Research Project: EcoPeace Treaty Between Deer and the plants of the demonstration gardens and orchard at Blairstown, NJ, EcoLiteracy Center.
Please scroll down to see all these topics:
- Video explanations
- Excerpt from our book Live and Let Live: Enlightened Stewardship, this section written by Dr. Jim Conroy.
- Summary and Results as of the end of 2013 season
Excerpt from our book Live and Let Live: Enlightened Stewardship, this section written by Dr. Jim Conroy.
In 2013, the director of a farm-based ecological-educational center in Blairstown, New Jersey, asked me with such enthusiasm whether my work could help keep her demonstration gardens from being eaten by the deer, that I couldn’t refuse to try to help. Working with deer as a part of the ecosystem would be a big, new challenge for me. Deer are mammals, obviously not part of the Plant Kingdom, or the worlds of insects or diseases.
She was faced with the prospect of raising funds to put up deer-fencing around the valley where her farm buildings, offices, classrooms, and the demonstration gardens were located. That would be a very expensive project with no guarantee of success.
The other part of the farm was on top of the hill. That’s where the community supported garden was located and where I have been doing research on crops since 2003. Its fields were fenced, but recently deer had breached the fences. Since the whole operation was based on organic principles, the director expressed the desire to use an “organically-oriented approach” about the deer. She wasn’t talking about using any kind of products on the deer. She just didn’t know how else to ask for a respectful, benevolent, and inclusive approach to the problem.
What was the problem? The education center hosts meetings and produces educational initiatives to teach people about the value of living in harmony with their spirituality and with the Earth. They also teach people to become self-sustaining through growing food in a healthy relationship with Nature. The demonstration gardens were cultivated by the director and her staff to show people how easy it is to garden in suburban and urban settings. It just wouldn’t work to have the local deer eating the plants, vegetables, and fruit in the demonstration gardens. I saw the irony there.
“Show Us the Boundaries”
I thought it would not take long to set up the study. As it turns out, it took me three days to set it up. The valley and the demonstration gardens were not very big, but figuring out how to work with the deer took a long time. I started by walking the property. I needed an initial intuitive sense of what was going on for the deer, other animals, the trees and plants, and the land itself. I felt/heard/saw a mixed bag of messages, mostly what I would label “unrest.”
In the quiet of my intuitive communications interface and with no physical deer actually present, I asked Deer’s natural Intelligence outright, “What would it take for you not to eat the food in the gardens?”
Much to my surprise, the reply came, “We do not want your food.” I was caught off guard by the answer because I assumed that deer would like to eat any and all vegetables any time.
Going a little deeper, “What is needed for you not to eat the human food in the demonstration gardens?”
Deer Intelligence replied into the core of my very Being, “Show us the boundaries and we will stay out.”
I said, “The responsible people would rather not use fencing, if possible. What else can be done?” Just then, an intuitive image came to me–small marker flags that utility companies use to show where gas lines run underground.
I asked Deer, “Can I use small flags?” I held the image of the flags in my mind’s eye.
“Yes. We can see green at night.”
So, I bought fluorescent green utility flags. I have since discovered that deers’ eyesight is best in twilight and at night because their eyes have more rods (permitting vision in darkness) than cones.
I set out a pattern of the green flags around the demonstration gardens. I put the flags close to each other so the deer could not miss them. It looked like some strange art project gone wild. I am very grateful to the director and her staff for accepting these blotches of fluorescent green flags in their landscape.
Was It Fair?
EcoPeace Treaties® were already well established in my consciousness by this point in early spring of 2013. I realized that we humans–the director and I–were asking the deer for a favor. We wanted them to do something for us: Not eat food in the demonstration gardens. That is exclusion.
Even though Deer’s Intelligence already told me (with generosity) that they didn’t want human food and would stay out of flagged areas, I realized that did not seem to be a situation of collaboration or equality. Initially, I questioned whether this would be a real EcoPeace Treaty or a Cease-Fire (as in our book Live and Live Live: How Multidimensional Collaboration Heals Ecosystems.) I was unsure, but I knew I would learn something about inclusion, so I forged ahead.
Food, Water, and Safety
Just as I come from the plant’s point of view when working with members of the Plant Kingdom, I knew that I had to come from the deer’s point of view. Also, the most fundamental principle of all of my tree-healing systems–from Tree Whispering® through Co-Existence Technologies®–is that I must first ask permission of any living Being in order to interact with it. Of course, I did both with the deer when entering the sensory and intuitive communications interface.
I asked Deer Intelligence, “What do you need to survive and live?”
Deer said, “We need food, water, and safety.”
I told Deer that there was plenty of food in the forests on this 231 acre property. Deer already knew that. Deer also already knew about the stream flowing smoothly at the base of this little valley. I told Deer that no people would bother them so they were safe, for now, as it was early spring. At the time, I didn’t know whether hunting was ever allowed on the property, but I said I would tell them where not to go if hunting was going to be an issue in autumn.
About a week after the first marker flags were in place, the director wanted to add another area to the research trial. She asked that the deer avoid not only the demonstration gardens on one side of the valley but also the young fruit trees that were being planted on the other side.
I asked Deer if the new orchard could be avoided. Deer said that they were happy humans were interfacing with them, so they would agree to avoid the orchard, since their needs for food, water, and safety were being met. Deer’s communications to me made it clear that they were especially happy to have humans consciously working with them, not against them. They wanted to be respected as an important part of the ecosystem, not insulted by being thought of as “pests.”
Deer Intelligence was thrilled to have the humans at the farm and the eco-literacy center working on their side, attempting to understand them and include them. Deer operate in community, just as trees do. I felt that Deer’s expression to me came from their need to live in their own community. I believe that their natural Intelligence saw the potential for co-existing with humans. So, the philosophy of Live-And-Let-Live was surfacing within Deer Intelligence.
- Deer were getting what they needed: food, water, and safety. They were getting something they wanted: respect. Deer agreed to stay out of the green-flag-marked demonstration gardens and the orchard.
- The natural Intelligence of the Sentinel Beings would help remind the deer and the humans of their agreements. They would also attract the deer to the forest and away from the gardens and orchard.
- People on the land were respecting the deer, attempting to understand them, and honoring their place in the ecosystem. The director wanted to find ways to show that she was including them as valued members of the ecosystem.
- Other plants on the forest's edge were helping.
Clarifying the People’s Roles
It was vital to examine people’s intentions and roles in the agreement. First, people had to increase their level of respect for Deer by viewing them as living Beings of Nature, not pests. Second, the consciousness of the humans had to be clear.
Skepticism on their part would not allow them to fully participate within the agreement. If people weren’t full partners in the agreement, that would make it less effective. An EcoPeace Treaty is always like a two-way street; all parties give-and-take with equality.
The philosophy of Live-And-Let-Live was put into action with the people involved. From the outset, the director was totally on-board. She explained the importance of the work to her staff. Her certainty that this research would work really helped. If anyone had a notion to undermine the agreement or if there had been any atmosphere of doubt, it was gone. The staff was positive and turned their attention to consciously intending that the agreement would work.
The director took additional steps toward assuring the agreement’s effectiveness by adding human participation. During an autumn seasonal ceremony, she explained to the participants what the deer needed: food, water, and safety. She described how my research was attempting to show the benefits to all if people would respect Deer.
The research study was consistent with the director’s deep views about people working with other living Beings in a Live-and-Let-Live philosophy. As a token of people’s respect for the deer, she asked participants at the seasonal ceremony to put pieces of raspberry pancakes at the forest’s edge for the deer.
The director took another big step. Part of the 231 acres of the property had been donated to the farm by a local family. In past years, she allowed that family to kill deer during the hunting season. She told me that–in the spirit of the EcoPeace Treaty–she ended hunting on the property.
Every week, I returned to the farm at least once to review and renew the agreements. I wasn’t always sure if I had all the pieces of the puzzle correctly assembled. I needed to see the progress and make clarifications…
Summary and Results as of the end of 2013 season
In my personal view, I believe that the whole idea of inclusion through this form of collaboration with the deer reinforces the (perhaps) radical idea that killing is obsolete. Humanity’s beliefs and values are evolving. I foresee in the future how the new tolerance, compassion, and respect for all ecosystem members can actually be implemented in a practical way through EcoPeace Treaties.
On one visit, Basia, my co-author, and I bumped into the director on one hillside in the valley. She told the story of a morning where she came out to the very spot we were standing and looked across the valley. She said she saw a family of deer walking down from the ridge toward the orchard. She said that they walked down to the green flags, stopped, looked around, then turned around and headed back up the hill. Her experience reinforced everyone’s confidence that the EcoPeace Treaty was working.
From April through mid-summer, 2013, the deer stayed out of the demonstration gardens and the orchard completely.
We know that the deer were present in the valley because Hosta plants, nearby at the farmhouse (but not in the demonstration gardens and not marked off with green flags) were chewed down.
A small breach in the vegetable garden happened in August. I believe it was my error. Periodically I would have to replace green flags because of lawn-mowing. That time, I didn’t put up enough flags to clearly mark the area.
In early September, a more significant breach occurred. I believe that young deer or even baby deer went into the green-flag marked areas in the same way that human children would not pay any attention to barriers and rush toward something they wanted.
Despite these breaches, four and a half months of all Beings totally honoring their agreements was remarkable. Considering that 2013 was the first year and we are all learning, the results were phenomenal and hold great promise for the future.
To continue keeping her end of the agreement to support the deer, during a December 21st seasonal ceremony, the director asked participants to put corn on the snow at the forests’ edge for the deer. Tracks in the snow showed where deer were moving in forested areas, but no tracks were found around the demonstration gardens or the orchard. Even when no foliage was growing, the deer were heeding the agreements of the EcoPeace Treaty.
Additionally, I learned that I need to include the role of the deer in Nature as part of the EcoPeace Treaty. For example, one of Deer’s purposes in the ecosystem is to spread seeds. They want the right to graze in areas with mature fruit or seeds so as to propagate those seeds elsewhere in the ecosystem. This purposeful aspect of Deer’s place in the ecosystem will need to be included when we do another research study here.
Results for 2014 with Hosta, too.
For more detail about this EcoPeace Treaty with Deer, please go to_______________