My tiny patch of pole beans is festooned with sun-bleached bones, hanging from bits of twine like something out of The Blair Witch Project. None of my neighbors have said anything, but I thought perhaps I should explain.
It’s because of the goddamn deer.
They’ve been coming down from the hills to graze in my garden. I know it’s deer because after they nibble all the tender growing tips off the plants, they poop in the yard. (Or maybe they poop before eating, or at the same time. I don’t actually know.)
I would be happy to let them have my rosebushes, which could use some pruning anyway. Other people have to swath their entire yards in deer-proof netting to protect their roses. Mine are just sitting right there, overgrown, pesticide-free, like a flowery buffet. No dice: deer can tell what you love most in your garden, and those are the things they eat.
Deer are jerks that way.
Which brings us to the bones. Unready to build a 7-foot tall fence around my entire property, I decided I needed some kind of deer repellent. I’m told that you can buy the urine or scat of predators — sprinkled on and around your plants, it convinces deer and other pests that your yard is absolutely swarming with coyotes (or, if you prefer, wolves, lions, tigers, or bears).
Of course, then everything in your garden is covered in coyote piss.
Instead of making my yard smell like a predator potty, I figured I’d cut out the middle-man and just make it smell like death. A tiny bit. Just enough to spook any sensitive-nosed herbivores, without bothering humans or drawing the attention of scavengers. Fresh deer bones would probably be the most intimidating, but since the only deer bones I have handy are decades old (long story) I went with something easier.
I made chicken soup.
It would have been more poetic, I suppose, to make a pot of black beans, seasoned by long simmering with a nice ham bone. But I’d recently roasted a chicken, and after getting several meals from the meat, I like to make stock from the carcass. Simmered with onion skins, celery tops, bay leaves and the tiny, papery cloves from the core of a head of garlic, the bones give up the last of their flavor, along with the clinging scraps of meat and gristle. And once I’d strained the stock and let things cool a bit, it was simple enough to pull out any bones large enough to tie a piece of twine around (or, in the case of the vertebrae, thread the twine through.)
A little creepy? Maybe. Effective? That remains to be seen. Better than spraying everything with coyote pee? Absolutely.
Got advice for repelling deer? Leave it in the comments.
Disclosure: that Amazon link up there? It’s an affiliate link. Not that I’m actually suggesting that you should buy bottles of coyote urine, but if you do (or if you click that link and then buy anything else through Amazon) I’ll get a few nickels, which help pay the hosting fees for this blog.