The Little Dears and Deers

The electricity has been a bit unreliable lately. Our electricity comes in over wooded hills from another town via poles, and along this desolate stretch of poles a fuse kept blowing. The folks from the power company found themselves walking the line over and over to find what was drawing the power and flipping the fuse. I ran into a couple of them in the woods when I was out for a walk, and they were determined but discouraged. It was cold, windy, turning dark and they were fruitlessly walking up and down the same forty seven poles.

Since the power company employees were not optimistic that a fix was in the near future, we gathered nearby family for a candlelit dinner at the farm. Our woodstove could keep everyone warm and fed while we waited for the power to return.

As the evening unfolded, the electricity would come on only to falter a few minutes later as the fuse blew again. Even though we’d been told the problem, each time the power came back on we would relax and think the solution had been found. Then five minutes later the power would blink off again. The third or fourth time this happened we had enough sense to refill some buckets with water and flush the toilets.

As it grew dark we heated a mishmash of food on the woodstove while we played charades. Half the fun was that we really almost couldn’t see each other in the gloom. Well into the evening when many were snoozing on various flat surfaces, the power came on for a longer stretch and everyone went off to their own cold beds.

In the morning it looked like we had entertained a thousand guests most of whom were under the age of five. As I surveyed the scene, I thought long and hard about the cany wisdom of my grandmother who kept a very small basket of damaged toys for us grandchildren and NO MORE. The only item I can remember is a pair of broken googly eyed glasses which gave a surprising amount of pleasure for something that could not actually be worn. But in general her collection of toys was so dire that we ignored them. Instead we played with a bowl of polished rocks. Perhaps the littlest grandchild even ate some of the rocks. Grandma did not seem to be bothered with the details of how we entertained ourselves and neither were we.

Her strategy had more appeal than ever as I considered the chaos of seventeen bins of toys spread throughout the downstairs of our house as if by tornado winds. Those dear sweet visiting grandchildren had been very busy. I wish I could say that this was a random occasion successful only because in this instance they could dismantle the household under the cover of darkness, but that would not be true. The fact is, there are just too many bins of toys and several dear souls intent to spread them everywhere during even a five or ten minute visit.

And so after a long interlude picking up the toys and considering if I had the will to disappear them, I thought how refreshing it would be to go into the gardens and see what was happening. I thought to myself, “This could only lift my spirits after the dampening experience of picking up ten thousand random toy items.”

The snow had receded enough to uncover the grass and gardens in many spots. I had noticed a few days before that the Hellebores were about to bloom. Known as the Christmas Rose in England, this plant often blooms about this time of year here at the farm. I expected to greet its blossoms with fanfare and delight. Even a bit of gloating.

This was not to be, for just as I had noticed the Hellebores, so had the deer. They had eaten the whole bed. I was furious! As I stomped around I wondered, “Just how early do I have to start spraying “Deer Off”?” Apparently when the snow is still falling, the ground is still frozen and the season is still winter.

Later that day as evening came once again- no power outages and no toys on the loose- I saw from my kitchen window eight deer in the garden. They looked so robust and plump that they resembled jersey heifers more than deer. Really, it was hard to call these roly poly things deer…… and I knew exactly what had made them so fat and sassy. MY Hellebores.

In gardening as in keeping a tidy household when children are afoot, the only thing to do is throw in the towel and accept that deer are going to munch and children are going to handle and discard every last toy available to them. For now, the grandchildren get a reprieve from a toy purge (maybe I can get Grandpa to do the next clean up), but the deer? I’m firing up my spray tank tomorrow, that is, if there is anything left to spray.