On several occasions my wife has been angry enough to declare that she is ready to purchase a gun and put it to good use. Not that I’ve done anything to deserve being shot, but it makes sense to me that a husband should not be in favor of arming his wife. There are too many things that can go awry. Fortunately, the target of her violent urges was not me in these instances, but squirrels in the attic, and then deer eating the garden.
In each case we’ve had a go of it in trying to resolve the issue without resorting to violence, with little success for one and better results for the other. The squirrel problem is ongoing, a continuing source of frustration as they frolic in the attic and in the ceiling above the library. They seem to be having a jolly time, but we’ve suffered from wiring problems and I half expect to return home from work one day to see the house burned to the ground.
Once, in desperation we hired an exterminator to trap them. On consecutive nights we caught a possum and a skunk (quite harmless, and quickly returned back to the wild), but no squirrels, and I’m afraid that more urgent methods could be required. If it were not for the potential danger in chewing electrical wires I wouldn’t be bothered at all by the squirrels. You have to admire their ingenuity in defeating the most foolproof of squirrel resistant bird feeders, and thus far in steering clear of the carefully laid traps that snared less devious minded beasts. They are more pleasant in temperament than the docile and skittish deer, but that’s small consolation when they threaten your home.
The squirrel problem is still open to negotiation with my wife, but there’s little chance that the solution will involve anything more lethal than a BB gun (and even that is a bit much for me). Our problem with deer is not so critical, though I neglected to spray the repellent late in autumn and they have munched the tips of many of the azaleas and aucubas (and now they’re nipping at the camellias).
For ten years or longer we had no deer problems in this garden. Yes, there were deer, but civilization had not crowded into our area so much, so it seems that there were sufficient food sources. In those days my wife and I would walk through the nearby woods with our two incorrigible mutts. We’d let them off their leashes for a moment, and usually within seconds they were off, catching a scent or movement of deer in the brambles. They’d return home hours later, worn to the bone but content from their chase.
At this time I grew quite a nice collection of hostas. There were a hundred or more varieties, and in these younger days I could name them all. There were big leafed forms and miniatures, and everything in between. Of some there were handfuls, and these were regularly divided and spread about or given away when there were a few too many. Others were single plants, which spread slowly so that they never required dividing. Then, they began to disappear. At first, just a few leaves, then more, then entire plants were eaten to the ground.
Now, I’m an advocate for wildlife, and I gladly invite skunks, possums, rabbits, groundhogs, chipmunks, and countless other beasts into the garden. There are so many birds that domesticated cats from two counties away come to prove their hunting skills (which are usually quite poor since the cats tend to be a bit portly, probably incapable of leaping to catch a bird that was clueless enough to be caught unaware). I’m happy to have deer (and even squirrels) in the garden so long as they don’t cross the line, and where the line is, my wife will usually tell me.
When hostas began disappearing my wife made it clear that the line had been crossed, and it was time to do something or she would take care of it herself. Even if did not fear for my personal safety, shooting wildlife in residential areas is not a brilliant idea, and fortunately there are more effective means of deterring deer. Under the strict direction of my wife a schedule was set to spray a repellent on the first weekend of every month beginning in April. The last spray of the year would be in November when a higher concentration was sprayed on vulnerable evergreens.
I’ve been spraying a deer repellent for five years or so, and it’s proven to be quite effective. Occasionally, I’ll skip over a plant, and deer quickly discover ones that are unprotected. Through cold and rain the repellents work dependably for at least a month. I don’t think that the brand of repellent matters much. I’ve used a couple, with no apparent differences in the results or the period of effectiveness. These days, my wife rarely has to remind me to spray, but when I delay for a week or two it doesn’t seem to matter. Beyond six weeks, the effectiveness wanes quickly.
When I talk with someone who says that they’ve tried repellents without success I assume that they sprayed once, then didn’t follow up. Spraying isn’t a one time thing, but in my large garden it takes only a half hour each month to spray all vulnerable plants. Some plants are resistant to deer, and I don’t bother spraying these. I could plant more deer resistant plants and not bother with the spray, but I love plants and I can’t imagine limiting my choices.
Now, without the threat of deer, my collection of hostas is growing, though I don’t think I’m capable of remembering the names of more than few handfuls. More importantly, I feel safer knowing my wife isn’t armed and dangerous.