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Our deer win the award for persistence!  In our prior post we were lamenting the fact that despite our best efforts this winter, the local cervids have out-smarted us.  A 7-foot perimeter fence around the orchard and gardens proved that it wasn’t sufficient to keep our browsing deer at bay.

 

I'm sure the deer are laughing at us...

This last weekend we installed the second run of fence at the top of the slope, to prevent deer charging down the hill from launching themselves into the orchard.  We don’t question that this has helped, but yesterday, it was apparent that it wasn’t enough.  It’s clear that on Monday night, our defenses were breached again.  This picture will give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem.  Our deer seem to travel in small gangs…

 

How many deer do you see? (click to enlarge image)

Three sets of evidence were found for the Monday night orchard raid.  New hoof prints in fresh mud, visible as a result of the weekend rains.

 

One cloven hoof print...

A second bank of agapanthus, uphill from the first, was chewed, and the damage was so fresh, the leaves were still oozing.

 

A mortally wounded Agapanthus...

They clearly had returned to the Satsuma and Santa Rosa plum, both of which now have tufts of leaves at the top of the trees, but have been stripped completely bare below.  New damage was evident on the Blenheim apricot, that had been previously untouched.  This tree is on standard rootstock, and even though young, is quite sizable.  Well…it used to be.

 

Blenheim apricot branch stripped...except for one lone fruit. Now I know they're snickering at us...

This has become a battle of wills.  The deer may be persistent…but I’m stubborn, really really stubborn, and refuse to give up on our gardens.  So last night we had no choice but to fortify the perimeter before dark.  One more night of unabated browsing could mean an untimely end for our poor plum trees!

The problem this time is there was no concrete evidence for an entry point.  Our best guess was that the deer were gaining entry from the small sloping meadow on the western flank of the orchard.  It’s really  the only remaining open area that isn’t double-fenced. Just in case though, we decided to fortify the entire perimeter.

The thought was to not only raise the height of the fence, but to slant the top of the fence away from the orchard around the entire perimeter, to give the illusion that the fence is wider.  You’ve probably seen similar applications with barb wire on angle brackets above chain link fences. Unfortunately, there are no heavy-duty deer fence suppliers nearby, so we needed to be creative for the angle brackets, and instead of barb wire (which we never use) we would use the same 12 gauge mono-filament that we also used to support the top of the fence.

 

Our prototype bracket. 45-Degree PVC coupler, reducer bushing, and pipe to support the mono-filament

First we needed the support brackets, and none were available locally, so we made our own.  We used 1.5 inch PVC 45-degree angle couplers set on the top of the angle-iron fence posts.  To this we added a 1.5-1.0 inch reducer bushing, and a 20-inch length of schedule 40 PVC pipe. The pipe was drilled with three holes, spaced 3 inches apart to thread the mono-filament through.  The PVC assembly was screwed into place atop the posts, and we pulled mono-filament around the entire perimeter.  To make the brackets blend in with the rest of the fence, a quick spray with some black spray paint did the trick.

 

Mono-filament is pulled through pre-drilled holes in the PVC pipe, and the pipe is sprayed black to match the fence

We ran out of mono-filament, but had enough to go around the entire perimeter once, and twice on one side.  We’ll add more to the brackets when the new mono-filament arrives.

This morning there was no evidence that the deer returned.  Tonight however will be the true test, as this afternoon I’m going to plant out some sacrificial lettuce in this new garden bed.

Now for the true test...we'll plant some lettuce...and see what happens

Will this be enough to keep the deer out?  We’ll have to wait and see what happens…but I really hope we’ve now excluded them from the orchard for good.