Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Squirrel terrorism

I live in this beautiful (though relatively cheap) apartment, with a balcony and a view of the Cascade Mountains. When I moved in here last year, it was finally my opportunity to grow some plants in pots in the balcony, something I’ve wanted to do since coming to the States nearly 5 years ago. So, I bought some pots, potting soil, and got some plants. I have a begonia, some cacti, geraniums, spider plants, tomato plants, basically a small, nice patch of green. I was satisfied, but little did I know that this was the road to terror.

The street I live on abounds with squirrels. Fat, slow moving, overfed, aggressive squirrels that live by raiding the trashcans. And there is one of them, he who must not be named, who does much more. He (it must be a he to do such horrific acts) raids gardens, and devastates them. At first I thought he was just searching for or burying nuts, but nuts to that thought. He just likes to dig, and dig up. First he got to my geraniums, and when I entered the balcony, I found the plants lying shredded all over the balcony, with their roots torn out. In agony I repotted them, and I was just in time. A few moments more, and they would not have made it. The next day, it was the same story, but this time it was my begonia. The weeks passed by, and each time, a plant was savaged.

One day, I caught him in the act. He was in my flower flowerpots, on a rampage, and the leaves and soil were flying out of the pot. I saw him and screamed, a scream that would have chilled the heart of my enemies. He turned. I took two steps towards him, stick in hand. The place wasn’t big enough for both of us. He glared, and called my bluff. Instead of turning and running, he charged at me! I was momentarily stunned by this turn of events, but quickly gathered my wits, and ran for my life into my house. He followed me inside my house, and I leapt behind my lazy-boy and hid, cowering in fear. He stopped, eyed me, turned, and walked regally out through the balcony. My sweat had gone dry, and I was cold.

It was war.

I read about Japanese anemones. These hardy plants are resistant to fungi, and rodents hate them (or so the website said, and the web is never wrong, is it?). I promptly got some anemones, potted them, and surrounded my meager garden of eight plants with three of these. I hoped they would form in impregnable fortress to keep that menace away. The next morning I awoke. My anemones were lying sprayed across my balcony. Not one other plant was touched. And on the railing, eying me with steely hostility was the squirrel who must not be named.

Another friend of mine lives in the same apartment. I told him my woes, and he said this same squirrel was plaguing his life as well. He had resorted to drastic measures, only to fail. He had some nuts that he’d bought from Costco. A few days after he bought the nuts, Costco wrote to him saying his shipment was suspected to have salmonella contamination. My friend figured this was his chance to get rid of the squirrel permanently, and so he fed the squirrel the “infected nuts”. Nothing happened to the squirrel, but now, every morning, this menace is present on his balcony, scratching the door trying to enter his house and raid his kitchen!

Today was an especially sad day. I awoke to find that one of my ornamental succulents, which had evolved over the centuries to survive scorching summers and rainless months, had breathed its last. The squirrel had ripped it leaf from stalk.

I am devastated. Perhaps the famed squirrel hunters of Louisiana can help me. They are my final hope.


Anonymous said...

ha ha! here is what you should try next ( and tell us if it worked). You grow chili peppers around your plants .That will attract birds ( and that, along with chili peppers will keep squirrel away).But then you will have bird menace .So surrounding your plants you grow thorny cacti. So your plants surrounded by thorny cacti surrounded by chili peppers is the way to go.

gawker said...

When I came here as a master's student in UMass Amherst, the first thing I thought to myself was goddamn the squirrels here are huge. In fact, our campus paper had an article on the humongousness of these squirrels. We thought it was probably our genetics department (if we had one) that was performing some kind of experiments.

Sunil said...

El_durazno, you might have some fantastic points there. I'm pondering them.

Gawker......the squirrels here in the Pacific Northwest atlest are a little leaner than their Mid Western counterparts. Those guys were so fat, they could barely move (in Illinois). It's a shocker for some of us when we land from India where the squirrels are lean, mean and scamper like the wind. they tend to look like the people of the region? Just kidding :-))

Vikram.....LOL. The squirrels seem to be following the strategy of chickens on the highways in India. Only...usually the chickens get away!

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
Rarely do I find any humor in the misfortune in others. But the mental image of you cowering behind your chair in fear of a little squirrel made me laugh.

But I know that it is no laughing matter that you have lost your plants. There must be some way to ward off this squirrel.

Jabberwock said...

I was attacked by a Japanese anemone once. I feel for you.

The Comic Project said...

hey sunil...loved the squirrel story, and i thought they were the cutest things living. Putting up an electric fence around your pots will help? eek insensitive .. i more suggestions from me.
Keep visiting the comic project.I try to put something out every 5-6 days.Have been to seattle over 7 years ago, spent a couple of days.My chacha's daughters live there with their husbands.

Sunil said...

Yikes indeed Aditya!

Michael, I'm planning to take the plants indoors, but keep them right behind my (sparkling clean) glass door. The squirrel's going to think there's no door, charge headlong into it, crash and meet its doom! Muahahahaha!


the comic just a few days you have become my fav blog. I have every single one of those Indrajal comics on your website...preserved in bound volumes back in India.

Anonymous said...

Sunil, don't be fooled - it's no "little squirrel." It's verily a rakshasa in disguise... Tarry not and slay it!

Dilip D'Souza said...

Sunil, I think I have found the root of your problem: it's your friend, Costco, and the nut company, they're in a deep-rooted conspiracy to torment you and boost sales.

To confirm this, burst in unannounced on your friend one day. If you find him rubbing his hands in glee over his latest Costco dividend cheque, you'll know.

Sunil said...

Srikanth......the rakshasha is going to soon be tamed..i'm enforcing the "glass door" technique this weekend. might be right. I'll squeeze a treat out of my friend in compensation for my pain and suffering.

exMI said...

A cat would do the job nicely.

Nicely written story.

Anonymous said...

I too feel the terror of these pests. I have a similar story. Where I live there is many beautiful trees and birds. I have spent many hours planting my flower garden, only to find it eaten up the minute I take a break inside or the next day when I am at work. I said the very same thing to the squirrels in my yard, "it is war!". I have tried moth balls and even tried taping nails to the trees so these nasty pests cannot enjoy as much. I would like any suggestions on what I can do to keep them away from my hostas. Uggg!
Lisa (Canada)

Anonymous said...

I was googling for an article on Costco pulling out of Illinois when I stumbled upon your funny story. I can't figure out what your story has to do with Costo but I thought I would shart. It's fall in Illinois and our squirrels are not tearing things up but they are hiding walnuts everywhere, inlcuding the wheel well of the Volvo that we park in the driveway as well as the "bag of bags" that we keep in the garage and the milk crate that we keep a variety of balls and frisbees in (also in the garage). They are entertaining to watch when that aren't tearing the crap out of your garden. Just imagine if you were a squirrel. What fun you would be having, except of course if your guts are spilled all over the street with a tire track on your left squirrely cheek as your nut rolls down to the gutter. Ah, nature, isn't it beautiful

Anonymous said...

Hi Sunil,
Funny story. I enjoyed reading it. I'll come clean and tell you that I am a squirrel-lover and usually squirrels are docile and even tempered. Nevertheless, I sympathize with your plight. I suspect that you have a Ninja Squirrel and one with Yakuza tendencies. Short of getting a Louisiana Squirrel Hunter, your only option is to pay protection fee to the Ninja Squirrel in the form of regular nut offerings, perhaps in a bird feeder, which may challenge him and distract him from your flowers.

Anonymous said...

The little rates ate almost 30 daylillies of mine, unfortunately my wife likes to feed the little buggers and I don't have the heart to chase them away. The only thing I found that slowed them was taking the hair from our cat after my wife brushes him and spreading that around the plants. It seems to have at least slowed them down

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love your story. I too have suffered years of abuse from famed squirrels and their descendants. I've tried everything from repellant and cayenne to moth balls and This year (after reading many an article and speaking with many a culturist), I started the Spring with grape hyacinth (poisonous to them-they hate em), and plan to transition to Marigolds in soil mixed with crushed/food processed eggshells.
Trust, I am not for cruelty; however, I believe in an eye for an eye (and it's not like I'm making soup of them). If the poisonous hyacinth isn't warning enough, well then they/he deserve(s) it.
Protect the plants-think of the cruelty the squirrels impose on other living things...that seems to make it easier for me. Best wishes and Godspeed!

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I just chased away the mangy monster who has destroyed 3 of 4 lush thriving geraniums which I've nurtured through the winter to attain heights of 3 feet+, full of blossoms. By far the most damage that has been done to our home over the years in our woodsy neighborhood has been done by SQUIRRELS. Years ago, one entered via a line on the roof that connects downward somehow into our furnace (in the basement); the little monster chewed the wiring, destroying it, before being forcibly removed by a county official. Alas, the county no longer bothers with such trifles. More recently, in fall, a bunch of squirrels moved into our attic. The only thing that has kept them out (so far) is a $2,000.00 barrier around the perimeter of the roof line. When I phoned various authorities for suggestions, one woman actually told me it was OKAY to have squirrels up there and that they'd leave soon (just before winter?). I told her if she liked them so much I'd have them delivered to HER attic.