A cruel cosmic joke lands this squirrel shadow in my pear tree espalier alongside my garage. It can only be seen when I’m sitting in my hot tub. At night. In the winter when the the espalier branches are bare. And then, only when my neighbor’s driveway motion sensor light comes on.
It’s sort of like the “bat signal,” but for squirrels.
The squirrels think it terrifies me, but it serves only to remind me we’re both part owners of the property. It’s also a crushing reminder of the pear-poaching they do at the end of the summer each year. They don’t poach the pears as much as eat one-eighth of them and leave them rotting on the branches. Bastards.
The trees are four dwarf pear varieties in a espaliered diamond pattern against my garage wall, which also happens to make up one wall of our deck. In a good year, I’ve gotten a dozen pears off the four trees. In a bad year, the squirrels eat one-eighth of half of them.
The shadow is of a rusty, flat squirrel artwork we bought in the International Rose Test Garden Gift Shop in Portland, Oregon’s Washington Park. We placed him on the top rail of our cedar fence (otherwise known as the squirrel highway). He’s opposite our kitchen window so we’d be able to keep an eye on him – and see if real squirrels would interact with him.
Did you know a collective of squirrels is known as a scurry?
Where we placed the flat squirrel on the fence the spring we purchased it was totally random. It wasn’t until the winter I noticed the three-and-a-half-foot squirrel shadow on the wall. First time gave me a start!
The average life of a gray squirrel is six years. We’ve been in this house for 18 years, so we’ve been frenemies for three generations in squirrel years. Did you know a collective of squirrels is called a scurry? A family of squirrels is called a dray. Squirrels eat about one pound of food per week. Squirrels plants and meat–mainly fungi, seeds, nuts and fruits, but they will also eat eggs, small insects, caterpillars, small animals and even young snakes. They have their own language of chirps, moans and tail flicks.
I’d love to not have them, but we’ve come to co-exist and changed the garden over time to discourage them. My next plan is to place squirrel-meat recipe cards throughout the garden to deter them.
An unholy communion
For kicks, my wife puts Sunday’s unconsecrated pita bread, left over from church, in front of the flat squirrel. Then we watch them interact. God only knows what would happen if they had consecrated bread!
We and the squirrels have come to co-exist over time.
Living in the city, they are our most harmful predator. We grew tomatoes. They would eat one-eighth of those and leave them rot. Sometimes they would drag them up to the fence, or our old swing set, that we could see them eat the tomato from our kitchen window – just so we could watch them eat our harvest. And then leave the rotting tomato carcasses for us to clean up. We showed them though. We stopped growing tomatoes. They won that battle, but lost some good food.
The squirrels, though fun to watch, are conniving, devilish thieves we know are plotting against us. I think they’re in cahoots with the bunnies.
Maybe a new art project for the garden?
A cast shadow might be a great way to add some artwork to the garden at night. I’ve always been intrigued works by artist Kumi Yamashita. They’re all ingeniously clever works based on cast shadows. I’d love to come up with something of my own and project it onto the few blank walls on the the outside of our house. Just another project to add to the list.