Sunday, 8 July 2012

Greedy bastard!

On Friday night a deer got into my vegetable garden. It didn't just stroll in, it forced its way under the fence, then feasted. It ate every single brassica plant in the place: all the cabbages, calabrese, kale and most gutting, the 40 brussels sprouts plants I have been lavishing care on (they're Bill's favourite vegetable). It demolished the entire row of peas, snapping the broad beans plants (which are not to its taste) in order to get at them. It trampled the onions in order to devour the carrots. It snacked on the lettuces and had a tasting of potatoes.

Fruit for pudding, naturally: it stripped the apple and plum trees of every leaf and as the damson was a bit tall it snapped the main stem in half, to make sure it didn't miss a single shred of foliage. Then, just to complete the devastation, it smashed its way out, ripping the mesh of the fence and tearing nails out of posts.

To say I was upset yesterday is to understate the matter. But by the end of the afternoon I'd reached the point where the fence was repaired, and thanks to the generosity of neighbours in offering materials and brassica plants to try again, I was contemplating a possible future for the garden. By this morning, I was being philosophical about the fact that we share this place with wild animals, and with new, stronger defences in place, I was planning how I'd replant the beds.

But while I slept, the deer, clearly a cabbage addict, busted into my main garden for a second feast. My fruit cage is intact, except that a deer got in there already in April, whcih neatly trimmed off all the fruiting shoots and grazed the strawberries to the ground, so there's barely a berry in the place. Last night's kale-junky invader sniffed out every single brassica, even the pretty red cabbages I'd put in amongst the herbs and sweet peas for colour, and razed them to the earth. It trampled around on the seed and bean beds, scoffing as it went. It chewed the apple and pear trees to smithereens, munched the raspberries, sheared the cherries and roses and bit the shoots of all virtually every single willow withy in my basketmaking grove.

It is quite incredible what one ungulate can eat in one night.

Why did it wait until this year? For 12 years the garden has been deer proof, but most years I am pretty slack about keeping on top of it. This year I have lavished attention on it and, until yesterday, it was the best it has ever looked. I was looking forward to bumper crops. I suppose, ironically, this means it is the first time it has been worth invading.

What guts me is that we live on 11 hectares, all managed as regenerating native woodland, intentionally left wild with no non-native species. We only use 0.1 hectare for our own food production. The damned deer has 99% of the croft to indulge itself in whatever it wants! We don't like them to eat the trees, we ask them politely not to whenever we bump into them, but we basically tolerate them taking a share of the growth, rather than fencing out not only them but also the badgers, foxes, pine martins, otters and wild cat. But not content with 99% of the croft, the greedy bastard has been coveting my cabbages, and has now taken to breaking, entering and theft.

I am a vegetarian, sandal-wearing peacenik, but I tell you, it's enough to set me to sharpening a spear. Bring back the bears and wolves, that's what I say.

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