Garden Social: If Only Squirrels Had Facebook

My favorite part of the holiday season is all the visiting. Friends stop by or invite you out for lunch or drinks. Calendars fill with parties and Facebook is abuzz with everyone’s photos.  It’s that wonderful social connection that makes us human.

Today, the sun came out and I noticed the socializing spilled over into the garden. I couldn’t make out all the conversations but the body language was pretty clear. We humans aren’t the only ones socializing. Wouldn’t it be great to have one of those Universal Translators from Star Trek so you could understand what the birds and four-legged critters had to say?

Three different squirrels raced around the pine tree, then disappeared into the neighbor’s yard for another peanut. It was hard to keep up.  At times they appeared to be chasing each other, but it wasn’t always clear.  There was very little squirrel chatter and trust me, when they have something to say, it spills forth loud and clear.  It was near impossible to capture the activity, and I’m wondering now why I didn’t take a video clip. I ended up with lots of shots of empty tree trunks.

Squirrel hide and seek

Squirrel hide…

Squirrel hide and seek

…and seek

Hummingbirds don’t seem to mind the rain, so we’ve seen them visiting the feeders all week.  It was more pleasant taking pictures, however, on a clear day.  A pair of hummers seemed to dance midair, less a courtship than a race to the feeder.

Hummers dancing

Hummers dancing

Our neighbor Roger stopped by with his adorable pooch, Freckles. Will you look at that face? Freckles had a few choice “words” for Mouse the neighborhood cat who also came over for a snack. Mouse is awfully brave most of the time, but he cleared the deck for Freckles.

Freckles the Dog

Freckles, why are you licking your lips?

Kitty has something to say

Oh no! Not that dog again!

Garden snails were playing hide and seek under the strawberry plants and a tiny slug figured out the best hiding place ever: inside a peanut shell, dropped through the hole of a garden pot.

Slug in a peanut

Hide and seek in a peanut shell

As kids we too loved to play hide-and-seek or chase for hours.  We stayed out in the cold, teeth chattering.  We didn’t want to risk going home for a coat, only to be called in for the night. They say play is the work of children. I would like to add that the garden is the playground for all creatures.

I’m off to see if one of those squirrels left a Facebook status update.

Gardening Nirvana’s Creed: Patience, Optimism and Determination


Sweet-faced Pansy

To garden is to fail. It’s not a bad thing. You learn to flex your patience, optimism, and determination.

So it goes this week with bulbs.

This is my new gardening creed:

P – Patience
O – Optimism
D – Determination


Planting bulbs requires patience, not because they are difficult, but because you wait so long to see the results. It’s worth it. You can forget they’re there after a long, cold winter. Then spring rolls around and you see magic everywhere. Shiny green growth pushes up the soil, with a spectacular show of color to follow. It’s like a surprise party throughout the garden.


Last month I planted a dozen pansies, interspersed with snowdrops bulbs. I liked the idea of companion planting. We would enjoy these sweet flowers now, and the stunning white flowers in the spring. With luck, I might even have a bit of crossover. Pretty exciting, right?

I added a rough-textured mulch to some of the plants. I used what I had, left over from another project, but didn’t have enough to cover them all The squirrels moved in. They dug up the bulbs, and either ate them or moved them to a secret spot.


Determined squirrels go after what they want. I needed to match that determination, and raise it a notch. So, back to the garden center for another bag of mulch, more bulbs and a positive attitude.  I doubled down, too, buying 30 bulbs this time around, instead of the 10 or so I started with. All the snow drops sold out, so instead I bought a bag of crocus mix. I’ve had good luck with them in the past, which is to say, the squirrels don’t like them or can’t find them.  I’m hedging my bets, too, planting them in a variety of undisclosed spots. If you run into a squirrel, mum’s the word.

Garden Helpers

Garden Helpers
Jazzy’s Day Care Children Lend a Hand

Busy Hands

Busy Hands

Blooming Thursday: Squirrel Candy?

Pansy in profileWhile my tulip bulbs are having a good chill in the crisper, I planted a few snowdrops. I only had ten, so I alternated bulbs between pansies in three narrow pots along the walkway. What beautiful displays I would have come spring.

Normally I add a layer of organic mulch, but in my never-ending quest to discourage snacking squirrels, I covered at least half of the pots with rough pea-gravel. I used what I had on hand, left over from a summer project. How I wish I had gone out to buy more!

pea gravelIt was a good, though unintended experiment I suppose.Those rascally squirrels dug up all the bulbs in the soft mulch pots. There was nothing stealth about that heist. They left gaping holes, scattered dirt and a disappointed gardener. The gravel-covered bulbs, however, are still untouched.

PansyPerhaps there is something to the rough texture of the gravel or the extra weight.  Maybe it detracts from smell of the tender bulbs buried below.  For now, its working.  Who knows?  Perhaps they dug up the bulbs, so they could hide them somewhere else.  I’ll have to wait for spring before I know.  I’m pretty sure they ate them.

Squirrel in the pine treeThe tulips have been in the fridge since early October.  I’ll plant them in mid-November while the squirrels have their backs turned.  This time I’ll be sure to stock up on scratchy gravel ahead of time.  Alternatively, I’ll purchase large bags of peanuts as a peace-offering, leaving mounds of them on top of the precious bulbs.  It just might work!

Are you planting bulbs this year?

Told Off by a Squirrel

Have you ever been told off by a squirrel? They’re not shy about letting you know how they feel.  They stand their ground, swishing their ample tails in a circular motion, while building a vocal crescendo. It starts with short, shrill bursts, almost a scream, then progresses to a long bark.  I’ve heard them telling each other off many a time, but today they directed it at me.  The only thing I wanted to take was a picture, but clearly he perceived a threat.

squirrel crossing

Telling me off

When I stepped outside there were three gray squirrels on the lawn, alternately burying peanuts and chasing each other away from their private stash. They scattered into the trees, then raced around and around the pine tree in what looked like a frenzied game of  chase.  Eventually they peeled off, one by one.  I thought they were gone.

squirrel in the pine tree

Squirrel in the Pine Tree

One reappeared on the fence, with another peanut in his mouth and began his vocal tirade. I don’t know how he managed to make so much noise with his teeth clamped down around the peanut.

Our neighbors to the left feed the squirrels fistfuls of peanuts every day. The little rodents are so brazen, they’ll come in her back door and help themselves.

The gray squirrels in our area don’t hibernate due to the mild climate. But with the cooler weather, they ramp up their activity, squirreling away nuts and seeds all over our back yard. Clearly I was an impediment to that progress.

squirrel in the tree

Squirrel Crossing

During the summer months, I found shells on the patio table and on the seat of one of our chairs. I rarely saw the squirrel in action, but apparently he stuffed his cheeks with the nuts, then sat down at my table to eat them. He left without bothering to clean up.

I think it’s time I shake my own ample tail to let him know what I think of his manners.

Halloween Countdown

tower 'o pumpkins

Tower ‘O Pumpkins

Squirrels: They’re back!

In early June I planted a row of sunflower seeds along the front deck. Within a week they were gone, consumed by our neighborhood squirrels. I planted a second batch, this time indoors, but the transplants were leggy. Refusing to give up, I came up with a barrier, heretofore known as the screen saver, and planted one last time. They took!  Within 90 days we had a beautiful row of six-foot sunflowers.

Last year the flowers went completely to seed on the plant. I saved a handful of seeds, then placed the flower heads along the garden wall for the squirrels. It was fun watching them nibble away.  I love watching those cute little “hands” busy at work. They polished off the sunflower seeds in a matter of days.

This year the squirrels took matters into their own hands. Not known for their manners, they simply bent (or broke) the stems till they reached the deck and helped themselves.

I’m always amazed at their ingenuity. Wild bird centers are full of gadgets to deter squirrels from bird feeders, but those clever squirrels figure it out. When it involves nuts or seeds, squirrels are up for the challenge.

I finally caught two of them in the flower-bending act this week. Did I shoo them away?  Of course not! I grabbed the camera instead.

squirrel eating sunflower seeds

Mmmm…not half bad.

squirrel eating sunflowers

Hey!  I want some too.

squirrel standing tall

This buffet line is taller than I remember it last year.

squirrel hide and seek

Shhhh! Pretend I’m not here.

squirrel with stem

Let me just…break off…this annoying stem.

squirrel with sunflower

That’s more like it!

running squirrel

I’m out of here. I’ll be back once you’ve cleaned up this mess.

California tree squirrels are either Gray or Fox. Here is a side by side comparison.

A Walk Through the (Ransacked) Garden


We discovered the clues one by one.

We uncovered them in perfect order.

On the same day we toured the Winchester Mystery House, my friend Laura and I had an impromptu mystery party in my back yard.

We were in the garden to check out the pumpkins and I noticed our flattened beach ball.  We’d tossed the ball around the yard for weeks, so I was puzzled to see it completely deflated. On further inspection, it was full of small puncture holes.

Punctured Beach Ball

I’ve read that rats will chew on anything to get water, even beams in an attic. Apparently they decided to have a drink at the expense of the beach ball. Darn rats!

Laura then looked over my shoulder and exclaimed, “What happened!?”

Across from the vegetable garden, half of the baby tears had been folded back on themselves, along the rock wall. Neighborhood squirrels must have been looking for buried nuts. We flipped back the layers, watered and tamped the plants into place. Darn squirrels!

“Oh no!” Laura yelled, sounding even more concerned. Our next clue! A corner of our new lawn was now a muddy mess. Layers of sod also folded back on itself. Laura mentioned that crows will dig up grass to unearth the worms and grubs below.  It made perfect sense.  I see a pair of crows each morning outside my kitchen window, eating worms they’ve pulled up out of the grass. Apparently they moved on to a new patch of grass. Darn crows!

Muddy sod

Together we patted down the sod as best we could, then headed inside to wash our hands when I saw one last clue:  perfect little raccoon prints leading from the grass to the fountain. The marauder probably stopped at the fountain to wash his muddy hands. Darn raccoon!

It’s a good thing this wasn’t a court of law, as I had mentally tried and convicted rats, squirrels and crows, before discovering the unmistakable hand-like prints of the raccoon.

Can’t you just picture the little line up at the county jail?


Mystery Solved: It’s a Squirrel’s Nest

Peanut Tester

I photographed a nest last month, high up in the orange tree.  There was no sign of activity so I  assumed it belonged to a nocturnal mama, most likely an opossum.  This week, purely by chance, I looked up to see a squirrel enter the nest.  How I wished I had my camera!  I’m fascinated by what looks like a paper bag at the bottom of the nest.  I’ll have to dig out some binoculars so I can get a peek without getting any closer than I already have.  It’s such a compliment when nests appear in your garden.

According to A Squirrel Place, “Squirrels are usually born in the early spring. The average litter consists of four. This varies with climate and location.”

What have you seen nesting this spring?

Squirrel Nest: March 25, 2012

Squirrel Nest: April 19, 2012