In Search of Deer Browse and Other Good Eats

Cat’s brier is a favorite morning snack.

A typical morning this time of year finds me donning a heavy jacket, muck boots, and a pair of work gloves,  heading out in search of browse for Daisy and Holly.  Yesterday I felt a little more urgency to gather a stockpile of plant life from the woods and weeds from my strawberry patch.  The forecast for today is heavy rain, and tomorrow night brings on our first winter storm.  The prediction is for 3 to 7 inches of snow.  With this kind of weather on the horizon, the northerner in me kicks into “survival” mode.  I get busy making sure we are prepared for a few days of roughing it. Rain and snow will keep me indoors more.  Daisy and Holly will have to make do feeding on alfalfa hay and deer pellets for a few days.  And of course there is the daily apple.  An apple a day keeps the veterinarian away!

Daisy loved nibbling hack berry tree leaves!

I was fortunate this year in being able to supplement Daisy’s diet with plants and vegetables from the garden.  The scorching sun and lack of rain brought on a drought where plant life barely survived.  While I watered daily, in some cases it just wasn’t enough for the more fragile plants to hang on.  Other plants, like the tomatoes, were quite delayed in setting on fruit.  A late frost killed the fruit tree crops.  The blackberry, raspberry and strawberry plants that did produce only managed scrubby, small berries that the birds, foxes, racoons and other small mammals scarfed up before I could get outside to pick.  Many mornings I discovered the previous days crop of berries completely vanished!  The saying, “The early bird gets the worm” seemed appropriate.  I am the early bird around here, but I can’t compete with my winged and four-legged friends for the rights to the berry patches.

Holly enjoying a large pile of cat’s brier.

Early August I gave up on the vegetable garden, opening it up to Daisy for feasting on spent bean plants and the last of the cucumbers.  The celery was a pathetic-looking crop, but Daisy enjoyed ripping the stalks and crunching them.  I had an abundance of carrots left in the ground.  Daisy nibbled carrot tops and each day I dug up and cut fresh carrots for her.  Later, after I dug up sweet potatoes, Daisy was able to hoof at the ground and dig up the tubers I missed.  She could smell the roots, and pretty soon the dirt was flying!  I was proud that my girl instinctively knew how to locate and dig her own taters! She nibbled on my raspberry plants which were, unfortunately, along the fence of her pen.  I got a free package of cape gooseberry seeds with a seed order, but only two plants of about 20 seeds grew.  However, they produced hundreds of golden berries that Daisy (and the dogs) loved to snack on!  And, much to our dismay,  we discovered those irresistible berries acted as a laxative for the dogs.  After that discovery, a keen eye was kept on all 4 dogs during any outing!  A bird had evidently left droppings in the garden that produced an odd plant that we eventually realized was a milo plant.  We allowed it to grow and Daisy harvested the small grains from the heads.  While the tomato garden set on fruit in the fall after the cooler temperatures arrived, it was too late to produce any kind of a crop for freezing or canning.  But Daisy LOVES tomatoes,  so before the first big freeze, I found myself pulling all of the green tomatoes I could find and transporting them to the house for ripening.  I still have trays of tomatoes as colorful window decor all around the house.

Remnants of cat’s brier after the deer have stripped the leaves.

As food sources dwindled, I looked to reference books to discover what deer eat in the wild.   Wild cat brier seemed to be her favorite, and heaven knows we have a lot of that growing in the woods.  It’s thorny and grows up into trees creating a tangled mass of vine that is not at all easy to extract, mind you.  She also loved nibbling on various weeds that are prevalent here.  Even this time of year I can find healthy, green weeds where the soil is good.  And for a time while the trees still had leaves, I trimmed branches of various trees so Holly and Daisy could nibble the leaves.  This fall we had a bumper crop of acorns and most days you could find me under the red oak tree at Mom’s house picking them up for the girls.  The wild deer came up to feed on acorns at night and I had to vie with them and the squirrels for what dropped during the day.

The last of my garden tomatoes makes a favorite snack for Daisy.

On days when the weather is inclement, I take advantage of store-bought favorites and thawed goodies from the freezer.  Fresh carrots, celery stalks and bright-red Washington apples are cut up for snacks.  A particular new brand of potato that we raised and ended up not liking, was harvested and put away for winter  for Daisy’s needs.  A friend donated cherries and cranberries that had been in the freezer too long.

Wild, undernourished Holly on the left, and Daisy on the right looking quite robust!

It is fairly evident that Daisy deer has been fed well.  It’s almost embarrassing to compare Daisy to Holly, who grew up  roaming free and wild,  not having access to fine fruits and vegetables, nor high-protein deer chow that she gets today.  Holly was slow to try the deer pellets but she is enjoying them now.  She’s still not into most fruits and vegetables, but she does seem interested in apples.   I am quite sure all deer love apples!

The Cape Gooseberry was a smacking-good treat for Daisy!

I suppose I make the morning walk through the woods cutting the wicked cat brier, carrying my bucket for pulling weeds along the way, because I love what I do.  In a little more than a month, Daisy and Holly will be roaming the woods on their own, nibbling and sampling hundreds of plants.  They will always have access to a couple of deer plots we planted a short distance off in the woods in an open area.  We have a deer feed and watering station just below our house.  We try to be deer-friendly here, though other critters like the foxes, racoons, opossums, skunks and squirrels take advantage as well.  I think I will miss my motherly chores, selecting wonderful browse from the woods and store-bought yummies for my girls.  I hope I’m not like those doting mothers who cannot let their children alone to discover the world.  I do not want to be the nosy mom out roaming the woods looking for her girls, yelling for them to come, carrying a basket of goodies to lure them home for a visit.  I think I will carry an apple with me just in case though… you know, in case I get hungry myself, of course!

Daisy had her own oat, peas and clover patch this summer!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


24 thoughts on “In Search of Deer Browse and Other Good Eats

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. It is also soothing for me to write about life here. I spend a lot of time observing and reflecting on what the universe (nature, animals) is trying to show me. I think most people desire to come to peace and just “be in the moment”. I am glad you find that here.

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  1. Two of my favorite parts of your post are the bird-planted milo and the tomato decorated window sills all over the house. I can SO relate, both from childhood memories on the farm and present-day food gatherings. I also am most pleased with pictures showing Daisy plump and robust! Also related only TOO well to one’s canine companions on woodland walks eating TOO much fiber!

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    1. I grew up with the tomatoes in the windows too. Farm folks never waste a thing! It’s wonderful when we see or read something that takes us back to pleasant memories of our childhood. I am laughing about robust Daisy… I was actually a bit reluctant to show everyone how “donkey-looking” she’s become. She doesn’t get much excercise in the pen, but that will change when we set her free. I really think she will stay near here, at least for a while. Thank you so much for responding!

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  2. Don’t worry about Daisy being so “well nourished”. That’s just an extra layer of protection for her 1st month going solo. I had to laugh at you raising your garden for Daisy when we spent all summer trying to find creative ways to keep the wild deer OUT of our tomatoes. My husband regularly visited the local barber and placed hair around the perimeter of our small garden.

    Such a beautiful post about caring for your “girls”. I promise not to judge if you carry some goodies into the woods while looking for them. I would equate it to promising a care package and spending money to kids at college if they’ll come home for a visit. 😉

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    1. We will be building tall fences in the spring! We have had deer eat up just about everything the past two winters so we need to protect some areas. I have two gardens and one is protected. That’s the one we opened up to Daisy. It was pathetic with the drought, so it was better to let her have the spoils. Usually, spring and summer we don’t have much trouble with deer. Perhaps it’s because we have a feeding/water station set up back in the woods, but visible from the house.

      Oh, I’m quite sure in the beginning I will be checking on the girls. It’s been difficult with each critter release. One gets so attached… but to watch the joy of being free, well, it’s hard to be selfish keeping them forever. They yearn to be wild and free! Thank you for your very kind comments and friendship!

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    1. Thank you so much! I just read several posts in your blog and clicked the “follow” button. I had a really lousy day and your posts really spoke to me. I believe I was led to those posts… I needed a little insight, and maybe more than anything I needed to know someone else had experienced those same feelings. It often helps to know one is not alone. Great writing!!

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    1. Daisy is quite the little hoofer!! Dirt goes a-flyin when she’s digging up a tater! Today she was hoofing in the rain puddles just enjoying herself. It’s a wonderful thing to watch an animal delighting in the moment. Squirrels are famous for that. We are supposed to get snow tomorrow… it will be Daisy’s first snow! I’m excited. I have the camera primed and ready! Thanks for your always nice comments!

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    1. Thanks! I’m just south of you in Darko. Last night Channel 4 had our area in the 3 to 7 inch range saying we could expect our first winter storm. I wrote the blog post from 3:30 to about 6:00 this morning and I didn’t watch TV all day. They’ve changed it to 2 inches now, maybe… darned weather people. I get a little excited about snow, being an ex-northerner. It’s a novelty down here and it doesn’t last long. I like getting out with the camera on snow days.

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  3. Okay, have you pinpointed now, Cup Cake likes to go down there to Sammy Moon’s and shop, know where that might be? I go to Pottsboro every now and then to have the bus worked on by an old guy that used to work for the school system, know the area well.

    We got rain, which was good news, because I did not have to string Christmas lights!

    Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, Falla-lalla-lah, … I am in a festive mood already.

    Don

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    1. The entire forecast has changed. I don’t think we’ll even get rain here now. Funny how off the meteorologists can be in 3 days time! Anadarko is just 3.5 hours from Dallas. That’s the location of the closest Sam Moon I know of. We used to dash down to Dallas where FD’s Sissy lives… love it there. Daisy’s care has kept us here since May, so I haven’t been shopping in Big D for a long stretch. I’m looking forward to a trip maybe in February. Hey, with the weather forecast change, I bet you are outside today or tomorrow stringing that tangle of lights!

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    1. Yes, that’s been the case with all of our orphaned critters. Frosty the squirrel was so robust when he took off on his own I just knew the other squirrels in the woods were going to poke fun at the new,fat guy! Aw, it’s all part of doing the best you can in a day…

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    1. Thank you so much. The world of the deer people has been insightful for me and a privilege for me to write about. I often wonder how I will fill my days once Daisy and Holly are free to be wild. I know another orphan will come along, as they do, and I will find myself being educated again as a steward of the wild. I am so glad you are enjoying my posts on Daisy!

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    1. Thank you Barbara! I love writing about Daisy and Holly and you are correct, it does take a little time to write a post including photos. I keep fairly busy here doing all sorts of things, but Daisy and Holly need a calm and peaceful place until they are free. I have had to put off my noisy work clanging and banging, fast-paced walking and even avoid certain sides of the deer pen as Holly is easily spooked. I have learned to slow way down. In that slower pace, I take time to write. It’s certainly a beautiful story to share. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

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  4. This is so amazing! Everyone I know eats Bambi… So glad you are raising this one up in kindness and love. ~ Lynda
    PS: Thanks for visiting me to day and for signing up! I have subscribed to you as well. I look forward to your future lovely stories!

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    1. There are many reasons for deer “management” and I respect that. I am raising Daisy, like all creatures, until she can be set free and manage on her own. She is not a pet… but of course one becomes attached. I know I will worry about her when she’s free. I hope she is able to survive next year’s hunting season, and many years after!

      I’m itching to write more. It’s finding the time I have difficulty with!

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    1. What a sweet comment!! Few words are sometimes the most “felt” of all. I did visit your blog just now and left a little comment of my own! Have a great day, my friend!

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