Thursday, May 31, 2018

Garden hair

There didn't used to be deer in our neighborhood. I gardened for years happily oblivious to those soft-eared, black-nosed little predators. When my hostas began to disappear, I blamed snails. I encircled the plants with crushed egg shells. No luck. Within a season, my hostas were chewed to the nub, never to return.

I still was blaming snails when, a couple of years later, my tulip buds began disappearing magically, over night, just before they blossomed. Then my rose blooms. Always, the flower nipped off neatly, leaving the forlorn stem as a reminder of what might have been. Cut worms? I wondered. But how could they get so high off the ground?

"What could be eating my tulips and roses?" I asked an avid gardener friend of mine.

"It's the deer," she said. "They get my roses, too. I have to build cages around my rose bushes, or I get no flowers at all."

I hadn't seen deer roaming around, so it seemed unlikely. Then, one night coming home from a meeting after dark, there he/she was, munching through my front garden.

Who me? Yes, you.

This spring, as I began to plant my garden and ruefully prune my roses, and yes, watch my tulip blooms rudely devoured one by one, I began to look into deer repellents. As it turns out, deer rely on smell for foraging; powerful odors, especially the smell of other animals, can be successful in warding them off. And wouldn't you know, one of the most common solutions? Human hair.

So, last week when I got my hair cut, with some embarrassment, I asked my stylist David if I could take my hair snippings home with me.

"I've brought a plastic bag," I told him. "We could sweep it in there."

He got a funny look on his face, until I explained about the deer. Then, with a shrug, he swept my hair up and handed it over.

"I'll have to hear if it works or not, next time you're in," he said in farewell.

When I got home, feeling a bit skeptical, I spread my hair around as best I could.

Last Saturday, I came home from running errands and my niece's truck was there. She's been coming by on weekends from time to time to help me out with the gardening. We hadn't talked in a while, so we reviewed recent developments in the yard.

"And can I just ask," my niece said cautiously, like she'd been wondering whether she dared broach the subject, "about the red furry stuff around the roses?"

"Oh, that's my hair," I said. "It's supposed to repel the deer. Apparently, hair smells enough like humans that it keeps them away? It probably won't work, but I thought it was worth a try."

So far so good.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Bearded wonders

In April, a friend from Germany and I made a bike tour in the northeast along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Great Allegheny Passage bike trail systems that run from DC to Pittsburgh. Our trek took us through pretty remote areas, like Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown, West Virginia. During an overnight in Frostburg, Maryland, my friend and I had a beer at Dantes Bar. All at once she tapped me on the shoulder and dragged me to the next room to point out a man sitting alone, drinking a pint and staring at his cellphone.

"What?" I said. "What is it?"

"The long hair and beard. What does it mean?"

She was referring to the man's long, bushy white hair and voluminous white beard. "All kinds of guys have long hair and beards," I told her. "I don't think it's any one particular group. In America, it has more to do with personal preference."

"Oh, but no one looks like that in Germany. I never see this," she said. She seemed to think the long hair and beards were a political symbol, like the Phrygian cap meant liberty to the French.

I couldn't prove it didn't represent a political statement, but I did find the Urban Beardsman for her ("Our Urban Beardsman blog explores topics for beardsman, as well as beyond the beard, including style, grooming, travel, community, and insight from the founder"). Check out this blogpost: "5 reasons long hair and beards can be found at the same bars." FWIW.

Once she'd pointed it out, I started noticing big beards everywhere.

These beards aren't scraggly. They look so lush in part due to product -- conditioners, oils and balms. Ever since, bearded wonders have been cropping up everywhere I look. Even at the Dayton Art Institute.

Painting by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1612).

Marble sculpture of Christ (attributed to Cristoro Solari 1468-1524)