The Damnsquirrel Chronicles: The Invasion Continues

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about the mean things I say about squirrels.  Friends send me pictures of them in oh-so-cute situations.   Am I charmed by such?   Not a chance.  Image 1I’ve also received books on how to get rid of them,  articles on critter control, and videos of contraptions to stump or terrorize them.   One video showed a pricey bird feeder which begins to spin if a squirrel climbs on.  If I had one, the tree rat would spin off and land on my back, or I’d get plastered with squirrel vomit.

These things happen; don’t fool yourself.  Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean the little bastards aren’t out to get me.

Look in the neighboring yards and you’ll realize that all the squirrel action is in ours.  They’re running through my azalea beds, digging up the lawn, or chasing each other up the oak tree for gawd knows what deviate purpose.  The goodies we put out to attract birds have transformed our yard into a 5-star rodent restaurant.  It isn’t unusual to see more squirrels than birds hanging around.  Not the plan when we put out all those feeders!

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I’ve pulled up all my strawberry plants and have no plans to set out tomatoes this year.  I’ve given up on planting colorful pots of annuals because the squirrels climb onto the pots and yank the plants out like they heard a rumor I hid a sack of peanuts in the bottom.

I’ve resorted to putting anything that might be of interest to them on a table on our second story deck.  My pitiful collection currently consists of a lone tomato plant in a clay pot and a single twig of boxwood that I’m rooting.  Bless pat, I looked out yesterday and damned if one of those varmints wasn’t sitting on the table with the boxwood twig in his paws.  Why, why, why?  Was he using it as a toothpick?  The holes in my tomato plant soil must be precursors of a coming oak tree crop which will root-wrestle my tomato plant into oblivion.

And get this: I came home to find a cable repairman at the back of our lot recently.  When I asked, “Are you improving our service?”  he shook his head.

“I can’t fix this.  They’ll have to send a crew out to put up at least ten feet of new wire.  The squirrels have chewed this one worse than any I’ve ever seen and I’ve been doing it for ten years.

Nothing is sacred around here.  Not on the ground, not in the air.

It isn’t that I hate the damnsquirrels, but I do feel myself sliding in that direction.

Have you watched this amazing video?  

Just so you know, I still rooted for the squirrel.

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“Aunt Prune was holding one of the squirrels in her hand. ‘And once a day, we have ta clean their little private parts with a Q-tip, so they’ll learn ta clean themselves.’
That was a visual I didn’t need”
― Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures

 

 

 

Wall of WOW!

One of the local sites used several times in the Showtime series, Homeland, is Queens University, which sits smack in the middle of our neighborhood.   Although the buildings are contained pretty much within a single city block, around 2400 students attend classes here.

The huge old trees and seasonal plantings, as well as the cohesive traditional architecture,  help blend the site into the surrounding residential area.  The administration’s commitment to art adds to the charm and cultural interest of the campus.

Perhaps the most well-known piece is a sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington:  a young Diana, located in a courtyard and not visible from the street.  Diana was the unofficial mascot when Queens was a women’s college.

However, a more visible statue, a rather whimsical depiction of one of the old ladies of the neighborhood walking her dog, situated just off the main sidewalk, is one that always makes me smile.  I confess that my eyes are always drawn to her bosom.

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I tried to get Scout the wonder dog to pose with them, but she refused.

There are a number of contemporary pieces, like this one near the Rogers Science Building.  Although the building has been open less than a year, it looks as if it has been there for decades.

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Since its exterior closely resembles the School of Business building at the other end of the block, there were concerns that this new facility would look too stark and new.  BUT… a very clever art installation added to the south wall before the facility was even completed changed that.

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(The Crowder family donated funds for the project.)

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Alas, all these photos were taken on a cloudy day, but here’s a closeup shot to give you an idea of the texture and color variations.:

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Go HERE and then click on Time Lapse at the top.    It shows the fascinating construction process.

Pretty spectacular, huh?

Anyone up for trying it at home?

Crazy Love (Another Damnsquirrel Chronicle)

There is always squirrel action in our back yard; they’re climbing up the bird feeder pole or running down the big oak.  They race along the fence with stolen apples or tomatoes in their mouths.  They leap blithely from one tree to another–six feet, eight feet or more–death-defying jumps without net, helmet, or vine.  The little bastards run along the utility wires at the back of the lot with an ease that would make The Flying Wallendas feel AWK-ward.  It’s a freakin’ circus out there.

The obnoxious critters taunt the dog and eat the bird seed as well as anything I try to grow.  They make big ugly nests in the trees, biting off small branches to use as building materials.

I’ve read that they live about six years–less in urban settings–but I’d swear that these are of the Methuselah genus.  In fact, not ever having found a dead one out there in damnsquirrel paradise, I might even think them immortal, had my blogging buddy Texas Trailer Park Trash not posted a photograph of a squirrel skull as proof of demise.  Of course, that IS Texas.  Perhaps there was a duel.

In the interest of fairness, I’ve tried to think of something good to say about them.  I’ll leave a bit of space, in case something comes to mind.

Nope.  Nothing.

This morning as I was outside watering my potted plants, incessant squirrel chatter was drowning out the birdsong.   All of a sudden, right in front of me, two squirrels came flying out of the tree, landing on the concrete driveway with an audible THUNK.  It had to have been a 20 feet drop but after a stunned moment, they disentangled, jumped to their feet, and dashed back up the oak tree.

Well now. . . .

They went up so fast I couldn’t tell whether or not their fat cheeks were red with embarrassment.  (Reminds me of the time Dearly Beloved and I were staying at the Watergate Hotel in Washington and had to call the front desk after the bed broke in the middle of the night.  We’d been asleep, but who’d ever believe it?!)  

Had to be a morning tree rat tryst!  Perhaps that explains all the gibberish.  The small leafy branch that fell with them was loaded with acorns.

Breakfast in bed, I suppose.

Stepping Out in Atlanta

When my friend Martha and I went on a “weather permitting” trip to Atlanta last weekend, she pulled two pedometers out of her bag, saying she was sure we’d walk 10,000 steps each day, with all the plans we’d made.   It turned out that we had more battery life than the pedometers.  We didn’t really need them; our exhaust-o-meters indicated that we surpassed our goals.

We had tickets to The Girl With the Pearl Earring exhibition at the High Museum of Art Saturday afternoon.  We saw the Dutch Masters paintings, then headed upstairs to see two more floors of other featured art.

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She looks vaguely familiar, doesn’t she?!

Martha, a Bed and Breakfast affectionado, outdid herself by finding us accommodations at The Social Goat, a  B&B in the Grove Park area, near the Atlanta Zoo.   We didn’t quite get up with the goats, turkeys, roosters and chickens, but we did feed them after our own breakfast of blackberry French toast and sausage, grilled peaches and oranges with granola and yogurt.

We had tickets for a Sunday afternoon concert in Roswell, GA  and even though the weather was iffy that morning,  we decided to take our umbrellas and head to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, to see the exhibition from the Mosaiculture International Montreal. These living sculptures are making their first appearance in the US and “fabulous” is inadequate to describe it.

Take a look at a few of them:

One of two giant butterflies.
One of two giant butterflies.

There were cute rabbits hiding in the grasses. . .

A batch of bunnies.
A batch of bunnies.
The unicorn wasn't "loveliest of all" but he was awfully cute.
The unicorn wasn’t “loveliest of all” but he was awfully cute.

There were two cobras.

Look how he coils!
Look how he’s coiled!  His friend was on the other side of the walkway.

Earth Goddess was magnificent!  Love the hair!

Rising right out of the hillside....
Rising right out of the hillside….

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The fish twirled and spit water in their pool.
The fish twirled and spit water in their pool.

Gooseberries and strawberries frolicked in the vegetable garden.

Walking berries.

Could they have been more spot-on with this canine cutie?

Shaggy dog.
Shaggy dog.

This Ogden Nash poem was posted beside him:

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There are 19 creatures in this exhibit and they’re scattered throughout the grounds among the permanent garden treasures.  I’ll show you some of those another time.

The rain suddenly began in earnest, so we ran to the car and made it to the concert with enough time to grab a quick lunch first.  The music was delightful enough to make us forget about our wet feet.

We’d managed to keep up with each other all weekend, but somehow we went out of different doors after the concert and it took us over 30 minutes to find each other again, thus ensuring our 10,000 step count for the day.

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“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables 

Strawberry Fields for…? NEVER!

The strawberry patch is coming out as fast as I can dig.

The only strawberries that have graced our cereal are the ones I bought at the farmer’s market.  There are simply too many thieving critters in our vicinity.  The squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, snails, slugs, and birds have conspired to leave our granola un-berried.  In fact, the berries have been disappearing faster than ever even though Scout-the-Wonder-Dog has been on guard duty.

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Yesterday, as Dearly Beloved and I watched in amazement, we caught the culprit in action.

We were not expecting this. . . !

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The fox has been guarding the hen-house.

The Damnsquirrel Chronicles: Blown With the Wind

The body lay on the parking pad under the big oak tree, a couple of feet from a pile of  recently delivered mulch.  Dearly Beloved discovered it when he went outside after lunch.  It hadn’t been there an hour before when I’d come home from the farmer’s market and he’d come out to unload the car for me.

There were no signs of a struggle … no marks on the body.   Foul play, or was it simply dead?  Doornail dead.

The coroner estimates the time of death to have been at least 48 hours before discovery.  Decomposition was imminent.

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Where had it been during those 48 hours?  Without a nest directly overhead, it couldn’t have been shoved from the domicile.  Could the damnsquirrel residents in the nest on an  eastward-pointing branch sling a body 20 feet?

Scout, the wonder dog, is not a suspect.  She likes ’em live and she wants ’em running.  Was there literally a heart-stopping chase?  Did it lie on a branch clutching its little chest until The Grim Reaper turned out the lights?  Then what?  It lay in state until a stiff breeze blew it away?

Like many gardeners, I assumed that squirrels lived forever, except for the depressed ones which choose suicide by vehicle.

There is the possibility of an alcohol-induced coma.   The slugs and snails have claimed dibs on the strawberries this year, so for a time I put beer out in saucers among the plants.   Each morning I’d discover empty saucers.  No slugs, no beer.  I tired of playing bartender to the wildlife and cut off the supply.

Looking back, I think the squirrels have been acting weirder than usual.  For one thing, they have initiated a protest on the squirrel-proof bird feeder.  If they can’t have the seeds, neither can the birds, apparently.  They hang out there.  It’s become such a regular thing that the wonder dog doesn’t even notice them sometimes.

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DB handled burial arrangements.  No eulogy, unless the sanitation department workers say a few words when they make that dump at the landfill.

I wonder if the little bastards are holding a wake out there.

I’ll fill the beer saucers one more time.

You can’t be friends with a squirrel! A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit.
Sarah Jessica Parker

The Perils of Pol-LEN

Even on a rainy day, springtime is lovely in our back yard.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today’s rain washed pollen into yellow puddles on the driveway, a clue to the source of my morning headache and clogged ears.

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Speaking of headaches, here’s another one that wonder dog Scout called to my attention:

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Yes, the little bastard is standing ON the squirrel baffle.

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Now THIS is just plain cocky!  The sumbitch is rubbing our noses in the fact that WE’RE the ones who are baffled.

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This aggression will not stand, man.

– The Dude, The Big Lebowski

(Also George Bush in 1990, sort of.)

No Pot to P. In

One of the things I refused to leave behind when we sold the beach house-not-on-the-beach was a very large planter that sat in the front yard near the bay window.  I loved that pot.  At first it was planted with red geraniums along with a little spiky plant and a little drooping plant and was quite striking.  Because we weren’t there regularly enough for me to keep it watered steadily, the geraniums soon succumbed and the spiky plant kept spiking and the drooping plant kept drooping and the two have remained in the pot for more than a decade, with no help from me, thank you.

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When we moved, the heavy pot arrived here intact, although I’m not sure the movers’ backs were as lucky.  I could hardly wait for warm weather so that I could put something pretty in it and give it a prime location in the garden.

I’ve had flowering plants from the nursery waiting in the wings for a couple of weeks now and I decided that Sunday was the big day. I got out my little trowel.  Hah!  I couldn’t cut through the roots enough to even get past the surface.  “Root-bound” doesn’t begin to cover it.  Root-bound and determined.

I pulled Dearly Beloved away from all of his new power tools to enlist his help.

What I said was, “Will you get those plants out of that pot so that I can plant something else in it.”

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What he heard was, “Get that plant out of there, whatever it takes.” 

He turned the pot on its side and cut the roots that were growing out of the bottom.  He yanked and tugged.  The plant didn’t move.

“Don’t worry about the plants, just don’t break the pot.”  I said nervously.  

He grabbed a shovel.  Not a trowel–a full-size shovel.

“Don’t break the pot,”  I said again.

He gave me an expression just two degrees short of an eye roll and began chopping at the plant with the shovel.

Don’t break the pot.”

A small chunk of the pot rim flew off.

“DON’T BREAK THE POT!”

The plant suddenly pulled free.

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Hey, all was not lost.  I still have this “lovely” plant without so much as a broken root.

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Feel free to make an offer.

Splendor in the Grass

Have you ever watched The Pioneer Woman on the Food Channel?

At the beginning of every show, Ree Drummond tells us, “Here’s what’s happening on the ranch today” and it always proves to be something that necessitates the preparation of several fabulous beefy, buttery, or sugary dishes wherein calories or fat content are not a consideration.

Shortly after our youngest daughter got me hooked on the show, I read an article in The NYT about the editor of one of the glossy women’s magazines being so inspired by The Pioneer Woman that she quit her job and moved her family from New York to an English farm in her husband’s family.  I’ve never hankered to live someplace that it’s best not to name the farm critters and I’m perfectly content to answer, “Not much” when anyone asks me what is going on at the Lee house.   But perhaps I should bring out the butter because much has been happening around here in the past two weeks or so.

Dearly Beloved decided, after more than a dozen years of having someone else handle our lawn maintenance, that he wanted to do it himself.   He broke the news to the lawn guy and then the fun was on.  While Ree refers to her husband as “the Marlboro man,” mine is the anti-shopping man, so he planned to do it all without setting foot inside a store.

First he ordered a tiller/edger/whatever.  He was ecstatic when it arrived, and assembled  it that same day so that he could till and over-seed all the thin spots in the lawn.  He wanted to be ready for his next internet purchase, a lawn mower.

We don’t have a large yard, so nothing fancy was needed, but still, I would have thought he’d have looked for something in the key-starter, self-propelled direction.  Oh no, he wanted one that would be “manly exercise.”  Not that I’m opposed to that, but it does mean that if he breaks an ankle or gets the flu or something, the grass will have to wait  because The Little Woman won’t be stepping up to the rope starter pull.

A few days after he ordered it, I said, “There’s a UPS truck.  Maybe it’s your lawnmower.”  

He scoffed.  “That baby won’t be coming in a dinky UPS truck.  It’ll be arriving in a SEMI!

While waiting, he contented himself with buying a chainsaw and, of course, watching the grass grow.  His manly mower finally arrived, not in an 18-wheeler, but still something larger than a UPS truck.  Oh, the joy…!

Manly machine delivery.
Manly machine delivery.

Said joy was short-lived when he began assembling it and found that one of the wheels had been damaged in transit.  He called the factory and they promised to send out a replacement wheel that same day.

That wasn’t fast enough. . .  he got out the duct tape.

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The new one arrived Wednesday, but so did the rain.  He hasn’t been able to try it out yet with all four wheels, but he’s handling it well.  All this rain is sure to give him more to mow.

When he started looking into chainsaws, he mentioned that he’d better get a gas-powered mower because sometimes it was unsafe to be climbing trees with an electric one.

I called the tree-triming folks yesterday.  They wanted to know was it an emergency.

Could be.

The sky is blue so we know where to stop mowing.” – Harold Stone

Christmas Eve

I love Christmas Eve!   Santa brought us a contract on our beach-house-not-on-the-beach, so we’ll be busy packing things up there in January.   For now, we’ll snuggle here in Charlotte by the fire and try to figure out where we’re going to put that stuff.

Miss Piggy and I found a discarded Christmas tree on our walk yesterday, so we’ve decked our boughs of holly with some Fraser fir branches.  It looks and smells quite Christmasy around here.   I’ve been baking, so Miss P has been vacuuming as I worked.

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Our holiday spirit is in full bloom.  In fact, Dearly Beloved decided not to even chase the squirrel off the bird feeder when he looked out and saw the little bastard stuffing his cheeks.

What’s NOT in full bloom is my Christmas cactus.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not a single flower!  I was going to blame global warming until my Master Gardening friend, Dirtworm,  sent me a photo of hers.  Ms. Over-Achiever somehow managed to have two different colors flowering on one plant.  The Master’s touch:

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Dear friends, I hope YOUR holidays are merry and bright!