Saturday, January 28

Deer Damage and Gray Areas

My blog posting has been non-existent recently and for that I do apologize. This past summer was one of the hottest and driest in recent memory. We spent all summer just trying to keep our new orchard alive which was a full time chore thanks to our lack of irrigation.

By the time November came, we were using the last nice days before the snow to get half finished projects done. This included finishing the orchard fence, even if it was just to get it fully enclosed and not having a gate until spring.

We wanted to get the trees protected from the deer over the winter.

One of those sunny November days had me inside the orchard fence with Murphy the dog. Hubby and I had just finished hanging that last 250' section of fencing the enclose the orchard, while leaving a loose section to flip open and closed to serve as a make shift door. 

Hubby went back to the barn to see about bringing the tractor over to give us a little more weight and leverage on getting the last bit of 8' fence tightened, leaving Murphy and I to start taking measurements and making calculations on the amount of mulch we would need in the spring.
One of the first sections knocked down 
We heard a big crash and rustling of underbrush coming from outside of the fence and saw a huge buck running through the brush. Murphy was ecstatic and ran up the fence line towards the flap opening we had left. I yelled for him to stop but it was too late and he crashed through the flap, ripping some of the securing nails and causing some of the fence to fall on him. He got a little tangled in the fence and all this commotion made the deer freak out and run straight at the long row of already established fencing. He crashed right into it, taking down two whole 15' sections.

Murphy had extricated himself from the fencing and was now on the outside of the orchard, running back and forth along the outside fence line trying to figure out what this huge brown thing was and what it was doing in the orchard. The deer started running full speed up and down the inside of the orchard fence line while I was standing in the middle of the orchard not knowing what to do.

I didn't want to aggravate the deer any more than it already was since it was pretty much the largest buck I had ever seen or been that close to. He also had a very impressive set of antlers - at least 6 very large points - which I did not want charging full speed in my direction. Murphy had still not figured out how to get back inside the fence which may have been a good thing since I did not want him to be injured by the deer. At the same time, however, I wished that he could have been in there to protect me.

The deer had started throwing itself at the fencing in different areas trying to find a weak spot to escape. Every time he did this, the fence would shake and he made large bent areas in the fencing and bend some of the wooden posts. I was standing there watching so much damage being done to our fence but there was really nothing I could do about it without the risk of being trampled.

Murphy was still running around the outside of the fence, further aggravating the deer and I saw him turn towards me and start running in my direction. I stood still and waited to see what he was do next and I watched him turn around, get a running start, and try to hunch himself over the fence. He did not clear it and came crashing down onto the fence, snapping 2 of the 4x4 posts in the process.

He then got another running start and managed to jump over, completely clearing the 8' fence. he landed on the other side, somewhat gracefully considering his ordeal, and took off at the full sprint towards the woods.

By this time, Murphy was completely out of breath and did not want to pursue the deer. 

I got out of the fence, collected a very out-of-breath dog, and got to the barn where hubby was fiddling with the starter on the blue ford tractor. He asked me what was wrong and I told him to follow me, since I was too out of breath myself at that point to explain.

He followed me to the orchard and saw all the broken posts and fencing, while I had finally caught my breath and explained what happened. He was understandably upset, in that we had just about finished the fencing that morning. 

The damage was going to take a while to repair. We would need a few new posts and we would need to re-stretch a good deal of the fencing. Not all of the areas that were now bent were going to be able to be stretched back into shape so we will have some abnormalities in some of the sections. We managed to get things propped up temporarily since the major repairs was be in the spring. We just did not have the time or the money to spare.

It could have been much worse. Murphy could have been injured, I could have been injured or the deer itself could have sustained injuries that would have made it necessary to put him down. I did not have my phone with me in the field which was a mistake, and I did not have any way to defend myself other than Murphy. Not even my knife.

I learned a few good lessons that day which I will be reminded of every time I see those fence sections with the abnormal bends and the replaced posts. I still don't know why the deer was running through the brush to begin with. He could have been scared by a hunter on an adjacent piece of property and ran onto ours. Or he could have just been startled by something else. I encourage the deer to come to our property and I like seeing them - part of why we bought this property was to give the area wildlife a sort of refuge or buffer to the development that is creeping in around us. The fencing has always been a hard decision for me in that we are taking away part of their natural habitat and putting man made barriers in their living areas. However, in order to pay for this property, we do need to farm small portions of it to pay the bills. Part of creating this semi-permaculture orchard system is to try and restore this area to a thriving, and productive, ecosystem.

If I can find the balance in that - managing to pay the bills while creating an inviting and safe place for wildlife, it will help me be more at ease with the man made intrusions that we do have to put on the property. More and more, as I get my hands dirty on this adventure, I see that there is not a black and white answer to everything. The gray areas, however much they both me, are growing larger.

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