Our orange tree produces fragrant blossoms, shelter for the squirrels and mediocre fruit. Unless of course you’re a roof rat. The last time my son climbed that tree at dusk he encountered a rat. He hasn’t been up the tree since. I’ve never actually seen them in action, but every morning I find half a dozen perfectly hollowed oranges littering the ground. The rats are probably out there as I type this, peeling an orange and getting high on vitamin C. When the party is over, they could at least have the decency to clean up after themselves!
It’s a busy week! Since I can’t sew and plant and take pictures all day long, I fit things in when I can. Yesterday I pre-washed my garden swing upholstery fabric (goodbye sizing, hello softness) and today set up the ironing board. I had about ten minutes to plot my pattern strategy, also known as winging it, when I heard rustling in the orange tree. I thought I might catch a glimpse of the squirrel entering or exiting the nest but no luck. (They are probably out front trying to outsmart my screen saver).
After three minutes of neck-craning, I ran inside for the camera. A powerful camera lens trumps my aging eyesight any day of the week. Camera in hand, I still couldn’t make it out! Was it a bird nesting or eating? I caught a glimpse of gray and wondered if the mourning doves were back. We don’t see them as often as we used to, and in this month of crow mating season, they are even scarcer. Whatever was up there was clearly enjoying a long drink of orange juice.
Sated, the gray one made its move. Methinks a rat..or a mouse…or a rat. In broad day light! Shouldn’t they be sleeping in the middle of the day instead of snacking on oranges?
Is this a young rat or a grown mouse? Take this short quiz and let me know what you think. I got 10 out of 12 correct, but I’m still undecided.
A critter built a sizable nest at the top of our orange tree using twigs and sticks to support her family. Given the size, I’m wondering if a family of squirrels plans to move in. Opossums are another possibility. I’ve not had the chance to research the style of the nest, and I haven’t seen any “traffic” to indicate who might be up there.
I’m fascinated by nests, and the resourcefulness of the resident builder. I hope she reveals herself in the weeks to come.
Who do you think built this nest?
I’ve gardened in the rain and cold until my fingers were numb. I’ve gardened at dusk till feasting mosquitoes drove me indoors. I’ve even gardened in the mid-day heat, keeping the tormenting sun at bay with hats and sunscreens and moveable umbrellas. But I’ve never gardened after dark.
“Dark” is subjective of course. It’s that time of day when I reluctantly turn my garden over to the other side. If I’m outside too late, Dark reveals opossums, meandering along the fence. Frankly, they give me the creeps. I once encountered one on my pathway late at night, walking straight for me. I froze in place, but it ignored me and meandered on.
Raccoons also visit the yard, playing in the fountain and on one occasion, tapping on the cat door. The rats don’t always wait for Dark. They rustle around in the orange tree reminding me to pack up my tools and head on in. Dark is just around the corner.
Spiders, a gardeners friend, have cousins that prefer to wait for Dark. They live under the BBQ and below the eaves. They don’t make a sound, adding to the creepiness factor, but I know they’re there.
I’ve found myself racing the setting sun, trying to pull one more weed before night falls, trying to prune one last vine. I become a little obsessed with the work at hand and I’m reluctant to stop. In the summer months it’s usually too hot to garden by day. My fair skin prefers the damp mists of Avalon to the sunny climate of San Jose. Since I live in the suburbs and not a mystical novel I’m forced to make do. So I race that setting sun while acknowledging the inevitable. My garden is harmless by day, but like the closet of my youth, with the flip of the light switch, all bets are off.