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It has been a while, dear garden blog friends, and so much has been happening. This summer has been a little nutty and rather busy and now its over, dead, gone and my lawn is strewn with brown decaying leaves. Ah, autumn and its beauty.

The garden, this year, has been productive in many ways, and less successful in others. For example, my irrigation system worked better than I could have imagined and took all the guesswork out of watering. I set up a timer, which was just supposed to last for the month I was traveling in July, but it was so darn handy I never took the thing off. Sure it has its flaws, like it leaked a bit and the water-encroachment caused it to reset every once in a while, but the time-savings and reduced stress while traveling was worth it. Another success was my insect management program this year. I inter-planted the crops in order to “trick” the bad bugs, and generously spread marigold seeds around the garden border, specifically to manage the fiendish Cabbage Moth and friends. I also opened the garden up to the 4700 wild birds in the yard. The moths were able to find the brassicas after a month of searching, but barely a kale leaf was sacrificed. I loved watching the robins and bluejays and sparrows and chickadees and warblers dive-bomb the bushy plants. Hell hath no fury like a hungry birdy.

What didn’t work so well this year? Well, I opened up the garden to the 4700 wild birds in the yard, and doing so, opened it up to other hungry critters. After a year of not seeing any deer on the property, they have returned, and they returned with empty bellies. Without the bird-tight netting, the garden offered a 24-hour Vegas-style buffet without the two-hour time limit. The deer, sight-unseen, feasted and left the garden in shambles in the course of one night in late August. It was official, the white (tailed) walkers were back, and winter was coming. Would you like to know the damage tally?

  • Corn: gone
  • Tomatoes: gone
  • Swiss chard: gone
  • Pole beans: interestingly, leaves were gone, but the beans remained.
  • Winter squash: leaves gone, too early for fruit
  • Peppers: gone
  • Fall seedlings (cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli): trampled

What they didn’t take: kale, carrots, basil, fennel, eggplant, parsley. This leaves the score, Deer: 7, Me: devastated.

The only saving grace was the eggplant, which is needed to fulfill one of my New Years resolutions, to eat as much eggplant as possible. They left me the five plants untouched, undamaged, maybe because they know they are toxic, or maybe because they got too full on the tender greens. The tomatoes were hurtful. Seeing my four ready-for-the-picking, full-fruited, prized tomatoes gone in the course of one night was like being stabbed in the shoulder and thigh. It doesn’t kill you, but it is really f-ing painful.

I am not going to lie; it was hard to not be thoroughly angry at the deer. I put a lot of time and thought into that garden, and a lot of sweat and blood. No, that’s not a metaphor. There were a few times I bled into that garden. But, in the end, what was I going to do about it? The deer were doing what deer do: survive the Hunger Games that is their life. The truth is, their entire species has had a tough go at it in Wisconsin. Cronic Wasting Disease is no fun, and neither is the reintroduction of the gray wolf and the coyote. Seeing as how many deer starve to death in the winter, I have to meditate this away, and find acceptance. The garden will continue to grow, and they will continue to feast, and maybe we can find a happy medium.

Swiss Chard after the deer.

Swiss Chard after the deer.

Leaf-stripped pole beans. Makes the bean picking easier.

Leaf-stripped pole beans. Makes the bean picking easier.

In other news, after an embarrassingly unhealthy summer of travel eating, I am reaffirming my commitment to vegetablism. What is that you ask? Who knows, I just made it up. I love all things nutrition, and I love reading books on new diet fads, and trends. Can’t get enough! I mean, all fad diets are absolutely, completely ridiculous, but as a student of life-knowledge I want to know about them all. It is my personal belief that any “diet” that requires a person to take handfuls of vitamin supplements is just not cutting it. Neither is any diet that tries to mimic the diet of our Neanderthal ancestors. We all know that Neanderthals went extinct right?

I used to try these diets a lot in my twenties and the only change they caused was the onset of food-anxiety. I have accepted that I will never be the 120 lbs I was on my wedding day, but that’s okay because the papers were signed and half of CFOs money and property is mine whether I later go on to star on TLC’s 600-lb Life or not. I remind him of this routinely.

But in all seriousness, part of my love of gardening is that I have learned over my life that I feel best when my diet consists of mostly vegetables and fruits and other plant foods. I do love meat too, and would find it challenging (and a little sad) to be fully vegetarian. (Being vegan is not remotely possible because I live in Wisconsin, and if I don’t meat the minimum criteria of 250 lbs of cheese consumption a year I will lose my benefits card.) I don’t need to eat meat all the time, or even every day and I also think the American obsession with protein is a little wackadoo, when clearly the people that can afford to eat only bacon and steak are not the sub-group at risk of protein deficiency. But I digress…

I recently read the China Study by T. Colin Campbell and found its premise fascinating: all diets that are not vegan will give you cancer and kill you. Okay, maybe that’s a broad generalization, but I think that some of the info presented has merit. An animal-free diet was found to significantly reduce the risk of many cancers, heart disease and diabetes and other acquired health diseases. Now, because of the aforementioned Wisconsin benefit card, I will not shun all animal products quite yet. The study does provide me with some merit for my pro-vegetable lifestyle, and validation always feels good. If you were not aware, the China Study is the basis for the book and documentary Forks Over Knives, which advocates not using olive oil or drinking wine. To that I say, I don’t need to live forever.

Now that the garden is heading to its close for the year, keeping seasonal produce the foundation of my diet will get challenging, but for health and personal satisfaction its important to me. So, I am reaffirming my commitment to this semi-vegetarian vegetablism, right after I use up the 245 lbs of venison meat in the freezer.