The Gardener’s Mantra

It was like a horror film slowly playing out, with one shock after another sucking the juice from my adrenal glands.

One day there were nibbled pea shoots. A bunny or mysterious insect perhaps? Then the strawberry leaves. The defoliated mulberry gave it away. The squash and melons that mysteriously never came up but had nuzzly nose prints in the holes and dainty hoof prints beside the bed.

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I had thought I was safe. We’d taken all the precautions and for three years never had a security breach. The 7 foot fence around our land received regular inspections and had 3 foot welded wire reinforcement at the bottom.

I tromped down the yard furiously with a fresh roll of fencing under my arm to raise the barrier at a spot that looked jumpable, tears welling as the image of my sweet, innocent strawberries–decapitated with cold hearted viciousness–swam across my vision. My fists clenched at the thought of those soft hearted suburbanites who croon over them and post pictures of their babies on Facebook. The rage begins to take over. Okay, okay, reign it in mama. Deep breaths. Do your mantra.

They are also alive. 

They were here first. 

They are feeding their babies, just like you. 

And you will kill them all when you learn how to shoot with a bow and arrow. Vengeance will be yours. 

I breathe deeply to drown the blood lust and nearly stumble over her. My little blue Orpington looking frazzled and missing feathers on her back. “What has your sister done to you?!” These two had gone broody and been moved into a light-weight tractor in the yard for a few days to keep them off the eggs. Maybe they were fussy about the move.

She looks at me with head cocked to one side. “What sister?” she seems to say. I gather her up in my arms to return her to her tractor…the tractor that is not where I left it. The tractor that has been dragged in a semicircle and is full of feathers, but no hen.

What sister, indeed.

I follow the piles of feathers in their meandering path into the neighbor’s yard and out into the driveway. I trace little tufts of sadness toward the woods until I can find no more.

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It isn’t even 8 o’clock in the morning.

I feel a strong desire to burn down the forest, so I tell myself wise stories about how we share the world. Time for the mantra again.

How my homesteading is a healthy engagement with the natural world that forces me to be humble, to remember that we are out here at nature’s mercy.

How the choice to be here in deer and fox and coyote and owl and hawk territory means so many good things.

How I love looking up at the sky and watching graceful hawks circling…and smile when a murder of crows chases them off.

How I listen to the coyote pups calling to each other at night and marvel at how happily unconquered the wilds really are, no matter how we try to fool ourselves.

How the spring peepers sing us to sleep after long spring rains.

Mostly, my mantra works. l say the right things when it’s time to explain it all to my children. I’m sure life will go back to normal, it always does. I am a loving person. A kind person. Yes, I am.

Deep down I believe my mantra. This is all a balance and we humans have taken more than our fair share.

But you, deer and you, eater-of-hens, you are real damn lucky I don’t know where you live.

In the mean time, we are perfecting our barriers. As I walk the fence with my father in law he says out of nowhere, “Now this is something Trump would actually be good for!” I doubt it, but the image makes me smile.

Neighbors and family together, moving the offending mulch mountain and raising the deer fence.

Neighbors and family together, moving the offending mulch mountain and raising the deer fence.

UPDATED:

For two more days this deer breached the fence, but with vigilance and team work we patched the holes and got her out again. The third day she appeared with her brand new baby fawn beside her. It was very very very cute. If I’d had my camera I would have shared pictures. The mantra is good.

After polling the neighborhood my brother in law informed me he’d seen a fox crossing our driveway with a “chicken sized something” in its mouth. Mystery solved!

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