Saturday, May 19, 2012

Paying the Squirrel Tax—Again

Back in the Windy City, where we took recreational gardening quite seriously, we learned (too slowly) that our original calculations used to determine the number of bulbs and seeds and plants to purchase each season were wrong. Fell short. FAR short. We had failed to figure in the number of bulbs and seeds and plants that our neighborhood squirrels would exact as their own.

We tried to keep the squirrels out of the garden with various home remedies. None worked.

We encouraged the pooch to shoo them away. To her credit, over several years’ time, our beloved canine graduated from simply giving squirrels “the eye”—about which I’m pretty sure some squirrel said, “What’s wrong with that dog? Is she stuck?”—to trotting a few steps toward them, neck out, back down, crazy eye full-bore. It worked at first. But word got around fast and the squirrels soon shrugged off the pooch’s advances.

Finally, we surrendered to the extortion and paid the squirrels’ tax: For every two or three bulbs/seeds/plants we intended to thrive, we needed to plant one or two for the squirrels.

Here in the Bluegrass, where we’ve switched from gardening to feeding birds, squirrels still rule. Last week, one was trying to pull his fair share of seeds from our ceramic feeder. It was a daring feat and we worried that his weight would cause damage; we also grew irritated that the squirrel’s mere presence warded away the birds. So my husband threw a handful of peanuts (in shells) onto the window ledge to entice the squirrel away from the feeder.

It worked, but not quite as my husband had envisioned. He assumed the squirrel would grab a peanut and take off. Instead, as you can see in the photo, the squirrel made himself comfortable on the ledge and gorged himself. What he didn’t eat, he guardedly transported—one by one—to some secret storehouse. Yes, the squirrel stayed off the feeder, but he came back for more once he’d successfully carried off the first handful. Now he seemed to feel entitled to handfuls of peanuts on the window’s ledge.

Trained as we were by the Windy City’s bushy-tailed, we dutifully obliged the demands of their Bluegrass counterparts. My husband once again filled the ledge with peanuts. And one by one they disappeared.

I worried: Were we going to have to continue this? Would the squirrel try to come into the apartment if he found an empty ledge? Would he tell his friends about the bounty? Would I have to start ordering peanuts in bulk?

Nope. So far, our two-installment payment has satisfied the little critter. I just hope he’s lean on memory and doesn’t return when his storehouse needs replenishing.

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