It’s Not Easy Being Greens

Posted by on May 10, 2010 in Farm Blog, Garden, Vegetables | 39 comments

Growing anything here is a challenge, and vegetables are no exception.  This last weekend was rather interesting, and informative for us.  While outside, working on the new chicken ark, a very fearless doe was browsing less than 20 feet from where we were working for most of the afternoon.

This doe looks innocent enough, but...

At one point we caught her taking a nap in the bracken ferns in front of the house.  Later she was running up and down the hillsides chomping on rampant wild Himalayan blackberry vines, and fresh young growth on the Bay Laurel trees.

Then she passed right by us on her way out to the meadow adjacent to the orchard.  At first she was just grazing some weeds…but then we caught her testing the fence.  She was trying to push underneath.  The fence didn’t give.  She moved along and tested it again.  She really meant it…and so did we.  We don’t mind if she wants to help with weed control outside the fence, but this behavior was simply unacceptable, so I leapt up, and ran, waving my arms, yelling and screaming toward her and chased her off.

She came back, again…and again…and again, as if to spite us.  Then she disappeared.  Apparently she was lurking, watching, waiting for us to leave, and plotting her next move.  A few minutes after we entered the house, she wandered up onto the front deck, and we caught her peering straight through the living room window!  This was alarming because this area is currently being used as our transplant nursery, because up until now, the deer wouldn’t climb the stairs to get up on the deck.  Neither of our terribly well trained watch dogs even noticed!!!

No, they're not cute! These two couch potatoes didn't hear the doe walking on the front deck, or see her staring through the front window...they're BOTH fired!


We chased her off the deck.  About half an hour later, when we went up into the vegetable gardens…we found her again.  This time, INSIDE the deer fence.  Somehow, she found her way past the fence.  It seems she managed to push under the fence along the uphill section, between the two runs of deer fence.

We found her point of entry along this fence line, where she'd pulled up the ground stakes that anchor the fence into the soil

Getting her out was a challenge, and panicked that she’d been caught within the gardens, she ran straight toward the fence, bursting through it behind the mature redwood grove.  This is the down side of using even heavy duty plastic deer fence.  Challenged head on, at full speed, the fence can break.

We must have caught her soon after she found her way into the gardens.  The fruit trees were unharmed, thankfully, as most are now recovering from their previous assaults, and pushing new growth.  However, she’d made a bee-line for the blueberries, and the crop will be very scant this year.  The raspberries were similarly ravaged, and will likely be non-existent this season.

This Summit raspberry was blooming last week, now the entire plant has been defoliated

Despite acres of lush green spring growth around the property, this doe was like a heat-seeking missile all day long, and was unbelievably determined to break into the gardens, almost as if she was trying to make a point.  Repeatedly testing the fence boundary until she found a weak point.  We repaired the fence, and are now seriously considering adding a hot wire around the perimeter.

Despite the carnage to the berry crops, the rest of the garden was unscathed, including some ‘sacrificial’ greens we’d planted some time ago to test whether or not the deer were still getting over the fence.  Last night, some of those greens suddenly seemed to be pleading with us to be harvested, and we were happy to oblige.

This green oak-leaf lettuce is destined for our salad

We trimmed some lovely red and green oak leaf lettuces for our salad, and they were dressed with a simple champagne vinaigrette.  We harvested a wonderful collection of red winter kale, Tatsoi Asian greens, and spinach…and decided they’d be destined for a spring greens pizza.

We still have winter kale, growing under cover, to protect it from the warm sun

Spinach and Tatsoi

Some good friends introduced us to a simple pizza last year as a means of using up an overabundance of dark leafy greens.

Washed Kale, Tatsoi and Spinach

We made our traditional cornmeal pizza dough, and topped it with some sauteed onion, a couple of large handfuls of assorted wilted greens, and about 2 ounces of sliced prosciutto.

Pizza, ready for the oven

We brushed the edge of the crust with a little olive oil, and baked it 450F for 12 minutes.  Then in the last 2 minutes of cooking, we cracked an egg, spread it thinly over the top with the tines of a fork, returned it to the oven and cooked the pizza until the egg is just set, approximately 2 minutes more.  We were skeptical about egg on a pizza too the first time we tried it…but it’s remarkably good…and when you have chickens, you find novel uses for eggs!

Pizza with spring greens, and simple salad, makes a divine dinner

Dinner was extra special, because it was enjoyed with the knowledge of all our greens have had to endure to make it from mere seeds, to the kitchen.  It’s just not easy being greens, at least not in our gardens, so we’re especially grateful to finally enjoy them!


  1. Your tender young plants must be as tasty to deer as they are to you.

    I’m sure you weren’t happy, but you certainly told the story in an entertaining manner.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Rolling, Once Again. =-.

  2. Maybe that doe needs salt? I remember salt licking stones in the forest when I was a kid in Europe.

    I mean, I look at that super tasty pizza, and I know I’d want salt or maybe a little Feta cheese with it ;->

    • Our crust recipe makes enough for two pizzas, and we did put a little cheese on the second one. If the deer wanted salt, we should feed her that pizza. The cheese with the prosciutto was a little too salty for my taste 😛 Without the cheese, it was perfect (I know I know…pizza without cheese?!?!?!)

  3. I could almost cry over what your visitor ate. People here use hot wire fences to keep the javelina out of their gardens and it seems to work. Your pizza looks absolutely delicious!
    .-= Noelle / azplantlady´s last blog ..Made In The Shade…. =-.

    • I almost did cry when I saw the raspberries…then I realized I was too angry to cry 🙁

  4. Two things I can think of…I was once told coyote urine will scare deer away, it is apparently a tactic used by hunters to spoil a spot when a preferred location is “poached”….the other (at the reisk of being banned fromt the site……shotgun + buckshot + sharpknife=40 lbs real lean meat in the freezer……

    • No worries Tom, you’re not banned 😛 Actually, I’m all for living in harmony with nature, but this doe was something else. Really, if someone had handed me a cross-bow when we caught her in the orchard, even I might have been tempted to use it! The scary thing is we have two ‘herds’ here at the moment. One is four bucks…the other is five does. Lots of green forage courtesy of the rains (it’s raining again today)…I don’t even want to think about how much our deer population will grow this spring.

  5. Oh deer oh deer Clare – that was one determined doe – I just hope she was the first and last determined one. I was sure nothing could have got through that fence.

    I’ve started a diet……… and I am so hungry tonight and refusing to snack and then I see your delicous pizza here ….yum yum. I just sowed my oakleaf lettuce seeds and loads more greens this evening outside – its definately easier being green here in Scotland – we don’t get determined deer like that.
    .-= [email protected]´s last blog ..Tulip Bloom Photo Fest =-.

  6. Want to borrow my fence jumping mutt? She can hear a squirrel in the backyard from our living room. And she’s got the prey drive to chase (and probably catch). LOL
    .-= Dog Island Farm´s last blog ..Come see us at the Maker Faire! =-.

    • If she has good prey-drive, she’s welcome here! Does she catch gophers too? 😛

  7. Clare, Your greens and pizza both looked so delicious and made me so hungry that I had to go start supper before I could write a comment!

    You have my sympathy about the deer. So far, I haven’t seen any deer in my garden this year, although I did see lots of deer scat when I was out in the woods recently looking at wildflowers. My scourge is usually a resident woodchuck. No sign of them yet this year, but it’s early yet. Last year they did so much damage to my perennials that I had violent fantasies of sitting by the entrance to the woodchuck burrow and bashing it with a shovel when it appeared! -Jean
    .-= Jean´s last blog ..Weed, Water, Mulch: A Low-Maintenance Perennial Garden Strategy =-.

    • It is amusing how we otherwise generally passive gardeners have occasional thoughts of turning to violence, be it in the form of shovels or cross-bows, when our plants are ravaged by wildlife. Of course, I’m probably no more likely to pick up a cross-bow, than you are to brandish your shovel 😛

  8. Wow! your deer are aggressive! That is scary. My stepdaughter’s dog ran after a deer that was in their yard and the poor dog got hoofed in the face. He is ok now, but had a bit of infection. It would be different if the deer were starving, but yours have food all around. But, you do tell an exciting story! Great post. Oh, ps I just changed my blog to Gloria

    • I’m actually glad it was a doe, and not a buck that was trapped in the garden, although if the fence hadn’t given way, the situation could have turned out entirely differently. Deer will strike if they’re cornered, and can be quite dangerous. I’m glad your stepdaughter’s dog wasn’t hurt too badly.

  9. Your lettuce bed is so beautiful, Clare! I’m sorry to hear y’all continue to have those terrible troubles with the deer. I had no idea a doe would be so brazen!

    I will never forget my first visit to a local pizzeria in France. The waiter put the hot pizza on the table (it looked delicious) and then ceremoniously broke a raw egg over the center of it and let it run over the whole thing. I stared at him in disbelief. He’d ruined the pizza!

    Your pizza looks much better. 🙂
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..a hint of joys to come =-.

    • I’m not one for raw eggs either…I’d have wanted that waiter to put my pizza back in the oven, at least until the egg was set!

  10. Wow, this doe has some wily ways. Our neighbors whose properties abut the national forest have similar problems with Mule deer. My cute & fuzzy garden pests happen to be the bunnies and squirrels. It’s a love-hate fest and never-ending battle, so I just have to keep all the vulnerable plant material fenced or caged. Btw, your pooches are really cute! But I’ll bet you mine is even more useless than they are. Akitas are supposed to be fierce hunting dogs, but ours just likes to preen in front of the bathroom mirror! Sigh…
    .-= Camissonia´s last blog .."Roses, roses, roses, I thank all the roses that bloom in the spring…" =-.

  11. That is one deer with attitude! I always pictured deer as shy and retiring creatures…not as something that will put you under surveillance before breaking and entering!
    It figures that the sacrificial greens are the one thing that seems to be untouched in that garden (oh no, not the raspberries!!), but at least they do make a very yummy looking pizza – I’m going to try both that one and the earlier one too 🙂
    .-= Heidi (GippyGardener)´s last blog ..Feeling Seedy =-.

  12. She was really testing all your defences (and de fences) wasn’t she.
    Dinner looked yummy!
    .-= Deborah at Kilbourne Grove´s last blog ..What’s wrong with Hakonecholoa? =-.

  13. I’m blessed to live in a deer-free zone, but I have a cousin who was sure the invading deer would be discouraged if she and her husband and their dog slept out in the vegetable garden. She changed her mind when she woke up nose to nose with a doe.

    • That’s good to know…as I actually seriously considered pitching my tent in the orchard that night, if only to defend the garden 😛

  14. She was determined to get in. Maybe she saw the berries from the other side of the fence? I hope the other deer give up easier.
    The greens on the pizza look delicious. I seriously could live on pizza and love homemade dough. I’m going to go check out your recipe.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Petting fish at the Watergardens. =-.

    • She would only have seen the berries if she had great vision, they’re rather in the middle of the fenced in area…I’m rather thinking she broke into the gardens on a dare 😛

  15. You know, I didn’t consider deer as a potential threat to amaranth greens… perhaps they aren’t so easy to grow as I thought (depending on where you live). Your greens are lovely, though… I can’t believe that lettuce was the sacrificial patch! It’s gorgeous. 🙂
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..How to Plant Tomatoes (and Get the Best Root System) =-.

    • Thanks! Well, sacrificial in that it’s always easier to plant more lettuce, than have the deer chomp the tomatoes and peppers! Lettuce grows faster, so we put those transplants out before we dared plant anything else. The floating row covers have helped a lot, both to keep the bugs off, and hide the lettuce from four-legged intruders, but the only sacrificing of these greens now…we hope…is to the salad bowl!

  16. Obviously, you live in deer heaven, Clare! A greens fanatic, love your pizza recipe that I too might break through a fence for 🙂
    .-= joey´s last blog ..‘SHIVER WITH DELIGHT’ (Centaurea montana ‘Amethyst in the Snow’ ~ CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKES =-.

  17. Oh my, deer on the front porch? They’re just taunting you now! It’s amazing how they can eat raspberries and not get the thorns. So far they’ve only “pruned” ours a bit.

    I’m drooling over the pizza, egg and all! And the greens look yummy too. It sounds like you have a nice collections of them.
    .-= villager´s last blog ..Harvest Monday – Lettuce Be Thankful =-.

  18. Wow. That was one determined doe. So brazen! Did you feel that her standing on your deck staring into your house at you felt like a threat or challenge of sorts? I have a lot of critters to battle, but luckily, deer aren’t one of them yet.

    • On the advice of a good friend…we did consider a restraining order! 😛

  19. All I can think of now is eating pizza. YUMMY!!! Good job the doe didn’t help herself to that….mmm…pizza. M
    .-= Urban Dirt Girl´s last blog ..My garden is my spa =-.

    • It’s one thing to go after berries and greens, but if she gunned it for the pizza, I’d be willing to go a few rounds of fisticuffs with a doe! 😛 Or maybe that would be hooficuffs?

  20. This is frustrating. Yes, deer are wonderful to watch and sweet to behold, but devestating to our harvest. I’m sorry for your loss. BUT….your dinner looks AWESOME!!!! 🙂

  21. Clare, I have never heard of such a determined… stubborn really … doe! Odd since there is so much outside your fence to eat. “Always greener on the other side…” comes to mind. With dogs … coming up your deck stairs … there is something going on here. Maybe she sees your relationship with the chickens and senses you are safe and she wants to be part of your family. I chuckle when you wrote how you ran after her. I have done the same thing… well not this year but years past ‘running with the deer’ … mostly I speak to them … firmly and I cannot believe how they leave my garden alone except when there is nothing else to eat and even then only a nip here and there. They never touch my native blueberries. I find they all have their own personalities and who knows what this gal thinks. Sure makes for a great story though. Good luck! Your pizza looks yummy!
    .-= Carol´s last blog ..Walking South Into Upper and Middle May Gardens. =-.

    • Actually, we were aghast too! After the last few years of drought, we’d come to accept that the deer would graze on plants they might not normally. That’s fine. They need to eat too. This doe seemed to have a point to prove. It really was bizarre. I’m a bit concerned that if she reproduces this spring, that she’s going to teach her youngsters to be fence-busters too! Thankfully, at the moment, most of our crops are either under row covers, or those red tepees, so most of the veg she couldn’t get to. Sadly, the berries were exposed and vulnerable. I need to find the deer equivalent of cheesecake, or double-cream ice cream…and put about 3 tons of it outside the gardens! 😀

  22. We always said that our lab watchdogs would lick a stranger to death….Fierce bark but no bite. Wow, what you have to put up with the deer. Your post made me hungry, time for lunch!
    .-= Amy/GoAway, I’m Gardening!´s last blog ..Amy’s Favorite Container =-.

  23. I suppose the doe had found a favourite place. Just like us with a favourite mart, a favourite restaurant etc. It will come back and will say say hello next time.

    .-= bangchik´s last blog ..Sunflowers are wearing down. =-.

  24. I have been told that deer ALWAYS climb the steps on decks. I’m in deer country too. If you have deer, the predators will follow. So do keep an eye out for cougars (and I don’t mean Demi Moore).
    .-= Daffodil Planter´s last blog ..Episode 2: Love blooms in Asheville, North Carolina =-.

  25. An instructive destructive story! We don’t grow anything tasty and I propagate on an upper deck right now – where they can’t reach. Based on your and others’ experiences – and the fact that we would fence off only a small area – I plan to use wire fencing – when we get around to it. Sorry to be absent from your pages lately. I’m looking forward to catching up. Corporate work binge nearly over and will rejoin the ranks of the living and gardening soon.
    .-= Country Mouse´s last blog ..GBBD — Abundance (Town Mouse) =-.

  26. I would have thought that the deer would have plenty to eat outside your fence this year, but I guess they want a promotion! I can imagine a “Lifestyles of the Hoofed and Famous” where a host guides the camera through your deer’s dream palace/veggie patch!
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Plant of the Week: Bush Anemone =-.