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Saturday, April 11, 2015 3:07 PM

Introducing "Spot" the Robo-Dog

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Here's a robot gadget that I would actually like but mainly for a reason that I challenge readers to guess.

While watching the video below, in which no robots were harmed in spite of being kicked, think of some reasons for "Spot" the robo-dog made by Boston Dynamics.

Link if video does not play: Introducing Spot.

Spot is a four-legged robot designed for indoor and outdoor operation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate and negotiate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs.

I think "Spot" will eventually be a big hit for security purposes. In such a mode it would be equipped with a video camera, voice, heat-seeking ability, etc.

Robo-Dog as Animal Deterrent

We have a 1 acre property with huge gardens. Our property is close to a forest preserve. Deer are extremely problematic. They eat nearly everything unless I take other measures.

One bite off the top of a lily and it will not flower in the current year. Repeat bites and it will not survive at all.

I believe a robo-dog like spot roaming the property from dusk to dawn would keep deer and other animals away.

Meanwhile for all you gardeners with a deer problem, I suggest "Mish's Brew".

Mish's Brew

You can find deer repellants at garden shops for about $30 a quart. One quart will fill a two or three gallon container perhaps three times.

The list of ingredients typically says something like "putrefied eggs and garlic extract".  $30 seems like a huge price for something so simple.

I thought that I could make that myself. I tried and did. My brew works even better, with fewer clogs than the commercial mix.

Mish's Brew Recipe

In a blending bowl, add one egg and a half cup of "stuff". The "stuff" is combination of garlic powder, onion powder, powdered curry, and powdered cinnamon. Use whatever stuff you like, but it needs to be pure powdered ingredients, not something like garlic salt. If it has salt in it, it will harm or kill your plants.

Anyway take about a half cup of "stuff" whose primary ingredient is garlic powder, add an egg and a couple cups of water. Blend really well for two minutes. The better the blend and the finer the powder, the fewer the sprayer clogs. 

Next add a few tablespoons of liquid dish-washing detergent such as Dawn, and a bit more water.  Add the detergent later in the mixing process to reduce foaming. Blend another minute or more. The longer the better.

Using a funnel, pour the mix in equal portions in two "strong" quart plastic bottles. Orange juice bottles are better than a milk bottle. I have Mish's Brew eat through the latter.

Fill the quart bottles up with water and shake. Now you have concentrate. Half of that quart bottle is enough to fill a three gallon sprayer.

Choose a sprayer with a metal tip, not the plastic ones. Metal tips clog less frequently and are easier to unclog if the do get clogged.

Again, I have had far better clogging results with my mix than the commercial stuff.

The dish-washing detergent is a wetting agent and the egg acts like a glue that will dry on and stay on. Choose your powdered stuff with care. Sometimes the generic store brand in bulk is the finest powder you can get.

You can also try garlic juice instead of powdered stuff. A cup of juice instead of "stuff" will suffice, and it will clog even less than powders. I am using liquid juice now, with a bit of cinnamon and curry powder added in.

Mish's Brew Really Stinks!

Mish's Brew improves with age. It really stinks! Imagine rotten eggs infused with concentrated garlic.

Don't spray on a windy day.

The smell in the garden will go away within hours, but the brew will stop deer up to a month, even with rains. Whenever you see deer munching again, it is time to spray again.

The critical time to spray is springtime: now. Deer are very hungry and plants are sprouting up. I spray more in Spring and early Summer than other times. Also, if you have flowering shrubs that deer like (viburnums) spray in late autumn so deer do not eat the flower buds. One late spray on shrubs will last the entire winter.

Aging works well. Mish's brew improves the longer it sits, but you can also use it immediately. Don't use Mish's Brew on vegetables or anything you intend to eat!

I have never had my brew harm any plant with two possible exceptions: Clematis and yews. I have seen yew discoloration but I am not positive it is related to my mix or if it was caused by something else. On a couple occasions, it seemed to adversely affect my clematis vines. I will not again spray my clematis vines (and they do not seem to be a deer favorite anyway).

Other than that, I have seen no problems caused by the mix, but please note the mix does not stick well to tulip leaves (nor does the commercial mix). Tulip leaves are very waxy and it runs right off. Tulips and Lilies are among the favorite choices for deer.

No need to spray daffodils, alliums, peonies, bleeding hearts, monks hood, or lamb's ear. Deer also do not touch some groundcovers such as vinca, lamnium, and pachysandra.

Judge from your own experience. Many plants are questionably labeled "deer-resistant".

Until the cost of robo-dog is incredibly cheap (I suspect it will be some day), Mish's Brew will guard my gardens, not robo-dog.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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