That most malicious of all living creatures, the white-tailed deer, has been destroying the phlox. Also the roses, the blueberries, the plums, the hollyhocks (tender new leaves only), the daylilies, and most particularly, the precious new apple trees. They've weakened the Wealthy, noshed the Norland and bonsaied the Baldwin. My friends and neighbors suggest various remedies. Eight-foot high fences is the consensus -- although occasionally, allowed a running start, the deer are able to leap even these. But do I want an unsightly eight-foot fence around my garden and orchard? Let's consider some other wisdome of the ffolke.
Should I buy human hair from the local barber and hang bags of it around the orchard? I don't think so -- far too voodooish for a post-Enlightenment gardene such as myself. I could douse the grounds in coyote urine, though I'm not sure that I want to milk a coyote -- or, a fortiori, a mountain lion. I know one kind of urine that doesn't repel deer -- at least when anecdotally applied. Some folk, more determined than I could ever be, soak rags in human urine and ring the garden with them, but I suspect that I would not savor either the administration or the aesthetic repercussions of this method. A strong solution of garlic might work, but it's deer I want to repel, not vampires. A spray of peppermint seems like a more pleasant choice, but apparently it must be renewed after every rainfall, which is highly impractical in our moisture-abundant climate. A recipe of a slightly beaten egg mixed with a gallon of water is claimed to be effective, but must be applied nightly -- too much cookery for me. Some people claim that moth balls repel deer, but the same people claimed that moth balls would repel raccoons. My raccoons took the moth balls for marbles and made a game of them and of me. Decaying fish heads would no doubt repel deer, but they'd also repel bees, birds, friends, and family. Even if I could procure them ("I'll have a couple of pounds of decaying fish heads, please"), do I really want to sit, contemplative, in a garden of such stinkiness?
Besides, I don't believe in these superstitions. I want data. I want double-blind experiments. I want science.
My sister, who lives in prime white-tail country, hangs bars of Ivory soap in her apple trees. It works, she says. Not credible, not scientific, say I. But last week we visited her, and there they were, a half-dozen or so thriving young apple trees. Not a nibble on a one of them. New growth allowed to be new growth.
Hers are New Hampshire deer. I bet that our Vermont deer will sniff the soap, chortle, and proceed to bathe face and hoofs. We'll soon have the cleanest deer in all creation.
In desperation, I've joined the ranks of the credulous. I've threaded Ivory soap with baling twin and hung a cake on each of the young apples. White rectangular scarecrows. But for the first time all summer, I'm seeing new growth. This could work.
One of my neighbors says, "No, no, don't use Ivory soap -- use Irish Spring."