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I once posted about the plight of the Pacific Madrone trees on the property. Many of the trees in our woodland areas are weak and diseased as a direct result of decades of poor land and forest management.

This last weekend, while attending our first dairy goat show of the season, one of those diseased Madrones fell, and took out an entire 16 foot doubled run of deer fence, upslope of the garden and orchard.

This isn't the first time a tree has fallen on the fence

This isn’t the first time a tree has fallen on the fence. This tree fell earlier this year.

As it’s peak fawn season, you can imagine what happened once the fence was down, and the farmers were out of town.

This time of year we see a lot of does foraging with their fawns

This time of year we see a lot of does foraging with their fawns OUTSIDE the deer fence

This should have been a post about the fun we had at this weekend’s dairy goat show, but show weekend was quickly eclipsed when we returned home and went to check on the gardens after an especially hot weather weekend. I expected I may find a few plants that needed a little extra water. I did not expect to find carnage throughout the summer garden and orchard.

I’ve spent a number of weeks leading up to show season making sure that the summer garden, and orchard, was at a point that it could be left to coast for a while. The warm weather this spring allowed me to get a jump start on transplanting early in the season, and when we hit the road on Friday I felt good about the state of things on the farm. It’s always difficult to be gone, but everything was growing along nicely when we left.

On our return, the first evidence of trouble that I spied was in the cucumber bed.

The lemon cucumbers had been devoured.  Rabbits?

The lemon cucumbers had been devoured. Rabbits?

I intentionally over-planted pickling cucumbers this year, as I have plans for a lot of pickling and canning later in the season. When we left last Friday the vines were robust, and healthy, reaching toward the top of the supports, and producing plenty of blooms, and fruits.

Heirloom 'Homemade Pickles' cucumbers, less than half the height they were on Friday.  This isn't rabbits!

Heirloom ‘Homemade Pickles’ cucumbers, less than half the height they were on Friday. This isn’t rabbits!

At first I thought it was rabbits, but after surveying the rest of the damage, it was clear the deer had gained entry to the garden, and enjoyed the cucumbers immensely.

Then I turned my attention to the pepper beds. The sweet peppers were only slightly gnawed on, with just some of the plants stripped of their leaves.

There were a few headless Corno di Toro peppers

There were a few headless Corno di Toro peppers

The hot pepper bed though was decimated. Padróns, Jalapeños, Pepperoncini, and Anchos, were all popular with our garden invaders.

The hot pepper bed though was hit much harder

The hot pepper bed though was hit much harder

Strangely, the Tomatillos planted in the back of this bed were almost completely untouched.

As I turned the corner though, I was crushed to find that this is all that’s left of the raspberry bed.

This should be a bed full of lush raspberry plants

This should be a bed full of lush raspberry plants

There was ripening fruit on Friday, now most of the plants are reduced to mere stubs.

Instead the plants now look like this

Instead the plants now look like this

Miraculously the basil was completely untouched. I know that deer tend to avoid some of the garden herbs, like sage, and rosemary, but I would have thought that basil might be more appealing.

Strangely, not a single basil leaf was missing!

Strangely, not a single basil leaf was missing!

At least we have basil.  The parsley is gone, but we have basil.

Then I noticed the heirloom tomatoes. Almost every plant had been torn, with branches snapped, or stems abraded where they’d been pulled through the cage supports.

Branch ends were eaten, and stripped leaves had damaged the length of many of the stems

Branch ends were eaten, and stripped leaves had damaged the length of many of the stems

I spent much of yesterday pruning off all of the affected pieces and parts of these plants to reduce the chance of disease in the wounded areas. It’s clear that if the plants had not been caged, the damage would have been MUCH more severe.

All I could do was remove the torn and ragged stems, which in some cases reduced the plants to half their size

All I could do was remove the torn and ragged stems, which in some cases reduced the plants to half their size

Most of what I had to remove where branch ends that were in full bloom, or had already set fruit. I’m hoping the damage is just a minor set-back, and they’ll recover, but wounded tomato plants can be rendered highly susceptible to disease.

The strawberry bed we renovated this winter also took a hit.

A few plants on the edges of the beds were damaged where the deer pushed underneath the protective netting

A few plants on the edges of the beds were damaged where the deer pushed underneath the protective netting

Fortunately, the new ProtekNet fine mesh netting we’d put over the beds spared most of the plants, but some around the edges of the bed were sampled.

However, the ‘Consort’ blackcurrants weren’t quite so lucky.

The blackcurrant 'Consort' was reduced to a few leaves at the tips of the branches

The blackcurrant ‘Consort’ was reduced to a few leaves at the tips of the branches

One of the tomato beds this year is right at the crest of the hill above the orchard. As I looked down the hill toward the fruit trees, I almost cried. The lower half of almost every single tree on the south side of the orchard was stripped of its leaves, with broken branches, and obliterated fruit.

Notice how bare the lower half of this apple tree is

Notice how bare the lower half of this apple tree is

Each winter we prune the trees for shape, carefully selecting which buds along a branch we’d like to encourage to grow.  The deer clearly disagreed with our choices.

The clean angle-cut was where we pruned this branch in winter to encourage the (now missing) bud to branch out

The clean angle-cut was where we pruned this branch in winter to encourage the (now missing) bud to branch out

Last year voles took out two of my favorite rare Niedzwetzkyana crab apple trees. Their replacement has now also been heavily damaged.

This young Niedzwetzkyana whip has been stripped of most its leaves.  Nice of the deer to leave us a token fruit

This young Niedzwetzkyana whip has been stripped of most its leaves. Nice of the deer to leave us a token fruit

The trouble with deer damage on some fruit trees, at least in our experience, is that the affected branches have a tendency to die back completely once they’ve been chewed on. As this replacement tree is still a whip, we’ll have to wait and see if it can manage to recover without the central leader dying back.

Esopus Spitzenburg, a relative slow-grower compared to some of our apple trees, also sustained an absurd amount of damage.

Branch ends were stripped of their leaves

Branch ends were stripped of their leaves

Branch tips were snapped

Branch tips were snapped

Other branches were snapped much further down

Other branches were snapped much further down

Our Aprium, which appeared to be setting its best crop of fruit ever, had its lower branches, and much of its fruit…annihilated.

This branch was new this season, and was snapped all the way back to the trunk

This branch was new this season, and was snapped all the way back to the trunk

Many of the Aprium's fruits were knocked to the ground, and rolled down the slope

Many of the Aprium’s fruits were knocked to the ground, and rolled down the slope

Like the apples, the tender new leaves on the branches were stripped

Like the apples, the tender new leaves on the branches were stripped

The Cherry tree was clearly…chomped on.

The damage to the Stella cherry was fortunately less extensive

The damage to the Stella cherry was fortunately less extensive

Plums and pluots were purposefully pruned.

…and the peaches…well, I’m out of alliterations, but let’s face it, around here between the voles, and the deer…our peaches are simply doomed. I honestly sometimes wonder why we bother.

Along the edge of the greenhouse where we’re holding a dozen two year-old 5 gallon grafted apple trees for planting in the fall…every single one was decimated.

It’s been a rough few weeks here on the farm. Between a recent epic feud with a goat-hating neighbor that was caught spraying herbicide across our property, jeopardizing the health of both our goats, and our orchard, bobcats hauling off our poultry stock, and a single 24 hour fence breach resulting in this much damage, I’m finding it extremely difficult not to just throw up my hands and give up.

Remarkably, none of the poppies in the orchard were touched

Remarkably, none of the poppies in the orchard were touched

Fortunately, I’m not a quitter, but I am the type of person that has an innate need to proceed forward toward my goals, and this year I can’t help but feel that all I’m doing is damage control, and not actually making any progress here at all.

I’m exhausted, and right now phenomenally exasperated, and tired of being just one fallen tree, or one persistent predator, away from disaster.  My relative lack of garden blogging recently is in part a result of my escalating frustration with the farm this year. The goats are the only thing keeping me even remotely sane at the moment, even though they’ve clearly sparked a war with one irrational neighbor.

Don’t get me wrong, Curbstone Valley is a special place, and I love the woodlands here, the privacy, the wildlife, the creeks, the views, and the rest of my neighbors, but I also am well aware that the farm has the potential to be so much more.  Just not here.

A few weeks ago this buck almost completely destroyed a 7 foot Fremontodendron!

A few weeks ago this buck almost completely destroyed a 7 foot Fremontodendron!

For now though, this is where we are, so again, we’ll chalk this up to another experience, that perhaps one day we’ll look back and laugh about. We removed the offending tree, and another that was in similar condition along the fence line yesterday, and repaired the fence. Now we’ll have to wait and see how the damaged plants in the garden and orchard fare through the remainder of this season.

They look so innocent when they're young

They look so innocent when they’re young, don’t they?

How can deer be so adorable at this time of year, as babies, and mature into the most destructive four-legged garden predators known to man?