Posted in Behind the Scenes, Creatures

First deer track sighting in the back yard.

After I finished shoveling out a path in front of the house for our postal carrier, I gathered my implements and headed back to the side door only to realize I’d forgotten to bring our compost bowl outside.  I headed towards the bin anyway, thinking to forge a trail through the drifts from the comfort of my snowsuit and to see what visitors we might have had.  Then I spotted something I hadn’t seen in the near four years we’ve been here. 

I wasn’t sure when I first spotted a wendy trail that crossed over and around itself in the wind crested snow.  We’d been wondering why we don’t have deer, given the few blocks to the woodsy train track area, but neither of us had ever seen any nor trace of them visiting.  I’m fairly certain this visitor was a loner, but I’m not a skilled tracker by any means.  Though I was fairly certain the tracks were from a deer as I slogged my way through the crust topped snow, it wasn’t until I turned to the left to follow them and saw the following that I was fairly certain my guess of the tracks was spot on:

Thanks for the present?
This rather cemented my suspicions.

It seems to have crossed over the low rock wall from our neighbors to the west, meandered about and then headed to the now stripped bare blackberry corner, relieved itself (whether due to coincidence or in disdain for the lack of fine fare), then wended around a bit more in the southwest corner, and exited back over the rock wall heading west.

So after going back into the house, I did a quick internet search for confirmation.  Once done, I grabbed a camera and the bowl of recent kitchen bits, and took these pics just after adding to the compost bin.

It was then that I wondered…can I put deer scat in the compost?  So of course I looked it up–and every search result that I checked referred to it as “deer manure”.  The answer is yes and no, depending.  It’s not as simple as just tossing it on because of a known pathogen (E. coli) as well as possibly Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella, which we definitely do not want to have to worry about contracting from our kitchen garden.  Also, like horses, there may be undigested seeds that you likely won’t want in the garden.  One site did note that suburban and farm deer tend to have more nutritious manure than what is found out in the wild.  The USDA does recommend in particular that root crops and leafy greens be washed carefully in cold water and soft scrub brushed gently to remove any remnants from an errant “gift” of manure.  (My word choice, not theirs.)  And, of course, if you suspect deer are leaving you such gifts, be sure to wear gloves when harvesting and wash them after.

Recommendations of how to use it from easiest to most difficult:

  1. Put it in a bed that will not have food crops growing in or near it. (Pity it left it smack in the middle of the blackberry patch, though at least it’s on top of the snow.)
  2. Worm composting: a few sources say they will digest the seeds which prevents germination, but in the short search I did it seems the E. coli will likely remain present, even in brewed compost tea from the castings.
  3. Put it in the deep center of your compost pile/bin, but monitor the heat level (internal 130-140°F) for at least two heating cycles lasting no less than five days, mixing between cycles.  Even after all that work, it’s advised to not use it for anywhere from two to four months after the last cycle.  (Our bin is still small, and I don’t yet even have a long soil thermometer to try this.)  This helps kill off the bacteria as well as any undigested seeds they might have passed.  Some sites say you should still scrub any produce.
  4. Traditional hot composting it because of the higher temp associated with this method.  (I’m not at that level of composting skill yet.)

So I need to pick a spot where we won’t be planting any edible crops this year or in the near future.  I think I know the perfect place.  A gift for my guilty pleasure non-native plant.


Care to share thoughts on this?