The Farm on Oak Creek

Danger Deer

Once again, I’ve managed to work my way through another week of barn cleaning. OMG! Whole counters are bare. How awesome is that? Another few days and I’m going to call the “great clean out” done.

The process of moving things around has become a voyage of discovery, and that means more than learning just how much packrat poop was in the barn. There was this set of incredibly heavy circular metal things. For no reason I could name, I was certain I knew what they were although I didn’t actually recognize them. Then I ran across the plans for building a waterwheel. It turns out these two metal disks were the waterwheel hubs.

Putting in a waterwheel to generate electricity off the ditch water was an early project for the farm that never came to fruition. A shame, that. The calculations based on the speed of the current suggests that a single undershot wheel (a wheel where the water runs under the wheel rather than over it) could generate 24 kilowatts of electricity a day. Now that I’ve had the pump house rebuilt and the place gobbles up less electricity, that one waterwheel could power the house and barn with something left over to sell back to APS. I’ve set them aside as a “just in case” for the new owners.

Whew. Now all I have to do is rehome or discard the odd bits of this and that remaining outside the barn.

Having spent much of the last few weeks outside with the barn door open has led to a yet another startling discovery. Danger deer populate the hillside across the road. How do I know this? Because at least once a day the dogs race for the fence line facing the road, stand at point–usually without barking–and watch fiercely. The hair on the back of Bear’s neck actually rises. This is an impressive sight at the moment as he is in full fur right now. I swear that adds an additional twenty pounds to his already overwhelming weight.

Because they weren’t barking, I ignored them at first. Then I got curious and started joining them at the fence. I quickly discovered I didn’t have a good enough sense of smell to actually find whatever it was they were watching. Then one day as the three of us were standing at the gate staring at the scrubby bushes and trees that cover on the hillsice, I caught a flash of white.

Man, am I blind! That herd of deer was walking on the lowest path closest to the road. There were seven of them, six does and a buck with a fairly impressive set of antlers.

As I watched, one of the does turned to look at me. That’s when both dogs started barking. Protecting me, you might think, but I’m pretty sure not. I doubt either of those boys think I need their protection. No, they simply deem those deer dangerous, one of the many types of critters to be warned to stay away.

I was really surprised to see deer this time of year. Until this winter, I’ve only ever seen them in the summer. They’d make their way down to the shade and water of Oak Creek, escaping the heat on House Mountain and bring the mountain lion with them, who immediately decided on turkey for dinner. I suspect the deer have been coming down now because, until the rainstorm last week, we hadn’t had rain for 124 days or some awful number like that.

I’m happy to have the deer in my back yard, especially since I know they’ll never try to cross the fence or get into my orchards or gardens. Why should they? Just outside my back fence is some of my best pasture, created back when I had cows, and thick stands of blackberries.

Since spotting them, their progress up that hillside has become daily entertainment. The dogs race for the fence, I follow and do my best to find deer I can’t see, phone in hand to take a picture that I never take. No doubt the deer see me because inevitably the boys begin to bark.

Dang those danger deer!


© Denise Domning, 2023