Read by Pat and Becky Stone
The family recently discovered kombucha, the “immortal health elixir” of the ancient Chinese (and a pleasing financial elixir for commercial producers today). Kombucha is a fermented tea, rife with probiotic growing things (“raw, unadulterated & crafted by nature,” according to one label) that are supposed to be good for you.
On our kitchen counter are two, cloth-covered, gallon glass jars of clear amber liquid and a whitish, gelatinous floating mass. The porous fabric on top allows the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) adequate oxygen to happily digest and ferment the sugar mixed with tea at the beginning of the process. The living SCOBY turns tea (three bags black, three green) into kombucha.
My wife and daughter drink the slightly vinegary and self-carbonated, minutely alcoholic, trendy beverage as fast as it can be produced. I see a similarity to composting in the countertop fermentation vessels. Both rely on a happy, balanced mass of tiny living things to convert carbohydrates into more desirable stuff.
We’ll get back to the kombucha.
Lela, a widowed friend of many years and still gardening in her 80s—Hooray! hope for those of us not all that far behind—struggles against the rampant depredations of the whitetail deer from the park behind her home. Lela became convinced years ago that the most effective deer repellent is rags soaked in male (human, not deer) urine, hung liberally around the garden fence.
There’s not a lot of scientific evidence for this. Biologists at Stephen F. Austin University who studied the effect of human urine on whitetail deer concluded that human urine neither attracts nor repels deer. “Number One” from people (one of the adult male researchers?) had the same effect as commercial buck urine, ovulating doe urine, and new-car smell: all failed to repel—or attract—deer of all ages and sexes.
Science notwithstanding, the presumed attraction of buck to ovulating doe urine is the established foundation of a major market niche in the deer hunting industry. “Red Light District,” “Hot Mama Estrous Foam,” “Tink’s Hot Shot Doe Urine,” “Special Golden Estrous,” “Dominant Buck Squirt,” “Wild Estrus Dripper,” and “Roger Wyant’s Sex Lures”—there is much competition—are labels that apparently appeal to male shoppers as much as the product may to male deer. (Ovulating doe urine presumably attracts buck during that certain time of the year when their brains become like those of human males year-round.)
Still, the belief in men’s urine as a deer repellent persists, even with the science apparently established debunking the belief. Here is some supporting anecdotal documentation from the internet: “If you live in an isolated area, mark your own yard on a regular basis. If this is a little too exposed for you, consider catching your urine in a small bucket when using the toilet. Then take an old spray bottle, fill it with your own urine, and spray a little near the garden. You should use a dedicated spray bottle for this, and never use it for anything else. Clearly label the bottle!”
Another blogger cautions would-be markers that “discretion and observance of local ordinances are in order,” while a more bohemian, tree-hugger type preaches broadcasting your pee (“on garden, lawn, or compost “) for its potential pest-repellant value and fertilizing properties.
My “tree-hugger” sympathies and reputation for arguing against waste of resources’ nutrients led to this email exchange with Lela, who lost her dear husband (and source of deer repellent) several years ago. She suggested a mutually beneficial business deal:
Dear Dan, I am trying one last valiant effort to make my garden produce something besides weeds and discourage the deer from eating it all. So I would like to propose a deal. I would show up at your house about breakfast time on Saturday with a pan of homemade pecan rolls, and in fair trade, you would give me a gallon of your urine.
Let me know what you think of this deal.
P.S. I would like the trade to begin as soon as possible. The peas are about knee high and looking delicious.
Lela, I think it‘s a great deal, and I appreciate your confidence in me. This Saturday might be optimistic for me to come up with the requested full gallon. I’m home only a limited number of hours. But—it dawns on me—I could collect at work and transport some “apple juice” home that way. I will have to retrain myself to collect (the wife prohibited this environmentally and economically sound practice several years ago. I think for you she will accept a temporary exception.) Still, I may “piss away” an opportunity now and then … I can bring to church whatever additional volume is available from Saturday to Sunday morning. I don’t need to remind you that your son Nelson could probably make up the difference. Of course, another alternative would be for you to explain your plight during sharing time at church, while holding an empty gallon milk jug, and ask for donations after the service. I’m certain you could share the next Sunday your appreciation for all the contributions, and maybe refer to Psalm 23 (“My cup runneth over”).
I’ll give all I can, Saturday and/or Sunday; I don’t want to be known as a “piss-poor friend.”
Nelson is not a good option. He is uncooperative. He told me it doesn’t work and it stinks. It’s true, it is not odorifically pleasant. And it didn’t work last Summer because I went on vacation too often and gave up on the garden—period. So I will try to be at your house with rolls on Saturday at breakfast time and will take what you have. And NO THANKS, I will NOT make a plea in church. That was part of the reason to come to your house rather than get it from you at church. See you Saturday and take what you have. And Dan, I count on a bit of discretion!!!
My next reply:
Lela, Being discreet and fully cooperative, I forced fluids last night to get a good start; will do same tonight and tomorrow. Anyway, much of life stinks, but we go on. Glad to help and glad to avoid for three days wasting something valuable! We will be home Saturday morn.
The pecan rolls were very good. A milk jug of urine looks very like apple juice or sun tea; so discretion was not necessarily critical. I got the better—certainly easier—part of the deal.
The next week, Lela requested another supply. I produced, placing the full jug on the porch for her to pick up. It sat for nearly a week, then I carried it to church in my bike crate. (“Apple juice for Bible School, Dan?” “No.”) Then I pedaled it back home because Lela had been elsewhere. Back on the porch went the jug, where it ripened in the Ohio Summer sun for another week before I talked to her.
Sadly, the business deal soured with the deer repellent.
During that week, Lela had suffered complete destruction of her hostas and decided the deer repellent was no longer effective. I could have pressed for more pecan rolls (I had done my part after all), but realized I really was out nothing. If Lela didn’t want it, I’d put it to the next best—or only—use.
I poured it on the compost pile, where gravity and capillary dispersed it throughout. That’s right: it was kombucha for the compost pile!
Won’t my wife be pleased? ❖
This article was published originally in 2023, in GreenPrints Issue #136.