Man Versus Squirrel: Devastation, Disaster, Depression and Destruction of Dreams

18 May

Since the moment we moved into our home 29 years ago, my husband has been in a silent battle with the squirrels that share our land.

Squirrel=proof bird feeders and flower boxes

Squirrel-proof bird feeders and flower boxes

It started simply. We wanted to feed the birds. There are beautiful trees in our backyard, including a mulberry tree, which attracted the birds. But we wanted to help them in the fall and winter. So my husband wanted to put bird feeders on the deck. His first ones were failures. Within minutes of the bird food entering the feeder, they were emptied. Not by birds, but by squirrels. Over a two-year period, my husband tried every type of birdfeeder and squirrel baffle.   Finally he found the bird feeders we have now. The squirrels can no longer get to the bird food. The only problem now is how quickly the birds eat the food!

His second issue with the squirrels revolved around our flower boxes. We have nine flower boxes adorning our deck. Each fall the squirrels bury walnuts in the flower boxes. Then they make a mess digging them up, throwing dirt everywhere. In the spring they often dig up the first flowers we plant. This is annoying, but there is really nothing my husband can do to stop the behavior. So he has learned to live with it, and just replants the flowers.

Issue number three caused quite a battle. Each spring my husband would plant tomatoes.   He would nourish them and watch them grow from tiny yellow flowers into little green tomatoes, until finally they were large and ripe enough to eat. We used to keep them on the vine until they turned red. BIG mistake. The squirrels would pick those red tomatoes, take one bite out of them, and then leave them on the deck right outside our kitchen atrium doors so that we could see the ruined tomato! It was so frustrating.

My husband dealt with in a mature way.   He started planting cherry tomatoes. Even if the squirrels ate a few; even if they took a bite or two, they still were not wasting an entire large tomato. Also, with cherry tomatoes, there were always some for us. Additionally, he started picking the tomatoes before they were totally red, and we let them ripen in the house.

But this final battle has devastated my husband. It has been a pitiful and emotional week.

We found out last year that the ash borer has entered our state. This is disturbing to us because we have eight beautiful ash trees on our property. The word from local arborist is that within five years all the ash trees might be dead. We have already suffered from the destruction of the elm trees. So my husband decided he would take proactive measures. He would start growing trees now.

He first planted a maple from seed. And it grew! He was so excited, he decided on another challenge. He really likes oak trees. So last fall, during one of our walks, he picked up acorns from the ground near an oak tree. He selected the best acorns he could find and brought them home.

After much research, he put these acorns into a zip lock bag with a bit of water, and kept them in our refrigerator all winter. He would check on them, add water when needed, and nurture them.

In mid March, he took the acorns outside and planted them in our flower boxes. He covered each box with the heavy metal tops to our outside tray tables. The trees could get water and light, and had room to grow. The metal screens kept the squirrels out.

Every single day after work, he would go out side to tend and speak to his acorns. And then, miraculously saplings appeared: six baby oak trees. He was so excited. He told all his friends his plans to replace our ash trees with the oak trees that he was growing from seed.

Slowly they grew to about six to eight inches high.   He decided it was time to make a change. They all had leaves on them. So he took them out of the flower boxes, away from their protective metal screens, and planted them in individual, deeper pots.

He continued to visit them each day after work. He was beyond excited.

Yesterday, the routine changed.

He came home and went outside to check on his trees. He was only out for a moment, when he came back in and flopped on a chair. I could see the dejection in his face.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Gone. They are all gone. My trees are gone. “

The squirrels had taken each and every acorn seed; dug them up and ate them. Besides that, they had stripped each little sapling of all of its leaves: leaving devastation, disaster, depression and destruction of dreams.

My husband was beyond comforting. He had nurtured and nourished those saplings. Now all his work was destroyed.

I was so sorry for him. It was the saddest I have seen him in a long time.
“Perhaps you can try again next year,” I said.

“No. I am done. I never thought they would eat them once the saplings were this big. I am done,” he said as he pouted in distress.

“Okay,” I responded. “But at least your maple tree is okay.   Perhaps you can grow more maple trees.”

“No, I don’t have the energy to do this again. I am done,” he replied. “I guess we are just going to have to buy new trees.”

The squirrels have won this battle.

 

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