Because of the prevalence of deer in Eastman, Paul doesn’t plant ornamentals that they like to eat (hosta, lily, and sedums). His little orchard is fenced in for that reason. Paul has been creative when it comes to keeping deer from eating his flowers and vegetables. Deer can jump very high so it’s more the distance between barriers that deters them. Thus, his two fence lines are four feet apart. As a further deterrent, every six feet or so, he has hung bars of Irish Spring soap on the outer fence line plus socks with blood meal, both of which seem to smell lousy to deer. Paul also hangs tin plates on bushes and has motion sensor plates that will light up and emit a high-pitched sound that doesn’t bother humans but drives deer nuts. The difficulty with deer is their intelligence. One morning he watched a convention of four deer standing together looking at his tiered garden, specifically at his netting. He imagined them discussing strategies to get past this barrier and eat some of Paul’s yummy vegetables and flowers. As the deer learn, Paul will come up with new gadgets to keep those ‘hooved locust’ out. Paul likes a challenge.
Besides the deer, Paul and his fiancé Sandra Gagnon have seen bear, bobcats, groundhogs, foxes, and porcupines from their cozy Yankee Barn in the woods. Mallards have taken up residence in the little frog pond on their property. Their house is heated with wood in a soapstone stove with electricity provided by solar panels.
They put up a lot of their vegetables either by freezing, canning, or dehydrating. They grow companion plants to deter pests and to enhance the main vegetable crops. For example, marigolds are said to deter soil pests while basil enhances the flavor of tomatoes. Alliums and dill are good companions for brassicas because they deter the cabbage looper moth and nasturtium repel squash bugs. Radishes are simply planted everywhere because they are a broad-spectrum deterrent. The same is true of garlic. Also, when companion plants are left to flower, they not only look nice, they also attract pollinators. Many have self-sown year after year like poppy and feverfew while annuals such as zinnia, cosmos, and snap dragon are added for a “cottage” touch. Common weeds such as lambs quarter, and purslane are left to grow as nutritious edibles to be added to salad.
Sandra showed me some huge rhubarb plants and told me that she uses in pies and cake and also to make simple syrup. Paul added that she makes a mean rhubarb margarita. When Paul was describing the ratatouille he makes with his tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and onion; I must have looked envious. To my delight, Paul gifted me a jar before I left (yum!)
According to Paul “A garden is a living creature that grows and matures as it will . . . all we can ever do as humans is to respect and nurture it as best we can. I am merely the successor caretaker here with a little latitude to work within the bounds of nature as the pendulum swings . . .”