Friday, 18 September 2009

Jennifer v's Squirrel

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I have a fig tree. It doesn't grow much but it repays all the care we give it with a bounty of figs. This year there are another two dozen and with the cold, rainy summer we've had, they are big but are ripening slowly. The tree sits against the concrete wall of our building facing west to get the maximum dose of sunshine and heat. And while September has been beautiful, with warm sunny days, it is cool at night, down to 10C already.
I watch the figs turn deep purple and soften, then I pluck them. Our first harvest was two figs and there was another ripening.

Next morning, when I went to check on its progress I found it, scattered in pieces, across the deck - a squirrel!

My first encounter with squirrels was over 30 years ago, in the park that surrounds Hampton Court Palace outside of London. They were reddish brown and I thought they were cute, blame Walt Disney.
We have garden destroyers in Australia, just mention possums to my mother, but no squirrels.
Even when I first arrived in Canada I still thought the squirrels frolicking around the provincial parliament buildings were sweet,  although they were a dull black and grey and not half as cute as those English squirrels. And yes, I admit I fed them nuts.

Now, after years of having them dig up my plants, bury nuts in my planters, and steal tomatoes and figs, I detest them. I think about a big pot of Brunswick stew every time I see one. What is stopping me from making the stew? No gun and I think it might be illegal to kill them.  Up early one morning I went out onto the deck with my coffee and met my enemy face to face - a black squirrel. He looked right at me with his beady eyes and I attacked him with the water spritzer already primed. He scurried away, leaving another half eaten fig behind. I thought I'd scared him off and several days of tranquility ensued, then he struck again.

The answer, I'd thought, was to bring the tree in at nights, since he made dawn raids and put it out again late morning. Then, after a dinner,  I went out to cover up barbecue and discovered the pesky devil had made a daring early evening raid.

Squirrel 3, Jennifer & Haralds 5.

Although we've enjoyed more figs than this rodent with a bushy tail, I'd had enough. If he ate the figs and enjoyed them it wouldn't be quite so bad. Think, a squirrel liver fattened on figs - if the Egyptians did it with waterfowl, perhaps I could do it with a squirrel. But instead he took a bite or two of the ripest fig, then left it all over the deck for me to clean up.

After a day of rushing out to the deck every time I heard a noise, I realised that this behaviour was not advancing my writing projects, so I had to try another tack. I've now draped plastic dry cleaning bags over my tree, not very attractive, but it seems to be working.

Even better, they are creating a makeshift green house environment  helping to ripen the remaining figs. Maybe I should thank the squirrel?
Perhaps, but I will continue to explore the idea of electrifying the edge of our deck and searching for the best Brunswick stew recipe.
And if I see him again he is in for a soaking.


Sally said...

What about a garlic or citronella spray?? Does work at times with the possums of Melbourne - environmentally friendly and would let you enjoy the look of the tree rather than the dry cleaning plastic!!

Christopher Campbell said...

Aww, the Canadian squirrel, devilishly clever bastards! I've found cayanne pepper helps, if not satisfying to watch them eat it!

All the best,


Susan @ SGCC said...

I have the same problem. It's maddening! I like the idea of covering the tree with plastic, but my trees are in ground and kind of big. If you come up with a way to deter those critters, I'll be very interested!

Jennifer said...

Not sure I want my figs to taste of garlic or citronella. I've tried cayenne and chile powder, neither worked. Downtown squirrels are used to spicy ethnic food!

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