Also proof that he has a diabolical sense of humor.
Why else would he send these…?
-Sex in the City
(These are also posted on BroJoe’s World with a different text.)
It’s been a rough summer in the old back yard.
With more days of 100+ temps than days of rain, only the hardiest plants even bothered to hang around for August. The shaded areas fared better, except for the hostas. The slugs around here have had hosta breath all season and it’s been Chipmunk Central underneath the large hosta leaves. I hear the little rodents chattering constantly as they do gawd-knows-what under the that leafy canopy.. probably boozing it up with the beer I put under there to kill the slugs.
It was supposed to be the summer of heirloom tomatoes– Pink Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter. But, when we stayed at the beach for several weeks and I wasn’t around to tend them, Mortgage Lifter grew into a tangle of spindly, suckery stalks and a tomato horned worm stripped the Brandywine so bare that the poor plant tried to hide behind the basil in embarrassment. I let it watch the worm execution as therapy.
Still, we have a staggering tomato crop. Oh, not actual tomatoes–not so much as one little green one–but we now have at least a dozen tomato plants in very strange places all over the yard. Whenever I remove one of those suckers which bisect the right angle between stalk and leafy branch, I hang onto it, sniffing its distinctive, summery scent as I walk around the garden. When I see something that needs my attention, rather than discard the sucker, I poke a hole in the ground there and insert the leafy sucker. I think they’ve all taken root.
One bear hugs a small, scraggly spruce, another dangles from the flower basket on the side gate…others grow among the rose bushes or lean against the gladioli. A couple even str-e-e-e-etch from underneath the deck, trying to reach sunlight from the gardenia cuttings I’m trying to root there.
Not a chance we’ll ever see a tomato from any of them.
The Black and Blue perennial salvia which thrives in the heat is one of the reasons I walk around sniffing tomato leaves when I’m working outside. That stinky salvia smells like flop sweat. The bees and hummingbirds love it, so I planted some in the narrow bed between driveway and fence, to keep it from spoiling the sweeter scents of the garden, but every time I open the gate, the plant reaches out and rubs against me, depositing EAU DE FLOP SWEAT scent on my clothing.
After I wrote the previous paragraph and thought how stupid it was to keep a plant I dislike, I set aside my laptop and took my camera outside to take a before photo, with the intention of yanking out El Stinko. I had the camera to my face when this happened:
Don’t even THINK about it, Sister!
Another insect favorite, the perennial swamp sunflowers, have risen to the occasion–seven feet tall or more. They’re the bees’ knees!
Having lost our peaches and strawberries to the damnsquirrels and rabbits, I was determined that they weren’t getting the figs. I assembled an impressive arsenal. Plastic newspaper bags cut into strips flutter on the branches along with battered aluminum pie pans. I even tossed plant clippings on the leaves to camouflage the ripening figs from a bird’s-eye view. Finally, I hung the wind chimes there to announce any critters willing to risk the climb. Not pretty, but it has been effective.
Most mornings I’ve been out there before sunrise, plucking and eating. Unwilling to risk waiting for full, soft and sugary ripeness, I have eaten most of them when they were still bland and firm. It was the principle of the thing.
The thing about figs is that they’re high in vitamins, so much so that it’s said we could live on figs alone. Plato encouraged Greek athletes to eat them. Latex–that oozy white stuff that leaks from the bottom when they’re perfectly ripe–is said to be good for infertility and breast milk production.
They’re thought to lower blood pressure and, even with 60% sugar, aid in weight loss. That’s possibly because they are not a fruit for the faint-hearted. One fig has as much fiber as three dried prunes.
When I went for my annual physical a couple of weeks ago, I learned that my blood pressure was too low and my sugar too high. Yowsah!
I suppose I’m lucky not to be pregnant and lactating.
This morning Miss Piggy had the 8 AM vet appointment, so we were out early. When I drove through the back gate on our return, there was a frantic flapping of wings just in front of my car as a hawk aborted his dive at the sound of my engine. A chattering squirrel dashed wildly up the oak tree.
I had blundered into an abduction that would not have ended well for the squirrel. It ran from the bird feeder area which is open, with no place to hide. My intervention, entirely inadvertent, had distracted the hawk, giving the squirrel enough time to reach the safety of the oak tree. Probably better that way. Had I had time to mull it over. . . well, never mind.
This evening, Dearly Beloved was manning the grill on the deck. Because of the way our yard slopes, our deck is second story–not that much fun for taking out the garbage, but delightful for surveying the neighborhood. DB was doing exactly that when a squirrel suddenly appeared by the grill and dropped a nut at his feet. Not an acorn–our yard is inundated with those. This nut:
We have no idea where the nearest pecan tree is, certainly not in any of the nearby yards. Furthermore, we’ve never seen a squirrel on the deck before.
Two possibilities come to mind. Was it a gift of gratitude for the accidental rescue? Or did he know that tomorrow is Dearly Beloved’s birthday? Just when I think I have them figured out, the damnsquirrels do something like this. Truce?
I’m not discounting the gift of the hawk, either. It afforded a far more effective teaching moment than Dearly Beloved ‘s broom tosses. Perhaps the tree rats will hereafter declare the bird feeder OFF LIMITS.
At any rate, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Dearly Beloved!
I’m still nuts about you.
I’ll probably be sorry I asked. . .
He practically knocked on our door to show me.
Okay. I give up.
What the hell IS that????
When my neighbor asked me to water her tomato plants while they were away on vacation, she mentioned that the damnsquirrels do not bother her tomatoes. Surely it was not a matter of taste, although I had planted heirlooms, while hers were ordinary cherry tomatoes. No way was I going to give the little bastards credit for being pink Brandywine gourmands.
More likely, it was that her dog chases the squirrels while Miss Piggy watches them through the deck railing and waves cheerily.
Also, Neighbor planted hers in a waist-high brick planter very near her air conditioning unit. Maybe a nice 50″ fan or two in my bed might deter them from our plants next year. I’ll have to calculate the CPT–cost per tomato. A BB gun is probably more cost-effective, even if more labor intensive. How much are BB gun shooting lessons?
Early one morning I climbed over the back fence in my pajamas so that I could water her unscathed tomatoes without having to go via the front (don’t ask) and that put me behind her garage where they have a large apple tree. All around the tree was a plethora of half-eaten apples. Hmmmm.
Later that morning I glanced over at her garage roof and saw a strange weather vane.
A few minutes later, he took a flying leap into the apple tree. The tree isn’t as close to the garage as it looks in the picture. Wouldn’t any creature that isn’t a lunatic take the easy way up and climb the tree instead of the garage?
Back when I planted our tomatoes, I stuck out one basil plant to enjoy with my tomato crop, but the purist damnsquirrels preferred to steal them without herbal embellishment, so the basil is now chest high.
I wonder if I could hide tomato plants behind a basil wall next year. In the meantime, we’ve eaten so much basil we’re considering it a green vegetable.
The recently installed baffle is still keeping the little bastards from the main feeder, but The Damnsquirrel Gang hangs around the thistle pole now, because even a failed jump shakes some seeds onto the ground. Eventually, one of the little bastards makes a successful leap.
This morning, when Beelzebub finally latched onto the feeder for a thistle seed high, Dearly Beloved ran out hollering indignantly. He seemed strangely energized when he came back into the house. The broom he’d tossed missed only by inches, he said.
I volunteered a disposable pizza pan as a baffle, but he thinks he has perfected his throwing calculations to make contact next time.
Since they haven’t returned yet, he’s wondering whether he spooked them or they’re off having a powwow to discuss their next move.
Spook those sumbitches? Not even if he rides that flying broom.
The baffler has baffled the damnsquirrel!
Not that he’s giving up. At this very moment he is sitting sulkily on the bluebird house, pondering the situation.
When Huckleberry Crusoe (aka Dearly Beloved) returned from the beach yesterday, he was horrified at how disrespectful the damnsquirrels had become in his absence. He was right. The little sumbitches knew they were winning the war. And have no doubt, it has definitely been war.
Yesterday, when Miss Piggy and I went for a walk, there were nine–count ‘em–NINE squirrels in the yard across the street. They pointed and snickered when we passed. NAH, nah, nah, NAH, nah.
I have been so humiliated I couldn’t bring myself to write about my failures. After the baffle didn’t keep them away from the feeder, I pulled out the only artillery left in my arsenal: my stash of plastic jugs I have been collecting to use for watering my plants when I’m going to be gone for several days. (I can punch a small hole in one and set it near my plant to do a slow drip.)
Picture a row of milk jugs lined up on the porch rail, filled with just enough water to give them throwing heft. If I had been able to bean a few, it might have made a difference, but my aim was so poor, the damnsquirrels didn’t even bother to run when I let ‘em fly.
I can’t throw worth a damn.
Only when I ran outside, shrieking and waving another jug, would I get any notice. The damnsquirrel would shrug and reluctantly shimmy down the pole. Even then, he would swagger over to lean against the basketball goalpost while I threw my hissy fit. Finally, he would climb the oak tree, smirking just out of reach, while I banged against the tree with my milk jug.
I’m lucky that no one called the police about the pajama-clad woman standing in her driveway, looking wild-eyed and hysterical as she yelled threats and beat on a giant oak with a milk jug.
Dearly Beloved kept abreast of my efforts–and my failures–while he was away and had hinted that perhaps I was over-reacting. However, he hadn’t been back home 20 minutes before he was out there hollering and tossing a broom, javelin-style, at one of the little varmints. (He says he missed by only a squirrel hair and they now run when they see him.)
This morning we were having coffee and standing together, looking out the sunroom window when we got lucky and saw the damnsquirrel’s sneaky route.
The little turd went up the back feeder pole that holds the thistle seed he doesn’t like and JUMPED from the top of that post over onto the suet feeder hanging on the destination post. From there, it was easy for him to climb up and over to start draining the feeder. I’ll have to admit that it was an impressive leap. The little bastard gets points for ingenuity.
DB took that to mean that the baffle had confounded them, since they were finding new routes to circumvent it by coming up and over with an aerial attack. SO, he has now moved the thistle feeder far enough away that even if a caped Supersquirrel is out there, he can’t make that leap.
Thus, the sulky stance on the bluebird house.
Dearly Beloved and I are giddy with success (actually, he says I may be giddy, but he’s cocky) but we aren’t taking anything for granted. I wouldn’t be surprised to look out and see nine squirrels, totem-pole style, with Beelzebub on top, shaking seeds out of the feeder.
DB says they’re way beyond that.
He claims he saw a crew of them working with a slide rule and Stadiametric rangefinder.
Bring it on, you little bastards.
Here are some photos from my BroJoe, taken in places where he has to wear snake boots. Not made OF snakes, but boots to keep snakes from biting him. Mr. Outdoors used to tie magazines around his ankles because where he ventures, the cottonmouths are mean. (That gives new meaning to the term “ankle biters,” doesn’t it!)
Our brother/sister outings take us to restaurants–definitely not to this territory:
BroJoe calls this group “The Boys’ Club.”
No boots required for taking these two:
Is this guy smiling???
Hey, BroJoe, I take a few nature photos myself. You think the cottonmouths are mean? Take a look at one of the sneakiest, wiliest animals to terrorize my neck of the woods:
Thank you for your suggestions as to how to keep the damnsquirrels away from the bird feeders. I have tried them all and am ready to report the results:
The aluminum pie pan baffle: Regular squirrel baffles don’t work–nor will a slinky–on our pole because of the extra stabilizing leg. When I cut an aluminum pie pan and wrapped it around the pole to make a homemade baffle as suggested, Beelzebub knocked that pan silly in one leap. It looked like Scarlett O’Hara’s petticoats in a windstorm: O
Adding flax seeds to the feeder: I won’t be trying that one again. Not only did they enjoy the flax seeds, they’ll probably live longer now with all those additional antioxidants. The flax seeds are back in the pantry.
Feeding the squirrels at another place in the yard to keep them away from the bird feeder: To test the suggestion, I bought this package:
The helpful man at Home Depot explained that I should screw that long L-shaped holder onto something sturdy like a deck rail and plop the corn log on top for easy feeding.
“I’m planning to hang it by a wire from a tree limb,” I told him.
He frowned and looked puzzled. “That might make it hard for them to get to.”
I smiled and nodded. “I hope so!”
“Ohhhhhh,” he said, laughing and clapping his hands. “You’re a mean one!”
Yep, that’s me. Mean and merry.
I hung one ear of the corn log from a magnolia limb at the back of the yard.
This weekend I have been the Guardian of the Bird Feeder and I have failed in my mission. Utterly. I am depressed, frustrated, and shamed by the experience. Also, majorly PO’d.
This morning, Beelzebub, the damnsquirrel, saunters down the tree trunk and strolls across the parking pad. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the little hoodlum wearing a leather jacket one day. A chipmunk runs out from under a Lenten Rose and falls in behind him, pausing while the damnsquirrel makes his way up the greased (yes, I did!) feeder pole.
Chip just stands there, watching, and I realize the little turd is in cahoots, waiting for the damnsquirrel to scatter seeds during his feeder maneuvering. No kidding. (see orangey blob on left of photos. That’s Chip.)
One squirrel on the birdfeeder pole, another on the ground, and a chipmunk standing by. Good grief!
- - - -
Chip bellies up to the buffet after Beelzebub latches on to the feeder in missionary position. Note Chip’s size. This is obviously not his first visit.
I’ve seen enough, so I scream and beat on the deck rail with an empty plastic milk jug. The chipmunk runs and hides. Beelzebub scampers down and heads for the oak tree, but on the way, detours to climb up and over the basketball stand, an in-your-face gesture for sure, then begins his ascent up the tree. However, he stops atop the birdhouse and flips me the bird. I grab the broom and rush down the steps, waving the broom and shrieking wildly, unmindful of the possibility I’m drawing attention from the neighbors. This is war.
The damnsquirrel shrugs and continues onto the lowest branch of the tree, too high for me to reach, then lights a cigarette and sits back on his haunches to wait me out.
Indignantly, I stomp around the yard, looking for weapons. I grab the squirrel baffle which won’t fit ON the birdfeeder pole and tie with floral wire TO the pole. Perhaps the plastic pot atop the finial will fall and hit him on his next visit.
It doesn’t. I shift to PLAN B:
I drag the garden hose up the steps and sit motionless on the deck until the damnsquirrel tries again. The nozzle leaks and soaks my lap, then drips between my legs, onto the wicker chair and the deck floor. The damnsquirrel plays a few video games while he waits, cigarette dangling cooly from his skinny lips, glancing at me occasionally.
Finally he stubs out the cigarette and swaggers down the tree.
I don’t move. He continues over the pavement, not going the basketball stand route this time, and eyes me as he cautiously climbs the pole. The chipmunk hurries to the buffet line again. I stay motionless until the damnsquirrel swings into his compromising position with the feeder, then I squeeze the hose nozzle trigger and dislodge him with a jet of water. Magnificent! He races up the tree.
My attempt to photograph the surprise attack fails, for I am too excited and end up with six pictures of the deck rail. Before I can get the memory stick back in the camera, put away the broom, and pick up the various weapons I’ve thrown, the damnsquirrel is sucking on the feeder again.
I head back into the house hoping that the neighbors won’t think the threats I’m screaming are for my husband. Actually Dearly Beloved has been away at the beach, working on his golf game, so I call to tell him of my defeat. He laughs at the water hose offensive, but sympathizes, too, telling me softly, “My dream is to be sitting out there with the pressure washer when…!”
I feel a tingle of excitement.
Bring it on home, Baby, bring it on home!
Dearly Beloved has added another weapon to his arsenal in The Battle of the Bird Feeders. He has ceded the entire yard to the damnsquirrels (despite my protests) but maintains his line in the sand at granting them bird feeder privileges.
Even with the entire yard under their control, those damnsquirrels love a challenge. They aren’t happy until they suction every last seed out of the feeders.
Putting oil on the post holding the feeders did nothing except give them lubricated foot pads. Throwing things at them gave him a measure of satisfaction until he wrenched his shoulder and ended any thoughts of Olympic broom tossing Gold.
After another trip to the hardware store and a confab with the old farts that hang around there giving squirrelly advice, he came home with some white, thicker-than-lard goop and applied it to the post.
When I say things are getting ugly, I mean literally. Look at this stuff! Ugh.
He filled the feeders and we left for the beach. I’ve been worried ever since.
With the temperatures in the upper 90′s, is that stuff going to melt and cause an oil spill in my rose bed?
Is it all goo or is it sticky, too? Will we return to find squirrels velcroed to the post? Pole-fried squirrels. ICK!
The NY Times has a science article about squirrels and their ability to survive and thrive. Usually I consider them a reliable source, but several facts here don’t ring true. For one thing, they say a squirrel is fertile one day a year. No way am I believing that. CLUE: they often have two litters a year. Another is that ‘most every time we see a squirrel, he’s chasing tail, right? The law of average must come into play.
But just how many of these do you encounter?
It’s not like we’re over-reacting. Their Latin name is Sciurus carolinensis. I don’t care what the textbook tells you, I say it means Scourge of the Carolinas. According to the Times, The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists them as one of the 100 most invasive species, right up there with kudzu and rats.
I wish DB was more incensed about their activities in the garden. They dig holes everywhere. Each squirrel has thousands of caches, a number which increases significantly if one has outdoor flower pots. Herbert Hoover may have called for a chicken in every pot, but Sammy Squirrel adds acorns. Thus we plant zinnia seeds and get oak trees.
Their life span is another point of contention. There’s proof that they’ve been around at least 50,000, 000 years and frankly, I don’t think they ever die. Have you ever seen a squirrel keel over? I read once that sometimes they get depressed and commit suicide by running in front of a car, which is why we’ll occasionally see a dead one in the street.
They’re neurotic, you know. Always hiding nuts and digging them up to re-hide because they think someone is watching. Their favorite spots are usually under MY plantings.
My husband is ordinarily a mild-mannered man, but if he could catch one of the squirrels, I’m pretty certain I know where he’d mount it to act as a deterrent.
Several people have offered their cats’ services and I thinking about it. BroJoe photographed the one I’d like to have patrolling the yard for a while.
His name is Bob.