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Deer prudence



"Everything I planted this spring has either died or been eaten," whispered my wife, with uncharacteristic apocalyptic gloom, into her cup of coffee early one Saturday morning during that dog days of August heat wave.

I was spurred into action later that same day when, rounding a driveway curve, I surprised a deer "inside the perimeter." What happened to the vigilant dogs? They got older, became more barkers than chasers. Bambi told all her MySpace friends and we've been overrun since then.

Toppled rows of corn, chewed to the ground hostas and daylilies, and skeleton azaleas don't make for a dynamic life-in-the-country experience.

Well, let me tell you, neighbor: 1,600 feet of deer netting has turned that doom and gloom scenario right around. Oh, I got a few chiggers and ticks and a few more scratches—but we're back. Two thousand staples later and we are good to go. There is new growth in the daylily bed and a few green tomatoes and peppers are ripening on the vines.

The 7-foot-tall netting is nearly invisible, strung through the woods in an oval around our home and garden. There are just four openings. During the first week or two, I had to fix the fence in several places. Those tears usually came from the outside. Now the only damage occurs when the dogs (or we) walk into the thin black mesh wall unsuspectingly.

So this cool, invisible wall guards against intruders. How about an auditory signal for the dogs? When the deer hits the fence, there's a little rustle, sure. But how about a clank, clank? All of a sudden, I had a fever for cowbells.

Alas, have you priced cowbells lately? The crafts lady at a local arts supply store was very helpful. Bring up the deer-menace-to-society angle and I've found everyone has a story. I settled for strings of jingle bells on 30-pound test fishing line. There are not enough hours in the day to clomp through the woods, armed with a staple gun, checking fishing line and deer netting. (Nor, perhaps, should there be.)

With the sun rising at a lower angle each dawn, the bouncing reflections off the silver bells sparkle in the autumn woods. Freshly fallen tulip poplar and sweet gum leaves cascade randomly on the winding mesh, creating a colorful kind of Cristo-wrapped Italian frieze look. Dream-catcher cobwebs connect the dots. The dogs have enjoyed our forest maintenance adventures. I imagine the deer standing just out of sight pondering their next move.

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