Son of Scratchy

My dad loved to feed the birds. He even made a special pole-mounted feeder to discourage the tree squirrels from eating all the bird seed. He also fed his squirrels to keep them away from the feeder. At least, that was the excuse he used. I suspect he really just had a soft spot for them.

When I lived on a farm, he would come down every year after the field corn was harvested and glean the missed ears from the field. He put them in boxes, and used the dried corn to feed His Squirrels all winter. Dad really knew how to glean corn, since he had grown up on a farm back in the days when corn harvesting wasn’t as efficient as it is today (think horses and mules). Gleaning every last bit of corn was important to maximize the harvest.

In this case, it meant food for his furry little friends. Dad had one squirrel who would even come up to the storm door and scratch on it, begging for food. I swear I am not making this up. I saw it with my own two eyes! He named it Scratchy.

I have a confession to make – I don’t share my dad’s love of squirrels, at least not the ones that raid our feeders and gardens. Our county extension educator refers to them as “rats with good PR”. In MG classes we heard horror stories of the damage squirrels can inflict on homes. And I have friends who finally gave up their urban vegetable gardens because they got tired of fighting the squirrels. They are particularly hard on tomatoes, often taking one bite out of an almost-ripe fruit and then leaving the rest of it to rot. One time I watched a squirrel with a big tomato in its mouth doing a balancing act on overhead utility wires. It wound up losing its grip and the tomato fell to the street below with a bit SPLAT.

So far I have not had problems with the squirrels eating veggies or fruit. They mostly help themselves to the bird feeders, though I did have one who kept digging up succulents I had planted in a shallow bowl. I have no idea what the attraction was there, since they didn’t eat the plants.

squirrel raiding bird feeder

squirrel raiding bird feeder

I doubt we’ll see the squirrels leave anytime soon. There’s no real shortage of them, for one thing. Plus we have one neighbor with a large pecan tree in the yard and another that feeds them corn. So at best I am fighting a battle of containment. I don’t want them to be complacent when they visit Happy Acres. They might decide to go after our tomatoes some day if they get too comfy here.

Oh no - here He comes again!

Oh no – I hear Him coming!

So every time I see them I do my best to shoo them off. I want them to think of me as a wild-eyed Mr McGregor, waving my arms and yelling at them. I don’t want to get on a first name basis with them. And yes, I know they do perform some valuable ecological services like dispersing seeds and nuts and such. Tell that to my pals with the missing tomatoes!

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10 Responses to Son of Scratchy

  1. Well, Mr. McGregor…
    I think you have a great approach. Resign yourself to them eating bird seed and don’t worry until they start in on your tomatoes. Then you can run at them like Mr. McGregor with a hoe (or was it a rake)?

  2. I guess I’ve been lucky that our squirrels have never bothered anything in my garden. They seem to find the neighbor’s English walnut trees more to their liking, and only use my garden fence as a safe path to the branches. They do, however, bury walnuts all through my flower beds, and I am constantly on the lookout for trees to pull before they become too enormous.

  3. Oh dear, I’m rather like your Dad! Squirrels can be pesky critters. In our first house we had a lovely shade garden, somewhat Japanese style, and had a bird feeder hanging from a tree near the birdbath. One morning I got up, and found the feeder half buried in the dirt. Said squirrel had chewed through the hanger. I purchased coated steel cable, figuring the squirrel would need to dentist if it bit through that. A week or so later, the feeder was in the dirt again. Like your Dad, I caved, and spent a couple of hours in the garage with some scrap bits of wood, and built a squirrel corn feeder (for the dried cobs). I nailed it to a tree far away from the feeders, and as long as I kept the corn stocked, they left the bird seed alone. If I saw the feeder back in the dirt…I knew I’d forgotten to restock the corn cobs. I know they can be damaging to gardens, but you do have to somewhat admire their tenacity and stubborness!

    • Villager says:

      Tenacity and stubborness? Sounds like I may be part squirrel! I do keep water available in summer, which I think is what they’re after when they get into tomatoes.

      Of course I DID take time to grab my camera before I shooed this one off! 😉

  4. I still remember the time, as a teenager, I saw a squirrel climbing a telephone pole with a big red tomato in its mouth! We are surrounded by woods and have plenty of squirrels. But not as many as we use to. We now have resident hawks who keep the squirrel population thinned. I also put my vegetable and herb gardens close to the fenced-in dog lot. Lily, our collie mix, will bark at most critters that get too close.

  5. Thomas says:

    That’s actually a really interesting looking squirrel. They aren’t so orange where we are.

    “Rats with good PR”…that’s really funny…I like that just as much as “Rats with cuter outfits.”

    I didn’t know that squirrels have a taste for tomatoes. Yikes.

  6. Meredith says:

    Rats with good PR, LOL. I admit to getting a little frustrated when the squirrels bother my bird feeder (especially as they broke the one that used to attach to the kitchen window, leaping on it from a distance until it gave in December). But as long as they don’t go for the tomatoes, I’ll be fine. My sister and brother-in-law had this problem with the tomatoes two years ago, and it was just heart-breaking. One huge, nasty bite out of every tomato on a plant, I saw it with my own eyes, and it got so bad they couldn’t let any fruit vine ripen.

    But I suspect the reason we are generally spared is that we have two cats: one who is lazy and fat and lays around the garden paths looking dark and threatening, and the other who is a darned good predator and has already killed two squirrels this year (that we know of, these were the “gift” presentations on the front porch). 😉

    Loved picturing your Mr. MacGregor act. Your dad sounds like a softhearted soul. 🙂

  7. We have a lack of squirrels over here! There has become such a demand for them from restaurants, that the greys are pretty much dead when they venture into the cold light of day. The reds are obviously are rare as hen’s teeth.

    The Red Squirrel Preservation Society (I think that’s what they’re called) had a guy that went around culling the greys. I read an interview with him and he said a few years ago he was culling a thousand a day; now he’s down to around 100 a week.

    Never tasted one yet, but I’m told they’re a bit like duck. Apparently they’re not too heavy on the meat either!

    • Villager says:

      I have had squirrel years ago,and I think duck would be a good comparison. Pretty tasty baked with a little gravy on them, though I guess Meredith’s cat likes them a bit rarer! Thanks for stopping by.

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