Emergency measures

It was a bit like finding myself on the scene of a whodunnit crime. There I was, innocently checking the nursery beds, expecting to stroll through, happily admiring the work we’d done the week before. But the more I looked, the more certain I became that someone had been eating our precious baby trees.

At first it was just an odd leaf here and there. Nothing much to worry about. They might even have been damaged by the kids or perhaps there were a couple of caterpillars about. But this one fat green caterpillar couldn’t have removed the whole top of this tree, leaving a chewed up woody stalk, surely? And even if it could eat one tree, it couldn’t have done that one, and that one as well…

A couple of weeks ago our nursery bed was looking somewhat neglected. The thistles and docks and dandelions that we thought we had so carefully dug out were making a serious takeover bid, in league with the speedwell, grasses, and chickweed.

We called in the services of the Friday Farm Day crew, a group of home educating families who visit the farm to play and volunteer on Friday mornings. Everyone pitched in with forks, trowels, and gloves. The gloves proved no match for the thistles, but the children didn’t let that stop them. By the end of the day the freshly weeded and newly mulched beds were looking pretty smart. We even sowed some flower seeds to provide some beautiful ground cover.

Safe inside the fabulous new fence, designed to be deer proof, badger proof and rabbit proof, there couldn’t be much else to worry about for a few weeks. Except maybe a drought.

So who was eating our trees?!

There were no footprints in evidence. No hair or fur or poo. Some of the trees had been bitten off well above knee height; higher I think, than a rabbit would go. But apparently just the right height for a muntjac deer. Jason the hunter tells us there are a lot of this non-native mini deer species on and around the farm, though I’ve never seen them. Christian tells us they could easily hop through the temporary fourth side of the otherwise fabulous fence. This temporary section is the weak point in the fortress; it’s currently just a few strands of electric fencing, not yet electrified.

It’s going to take a few days to get the fence electric. So today I spent the afternoon bodging another temporary fence around the tree nursery. Many thanks to Christian of the Bee Observatory for lending us second hand fence posts, chicken wire and stock fencing. And for providing post banger, staples and hammer.

At the end of the day I stood back, sweaty, grubby and knackered, to admire my work. It looks a bit rough, but it might just be enough to make those deer think twice.

But as I headed back to the gate, running late to meet my kids, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a couple of crows flying off from the nursery bed. Could they be the culprits?! All that work and all that fencing will be in vain if the trees are actually under aerial attack.

I ran all the way home in record time. We’ll have to wait to find out whether the fence was worth it.

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