Last year we were shocked to discover that our apple trees had been brutalized. Small branches snapped, broken off, vandalized. Needless to say, after the carnage, we ended up with a total of three apples, from five trees. At first we thought that it was drunk teenagers, but having been teenagers once ourselves, it seemed a very lame thing to do and one that would afford a teenager zero street credibility. Further investigation lead to the conclusion that it was, in fact, a local gang of deer that had violated our trees so brutally. I was kind of at a loss about what I could do about that, since we live surrounded by forests and the deer were here first and quite frankly, I’m a huge scaredy cat and know in depths of my yellow-bellied toes that I’m incapable of taking on a deer (or even a rabbit) who wants to eat my apple tree(s).
Then, while happily and gratefully stripping a neighbours trees of their delicious pears last autumn, I happened to mention the unprovoked attack to him (we have a handful of neighbours within a ten minute walk), and found out that our local mob of deer had been similarly beastly to his trees and that he resolved the issue by using deer repellant spray that he had purchased from Canadian Tire. Great! I thought to myself. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. I’ll buy the spray, I’ll use the spray and the deer will be so disgusted that they’ll just pass right on by our trees without another thought and I’ll be, wait for it, a HERO!
And that’s almost exactly what happened. Or at least, I bought the spray and waited for the weather to cooperate and become warm enough for the trees to start waking up. A few Saturdays ago it was a beautiful, warm, clear spring day and that is why I made the dreadful mistake of thinking that nice weather meant that I could safely leave my lovely inside world and venture into the outside. If you know me at all, you may be able to see how my mistakes have already begun to compound, right?
Well, delusional me, with valiant thoughts of heroism and protecting our little apple trees, grabbed the spray (that Canadian Tire had, strangely I thought, put inside a plastic bag and then tied the bag tightly closed) and headed down the driveway towards the trees. On a mission, as it were. Then it hit me. Like a fart in church. Akin to a noxious combination of gallons of decaying cat urine with rotting roadkill, the smell was seeping from the still closed and sealed bottle. Oh, holy Hera, for someone who lives her life, often with the sole daily goal of not catching the scent anything disgusting, to say that this was unexpected and beyond distressing would be understating my alarm. I am a lot of things (slow, prone to falling down, awkward, to name a few) but I am not a quitter. I held my breath, hastily scanned the instructions on the bottle while staving off hypoxia, turned the little nozzle to ‘spray,’ checked the direction of the breeze and pulled the trigger.
Revolting would be doing the resulting stench a kindness. Occasionally, because Mother Nature can be a cruel mother, the breeze would decide to do a loop-de-loop and the spray would come straight back at me. I felt the mist land on my arms and brush my cheeks. I tried not to breath. I thanked God for aging my eyes enough so that I now wear glasses full-time, saving them from the vile droplets that I was sure would burn my retinas. My next thoughts were to curse myself for already having showered that morning and then I felt sad at the realization that I was likely going to have to burn my favourite overall shorts because there was no way that this particular parfum du sack of decaying warthogs would ever come out of the fabric. I may have let out a little shriek, but more likely it was a string of expletives that I’m still not sure that I know the meaning of, all colourfully expressed as I ducked and dodged the spray-back, determined to get the job done, dignity be damned.
And done, I got it. The apple trees finally done, my conscience kicked in and started flashing pictures of our sad little pear tree that lives alone in the backyard. I pictured it surrounded by hunger deer, all clamouring to chomp it’s delicate little limbs. I decided to head into the backyard to spray it, since that poor thing has been a sad specimen since the beginning and since I brought it here, I owe it a chance of survival. I took a deep breath, held it and sprayed the tree while still dancing about trying to avoid any contact with the vile spray and when I was done, despite my best efforts, that spray was the only thing that I could smell and taste.
I tossed the spray bottle into the bike shed (it was closer than the garden shed), went into the kitchen and washed my hands and arms with soap. I scrubbed them with the dishcloth, and somehow convinced myself that I could get away without taking a second shower and burning my clothes. I prefer to think of my self as hopeFUL, rather than hopeLESS, thankyouverymuch.
I’m not sure how long the smell is noticeable to humans, but when two of my children came home from the park, they asked why our driveway smelled “so bad” and why I was twitching and shaking my head so much. I could not get the smell out of my nose. At this point, I was fairly certain that I had killed my sense of smell and that nothing would ever taste or smell the same again. Which, in hindsight, living as I do with five males, could this “loss” be a blessing in disguise? I am fastidious about reading labels for just about everything I purchase and bring into our home and yet I still don’t have a clue what the active ingredients are or what is in that demonic spray that is guaranteed to work as a repellant against deer and rabbit foliage attacks. I simply cannot bring myself to touch the bottle again, not even to check the brand name in order to look it up online. While I’m not proud, I do own my inadequacies.
So, now, I wait and see. If a single deer touches any of those apple trees, it was all for nought and I’ll have to seriously re-evaluate just how attached I am to the idea of growing our own fruit. Conversely, if the apple trees are allowed to grow unmolested, I suppose I will need to consider the experience worth it, even if we only net a single apple. That said, for the next application I’ll be sending one of these kids out there to deal with it. Oh, stop it. First, I’ll give him safety glasses, gloves, and a barf bag, of course. I’m not a complete monster.