1000 x 90

Blue Ridge Mountain Views #7: Of Warring with Varmints and Hearing My Native Tongue Again

“Of Warring with Varmints and Hearing My Native Tongue Again”


In a frenzy of homesteading the first summer I lived back here in my grandmother’s house, I planted four small blueberry bushes. The next summer, a couple of them were about three feet tall, and all four began bearing a cup or so of fruit among them. Every year since, in blueberry season, I would go out and check the berries, determining to pick them the next day. Every year, on the next day, the bushes would be stripped clean.

Casa Blanca lilies nipped in the bud. Photo by Diane Blanks.

This year, as the berries began to ripen, I swathed the plants in heavy bird netting and anchored the plastic grid-work down with large galvanized metal staples. When I went out to harvest my crop over the weekend, the bushes were stripped clean. Next to them on the ground were two different kinds of animal droppings, like arrogant messages.

So I went in the house and Googled “animal droppings.” After peering at graphic diagrams of various kinds of scat (as we outdoorsy types call poop), I have now determined that my berries were eaten by Both rabbits and deer. But how they got under the netting I haven’t a clue.

They have also, by the way, nipped all the buds off the roses, lilies and phlox. Judging by the height of the plants, I’m sure the deer are the villains there. They’ve evidently been strolling between my flower beds choosing from the buffet. I am now mixing up the super-vile deer/rabbit repellent mixture that was waiting on the back porch for when I’d used up the vile “putrefied egg” repellant. The label on the new stuff says it will repel elk, too, should any wander into my yard to browse. This is Wawah!

Years ago, Mama had eight large blueberry bushes that my then-husband and I had doggedly moved to her field from a doctor friend’s weekend farm; he was thinning out his rows of plants and offered the bushes to us if we would dig them. Being a frugal type, my mother, instead of buying the pricey bird netting, went to a fabric shop and bought yards and yards of hot pink synthetic dress netting, which was on deep discount because absolutely nobody wanted a prom dress that color. For years thereafter, in blueberry season, the field behind the house boasted a huge, meringue-like froth of hot pink, anchored down by bricks. We picked quarts and quarts of berries. I don’t know if the varmints couldn’t penetrate the netting or if they were repelled by the color, but I may be looking for a fabric shop soon.


I hadn’t heard anybody use the word “puny” (meaning “sickly,” for readers from the flatlands) in everyday conversation in years. Heard it the other day and it sounded Good, sounded like my native tongue. Another phrase I have yet to hear, though, was one my mother was prone to use: “plumb hippoed,” meaning “hypochondriac.” Haven’t heard anyone use that one yet, but I’m waiting for the moment.

The rhythms and cadences of the place names of my native land were, and still are, welcome music to my ears. When I hear Deep Gap, Chestnut Grove, Elk Knob, Meat Camp, Cove Creek, Silverstone, Sugarloaf, Matney, Mabel, Triplett and Zionville, I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. I am centered in the Universe.


News at eleven,