Those of you who don’t try to grow your own food are probably saying “Oh, isn’t he cute?!” No, not really, especially if you are trying to grow your own fruits and vegetables! This guy wipes out every single sunflower I try to grow, not to mention the trail of orange and fig peels that he likes to leave all over my lawn. Don’t get me started on the headache he causes every year in spring when I try to transplant my seedlings into the garden, and then he goes in and digs them all up while I’m at work. Or there was that one time that he teased the dog and made her yank out an entire teepee of green beans as she tried to get to him. Yeah, it would appear that we weren’t on very good terms.
The truth is, as much as I complain about him, I’d hate to see him leave. We’ve been lucky enough to have the same squirrel live in an old lobbed off Italian Cypress tree for a few years now. He used to have a partner, but for the last two years it’s only been him (not sure if she left him for another squirrel, or if he’s widowed, I didn’t want to ask in case it’s a sensitive subject). I don’t know of anyone else that could say they’ve had the same squirrel living with them for a long period of time. I’m not really sure why he picked us, but I kind of feel special that he did. He chases away other squirrels because he’s pretty protective over his garden, and he provides our dog with hours of entertainment (they’re kind of like Tom and Jerry taking turns chasing each other).
Each year I would watch my Mammoth sunflowers disappear one by one. He’d steal them before they even flowered, leaving behind a stalk with a couple of leaves that were lucky enough to be spared by his claws. Last year I decided I would just plant MORE in order to get a couple for us, but that still didn’t work. This year I decided to take a different approach. I planted tons of sunflowers around his tree- Mammoth, Autumn Beauty, Velvet Queen and Lemon Queen (in case he likes variety, of course). I also added a couple strawberry and squash plants that are mingling below the sunflowers. My thought is if I give him so much food that he doesn’t even have to leave his tree, he’ll never really have a reason to venture to the raised beds and cause chaos (because he’d be too fat to move). And of course in other various areas of the yard I planted more sunflowers for US (hopefully).
Last weekend we came home to our first empty stalk. It was one that was right next to his tree, where he literally was able to yawn, roll on his side, and swipe it probably pretty effortlessly. It’s still too early to determine if this approach is going to work, for all I know thousands of other squirrels may move in if Mr. Squirrel gets too fat to chase them off. In the meantime, I’ll try to concentrate on appreciating Mr. Squirrel for who he is and try to understand that he has a place in this world; more specifically he has a place in our yard.
UPDATE: Wow, first time I've had to update a blog! So- I wrote the piece about Mr. Squirrel last night, and this morning we woke up to our first sunflower. I had to do a little happy dance first, then ran to get the camera before it disappeared. By the comments I've already received I have to confess- we have it pretty easy here. We have tons more squirrels in the front yard- that Mr. Squirrel doesn't chase away, and those guys haven't done too much damage. We do have problems with rats (thanks to the neighbors ivy and our fruit tree's), but having a 75 pound dog scares away a lot of the pests. Raccoons, possums, skunks, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and even wild turkeys- all make their way through our neighborhood, causing minimal damage to my front yard. I feel pretty fortunate that we don't have to battle it out with voles or deer- I would be heartbroken to see all of my hard work go to waste!