Saturday, November 16, 2013

Throwing in the Towel

As of this writing, while we have had ongoing discussions as to how much more we can take, we haven't set a pull-out date. But until that time is decided and announced publicly, it would be foolish to let down our guard. So we've erected fortified barriers to protect us. We've undertaken regular scouting missions to find breaches in our perimeter. And we've worked closely with the locals to see if we can turn the tide. But as much as we hate to admit it, we just know are going to lose in the long run. And when all is said and done, they're going to take back their territory.

The Taliban, you ask? No, the deer.

Every year at this time, the leaves turn their brilliant ambers and russets. But what is a sight to behold for us is an indication that the food in the fridge is spoiling for them. And so our four-footed friends, who have been gorging out of sight since spring, start to edge their way closer and closer to those ornamental plants and shrubs around the house. The ones that we've carefully shaped and pruned. The ones that provide screening and coverage. The ones that stay green. They, however, see them in a different light: as a snack just waiting to be gobbled.

And so come Halloween (or actually when I see my neighbor Ron doing it in front of his house), I crawl under the deck and haul out the posts and the plastic fencing. When we first moved here twenty plus years ago, we used thin poles and lightweight netting that "disappeared" when we put it up. It didn't take long to realize that a 200 pound buck would push through that like it was tissue paper. It dissuaded him from nibbling not because it physically stopped him, but because he got tired of a mouthful of plastic. That meant that it worked OK in the beginning, less so deeper into the season as it got jostled by weather and attempted breaches, and then not at all as it got colder and they got hungrier. Several times a winter I had to trudge out in snow boots with a staple gun in hand, and try and rescue the dangling shards and reknit them into a barrier. Needless to say, it was a losing battle by February.

Then one year a lawn guy suggested we put up sturdier stuff. So we moved from the lightweight set we had to a more industrial strength approach. The uprights are now 4 inch rough-hewn posts, while the netting is a black version of the type they use at construction sites to stop people from falling into foundation pits. Held together with plastic tie wraps, it's a formidable defense, though we do feel like we are living inside of Stalag 13.

But it's hardly a permanent installation. With frost heave pushing the post foundations here and there, and snow weight causing the netting to sag and buckle, I still have to make a few excursions in the bitterest of weather to tighten up our defenses.  Occasionally I have to counter-stake a post that won't stay upright, or construct a patch for a spot on the netting that's been eaten through. I feel like the little Dutch boy on the dike, jamming my fingers into holes that keep springing up, hoping the wall will hold until the water recedes, or in this case, till spring comes. And while I may breathe a sigh of relief come April, I know I will only have to repeat the whole exercise again next October.

At the University of Wyoming, on the limestone facade over the engineering department this is chiseled: "The Control of Nature is Won, Not Given." With respect, I would disagree. I think a more accurate construction would be "The Control of Nature is Borrowed, Not Won." Sure, you can hold a river at bay, shore up a dam, or in our case, tighten the fencing. But sooner or later we all give in, and Mother Nature will reclaim her rightful place. The jungle took back Angkor Wat and the Mediterranean is working on Venice. In that light, in our neck of the woods, we know the outcome: Bambi will eventually win.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is ready to toss in the deer fencing towel. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

No comments: