PeggyBakken MT

Peggy Bakken 

Retirement brings many joys, especially the gift of time. Those of us new to this gig still have to work at figuring it out. Each day brings new opportunities and time to attack those endless around-the-house “To Do” items.

For many of us, the great joy is working in the garden. I’m now on my second summer of retirement gardening. I can work early in the morning when it’s hot, or I can move in and out, doing a little here and a little there. When we get hit with rainstorms, that means I can read through garden catalogs and Pinterest boards for new ideas.

I’ve turned what had been a 4-foot by 4-foot vegetable garden into a flower exhibit, complete with a few props salvaged from the attic. A monster-sized yellow begonia reigns supreme over an assortment of foliage, impatiens and vinca.

Ah, the joys!

But sometimes great joy ends in heartache.

Take for example my clematis. I was just delighted to see the newly-planted vine covered with deep purple flowers. It’s one I’ve always wanted to grow. I even posted a picture of the blooms to Facebook and got 33 likes and 8 comments.

Two days after my Facebook boasting, I noticed a couple of the purple flower petals on the ground. It had rained the night before, so I suspected a gust of wind knocked them off.

The next day, five flowers were gone. Today I see only two sparse flowers remaining.

As I said, sometimes a gardener’s heart is broken. In this case, I believe the perpetrator to be a rabbit, although I am not sure how he could reach as high as he did. I don’t think the squirrels would go after a vine, but you never know.

As much as the vicious plant-eating bunnies anger me, there is nothing worse than Bambi and his relatives. With somewhere around 750,000 deer in Minnesota (about 9.4 per square mile), it is almost certain that a few consider my neighborhood home. We’ve got trees, shrubs, two swamps plus Elm Creek Park Reserve nearby, plenty of open space for deer.

My war with the deer began last winter, when we observed them casually jumping over our chain link fence to feast on an evening snack of apples from our aging fruit tree. They seemed to enjoy spring in my yard, too. They’d attack the bird feeders and empty them out. They even managed to take the entire wire cage that holds those square suet cakes.

I’ve used a variety of methods to keep them at bay. I now have two solar-powered motion lights to try to startle them when they try to visit. I have wind chimes located in various spots along the yard, hoping the noise will send them running.

I actually had the audacity to think I was winning the battle until the other day, when I went out my front steps and found my hostas had gone from fully leafed one day to spindles and stalks the next. Yes, Bambi and her friends were back and seem to have quite an appetite.

My battle plans include placing an odd assortment of lawn ornaments among my hostas and flowers. I have been covering the hostas at night with a couple of small patio tables. I added another solar motion light. We leave the porch light on overnight.

As an animal lover at heart, I really do not wish bodily harm to the critters that inhabit my yard. However, I do have visions of the classic animated short, Bambi Meets Godzilla created in 1969 by Marv Newland. (You can easily find it online in case you have never seen it.)

I dream maybe I can stop the deer as quickly and efficiently as Godzilla did.

Or perhaps I will wrap my entire yard with 8 feet of chicken wire. The saga of Bambi vs. Peggy-zilla continues.

Peggy Bakken is a former executive editor and a columnist for APG-East Central Minnesota. Reactions welcome: peggy.bakken@ecm-inc.com.

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