Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Attack of the vegetable eaters!

I wanted to come home after being gone from the farm for a week and talk about where I had been.

Touring Swiss family farms.

Looking at Swiss CSA's, buying collectives, greenhouse vegetables, organic cheese and organic egg farms (did you know in Switzerland each organic egg must be stamped with the date the egg was layed and a code number identifying the farm the hen lived on).

Peaceful Swiss farms with beautifully kept fields surrounding old, cared for Swiss farm houses with overhanging roofs and barns connected right to the house.

Instead of that pleasant picture I came home to a combat zone.

A war!

Our farm under attack from every direction.

Constant, incessant, unremitting attacks.

Marauders repeatedly attacking the chicken house.

(bobcats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, opossums)?

Chicken thieves, chicken pluckers, chicken devourers, egg eaters.

It looks like an animal has been trying to jump over the electric fence surrounding the chickens. (a bobcat? Last night I heard one out there yawling).

In the morning the fence is down and each day another chicken (or two) is gone.

And then there is the deer fence.

There is several miles of the black plastic mesh surrounding our vegetable fields, something like 15 acres enclosed with fence.

Something has been tearing the fence down all around the farm.

And each night deer pour through the holes in waves. (sort of like a world war one movie).

And the deer, once inside turn their attention on the vegetables. Going after the tomato plants, pepper plants, squash, cucumbers, broccoli, corn, okra.

Last night I got up several times and each time when I flashed the spotlight across the fields I saw a different deer busily eating. Five deer, just last night.

Vegetable thieves, vegetable stompers, vegetable nibblers, munchers, chewers, destroyers.

Every where I look there's damage.

(A deer eats something like 14 pounds of green matter each and every night, if it can).

The worst damage, right now is with the tomato and pepper plants. With the sweet corn and okra not far behind.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

(Wenonah just proofread the newsletter and she called me up and said, "Don't you think you are going a little over the top about the deer? People, if they read this, will think the deer are eating us out of house and home. What do they say about farmers complaining about the weather? Well the same is true about you and those deer."

Well, maybe she is sort of right. There are a lot of vegetables out there, but there wouldn't be if the deer had their way).

And then there's the bear.

The bears has given up on the beehives but has now been roaring through the deer fence (letting deer in behind it) and attacking the fruit trees.

Breaking off limbs to get to the fruit.

Apples, cherries, pears, plums.

The bear's a nuisance, but one I can survive, the problem though it where it knocks down the fence.

I have a good picture of a bear snapped by the wildlife camera just by the house (If you want to see the picture tell me and I'll e-mail it to you).

That bear was heading right toward the deer fence.

The next morning I found a large hole ripped in the fence.

I worked on the fence for several hours on Sunday. Finding a number of holes. One section a hundred feet long ripped down.

I worked again on it for several more hours early this morning.

As soon as we finish picking the vegetables today we'll go back at it. Hopefully having it up and ready for tonight's attack by this evening.

But what about the deer inside the fence (those ones I saw last night I don't think, filed out through the openings in the fence when they were full eating our vegetables.

Somewhere, inside the fence, right now, there are deer out there, bedded down, napping.

Waiting for the cool of the evening to get up again and go back into the fields for another vegetable snack.

What should I do?

How do I get the deer inside the fence from there to the outside of the fence?

While you think of an answer to that, here's the farm news.

Our annual summer farm party is coming up. Since this is the blog version of the newsletter I've cut out the details (who knows, my neighbors might read this). If you are interested in coming out and meeting us and our 300 closest vegetable eating friends send me an e-mail. This is a pot luck, family get together fort of event.

Other farm news: Just in case you haven't noticed, the drought in our area is continuing.

Everything is extremely dry out here.

While Northern Europe, this spring and summer, is having record setting low temperatures and constant rain, we are having one of the worst droughts in my memory, definitely the driest its been since I started farming a decade ago.

It might not seem like it in the city but out here on the farm we are experiencing very chaotic weather. It almost seems like its getting worst with each passing month.

Another piece of farm news, one that isn't so dramatic but one that happens every year this time. We are now in that transition period between spring crops and summer crops.

The days are long and the air and soil is warm.

This effects the plants (and means a change in the vegetables we eat around here).

It's now too hot for most lettuces. (with heat lettuce turns bitter).

And with the long days most of the spring vegetables are going to seed. They stop growing.

The long days also means that the summer vegetables start producing. In the next couple weeks we are going to see all of the summer vegetables coming on. cucumbers, peppers, squash, eggplant (we were early with that this year) tomatoes, tomatillos. We will also start to harvest the root crops, potatoes and garlic, that have been growing all spring.

That is if we can keep the deer out of the crops.

And the one's inside the fence? Can you suggest a strategy?

Over the past decade I've probably tried every method known to human kind to keep deer off of vegetables.

We've put out human hair, dog fur, predator hair.

Fresh eggs, rotten eggs.

Garlic.

Fish concentrate.

Electric fences.

Electric fences with apples tied to the fence so the deer are sure to get a shock.

Double rows of fencing.

Double rows of electric fencing.

Stinky scents designed to keep deer away.

Guard dogs,

Guard pigs,

Distracting noises.

Distracting noises that go on and off.

A radio turned up loud to a talk radio station playing from the middle of the fields.

A tape recording of Rush Limbaugh talking turned up loud and playing from the middle of the fields.

None of it works for very long. (Even Limbaugh fails to keep deer away from vegetables).

The ten foot fence, however, has worked for two years now and it was working up to now.

Unfortunately, this one two punch of first the bear repeatedly knocking down the fence and the deer following has got us stumped.

What we are going to do when we get the fence back up? How are we going to get the deer inside, out and keep the bears from knocking new holes in it once it's up?

Any ideas?
--

Leigh Hauter

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