Ryan Couch leapt for a phone upon reading reporter Guy Kovner's story about voracious deer doing a job on gardens and landscaping this year.

Couch, a Sebastopol-reared landscape designer, shared that a few years back he was told Irish Spring bath soap works wonders at protecting plants from deer.

Sounds crazy, he thought. But nothing else he'd tried as a deer repellant worked, not even cougar urine.

Couch cut up a few bars of Irish Spring — "Manly, yes, but women like it, too" — and drilled holes in the pieces, then strung them from plants favored by deer.

Eureka. He found that the green-and-white soap truly does dissuade deer from eating vegetation.

"So far, it has worked every place that I've used it," he reports.

A Google check reveals quite a few favorable reviews of Irish Spring, some less so. The Humane Society of the U.S. suggests, "Hanging bars of soap on individual trees or shrubs where you want protection sometimes does the trick, particularly brands of soap that are high in tallow fatty acid like Irish Spring."

And — if raccoons do wash their hands, they might consider your garden soap-on-a-rope a thoughtful touch.

<strong>INTO THEIR GOURDS:</strong> This Sunday's Calabash, one of humanity's most original and delightful benefit events, will be serenaded by musicians who play instruments hand-made from gourds.

Calabash is the festival of gourd-art, food and wine that helps sustain Forestville's Food for Thought/Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank.

It jazzes Food for Thought that Sunday's musicians include Stephen Kent, master of the Australian aboriginal instrument the didjeridu and host of KPFA radio's weekly "Music of the World."

<strong>HARDY VIKING BLOOD</strong> has served Hans Skalagard, the renowned maritime artist from Petaluma who first went to sea at 13 and whose brushes with death as a WWII merchant mariner included clinging to a barrel and bobbing for 22 days in the Atlantic.

Hans, a native of the Faroe Islands between Norway and Iceland, and his wife, Mignon, are back home after driving to Thousand Oaks last weekend for a big deal.

The Scandinavian American Cultural & Historical Foundation inducted the painter of great sailing ships into California's Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame.

Hans, who paints nearly daily as he steams toward 90, is in good company.

Fellow inductees include late Norwegian-Americans Sonja Henie, the Olympic skater, and football coach Knute Rockne, and showman Victor Borge, "The Clown Prince of Denmark."

<em>Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.</em>

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here