Deer-defense, Squirrels and a soup trick for Sue

Today is mostly a pair of creature features – deer vs. daylilies and squirrel counting comin’ right up. But first, a spoonful of recipe rescue at the request of my good friend Sue,

She called the other night in a panic –

“Is there anything you can add to make something less hot? ” Turns out she was making a big deal cioppino for a whole bunch of spice averse friends and she’d overdone the hot pepper flakes.

And this in spite of using far less than the recipe called for. Well, there isn’t anything you can add (except a great deal more of everything else). All she could do was make a quick batch of rice for people to pour their hot hot stew on top of. That and pass a bowl of sour cream, which is a horrible idea from the culinary standpoint but at least could keep people from starving. And please don’t write to say why not pasta – it doesn’t mitigate heat the way rice does.

In future, I suggested, take about a third of a cup of broth out and add the small amount of pepper to that. Then add the seasoned broth to the big pot o’ stuff until you like the result. Pause a moment between additions; it takes a while for the heat to disperse, and be sure to KEEP TASTING! This works for anything that might cause problems yet is added in such small quantities it’s easy to overdo. Truffle oil, for example, the most regrettably overused of yesterday’s trendy seasonings.

On to the deer, since I promised last week I’d give some tips for keeping them out of the daylilies.

Tip A number one is fencing. It was fencing before and it’s still fencing, but putting it on the list is sort of cheating because everybody knows it and everybody keeps hoping there’s something else and getting a dog doesn’t count.

So: repellents. Obviously, those that smell bad before they taste bad are better. Most of them keep smelling bad to deer even after they no longer smell bad to you, but it’s a good idea to try ’em out first – in – as they say of cleaning products – an unobtrusive spot.

A few brands with good reviews include: plantskydd , deer off , deer out, liquid fence, and deer chaser, but there are dozens. Those based on dried blood, garlic , rotten eggs, ammonia salts, peppermint , cinnamon or some combination thereof seem to work better than predator urine, probably because it doesn’t take deer long to figure out that the predator is not in the vicinity.

Choose at least 2 kinds and keep switching. Deer can become habituated to almost anything, so the more you can keep ’em off guard, the better. Start making the area repulsive when the scapes start growing, well before the buds develop, then spray the buds. If you have fragrant daylilies , stop when the buds are about half-swollen.

And although you don’t spray it on, don’t forget good old smelly soap: Dial and Irish Spring are favorites. Just put a few chips in a bag of cheesecloth and use a clothespin to attach the bag to a thin bamboo stake. The soap should be slightly above the lily buds. Other strategies to be posted shortly and meanwhile:

Please send me a squirrel count ( Are you seeing more of ’em? Fewer? The same as usual? We are seeing none at all, though I hesitate to jinx things by mentioning it. Our birdfeeders have been overrun, winter and summer, for 15 years – ever since we came to this house – and this winter there are suddenly none. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Rien. I see them out in the world when I’m driving, so they are clearly still here with us on the planet…

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