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I’VE BEEN OUT ON LONG ISLAND this mostly dreary weekend, which confirmed that early March is not my favorite time of year. It’s those last weeks before green shoots emerge and buds pop that are the hardest.


I had planned to do a bit of yard work — cutting back grasses, re-planting frost-heaved perennials, picking up storm damage — but I didn’t. It wasn’t the drizzle. It wasn’t laziness. It was discouragement.


The deer damage is extensive. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t here much this winter, like I was last, or because I planted a lot of new stuff in the fall — evergreen stuff that ought to be green and is now mere twig. They went after hollies and skip laurel. Mountain laurel, too. And the ilex (above and below) that I hoped would provide screening. In some cases where shrubs are bare, I’m not sure whether they’re deciduous or de-nuded. I’d have to look it up, and I haven’t even had the heart to do that.


Early in the weekend, I got out my supplies for making a batch of homemade deer repellent. Then I put it all away. They’ve already eaten everything. Either it will come back or it won’t.

I ought to have gone in for the burlap treatment like my neighbors, below. That would have been do-able, and I’m pissed at myself that I didn’t do it.


The subject of deer fencing is hereby re-opened.

On a brighter note, below, I now have a bathroom sink.


THERE’S BEEN A SHIFT IN MY THINKING on deer, as on so many things lately.

Just the other day, I was yelling and rattling screens at them, worried they would devour my newly planted white pine, holly, and arborvitae, and whipping up big batches of peppery homemade deer repellent.

But yesterday, I saw three or four of them walking, gracefully as always, but more slowly it seemed, through the snow of my backyard. They tend to show up in the late afternoon. I imagined they looked thinner. They didn’t seem desperate (how would I know?), but I know there isn’t much for them to eat around here. And it’s been so cold.

I briefly thought of feeding them my table scraps, the bucket full that’s meant for the compost heap. But I read up a little, on a State of Michigan website, and realized that’s probably not a good idea. Deer aren’t pigs. They’re particular, and eat different kinds of foods according to the season. I don’t think they could do anything with my orange peels and coffee grinds anyway.

But I feel sorry for them, and I don’t want them to starve. One thing they do eat is dried oak leaves, and I’ve got plenty of those on the ground. I could expose more of them with a rake or shovel. And I’ve decided to relax about the shrubs. I can’t maintain a constant vigil. And they probably won’t kill them, just defoliate them a bit. Come spring, they’ll find more to eat in the woods.

But there’s still a lot of winter ahead.


“Gotta get through January, gotta get through February…” – Van Morrison, Fire in the Belly

MY TO-DO LIST for 2010 is daunting.

In the past couple of months, I’ve come to a bit of a standstill on home improvements. Most of my list still lies before me. I wanted to do things fast when I first moved into this East Hampton cottage last May. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I waited on some of the projects, because I’ve changed my mind a lot.

Several months ago, I was thinking ‘stone patio.’ Now I’m thinking ‘wood deck.’

I was thinking ‘flagstone walk.’ Now I’m thinking….well, something else. I bought three 2’x3′ pieces of Pennsylvania bluestone and set them down to get an idea of how they’d look as a walk from the future parking court (still a priority) to the front door. Didn’t seem to work. Stone doesn’t have much place in this environment. There’s nary a piece of rock on the property, unlike upstate, where you’ve got massive granite outcroppings everywhere. This is sandy territory (well-drained, yeah!) Two feet of snow pelted by steady rain this past weekend got sucked right up into the ground, with very little puddling.

The wood fence for screening that seemed a must-do in high season, when there was a fair amount of road traffic, has faded in urgency (probably to return in May). I’d still like more enclosure, but I’ll try doing that with shrubs.

I’m glad I didn’t spend $4,000 on a deer fence, which seemed top priority a few months back. I haven’t seen any deer lately

Moments after I wrote the above words, I looked out the living room window and saw three large animals in the front yard. They were casing, if not yet munching, my newly planted arborvitae and holly. I rapped on the window. The rattling of the screens startled them for a nanosecond. I shrieked “Go! Go! Go!” One of them, a still-fuzzy adolescent, made eye contact with me. “Ohhhh, you’re beautiful,” I said.

Then I went and mixed up a couple of gallons of homemade deer repellent (cooking oil, dish detergent, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder) and went out and splashed the vulnerable specimens.

Instead of a deer fence, I’m embracing the challenge of deer-resistant gardening. So I won’t have roses. Or hostas. Or many other things.

Other items I thought were absolute musts turn out to be not so. Like the Malm fireplace I bought months ago that’s sitting uninstalled in my living room, through no fault of my own. First the roofer was going to do it; then he realized it was outside his “area of expertise.” Sag Harbor Fireplace came to do an estimate. I’m still waiting for the estimate. It’s their busy season.

Anyway, my little cottage is toasty. I know from experience that when you have a well-heated house, you don’t use the fireplace much. There’s one in the bedroom of the duplex in Boerum Hill. In the years we lived there, after spending thousands to line the chimney properly, we used it about twice.

Ultimately, it boils down to evil money, or lack thereof. My preference would still be to barrel through everything as quickly as possible. Of necessity, I have to do things in dribs and drabs. Which may not be so bad, if I’m going to keep changing my mind about them.


BIG DOINGS around here this morning. I had a large doublefile viburnum (viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Shasta’) delivered and planted by Spielberg, a nursery in Amagansett. That’s right. Two nice guys came and dug a hole and positioned this gorgeous red-purple shrub in all its fall glory, then made the little moat around it to hold water, while I stood and watched, not straining my back in the least. It was wonderful.

View out my kitchen window at 10AM:


View out my kitchen window at noon:


I followed them with handfuls of milorganite, a fertilizer said to deter deer, and then whipped up a batch of homemade deer repellent, adapted from this website.

Then they planted two other, smaller shrubs I’d ordered: an abelia ‘Little Richard’ and a boxwood ‘Winter Gem,’ evergreens that are sure to cheer me up each time I enter the driveway this winter.



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