March 31, 2013

Coplin Plantation couple draws deer by the dozens at dinner time

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

COPLIN PLANTATION — Every afternoon, by at least 1 p.m., deer start gathering by the dozen in Harriet and Basil Powers' front yard.

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Basil Powers spreads corn from his tractor for the deer that show up daily for grain at his farm in Coplin Plantation.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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A deer eats peanut butter stuck in the bark of a tree outside the home of Basil and Harriet Powers, at their farm in Coplin Plantation. The treat is one of several the couple feeds to the deer.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Additional Photos Below

Almost any time of day, however, one or two are there. They're nearby, either behind the barn or maybe licking peanut butter off the birdfeeders by the porch.

As 3:30 p.m. approaches, more begin to gather.

They've learned that every day at that time, Basil Powers will feed all that come. That's nearly 100 that have arrived, expecting corn.

Harriet, 80, and Basil, 81, have been feeding the deer for more 50 years, ever since they moved into the farmhouse on Kennebago Drive, a dead-end dirt road with a few houses and about 70 camps at the end.

Harriet's parents lived in the house before them and were the first generation to feed the deer.

Harriet said her mother told her she started feeding the deer after accidentally leaving food for them that had been intended for the family's horses.

Her mother said she had taken the horses to a nearby brook for a drink and sprinkled grain on the ground for them. A day later, she noticed deer tracks at the watering spot and began the family tradition. She even added apples to a clothes line for the deer.

Her parents began to feed the deer regularly in the 1940s; and when she and Basil moved back into the family home, they took over the feeding.

The horses are gone now, but the corn is still poured out by the bucket. They had distributed each 5-gallon bucketload by hand until their son made a bright orange bucket, painted to match Basil's tractor, that attaches to the back of the tractor and dumps the corn.

The dozen deer that her parents fed grew to, at one point, 200.

"I guess they went out and started having babies," Basil said.

The number that turns out each afternoon has waxed and waned over the decades, but Basil thinks 80 to 100 deer come to eat now.

Harriet said this winter, with the help of donations from visitors, they bought 8 tons of corn at $300 per ton. When they bought the feed from a supplier in Canada, the company named a variety after them called "Basil's deer feed," and people would come to the store and ask for "Basil's," Harriet said.

However, the cost, along with Basil's health, are catching up with them. He walks with crutches because of a failing hip, which is compounded by other health problems.

Basil said because of the demands, he and his wife have said this year, like many years before, will be their last year; but then they always continue anyway.

While pain from Basil's health problems brings him down, his wife said he brightens up when its time to feed.

By the time 3:30 comes around, the yard is filled with deer.

On a recent afternoon, as he pulled out of the large storage trailer they use to store deer feed, he yelled over the noise of the tractor, "Ring the bell!"

His wife pulled a rope attached to a large dinner bell hanging on the front of the barn.

Most of the 80 deer who showed up were already in the open, but a handful leaped out of the woods and into their yard from different directions when they heard the clanging.

Basil used to call out for the deer when it was time to feed, but one day he had a cold and told her he couldn't call for them because his throat hurt, Harriet said.

As a joke, she suggested he get a dinner bell to let them know it was time to eat. Soon after, he rang a cow bell and eventually installed the large dinner bell on the front of the barn.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Deer assemble at the home of Basil and Harriet Powers for daily feeding. The Powers welcome any donations to help offset the high cost of grain the couple uses to feed up to a hundred deer a day.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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One of the scores of deer that showed up recently at Basil and Harriet Powers' farm in Coplin Plantation.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Basil Powers is seen inside the kitchen at his Coplin Plantation farm, as deer look for food in his yard.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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This group of deer showed up recently at Basil Powers' farm to wait for corn and grain to be spread out.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Deer line up to eat the corn that Basil Powers sets out at his home in Coplin Plantation.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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A deer nibbles frozen, ground- up apples, one of the treats set out by Basil Powers in Coplin Plantation.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Deer begin to assemble to wait for the daily feeding of corn and other food at the Basil and Harriet Powers' farm in Coplin Plantation.

Staff photo by David Leaming

  


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