit trees in the back yard. I planted five different kinds of apple trees, a cherry and a pear. The next year, I planted five different kinds of apple trees, a cherry and a pear because the deer had eaten the first batch down to the nubs. I bought wire fencing and made cages around each new tree.
The following year, I planted five different kinds of apple trees, a cherry and a pear because the deer just leaned over the fences and ate the saplings. The next year, I used taller, stronger wire fence cages. It kept the deer out, but not the rabbits, who nibbled the bark off the bottom of the trees and killed them.
The next batch of trees I fenced in with deer- and rabbit-proof fencing. The tent caterpillars arrived in June and spent the next month eating every leaf. The next batch caught some kind of rust or mold and all the leaves fell off. The next batch got backed over by the guy who delivered the shingles for our new garage roof.
One year they all just died, and no one could figure out why. Was it too wet in June or too dry in July?
I've been at this for 10 years now. I refuse to give up. Why should farmers have all the fun? And my perseverance has paid off. This year I will get my first homegrown apples. Granny Smiths. Two of them. They are still on the tree and nothing has eaten them yet, but there's only a month and a half to go before I have to hire a picking crew. Right now they are about the size of golf balls.
When you add it all up -- the fencing, the root stock, the time I put in -- it will probably only cost me about $800 per apple. But next year I might get four more apples, dropping my per-apple cost down to $266. A significant savings. Of course, until my trees start supplying all the apples I need, I still have to buy them at the store. If I add in that cost, I may never break even.
You may think that the human vs. deer standoff has been going on forever, and that I should just deal with it. But while doing some historical research in some hundred-year-old newspapers, I spotted a news story from 1913: "On Tuesday last, John O'Connor, who has a farm on Ogden Hill Road, saw a deer cross the road going north. He tried to follow it but it soon disappeared." Not a very exciting story except for the fact that it means a hundred years ago, deer were so rare around here that spotting one was a news story.
The main problem with shrub-eating, crop-eating, flower-eating, sapling-eating, tick taxi suburban deer is that they are cute. If they looked like 250-pound giant locusts, something tells me that shooting them would be made mandatory. But no, they look like a Disney cartoon and get all the privileges that come with being cute. People feed them. People "ooh" and "ahh" over them. They get into nightclubs for free and never have to pay for a drink. Oh, wait, that's not deer, that's good-looking young women. Still, you get my drift.
Which is why, one morning last week, there were 23 deer grazing on my front lawn. It looked as if we were raising them. Next to the deer was a flock of Canadian geese that never seem to leave. When did geese stop flying south in the winter and north in the summer? They just live in the same place all the time now. My lawn.
A car stopped in front of our house and a guy stuck his iPad out the window and videoed the wildlife. You'd have thought he was filming a rare white tiger for "Wild Kingdom." I wish he was ... a nice cute tiger would solve so many of my lawn care problems.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.