On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…


Squirrel (Photo credit: Kenny Teo (zoompict))

No, I’m not even smarter than the local squirrels.

Last year I wrote (and whined) a lot about the squirrels who were stealing my tomatoes. I had two little plants and was so proud when the little green fruit started to show up. But one by one, before any of them could get larger than a golf ball, they disappeared. After searching the internet and picking the brain of every experienced gardener I knew, I narrowed down the usual suspects to squirrels. I went to the local hardware/lumber/garden/everything store where the resident expert sold me some pellets that were supposed to repel all comers, but the tomatoes continued to disappear.

As the season drew to a close, I finally picked a 2” red tomato that wasTwo Inch Tomato disappointingly tasteless and a handful of green tomatoes that I breaded in Louisiana Fish Fry and soaked in hot grease until they were a beautiful golden brown. They upset my stomach. A less than stellar season, but my cayenne and Anaheim peppers were successful enough to encourage me to try again this year.

I started well enough. I lost 2 of 12 plants within the first couple of days, but the remaining 10 thrived and bloomed. I staked and fed and watered, and the tomatoes came. And they stayed – for a while. I guess the squirrels were still working on their winter stash of acorns. Then the tomatoes started to disappear. One or two at first, so I wasn’t completely sure any were missing. Then the thief got bolder, taking more and leaving no doubt of his crime.

I didn’t waste any time. I went straight to Hooten’s, bought some netting, hammered “tent” stakes into the ground, and draped the endangered plants. It worked – for a while.

Sunday morning we came home from church and there was a squirrel – inside the tent – chomping on a big green tomato. Needless to say, I wasn’t pleased. I screamed and stomped and the squirrel went ballistic, dodging between rows of tomatoes, trying to find an exit. After he made his getaway, I found the weakness and fortified the perimeter.

After dinner, I went out to water. There, sitting on one of the boards that secured the netting to the ground, was my biggest tomato with four bit bites out of the top of it. That little furry-tailed rat was taunting me! I closed the gaps again the best I could and went in the house and cried on David’s shoulder.

Obviously we needed more netting. The plants and their supporting stakes were tall enough that there wasn’t enough material left to secure it to the ground properly. Monday morning we went out to rearrange what we had in a way that would protect the plants until we could get to the store.

All was well when we left for lunch, but we stayed at the Center longer than usual, and of course, we had to stop at Hooten’s on the way home. We got home around 4:00 pm, and the first thing I saw when we pulled into the driveway was a half-eaten tomato lying about 10 feet from the garden. Several smaller victims lay scattered inside the tent, and the center plant was lying on its side.

I sighed in resignation and went inside to fix dinner. David reassured me that the raids were probably over for the day and promised to help me construct a new shelter first thing Tuesday morning.

It wasn’t a graceful undertaking. The pieces of net are 14’x14’, and they kept snagging on the support poles which are mostly thin branches taken from the dead trees David has been cutting down. In addition, we had to be careful not to step on the row of peppers on one side and the row of okra on the other. We finally managed to remove the original netting, shore up the sagging stakes and plants, and reconstruct the tent. There was plenty of surplus material on the ground, and we secured the circumference with end-to-end rocks and boards, double stacking in areas that looked a little vulnerable. We poked and prodded to check for weaknesses and left for lunch feeling confident that our crop was safe.

What can I say. The squirrel is smarter than we are. When we got home, there was half of a larger green tomato sitting right in the middle of the tomato patch. It was the ultimate locked door mystery. We poked and prodded some more and couldn’t find anywhere he could have gotten in or out. David checked later and said there was a place where the two pieces of netting overlapped by several feet. He said it was possible the squirrel had made his way down the “corridor” between the two and come back out the same way.  David closed the gap and, although he hasn’t carried through yet, threatened to pull up a chair and guard the garden with his pellet gun.

The good thing is that the tomatoes are prolific and, in spite of the pilferage, there are lots left. Maybe the squirrel will take pity and leave us a few. All I want is enough for a nice salad, maybe a sandwich or two, and a couple of jars of salsa. Is that too much to ask?



Comments on: "Am I Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? | by Linda Brendle" (7)

  1. I feel your pain but have no answers except you could move to Las Vegas. No squirrels in our garden and our meager two pots of tomato plants are surviving, so far. We harvested one delicious, although small, tomato. It’s not much, but it beats our efforts in Arkansas.

  2. First off, I’m not in the least bit a professional gardener. I only help my dad in our garden, and he gives me tips and advice when we’re working. But I was wondering, have you thought about trapping the squirrel? You could set up the trap (with a few tomatoes inside to entice the greedy little stinker) somewhere close to your tomato plants. And, if you catch the squirrel, you can release him several miles away from your home. Some friends of mine did that with a raccoon that was bothering them, and they haven’t had any problems since. 🙂

    • Anna, your suggestion would be a great one if there were only one squirrel. Unfortunately, we live on 2.3 acres that has, at last count, around 80 trees along with too many squirrels to count. We’d need a really big trap!! Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a nice comment.

  3. Hmm… yeah, that does throw a monkey wrench in my suggestion. 😛
    Someone online suggested setting out dried corn cobs, nuts, and sunflower seeds for the squirrels. They said that if you keep the squirrels busy with other food then they will usually leave your tomatoes alone.
    Someone else suggested getting a cat, but I don’t know if that’s something you would want to take care of.
    Well I hope you get enough tomatoes for your salad, sandwich, and salsa. I wish I could try some of that salsa! 🙂

  4. Donna Wheeler said:

    Ahhh…the joys of gardening. 🙂 Hang in there, and enjoy each red treasure that makes it through the war. 😉

    • Thanks, Donna. We’re visiting David’s mom this week. I fully expect the vines to be stripped by the time we get home. Oh well, as my sis-in-law says, squirrels gotta eat too. Happy 4th!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: