Wednesday, September 28, 2011


In Northwest Illinois at this time of year the turning of the leaves and the dropping of the temperature signals the autumn season. It also flips the switches inside the pea-brains of the common squirrel and puts them in act-squirrelier-than-usual mode.

As if they aren't a pest enough throughout the summer with their cavorting around on telephone wires, barking at me when I'm sitting in the yard swing, and teasing the neighbor's dogs.

Our neighbor on one side of us has three dogs that go ballistic at the sight of a squirrel, so naturally the squirrels make their presence known. They take turns waiting until the dogs are laying down and quiet, then they make a mad dash for the tree, scamper up it in a flash, then park their squirrely butts on a branch just out of reach of the dogs and bark at them the equivalent of a squirrel "neener, neener, neener!" which makes the dogs slobber, bark, run around the tree, trying to climb the tree, etc. This can and has gone on for hours.  Just as the dogs finally settle down, the furry neighborhood terrorists climb down and scamper to another tree, and the cycle begins again. 

Our neighborhood is full of the chattering things, not least of all because the neighbor on the other side of us feeds them. All year 'round.  Last winter I looked out and saw an even dozen squirrels in a back yard in various positions of eating field corn off the cob and stealing food from bird feeders. A dozen fat, furry squirrels. As the neighbor said, it was a good crop last winter.

And talk about a sense of entitlement!  I'm really grateful the squirrels let the rest of us live in THEIR neighborhood!  I planted sunflowers, and the seed heads were stripped before they even got ripe, and the squirrels did it. I saw them. They hang upside down from the top of the big seed heads, and shovel in the seeds like there's no tomorrow.

I really think they are all in cahoots. They do surveillance, post their lookouts, then ransack the garden.  And not only sunflower heads. They also are partial to tomatoes, but only the ones that are red, ripe and juicy.  I didn't dare leave any tomatoes on the plants to ripen. As soon as they showed any color I picked them before the squirrels took a bite out of them. And that's exactly what they do, take one bite out of a ripe tomato and head for the next one.

And that bring me back to this time of year. The squirrels are running amok, digging up the yard, crapping all over and burying things for the winter that they'll forget all about. I had a lot of corn sprout last summer, and I didn't plant any of it. The worst is walnut seeds if they sprout.  It's got such a long tap root you almost have to dig them out.

They can be irritating, especially when you've got one eating on your house. But aside from that, they are just doing what they do best. So watch out for the critters this autumn season. You know they're not right in the head at this time of year especially. So when they dart out in front of your car, give them a break and brake. When they clean out your bird feeder, just fill it again. It's no use trying to stop them. They may have pea-brains, but they are persistent. One way or another, they'll figure it out.

They can be fun to watch,  even when they bark at you when your sitting in a screened in porch. And when the cats are sitting in the window the squirrels give them something to watch.  Like I said, they're just doing what they do best...acting squirrely.

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