Of squirrels and men
I hate squirrels. None of my friends understand how I would want to swerve the car and hit them, so I don’t. But still, I hate squirrels. It’s not that I am an awful person and I need PETA to come over, but squirrels bug me in the same way pigeons bother some people. The squirrels are freeloaders looking for handouts in my backyard.
Fuzzy, gray and twitchy, the squirrels stake out the pool. Flitting and twitching, this one walks forward to the very cement edge then steps onto the floating solar warmer. The squirrel is going for a ride in the pool. Another squirrel twitches and thwacks its way along the fence, jumps the apple tree, picks a ripe apple and jumps to the edge of the 9 foot Palapa, apple clenched in teeth. I can see them from my window. The squirrel is eating the apple at the roof peak. It hears the door and runs off, leaving the apple poised at the very peak like a cherry on top.
Sometimes they just sample the apples. A bite here and a bite there, which ruins the apples.
I don’t miss one apple, I don’t mind one float in the pool, but clearing hundreds of almonds from my tree like a pack of locusts and stripping every walnut just before they are ripe … I am done with the squirrels. I even stopped planting tomatoes in the back because they always get to them before I do.
Sure, I have a dozen chickens, and there is food thrown around which invites pests, but the squirrels have invaded my garden of earthly delights.
Yesterday, a handyman came over to do some work. When he was done, he mentioned my Italian Cypress as a pest haven for rats and squirrels. 50 bucks and the tree could be gone!
I love cash deals!
He climbed up in full gear and cut limbs in a spiral, then roped himself up further, cut, rope, cut, rope. 10 feet up and he found a squirrel’s nest. It was conical, made of pieces of pool filter, twine, fur, bark, cypress, underwear, tulle from a party I had 4 years ago, and cushion matting. It was an elaborate pouch, but no babies. In it I found a hand-crocheted flower that must have fallen off a sweater. At least the squirrel had good taste.
Tree man assured me it was too early for babies and kept climbing. Way up, he found another nest. It was bigger and softer than the other one. Suddenly the top of the tree swayed and a fat squirrel leapt from the tree tip, over the apple tree and missed the Palapa. Tree man looked at me with dread. He was at arms length from the top of the squirrel nest and three quarters up the tree. He moved the rope higher, dug his shoes into the trunk and reached blindly into the nest. It was filled with warm, wiggly things.
He said, “I can’t tell you what to do with them, but I won’t drop them.”
Slowly, with climbing gear, a chain saw hanging off his belt, hand saws dangling, he cradled the nest in one hand moved the safety rope down one step at a time over the tree limbs. It seemed impossible. It was a task a Ranger or a Navy SEAL could do, certainly not a regular guy. Each cypress limb grows at a 20* angle, which is just the right angle to catch the rope all the way down. He got to the ground and handed it to me. I looked into it, nothing. He said, “Put your hand in there and feel around.” I looked at him like he was nuts, but I did it. One, Two, Three tiny hairless heads. I didn’t know what to do. I hate them, but I don’t hate them in a killer way.
The cardboard recycle had boxes, so I placed the nest inside one and surrounded it with cypress greens. He said the mom could get them if we put them in another tree. Yeah, at 5’2 and fat, I am not exactly in shape to bound up a tree like a tree nymph. He saw my dismay. Tree man walked to the back of my property, scoped out a tree and secured the box. He said cats wouldn’t get them and the mom would smell them.
I felt pretty good about it. I thought of calling UC Davis, but didn’t.
Sure enough, in the morning, my husband went out to check on the chickens. The startled momma squirrel heard him and bolted out of the box. By noon when I peeked over to see how things were going, the babies were gone. Momma moved them and no trace of where.
I’ve decided not to hate the squirrels anymore. They like my yard just as much as I do, and why not, the garden of earthly delights has always been too good to resist.