At our country place in New Paltz, New York we've surrendered.
David and I cannot be weekenders, inhabiting the house only sometimes, and keep legions of wildlife, raccoons, mice, moles, weasels, and assorted birds and rodents out of our vegetables anymore. And the deer - the nearly domesticated beasts that think they might be dogs who hover in our backyard waiting for the slightest whiff of something cooking, and will eat anything with any kind of green on it - will climb fences, leap through the air, practically walk in the house to get at whatever we are growing or making.
I hate those deer.
When we first moved in, we used to gaze out the window and look lovingly at the deer grazing in our front yard. This was nature right up close. It was amazing. The kids ran to the window, pressed their faces up against it, and took turns pointing out various attributes - antlers, hooves, flicking tails. And one of them would become convinced one of the deer was looking right at them. There was real excitement. Deer rocked.
David and I were pleased with ourselves in those moments. We glanced at each other over the kids heads, smiled, happy that we made this decision, that we bought this house, that we are giving our city kids a little taste of the country...
Now, we talk about picking off the deer one by one with a rifle out the back window.
It's funny how I like nature but don't actually like when it gets out of my control. I like nature when she sits in a corner and quietly reads a book. It's nice to have her around then. She's pretty. She makes a great backdrop to my life. And when she occasionally looks up from her pages and smiles at me, I'm elated. I might even go over and give her a quick hug or a wink. I often appreciate her when she turns her face back to the words on the page, when she's there, but not looking directly at me.
But the minute she gets up and starts dancing around, or singing a loud song off-key, or telling salty jokes when she hasn't been asked, or - as in the case of the deer - rudely eating all the Hostas out of pots on my deck two feet from my back door, well, then I don't love her so much. Then, I just want to jump in our Jeep and head back to the city where it feels like nature is something invisible, removed, and controlled, where it is manufactured in the form of parks and playgrounds, with safe walls and clear paths, and where I can choose to accept it or ignore it. Where I can get the best of the trees and the flowers and let go of all that messy unpredictability.
This is the delusion of civilization, isn't it? That we have some control. And then, of course, I remember Japan...and that we have no control. We are specs. And nature is our master.
But sometimes I feel a need to assert our independence under the master. In that spirit, David and I decided we should grow vegetables and herbs indoors in our green house, which is a window-paneled sun room we are converting to a working greenhouse.
David suggested we do this hydroponically, so that we weekenders had a shot at proper watering. My old strategy was to drown the plants on Sunday and then, find them shriveled and gulping for air on Friday night, where I would dump a lot more water on them and shock them back to life with a rip tide of water.
My tomato plants hated me.
Still, despite my inadvertent attempts at killing them, my tomatoes thrived. They've bore crops January, February and into March.
Now by "crops" I mean every weekend we get 6 -15 cherry tomatoes. Meager, I know. This without grow lights or any fancy strategies or techniques. They have given us fruit despite me.
We get tomatoes in our Saturday morning omelets and a salad or two. If we were depending on tomatoes to actually eat, well, we'd be screwed. But the upside to growing in our greenhouse is that the deer can do nothing, but press their desperate, wet noses against the glass and be tortured by our amazing little red jewels. Ha!
David McGyvered together a hydroponic system with some storage bins and an aqaurium filter. He went to the local hydroponics store - we're a college town, there is a BIG interest in hydroponics here, if you know what I mean - spent the children's inheritance on clay balls from Germany.
They started planting...
We mocked the deer while we planted.
David got a little attached to his seedlings.
There was a lot of hovering. And gently stroking and talking to the seedlings.
Love in the form of over-coddling, poking and prodding.
Baby spinach and arugula...in March!
And still more love in the form of obsession.
I love you hydroponically, baby spinach and baby arugula. Mwah. Mwah.
Tell me the deer aren't screaming with envy. All that bark they're eating must be tasting like a cardboard box right about now. Bwah ha ha ha! And yet a few feet away some of the most succulent baby leaves ever grown by complete bumbling amateurs.
We enjoyed tormenting the deer so much we are planning on going to six hydroponic boxes. We'll grow leafy greens in the cool months, tomatoes and herbs in the summer. David dreams of setting up a year-round hydroponic farm in our basement.
No pot. Just veg.