Squirrels Stop by For Lunch and That Strange Polldaddy Link

How’s that for a catchy title, eh?

Before I get to the cute squirrel photos, I wanted to thank Lisa and Kelly for pointing out the odd polldaddy url. It started showing up in front of posted comments. Weird.

Originally I ignored it. These things tend to pop up now and then, then disappear without notice.  Who am I to question why. This odd feature however refused to budge.

I contacted the WordPress Help team, and here’s what they had to say:

We’re aware of this issue and our developers are working on a fix! The URL is related to the Ratings feature being enabled in comments. A recent update has broken this link. If you’d like to avoid seeing this, you can disable ratings. Otherwise, our developers are already on it!

If this shows up on your own blog comments, know that a fix is under way.

Now on to the cute squirrel shots.

I asked one of the boys to strategically locate three tiny pumpkins from my Halloween display to the top of my garden bench. I knew the squirrels would enjoy the treat. The top of the bench gave me a front row seat to their cuteness.

Indoor Halloween Display

Back in October, three small pumpkins were part of a display

squirrel chewing on pumpkin

Yum!

I love the way she/he’s holding on to the curled stem.

squirrel eating pumpkin 2

Double Yum!

Plump and happy, a bit like me after spending six weeks on the couch while helping myself to Hershey’s Kisses.

Footnotes

I had my six-week follow-up with my doctor this week. She’s delighted with my progress! I am free of the cast at night, but will continue to wear the surgical boot/brace by day. I’ve also started to walk with crutches. She wants me to continue the exercises and to begin to put about 25% of my weight on the foot. It’s painful to walk, but necessary for healing, so I’m following orders and looking forward to continued healing. I’ll be on crutches for two to three weeks, and if all continues to go well, I’ll be back in real shoes by early next year.

Fledgling Hummingbirds, Baby Squirrels and an Unexpected Pumpkin

I’ve been meaning to update you on the baby hummingbird we rescued in June. You can read the entire story here. After caring for her overnight, I drove the little darling to an animal rescue organization where they immediately placed her in round the clock foster care.  She thrived. Within a few weeks our fully fledged little Ana started her new life in the wild.

hummingbird in homemade nest

Temporarily fostering a baby hummingbird

I think I exhaled out loud once I knew she was okay. Hurray for second chances.

On the subject of second chances, check out this baby squirrel.

squirrel crouched with tomato

Baby squirrel enjoying a fresh tomato

We’re taking part in the occasional back yard release of urban squirrels who are either orphaned or injured before they can make it on their own. The first group of squirrels high-tailed it from our yard last fall without a backward glance.  This second group of six are staying closer to home. One in particular is incredibly trusting. I keep startling her when I round a corner at my usual brisk pace, only to find her nibbling on tomatoes.

squirrel with tomato

Holding a cherry tomato

I inwardly smile at my own double standards. I’ve been disappointed  in the past when squirrels eat the vegetable garden. It’s especially disheartening when they take one bite out of a pumpkin, leaving the rest to wither on the vine. Instead I snag the camera and happily watch her nosh away at the tomatoes while I point and click.

Two years ago, nasty squash bugs moved in. They arrived uninvited with family and friends in tow. Most of that year’s crop fell victim to the vermin. I harvested two surviving pumpkins, but the rest of the fruit succumbed to the ravages of that pest.

pumpkin with squash bugs

2013: Adult and juvenile squash bugs

Last year I moved the crop to our front deck so I could cleverly outsmart the little juice suckers. All seemed well until the plants set fruit. No amount of handpicking or pruning could slow down those squash bugs and again another crop went belly up.

pumkin with squash bugs and pantyhose

2014: Squash bugs ride again

This year I decided to skip planting altogether, hoping to send future generations of repulsive squash bugs packing. Then we entered year four of this punishing drought so I skipped planting anything all season.

This brings me back to the squirrels. I think they may have planted a pumpkin. Last fall I sheet mulched part of the lawn. At the edge of the path, an all-volunteer crop of tomatoes took root, circling a single pumpkin. They’re all happily growing in a dry dirt patch without a drop of water!

pumpkin and tomatoes

At first I refused to invest any emotional energy into a crop that would surely expire after the first heat wave. The pumpkin plant did indeed wilt, but then it  did something else: it pumped out one small, starting to turn orange pumpkin. Within a few days, the fruit shriveled and died, snapped clean off the vine. I left it there for future noshing and went about my business. What a tease!

Then this happened:

green pumpkin 2015

An as yet, undisturbed foot-long pumpkin

How can you ignore that?!

So I did what any self-respecting gardener would do: I encased the pumpkin in a leg of pantyhose.  I found a box of extra-large pantyhose on clearance at a local drugstore.

pantyhose for pumpkin

Just my (pumpkin’s) size

pumpkin under cover-001

Pumpkin secured inside the leg of a pair of pantyhose

pumpkin under cover

Dear rats, squirrels and other foraging critters, Please eat the tomatoes and leave the pumpkin. We only have one. Thank you, The Gardener

The ample material gave me plenty of wiggle room to cover the pumpkin and to allow it to continue to grow. I’m not the only one that hates pantyhose. Apparently that nylon irritates rats and squirrels as well. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Not that I care or anything.

Because…I don’t.

😉

A Scurry of Baby Squirrels

Did you know that a group of squirrels is a ‘scurry’? I had to look that up. A ‘dray’ of squirrels is also correct, but scurry fits the bill.

baby squirrels in box

Chip and Dale: A Twosome

Late last year a friend put me in touch with a squirrel rescue group, Injured and Orphaned Wildlife.  They take in orphaned squirrels and care for them till they are ready to be released into the wild. They’ve called me twice to make arrangements to release the squirrels in our back garden. They want to re-release the squirrels into neighborhoods with established squirrel populations. Yup, we qualify!

squirrel nesting box

Ann arrives with the nesting box

Ann came by Saturday morning and left a nesting box of six young squirrels. The first two darted out of the box and raced up the tree and over the fence. I watched for a while from our bedroom window. One of the squirrels left the box and ran up the fence, but the cat netting (a barrier we use to keep our cats safely inside the fence) confused him. Instead of running along the fence to freedom, he froze in place…for over ten minutes. Poor little thing.

squirrel hanging on to fence collage

I’m not budging till it’s safe

The remaining two or three kept us entertained all afternoon. They poked their heads out of the box, then jumped out. Back in they went, then out again.

squirrel on top of box

Finally, the braver of the two (or three, it was really hard to tell) climbed up the side of the compost netting, into the orange tree and up to the top.

squirrel in garden

I’ll just be on my way

By dusk there was only one squirrel left in the box and he didn’t want to leave. Ann said to bring the box off the ground once it got dark, so I moved him to higher ground and faced the box toward the fence. That seemed to be all he needed to leave his wooden home, and off he went exploring the garden.

We have hundreds of photos and video of these squirrels. I’ve pared it down to a respectable number to share. I feel like a first time mom hanging on to every precious little picture of her offspring.

squirrel eating cucumber

Nom-nom-nom…Ann brought some cucumber

squirrel eating cucumber in box

Bashful? Hiding behind a slice of cucumber

I’m also a little worried. These squirrels are used to people, though their rescuers do their best to keep them ‘wild.’ One of the six squirrels, however, is brave. Too brave. I’ve startled him twice (both times eating tomatoes) and he just glanced in my direction. He was breathing heavily, but he didn’t run away. I hope that part of it is simply the folly of youth. It’s not that I want them to be afraid of us, just that I know they need a certain savvy to make it in the wild.

In any event, all eyes were on the garden this weekend as we peered through windows and doors and occasionally ventured outside.  For the second time in a month I’ve had the enormous pleasure of interacting with nature. It’s extraordinary.

Just for Fun:

Mike propped his iPhone between two books and set the camera to time-lapse. This 28 second video is actually 28 minutes in real-time. No sound, just half a minute of crazy fun.

Crafty?

What do you think of my crafty idea? Should I enter it in the county fair?

squirrel nesting wreath

What am I?

It’s part mutant octopus, part over the top wreath. It might even show up on a Pinterest board entitled “Crafts Gone Terribly Wrong.”

So, can you guess what it is?

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Give up?

It’s part of my squirrel nesting experiment.  After destroying the slipcover in July, the squirrels returned to hand-pick the stuffing from the lining of the swing. I disguised the damage with a cotton shower curtain which only slowed them down. Now they carefully fold back the edge of the cover and continue to pluck the stuffing.

garden swing exposed stuffing

My sorry-looking garden swing

My experiment

I smoothed the curtain/cover over the exposed stuffing and placed two things on top:

The soft, exposed lining of the sunflower…

sunflower fluff

Exhibit A: Sunflower Fluff

The idea came to me this morning when I found a shredded sunflower head in the middle of the lawn. I couldn’t believe how soft it was. Maybe they’ll use the pulp for nesting.

…and my octopus wreath.

squirrel wreath

Exhibit B: Octopus wreath

My ‘wreath’ will not be entering any craft fairs, but with luck it will serve its purpose: Lining the squirrel’s nest.

Stay tuned.

Sunflowers in Art

Yesterday, Val at Nikitaland said “I love that flower painting on the glass as it makes a nice statement in the backyard, not to mention, I love how it adds instant color! I bet it looks beautiful when the sun hits it!” Thanks Val!

I tried capturing the light this morning with mixed success, but you can see why I hung the painting over the back of a trellis instead of the fence or wall. The sun pours through the glass window around ten in the morning. If I’m lucky enough to be home, I get to enjoy it.

sunlight through the window

Whitney Pintello: Reverse painted sunflower on salvaged window

Caught in the Act!

My apologies to the rats, crows and mice of the neighborhood.  You’ve all been unjustly blamed for the damage to my swing cover. Today this brazen squirrel continued her destruction.  Here she is: caught in the act!

squirrel Gathering nesting material

Gathering nesting material

squirrel on garden swing

Let me just put this back for you

She barely looked up when the camera flashed, then went back to the  business of chewing. She ran off when I stepped outside. I decided to cut my losses at that point, and pulled out what remained of the soft cord.  I draped it along the back of the swing, fairly sure she’d return when I turned my back.

I came back mid-afternoon after a few appointments and there she was again, this time under the swing. She’d pulled the cover half off. Rather than shredding the offered cord, she took the entire length back to her presumed nest. I’m sorry to have missed that photo opportunity.

My swing cover is beyond repair now. Perhaps the ‘silver lining’ is knowing that part of the cover will be keeping tiny squirrels warm and comfortable in a nearby tree.

Enjoying the 4th

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the States. My teenage boys have outgrown the 4th of July parade, so I’ve re-purposed all their 4th of July sparkle. I gathered the ribbons, pinwheels,and other bits of red, white and blue once used to adorn their bikes and added some bling to the garden.  Doesn’t the pumpkin patch look festive?

pumpkin patch 4th of July

Pumpkins, sunflowers and some 4th of July bling

4th of July decorations

Patriotic watering can

fairy garden candles

Fairy garden bling

It’s a funny thing celebrating American Independence Day when you’re a Canadian ex-patriot with a British father. I sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud. So in my heart I’ll celebrate independence for all the citizens of the world. Let freedom ring.

Retrospective: My Year of Squirrels

As the year winds down, I’ve decided to create a few retrospectives.

Without further ado I present: My Year of Squirrels

Sure, they can drive you nuts while they dig up your bulbs, but their cuteness more than makes up for it.

A Feast Fit For a Squirrel

squirrel in the fruit treeWhen you carve a lot of pumpkins, you end up with lots of pulp.  It smells divine!

We grow carving pumpkins, not known for their tasty flesh, so we usually scoop out the pulp, set aside some seeds, and compost the rest.  That’s how we got this season’s crop: via the composting bin.

On my way to the compost pile earlier this week with the pumpkin innards, I made a detour.  We have a nice clearing under the fruit tree, the perfect spot for snacking (if you’re a squirrel).  I dumped a big pile of pulp and seeds under the tree, figuring I could always move it elsewhere if there were no takers. Ha!

It’s been a busy week, so I temporarily forgot about it.  From the kitchen window on Thursday, a squirrel posed for me on the deck, but didn’t bother to wait for me to fetch my camera.  Not above a small bribe, I gathered a handful of raw almonds and headed out, camera in tow.  He performed some acrobatics in the tree, seen below diving to the lower branches before heading over the fence and away from view.

squirrel antics

“Flying” squirrel antics

I came back inside feeling a bit dejected, looked directly out the back door and did a mental head slap. While I was busy chasing a squirrel around the front yard, one of his friends was out back enjoying a feast.

squirrel eating pumpkin

Wow…this is good.

squirrel eating pumpkin

I know, I know…my diet starts tomorrow

I tiptoed outside, sat down in a chair, and snapped away. The visiting squirrel and I enjoyed the feast together and bonded over our mutual love of gardening. When he had his fill, he planted a couple of seeds on my behalf.

squirrel planting seeds

.I’ll plant this one over here…

squirrel planting seed

…and I’ll plant another one over here.

squirrel

Was that my phone or yours???

squirrel in tree

Sorry…I need to take this call.

squirrel in the garden

Gotta run. Thanks for the feast.

Cue the music: the circle of life.