By the time I got back from Anna's place Tuesday, it was almost dark, giving just enough time to feed the animals, so I didn't check the garden. Wednesday morning found me heading for work before daylight, so as soon as the time clock hit 3:00pm, I was headed home to check on the veggies. What I found was disappointing to say the least. Take a look at the picture of my beautiful sweet potato vines. If you are asking what vines I am talking about, that is my point exactly. They were eaten off to stumps. They are still alive and quite capable of growing back, but it is a major setback to say the least.
When I planted the sweet potato slips, I knew there would be a bit of expected bug damage. Even a bit of a run in with rabbits was expected (and dreaded). This blatant attack hadn't crossed my mind, though it should have (I do live in the woods, after all). Judging from the tracks in the second picture, the culprit was obviously a deer, a fair sized doe, judging from the track characteristics. And this fine doe didn't stop at the sweet potatoes. She thoroughly pruned the tall stalks of lambs quarters I had left in the garden for seed, nibbled at the onions and didn't help the carrot crop either. She even taste tested the cucumber and pumpkin vines, though they apparently didn't taste that great, as they were mostly intact.
As I said, I should have expected this, but old habits die hard. Deer are common enough here in my area now, but it wasn't always that way. Growing up, the only deer I saw in this area were the ones my uncles would hang up at my grandparent's house after a hunt an hours drive away. There just weren't deer in this area at that time, so nobody even thought to protect their garden from them. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I saw my first wild deer in the area, and it was certainly an amazing spectacle. With less hunting pressure over the past thirty years, and efforts (both official and unofficial) to re-introduce deer into the area, they have now become "large bugs in my garden"
My grandmother's consideration of planting three times as much garden as needed (one third for the weather, one third for the pests, and one third for the family) was certainly not calculating for hungry deer, so I will have to do something to prevent the loss. Repellents are a possibility, though they have to be replaced after it rains, assuming it does that often enough to be an issue. I am also a bit skeptical of repellents, as in the past, my best efforts in this area didn't keep the deer off my young fruit trees. Noise makers only work until the deer get used to it, then they are simply ignored. Looks like when I am building goat fence around the pasture, I may have to make a slightly taller version around the garden, to keep the cute little devils out. This is just one example of how things have changed since I was a kid, and a reminder that we have to always be ready to adapt with the constant changes.
And of course, this fall, I will have to make an effort to get my veggies back in the form of venison. More on that option later, I suppose.