As a farmer growing flowers and vegetables for a living, I've never gotten very excited about deer, unless is was in a 'hopping up and down in a fury because some #$@%^$ deer had eaten all the sweet pea blooms off the trellis the day before market' kind of way.
My life has been full of odd coincidences, and one of my favourite ones is this: before we moved to the Oregon coast, we lived next door to a wildlife rescue and rehab center, WildCare. And our biggest neighbour here at 46 North Farm? A wildlife rescue and rehab center, the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.
Spooky, eh? What does it mean??
Well, mostly it means making our peace with the deer. One deer in particular.
One day last winter I was in search of cedar boughs for an arrangement at the Blue Scorcher Bakery. I knew that we had a nice big cedar tree growing down along the quiet back pasture of the property, so I grabbed my loppers and saw and set off. As I got closer, I noticed that sitting not six feet from the tree was a large doe calmly contemplating the landscape. Nearby was a younger deer chomping on the grass- not quite a fawn, but not full grown yet. I felt a bit bad about flushing them out, but figured that they would come back as soon as I left, so I walked over to the tree and started lopping and sawing.
The deer just sat there calmly watching me, completely unfazed. The younger deer had frozen in that eyes wide, legs splayed pose that clearly says "my very small brain has completely seized up". It gradually went back to eating, cautiously watching me when it saw the older deer was unconcerned. When I walked off, dragging the branches behind me, the doe was still sitting right where I found it.
"My god the deer around here are brave," I commented to Packy when I got back to the house. He looked at me with resignation.
"Wildlife Center," he said.
Meet the Wildlife Center
A few days later I mentioned the incident to our friends Mark and Kristin who, in addition to being expert buckwheat seed sowers, also volunteer at WCNC.
"That must be Fawn Fawn!" Kristin said brightly. Packy was startled.
"The deer around here have names?! Is this a Disney movie??"
It turns out that Fawn Fawn had been brought to the WCNC as a young fawn after having been hit by a car.
"Her leg was broken, and she was in pretty bad shape," Mark told us.
They operated on her, fixed her leg, nursed her back to health and then released her. However, during the rehab phase she became very socialized to people, and has chosen to stay in the area. Safety and food are a big draw for deer.
We've gotten used to Fawn Fawn being around now. She's easy to recognize with her slightly wonky leg that makes a clicking noise when she runs, and she has a notch in one ear. Plus, the weird friendliness is a dead giveaway.
We later learned from Sharnelle Fee, founder of the WCNC , that Fawn Fawn is close to 11 years old- a remarkably old age for a deer. Also, she appears to be rather promiscuous.
"Most of the white-tail deer around here are her offspring," Sharnelle informed us with a wry smile. "She gives birth every year, and she often has twins."
Oh well, we sighed. We knew we couldn't farm here without fences.
Meet the Proud Godfather
Many people have noticed that there is a large vintage school bus parked down near the barn on our farm. The full story will have to wait for another post, but the short version is that our friend Israel (Guitar and Ukelele playing Buckwheat Seed Mule) is a (very talented) musician. The band he is in had spent a large part of last year touring around the US in a ten-seater van, and they had purchased the bus at the end of their tour with the idea of turning it into a more comfortable home away from home for while they are on the road.
What with one thing and another, the bus somehow ended up on our farm, being stripped and gutted and painted and reworked into what is going to be a pretty amazing ride. Sure, Willie Nelson's tour bus runs on bio-diesel, but does it also have salvaged old-growth hard wood floors and hand made bunks? I think not.
Most of the bus transformation work is being done by Luke (Greenhouse Saving Woodworker and Stand up Base Player Extraordinaire) and Kati (Row Digging Banjo Player who Wields a Mean Power Drill) with assistance from Ryan (Artistic Painting Drummer who Doesn't Know that he is going to be Roped into Helping Paint the Barn yet) and the afore mentioned multi-skilled Israel.
In thanks for our farm supplying the workspace for their Rebuilding the Bus project, the band has been tremendously helpful with our Rebuilding the Farm project, cheerfully pitching in to help us get our farm back up and running. It's been great having them around.
The band hadn't been working on the farm for very long before they noticed a rather friendly deer hanging around. Luke was especially charmed, and felt compelled to make closer contact.
"I'm going to go and hug that deer," he told Kati one day.
And so he did.
Luke seemed a little disappointed to learn that his close encounter had more to do with Fawn Fawn's social history and less to do with his extraordinarily powerful wildlife communication skills. Still, he and Fawn Fawn have gone on to form an especially close bond, and he gets a very goofy smile on his face when he sees her.
Meet the Kids
Luke's sister Renia (Professional WWOOFER and Accordian Playing Animal Whisperer) met Fawn Fawn for the first time when she came out for the greenhouse frame building-row digging day.
"Oh. My. God." said Packy. "That little tramp!"
A few days later our paths crossed with Luke and Kati down by the barn.
"Fawn Fawn had fawns!" Luke told us, beaming. "Twins!"
"We almost stepped on them when we went over to see Fawn Fawn yesterday. They were curled up in the tall grass, hiding. They are so sweet!" Kati said.
We all agreed that little fawns all covered in white spots are shockingly cute. There was a collective wish that this story not follow the Bambi plot line.
I have to say, it has been great fun watching these two as they romp around the farm, bounding through the tall grass like oversized bunny rabbits. The family is usually accompanied by another doe- probably Fawn Fawn's fawn from last year. We have dubbed her 'The Au Pair'.
There are occasional turf wars and minor skirmishes with other groups of deer in the area, especially the Gang of Five (see above) that shows up with some regularity. Fawn Fawn usually makes short work of them if they get too close to her tribe. She may be a bit dim, but she knows where her boundaries are.
I can't say that Fawn Fawn is the best parent. She seems pretty casual about the whole thing, and I'm trying to not get attached to the outcome of this four-legged soap opera. In the last month there have been a number of hair raising 'Oh God They're Crossing the Highway' moments as Fawn Fawn casually strolls the family over the road to the forest across the way.
We are finding ways to protect the plants that really need protecting, resignedly watching the occasional pruning of the ones we can't protect, and waiting until we get a fence built before we plant anything that we can't afford to loose. Packy added a layer of deer netting to the greenhouse doorways after watching the Fawn Fawn gang casually stroll right on through one day, fortunately before there were any plants inside.
We know we share this piece of land with a lot of wildlife, some semi-wildlife, and even some musicians (who aren't too wild), and finding balance between everything here is part of the challenge, and part of the fun.