Who's That Standing in My Garden?

Reader Contribution by Cam Mather
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Nature abhors a vacuum.

 I discovered this here at Sunflower Farm many years ago.
Three square inches of exposed, unoccupied soil will have weeds sprouting
within days and be covered in a week. If we get any rain during a summer fighting
them becomes a full time endeavor.

 And so it was that nature stepped in to fill the void
shortly after Morgan the Wonder Dog left us. Within two days of Morgan’s death
there were deer prints in the garden. If we were just growing food for ourselves
this would be an inconvenience. If we were just growing food to sell at a
market, this would be an annoyance. But now that we are running a CSA and have
committed to grow food for a dozen families, it’s kind of a big deal, in a very
bad way.

 Morgan was obviously doing a great job of keeping the wolves
(or deer in this case) at bay. During nice weather he preferred to sleep
outside and we’d often hear him barking during the night, sometimes a long way
from the house. During the hot summer months he slept most of the day and I
think it was because he was up most of the night listening for disturbances in
the force.

 I am prepared to camp out in the garden if necessary but I’d
hoped to not have to do it this early in the season. First off because the bugs
are still bad and I’ll need to be in a tent. Secondly because I’m so darn
tired. With the summer heat we’ve been experiencing since the spring I’ve been
forced to get up early (5 a.m.) so that I can get into the garden to accomplish
as much as I can before it’s too hot. And since it stays light until almost 10
pm, I don’t get to sleep any earlier. Spending the day in the garden wears me
down and it’s nice to sleep in a bed to try and recover. It’s a small luxury I
appreciate.

Our new dog Jasper isn’t quite ready to sleep outside on his
own just yet (or at least we aren’t ready to ask him to do so.) So I decided to
go to “Plan B” before I dug out my high school-era pup tent. If I can’t be in
the garden 24/7, perhaps I could put something out there that looks and smells
like me to scare the deer away. I decided to make some scarecrows.

I hammered in a tall post and applied a cross piece for arms
and added some pants. I was glad to see my old gardening pants finally getting
reused. They are nice light cotton ones that I bought about 25 years ago. I
sewed them when they started to tear and eventually I resorted to duct tape on
the spots where there wasn’t any material left. Of course I couldn’t part with
them even after they were past the point of no return because they held such
sentimental value. When I was living in the city I always wore these when I
went to garden centers to buy plants. When you wear green pants at a garden
center people ask you questions. Since I had once worked at a garden center
just after high school, I would usually attempt to provide an answer. “Oh
impatiens, they’ll be with the shade loving flowers…” that sort of thing. I
still experience this at our local Burt’s Greenhouses when I’m there. And now
when I wear a red shirt to Canadian Tire I also get asked questions (since
their employees all wear red shirts.) Being asked questions about hardware has
helped me to move up Maslov’s Need Hierarchy towards self-actualization!

In terms of my scarecrows, I also decided that some noise
and light might help so I hung aluminum cans and pie plates from the arms. I
must say, our scarecrows look kind of creepy, in a Tim Burton’s “Nightmare
Before Christmas” sort of way.

A while back I blogged about the original “Woman in Black”
movie that was made long before the current version. It was a creepy movie
because the woman in black just kept appearing. I built these scarecrows and I
know that they’re there, but they keep scaring the crap out of me! I’ll have
zoned out while weeding or watering and then stand up without my glasses on
(which I often don’t wear in the garden) and suddenly there’s this guy standing
over in the other corner of the garden. “Where the heck did he come from?” Hair
stands up on the back of my neck. My fight or flight response is triggered … Oh
yeah, the scarecrow.

The deer came to the garden on a night of a full moon. I
know deer sleep at some point because I see where they carve out hollows in the
snow on our property. They have a few places like under a bunch of hemlock
trees that they seem to like. But I guess in summer during a full moon they
stay on the move because it’s cool and after dusk the bugs let up. So I wasn’t
sure how well Scarecrow man would work in the dark. Now if they can navigate
the woods and jump my fence, I’m assuming their eyesight is good enough to spot
a scarecrow.

Then I had a brainstorm. A few winters back Michelle bought
some battery-powered LED Xmas lights for me to wear when I dressed up as a
solar powered Christmas tree in our local Santa Claus parade. So I dug them out
and now Creepy Scarecrow Man is adorned with LED lights so he glows in the
dark! As if he wasn’t macabre enough now he glows.

Jasper and I go out for a walk just before bed and look for
deer. We pee outside of the garden, which I’ve read discourages deer, and I
blow a whistle and make a lot of noise to give the deer fair warning they’re
not welcome in the garden. At some point I know I will forget Scarecrow Man is
there and the shock of suddenly coming upon him in the dark will be the big one
that finally ends it for me. “Death from Scarecrow Shock”

I’ve also begun playing a radio in the garden. I have a
small, battery-operated radio and so I leave it on, at full volume. Sometimes
when I wake up during the night I can hear the murmurings of someone talking.
Then I remember the radio.

So far it all seems to be working. We haven’t spotted any
more deer tracks in the garden, so apparently the scarecrows are doing their
job. Our corn is almost ready though, which means the raccoons are waiting for
just the right night to get into my garden for a corn roast (although they
won’t bother with the roasting.) At least I’ll have my scarecrows to keep my company
out there! 

For more information about Cam or his books, please visit www.cammather.com

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