Sunday, 10 May 2009

Oh, Deer

The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House

One without looks in tonight
Through the curtain-chink
From the sheet of glistening white;
One without looks in tonight
As we sit and think
By the fender-brink.

We do not discern those eyes
Watching in the snow;
Lit by lamps of rosy dyes
We do not discern those eyes
Wandering, aglow
Four-footed, tiptoe.

Thomas Hardy

As a break from all of this weeks digging, we went for a long walk in the woods behind our house. It confirmed my observation that there was nothing but acres of trout lilies back there, practically none of them blooming. Nothing besides trees, I mean.

Well, I exaggerate. There is also some marshy grass in the low flat areas by the streams, and a lot of some member of the ranunculus family that isn't buttercups, but I don't know what it is. There is a smallish patch of maianthemum canadense, and a sprinkling of purple and yellow violets. I think there will be some cup-plants by the stream sides. No doubt there are other things, too.

However, I can say without exaggeration that this is the least diverse forest floor I have ever seen, and I have been a regular walker of woods since my years were in single digits. It's pretty clear that the reason is the deer. I hadn't considered it before, but we did a bit of driving around yesterday, and I observed that in comparison to other local woods, ours has practically no underbrush. There are numerous well-trampled paths through our woods, and I have to assume that the whole area is so over-grazed and trampled that many plants have died out. Even many plants too toxic to be browsed by the deer have succumbed to the endless trampling.

From our observations, the herd of deer which lives back there is no larger than 5 or 6 individuals, but their habitat is very constricted, between apple farms and suburban streets. I admit to having very mixed feelings about these deer. We will have to keep them out of our garden area, if we are to have a garden at all; but this may reduce their grazing area by as much as 10 %, and they are already clearly hard pressed for space. We saw one, in our walk, and as always it was a moment of excitement and pleasure. It's not a moment of excitement and pleasure though, when we go out and find another shrub half-shredded, and if (when) they get into our veggies, I'm sure the thought of learning to hunt will pass through my mind. (Won't do it, mainly because I'm pretty sure I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn door; besides if I did get one, then what?)

Eh well, nothing is perfect. We'll see how all this transpires. Expect posts on putting up electric fence over the summer, and a report on whether it actually keeps them out.

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