I have almost completed the 7′ deer fence around the garden. Today I looked out the window and saw three horses, five deer and one turkey grazing the big pasture, just the other side of the new fence. I think I can keep the deer out. But I had not thought about turkeys. And then there are rabbits. The top part of the fence is 2″ mesh, but the main sturdy lower part is about 6″. This should keep out the flying rabbits, but the traditional ground loving sort will saunter through. Can I really bring myself to hope that Berzerker will take them out as baby bunnies for breakfast? Can I spray coyote urine around the perimeter? Does the Coop sell coyote urine? Do I really want to resort to trickery and deception to keep out unwanted critters? Kant says we should not beat a dog because it would hurt its owner, or perhaps corrupt an onlooker. We might be encouraging a cruelty that might later be inflicted on humans. Could not the same be said of trickery? Indeed there are ads for pheromones that would make one irresistible to the opposite sex. Isn’t that on a continuum with coyote urine? And is not perfume already playing this game? So what is the difference between allurement and deception? Is it like white lies and lies of a darker shade? And what IS a white lie – is it an untruth told in one’s own interest? Or one that is insignificant? Is it better to deceive rabbits, or to use a narrow mesh fence buried in the ground? And all of this leaves aside the question of whether I should not be sharing my crop with Peter Rabbit, or Bambi, or any of the other wild creatures. Why is this not an occasion for Derrida’s infinite hospitality? I suspect that sadly there is a small truth hidden inside contractarianism – that some sort of agreed reciprocity is possible with humans, but not with the other-than-human, and that this sets important frameworks for exchange. Infinite hospitality would prescribe generosity to the point of bankruptcy and the subsequent inability to be generous. ‘Good fences make good neighbors’ may all be about maintaining the conditions for generosity! In the case of my garden, while access to it might give local critters dietary variation, it would give them a lot less satisfaction than it would cause me suffering. Would they really enjoy the Amish heirloominess of those tomatoes?
Addendum. With all this talk of tricking rabbits by spraying coyote-pee, I had entirely forgotten how intimately rabbits are already associated (LIKE COYOTES!!!) with trickery (and probably fences are important too). For example, there is a book *Tio Conejo (Uncle Rabbit) and Other Latin American Trickster Tales*, by Olga Loya. Here is the blurb:
“In folktales, the trickster can be the wise one or the fool, the one who fools or the one who is fooled. That is why children of all ages enjoy hearing these tales. The psychology of childhood is pretty much the same everywhere, giving these enjoyable stories universal appeal. In these four tales, told in Spanish and English, the trickster takes animal form: a monkey, an opossum, a dog, and a rabbit.”