Living Faraway


Brook Hurst Stephens

Deer-Free on the Key

Of all the things we’ve discovered here at Faraway, those I was least prepared for were the garden marauders—they come in all shapes and sizes and their food preferences change as often as the tides.

My dad visited a week after we bought Faraway and he brought along a set of trail cameras as a housewarming gift. In one memorable photo series, we captured five different animals in one hour, but to be fair, there was a bird feeder involved. At 1:30 a.m. on a brisk fall morning, there was a gray squirrel and a fat rat atop my birdfeeder that appeared to be duking it out with a pair of agile raccoons clinging to the pergola post the birdfeeder was hanging from. To make matters worse, in one frame, a deer sauntered by in the background. Mind you, all of this was taking place 10 feet from my kitchen door.

I attached bird spikes to the pergola posts, and when that didn’t work, I attached more bird spikes. I finally gave up and brought the birdfeeder in at night. I also set a variety of rodent traps and gradually the nightly birdfeeder hootenanny came to an end. It wasn’t lost on us that since Faraway had been mostly unoccupied for many years, the animals probably thought we were the intruders.

The biggest pests have been the deer. The hundreds of rose bushes around the 6-plus-acres provided them with sweet and easily accessible rewards for many years, no doubt, though when we took possession, I could count the total rose blooms on one hand. I say “easily accessible” because most of the old fencing had fallen down and there was no longer a border collie named Buddy to scare them away.

I have had deer issues in the past in Mason County, so I am familiar with a variety of methods for combating them.

Here is a list of things I’ve tried to discourage deer:

  • Gathering bags of hair clippings from hairdresser friends and scattering the clippings in the garden. Not fun when you’re weeding and it sticks to your gloves. Handy hint: Use soil-colored hair unless you like to see the random chunks of hair in your garden.
  • Making a homemade concoction of eggs, jalapeño peppers and garlic, aged until stinky and applied with a sprayer. All that did was create a craving in the deer. I swear they never ate my jalapeños before I used this DIY solution.
  • Putting a bar of soap into a knee-high pantyhose and tying it from the rose bush. Really unattractive and asking people for used pantyhose brings weird looks.
  • Filling small muslin bags with Deer Scram, which is basically dried blood, white pepper and garlic powder, and hanging them on the bushes. The deer simply eat around it and the dogs seem to love it.
  • Spraying Liquid Fence on the branches and leaves. Smells horrible and tastes even worse if you get it on your strawberries.
  • Motion-sensing deer sprinklers. Turn them on at night and be sure to turn them off in the morning or you will get sprayed, guaranteed. Only works on the bush it’s next to, so at $60 a pop it’s an expensive solution.

However, I have noticed a decrease in deer activity the past couple of weeks. Perhaps they know hunting season is right around the corner. Or maybe it’s that brand-new livestock fence with an extra row of hot wire along the top.

I’m happy to hear what’s worked for you; email me at