27 May 2009: Mountain gardening can breed paranoia

Mountain gardening can breed paranoia

Life’s most perplexing question comes down to this: Why do deer prefer munching on geraniums and petunias rather than dandelions?

Perhaps it’s the dandelions’ pungent odor, but if deer took to Chinese clematis, which is non-pungent to my sense of smell, like they have to my geraniums, we wouldn’t be in need of a helicopter assault drop of herbicide on Georgetown and surrounding mountainsides.

Now don’t get in a panic about that happening too soon. A few local historic buffs, intent on preserving the detail our ancestors’ historical impact, are pushing to have Chinese clematis adopted as Georgetown’s town shrub and dandelion as the town flower, although that dandy flower has serious competition from a host of others.

BWM—before white man—the deer were forced to sustain themselves on the offerings of the natural world as it was then, which did not include dandelions, Chinese clematis, petunias, or geraniums.

They obviously have learned to pick and choose, much like people loading their plates at a salad bar. Iceberg lettuce or endive?

But BWM, their numbers were kept in check by wolves, which are now extinct in Colorado, and mountain lions, which, while not extinct, are not sufficient in numbers to cull the herds—do deer amass in herds like elk or do they congregate in mini social and common-interest sub-groups like guys?—of deer.

Big horn sheep prefer single-gender, homogenous groupings, just like male team-sport fans. They like to gorge themselves on the salt on the side of the road, which tourists find mesmerizing, just like male team-sport fans do with pretzels in sports bars, which I find puzzling.

Were the big horns always that way or is it a learned behavior adopted from observing real men eating salted peanuts while drinking not-so-real beer while roughing it in the great outdoors?

One of my young aspen trees nearly croaked due to my inattentiveness during the drought of last summer and fall. But with intensive TLC since, it has survived, although with 80 percent of its upper body withered.

New growth is popping out, not only from the upper branches but also from the root system, sending up shooters. Cool! Now, I don’t need to give Home Depot money for trees that ought to be growing in the part of the natural world I legally own.

My carelessness has resulted in a boon, but that has caused another dilemma: how to keep the ubiquitous deer from eating the aspen saplings as is their wont?

One solution is to cultivate a field of dandelions and clematis for the aspen to get lost in with the hope that the deer will get discouraged or nauseated at the sight of such unappetizing offerings.

Another is to spend bucks at Home Depot for fencing to enclose the nascent aspen grove. Wire or mesh seems the less expensive choice, but I could go with a suburbia look and build a white picket fence. Using prefab plastic sections would alleviate the need to paint and otherwise maintain it over the years.

I am concerned, though, that my non-human neighbors would roll their eyes with contempt and laugh at me behind their snouts and horns. I won’t worry about my human neighbors doing such as many would only be laughing at themselves.

Regardless, Home Depot wins.

A friend suggested to spray a deer-repellant, which is so good Home Depot doesn’t carry it. You have to get it at a specialized nursery for the cost of week’s worth of groceries, which might seem reasonable when considering the cost of four aspens at Home Depot.

The downside is that the repellant needs to be applied after every dousing, either rain or hand-watering, which is like everyday.

Another suggested hanging bars of perfumed soap from branches or placing them in the flower beds, which gave me a solution of what to do with the Dial soap bars stored in my bath cabinet for the past decade. They have to be as hard as bricks, but I can’t help but envisioning them slowly melting in the summer storms, meaning I would then need to scrub the soap scum from the foliage and ground much as I had to in my shower.

So, in the end, the deer win, which gives rise to the question: Who said that living up here can be a win-win situation?

Maybe for deer and Home Depot, but for the rest of us, it can be a farce, albeit a fun farce filled with ironies.

And Dick Cheney is worried—paranoid?—by what he insists is President Obama’s open invitation to Islamic terrorists to strike at will in the U.S.

Cheney might try living up here for a spell without an accompanying retinue of gardeners and growing a garden populated by petunias, geraniums, and other tasty morsels deer love. That would justify paranoia.

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