Sizing up the competition

Wherein I make good on that promise to tell you about what’s running through my backyard….

I live on an acre of land and I love that it has the ability to grow things, food most of all. When we bought the house and land, there were 3 long rows each of raspberries and blueberries. Black raspberries are notorious for volunteering around here and we now have a sizable mess of them next to the barn. We have a raised bed of strawberries, a red currant bush, and nice peach and sour cherry trees as well. Vegetables? Yes. Rhubarb? Of course. I try to grow some of our own food because it makes me happy.

But I have some serious competition which is mostly nocturnal and always hungry, so I have developed an arsenal of deterrents… some of which are actually effective.

Clippings from our haircuts can deter rabbits and deer if placed near the garden or strawberries. I can also put nets over the raised strawberry bed and hang Irish Spring soap from the apple trees to keep the deer from nibbling. The local clan of woodchucks like everything in the garden and some flowers too, but I’ve already told you on my old blog about my adventures baiting with broccoli, trapping and relocating them. It’s an annual job.

I tried to raise corn once, but the racoons and squirrels took it before it was fully grown. This year I’ve planted pumpkins between the corn rows to see if prickly vines really keep little critters from climbing the corn stalks. I’ll let you know in late August.

In an effort to keep the squirrels off the peach tree, I’ve tried Shake Away (a very nice name for fox urine scented granules), but it didn’t seem to matter much. This year I’ve gone all out, wrapping most of the small, green peaches in cheesecloth. Yes, I am desperate. And, yes, my yard looks totally ridiculous about this time of year.


To keep the robins from eating all the red currants before they ripen, I employ red mylar tape and a large specially designed beach ball.

The cherry tree also gets red mylar ribbons to scare and deter birds because they would eat all the little green cherries if they could.



Some of the best fruit won’t ripen for a month or so. Yup, I mean the raspberries and blueberries. There’s usually enough to share with the birds, but I still transfer the yellow ball and some of the red ribbon to the berries after the currants are done. I don’t worry too much about the birds starving because almost all my neighbors have bird feeders.



Which is why we all felt a small wave of panic this morning. Sheila, who lives a few houses down, called my next-door-neighbor Sarah, who in turn called me at 8am.

Sheila’s bird feeder was demolished by the resident black bear last night.

It comes around every summer and bird feeders are an easy target. It’s been seen during the day and night in our little community most summers. (Here it is in my neighbor’s yard last year, caught by his motion-sensor camera.) We have lots of folk who wouldn’t hesitate to use a gun on it if it got unruly near people, but it’s legally protected so long as it doesn’t threaten people directly. (I wonder if the bear got that memo from the Fish & Game Department….)

So, with 4 kids and a yard full of berries and other good things… uh, how do I deter a bear??

The berries aren’t ripe yet so maybe I have some time. I’ve learned a lot in my years here in Vermont, but sometimes I reach the limits of that knowledge and feel the reality of my suburban upbringing when I am at a loss. I’m looking for ideas, because I just don’t think cheesecloth is going to be enough.

I can hear my old-time neighbors laughing now. “Maren, you can’t. You just live with the bear. And you watch your step.”

Time to read some Brothers Grimm with the kids?

2 thoughts on “Sizing up the competition

  1. That is awesome and crazy at the same time. Good luck with the bear, may you and your family never have a close encounter with it.

  2. Pingback: Summer’s end | Thirty Marens Agree

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