This battle-this war-between me and squirrels, started a year ago last spring. The apricot tree brimmed with golden yellow fruit. The proud gardener I am, every morning I ventured into the orchard, nosed around the clusters of fruit hanging from the branches, my anticipation building as the fruits of my labor gradually began to give with the gentle presssure of my fingers.
“By the end of the day,” I said, admiring the promising bumper crop glistening in the sunny dew of the morning.
I came home that afternoon and the tree was bare. Branches that had supported hundreds of happily dangling apricots only hours earlier now destitute. Leaves hung torn, like tattered sails in the aftermath of a hurricane. Every last apricot looted, burgled.
By who? Or rather, by what?
The culprits left clues. At the trunk, mushy remains of molested apricots lay scattered in the grass. On closer inspection, I noticed something odd. Several apricots were missing the stone.
A few weeks later something plundered the plum tree. Mortally wounded purple victims lay at the base of the tree, and again, absent the stone.
Then peaches-and more clues. Claw marks in mangled Albertas -void of the the pit.
What would leave the fruit in favor of the pit?
Squirrel. Squirrels store nuts. But apricot, plum and peach pits?
I put up a scarecrow. I bought one of those plastic scare hawks. I threw nets over the nectarine trees, discouraging but not entirely effective.
And then, mid-August, I peeked out the kitchen window and there it was, mayhem with a furry tail, munching away beneath the almond tree.
With me and three large dogs in hot pursuit, it scurried off. My neighbor, hearing the barking amid my Elmer Fudd-like antics of kicking shells and throwing driveway gravel into the orchard, brought over a cage trap. We’d catch the little bugger and release it in a city park.
I came home the next afternoon. The scoundrel stood on its hind legs atop the trap, using it as a step stool to reach the low hanging nuts.
I fumed. Eeeew, You waskally squirrel. I was ready to go to Walmart and buy a 22.
So that’s what happened last summer. Over the winter my neighbor caught several squirrels with the cage-baited with black walnuts and were we were confident we had seen the last of the furry foragers.
This spring, they were back, mobilized in full force. The army’s first assault, my apricot tree. Every last one, in a single day.
Like the commercial, this had gotten personal. If they were to deny me apricot cobbler again this spring, I’d have squirrel pot pie instead.
I drove down the hill to the feed store, bought my own trap, and grabbed a handful of walnuts. Too late to save the apricots, but the varmint got greedy-and got caught in the cage. After a night in jail, and occasionally taunted by Kingston, my Golden Retriever, I set the furry filcher free at a not-so-nearby park.
He has been joined by another half-dozen of his cohorts over the summer. And since the Fourth of July, there’s been no sign of squirrels. The freezer is filled with peaches, a delivery to the food bank with the surplus crop is on the chore list next weekend, and my neighbor and I are confident we’ve seen the last of the furry foragers… until next spring…