When I was a little girl, (a long time ago) we rarely saw squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, etc. I think there had been an epidemic of distemper that destroyed a lot of smaller wild animals. At any rate, it was a treat if we happened to see any small wildlife around the farm.
We often saw skunks, porcupines, etc. which were pests to be avoided, but we were delighted to see the occasional rabbit that hopped into our yard and I would panic when our German Shepherd, Silver, went after them and sent them scrambling. Perhaps that is why I loved seeing little critters in my yard. It seemed like such a thrill when I was a child.
Now we have an abundance. They have been enjoying my garden since we lost our golden retriever, Winchester, to old age. He used to keep our yard and garden safe from the little predators who loved my fresh veggies.
Let me tell you about my private war with five gray squirrels who have discovered that a fresh supply of black oil sunflower seeds, is just what they need to have a happy home in our giant Hungarian spruce tree in the front yard. But we need to go back a little, I should start with the cute little red squirrel who kept me company last Summer.
Since I don't get out and about, very well any more, I spent a lot of sunny days on my front deck, right beside that beautiful tree. At first I thought the little creature was a chipmunk, but realized the difference after a few days. Mr. Red Squirrel, loved to sit on the deck railing and chatter at me while I was enjoying my book. When I mentioned him to my children, they said I'd better watch him or he'd be in the house chewing on the wiring. However, he was really cute and seemed pretty innocent. I'm not exactly sure, what happened, but he disappeared. (My kids wouldn't have disposed of him without telling me would they??)
At any rate, we all know that this 2015 Winter, has been long and cold, and I had no need to get outside; so I spent a lot of time in a very comfortable chair, right beside my kitchen window, where I can read my books, watch the birds at the feeder, the cattle and horses across the road and the limited amount of traffic that goes by on House Road in the Winter.
One day I noticed a big fat Gray squirrel who would run across the railing and jump easily onto the big wooden feeder, or the hanging wire feeder and eat until he was full. Then with stuffed cheeks he would disappear into the tree.
I still had an abundance of birds who didn't seem to mind sharing; there were the finches, the Juncos, all kinds of sparrows, Mourning Doves, Woodpeckers, Blue Jays and, of course, dozens of Chickadees. It was costing a lot for birdseed and they didn't seem to like anything but the black oil seeds, but I decided the enjoyment I got from bird and Mr. Gray Squirrel watching, was worth it.
Then in early March, I realized the feeders were going down really fast, and one day I saw two squirrels feeding at the same time.
Now one squirrel looks pretty much like another so I decided that there must have been two all Winter, but a few days later I saw a squirrel on each feeder and three squirrels on the ground. Also, they were getting a little aggressive about chasing the birds away. I realized something had to be done, but not sure just how to do it. I didn't want them hurt or killed but I wanted them out of my feeders. What to do??
I mentioned to Trish, (one of my daughters) that I wished I had a Nerf gun, like her girls used to play with and, don't you know, the next morning she brought me a shoe box with a Nerf gun and a lot of bright orange and yellow bullets that would surely scare the squirrels away without hurting them. I was excited! Now I could solve my problem myself. But I never realized how smart squirrels are. They learn very quickly.
The first morning that I saw them on the feeder I tried to open the window and they were gone like a shot. I closed the window and waited, but it happened the same way, every time. By late afternoon they had figured that the window opening didn't hurt, so they just kept on feeding.
Aha! Now I had my chance. I opened the window, took careful aim, but didn't allow for the wind and the dart sailed six inches in front of him. But the click of the gun and the dart flying-by scared Mr. Squirrel, and he ran off again.
I tried several more shots, but couldn't hit him and he was starting to get used to the sound of the gun and the darts that were flying all around him, but never touching him. By then it was starting to get dark so I shut the window and gave up. When Son, Kenny, came in to visit after chores that night, I saw a grin on his face as he picked up my darts from the lawn and brought them in to me – but I don't give up easily. (Neither do squirrels).
It was rainy and windy the next day, so I couldn't open the window, but the following day I was ready. It wasn't windy at all so I didn't have to worry about the breeze carrying the darts, but I soon realized that it wasn't the fault of the wind, I just didn't seem to be able to aim right so the war went on most of the day.
I didn't tell my children, but I went out and picked up my ammunition a couple of times that afternoon and I 'm pretty sure I heard the squirrels chuckling (or whatever that sound is that squirrels make). Anyway, I think it was son, Bob, who picked up the last volley of ammo when he tended the horses that night.
It was pretty cold the next day and I decided that the reason I couldn't aim properly was because my hands were shaking with the cold, so I decided to try keeping my hand inside, where it was warmer, and shooting from inside the open window. That's when I found-out why the squirrels didn't worry about the darts. I hardly felt it when the dart that bounced off the inside of the window casing hit me right between the eyes.
By this time my children were coming up with all kinds of solutions. They were all getting a big chuckle about Mom and her squirrel wars. Son Joe was going to aim his water balloon launcher up here and blast them. Son-in-law Turk offered his bottle rockets (he had used them to get rid of Canada Geese)
Then I tried a new strategy. I left the window open, even though I was losing heat and burning precious heating oil. I was determined! I wanted the wicked little critters to come closer to the window so the darts would hit harder. I sat quietly reading my book and had nearly forgotten the squirrels. (It was a good book). All of a sudden I heard scratching right outside my window. There sat Mr. Squirrel in the Azalea bush right outside the window, about a foot and a half from my face, glaring at me with his beady little black eyes. Without a second thought I reached and slammed the window shut. I think that critter was coming after me!
Soon I was having trouble sleeping, lying awake nights plotting and planning ways to scare the little monsters away. I even had one really nice dream where Cardinals, Blue Jays, Goldfinches and Grosbeaks were clustered around my feeders and the squirrels were just standing there looking at them, held at bay by my deadly Nerf gun.
I decided to try one more day, and if that didn't work, I would give up. Mr. Squirrel was sitting in the big wood feeder on his haunches stuffing seeds in his mouth. I aimed carefully but the dart sailed over his head. He didn't flinch. I aimed again and the dart bounced off the wooden feeder only an inch or so from his feet. He never flinched. Aiming again I shot one last time. I hit him broadside! Direct hit! Close range!
I couldn't believe it! He just kept stuffing his cheeks. I guess I'm down to my last resort...
SQUIRREL WITH RICE
1 - 1 INCH SQUARE OF SALT PORK, 1/4 CUP CATSUP
2 SQUIRRELS CUT UP, 1/2 ONION SLICED
2 QTS WATER, SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE
1 CUP OF RICE
SIMMER UNTIL SQUIRREL IS TENDER, ADD RICE AND COOK UNTIL RICE IS TENDER AND LIQUID IS ABSORBED AND SERVE!!
By Nancy Bond
Nancy Bond began writing in high school 60+ years ago, but then family life took hold, as she and her husband Leo raised twelve children, on their farm in the town of Clayton. It was only recently that Nancy began writing her memories on paper, for her children to enjoy. The Thousand Islands Museum persuaded her to share these memories with the “Thousand Islands Sun” and now with “TI Life” for all to enjoy. Click here for Nancy’s other articles.