Our Week Without Blue Apron
Four

Me vs. Nature, Part Four Million and Three

This is our garden. 

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We have sage, a batshit amount of parsley, two pots of chives, and a big mishmosh of rosemary, thyme, dill, and marjoram.

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Beans, bush tomatoes, and peas.

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Two sacks of potatoes.

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Delicious little radishes.

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Tons of not-quite-ripe strawberries that are straight-up torturing my children. 

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Cherry tomatoes, carrots, beets...

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...and a fucking squirrel trap.

Squirrels became a big problem for us last year. We were super-ambitious and planted about twice what we have this year. They ate every single tomato. We'd go outside and find our big, gorgeous heirlooms lying in the dirt, half gnawed on. If there weren't any tomatoes, they went after strawberries, squash, melons...whatever else they could wring a little liquid out of on dry, sunny days. 

It was just two squirrels in particular. One had a bald spot on its butt and one had lost the tip of its tail. We named them Asshole and Stumpy. We'd see them on the fence and send Ceiba out to yap at them, but they'd immediately come back when the coast was clear.

We tried everything. Those bobble-headed owl statues, special repellent sprays and predator scents, offering water and food on the OTHER side of our fence, and probably a million other things, because Jason went seriously Caddyshack over the squirrel problem and I had to stop paying attention so one of us could stay sane for the sake of the children. 

There was talk of a BB gun at one point, but I knew that would never actually happen: Jason is a giant softie who uses humane mousetraps and takes bugs outside instead of squashing them at my (panicked) request.

So we got the trap. We got one just small enough that Ceiba couldn't set it off, then smeared peanut butter on the underside of it, and jammed it between the deck and Ike's Cozy Coupe so they couldn't flip it over and cheat. Within a week, we'd caught both of the trouble-making squirrels (and a really dumb raccoon, who got his ass stuck in there multiple times) and relocated them a few miles away.

(I pointed out to Jason that we probably orphaned and doomed a nest of baby squirrels and at first he was like, GOOD, and then tried to reason that it was late enough in the summer that the babies were probably old enough to survive on their own la la la STOP MAKING ME HAVE FEELS FOR THE FUCKING SQUIRRELS.)

This year, the trap was set the same day we planted the very first seeds. We were not fucking around. 

Sure enough, I found a couple green strawberries in the container with little rat-like bites out of them. IT WAS HAPPENING. PUT MORE PEANUT BUTTER ON THAT THING. 

Yesterday I found this:

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So I should clarify that last year, the trap was totally Jason's sole domain. It wasn't even a question: Asshole and Stumpy had eaten that man's prized tomatoes and he was going to PERSONALLY put a stop to their reign of garden terror. He'd hold the trap aloft triumphantly while I snapped a photo from a safe distance, then he happily put it in the car trunk and drive them off to places unknown. 

In other words, I did not know how to Deal With This Situation. 

I texted Jason and told him we'd caught a squirrel. He was delighted. "Little fucker," he texted back.

He said I could either wait for him to get home or drive it somewhere myself. I chose Option A and went back inside.

Five minutes later, the guilt trip started.

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UGH OK RIGHT BACK AT YOU, HUSBAND.

At this point I had to admit that I didn't even know how to open the trap, and also have a very very very real and true THING about dealing with trapped wild animals who thrash and flap and panic (see: mouse in my Gladware, bird in my house). Sure enough, I tentatively picked up the trap, the squirrel lost his shit and started hurling his body around as I involuntarily shrieked and dropped it back on the lawn.

This was a very small squirrel, probably not even fully grown, so it seemed to be able to get an AWFULLY LOT OF ITS TEETHY RATFACE through the spaces in the trap. I decided to put my gardening gloves on, just in case, and carried it around front to my car, holding it as far from my body as possible.

When I got to the car I realized I didn't even have my keys, so I had to leave it there in our parking spot, praying that none of our neighbors arrived home at this point to witness me, wearing a sundress, wedge heels and gardening gloves, loading a caged squirrel into the back of our minivan like oh hey yeah we're not weird at all I mean at least we got rid of the tire?

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(I'm not sure who is more to blame for the blurriness of this photo, Thrashy McRatface or Mrs. St. Chihuahua Hands.) 

I drove a few miles away until I could find a deserted parking lot/tree line combo, while the stupid thing continued to panic, poop and make velociraptor noises at me. Nothing about this felt particularly humane in the moment, but soon I parked and set the trap down in the grass and aimed the opening at some nearby trees.

And then. Um. Okay.

I could not get the trap open. The thing I thought opened the trap didn't, and with the squirrel hurling its body around every which-way I was hesitant to put my hands just ANYWHERE and start yanking at things. I had to call Jason and get a detailed walkthrough on opening the trap, which VOILA, mission accomplished and Thrashy McRatface bolted out at top speed and up the nearest tree. It paused to chatter at me one last time (probably casting some squirrel voodoo curse) and then disappeared. 

Behold, last night's glorious harvest:

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Hey, it's already two more tomatoes than we got last year. 

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I gave them both to Ezra, because they're his favorite.

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Looks like we'll have a few more tonight, plus some peas.

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(Peas are Noah's favorite.)

Anyway, point is, I know how to open the squirrel trap now and will gladly do it again because fuck those assholes, I am in the mood for some damn caprese salad. 

Comments

Pat

Way to go! Many years ago when I was single + 4 kids I had a raccoon in my attic. The only solution I could afford was to buy a trap, catch and relocate...which I did - very scary 20 mile drive to release f'ing raccoon. However before I trapped the racoon, I caught a skunk (released in my driveway & we both ran in opposite directions) and a possum(ugliest creature ever!)

Julie

I am SO glad you quit your job and are now the Mistress of the Squirrelz. If DCFoodies had been on the clock, my morning just wouldn't have been as awesome.

I didn't even know that squirrels ate produce. We've been trapping and relocating a family of groundhogs for years, but now I wonder if they were framed?

Angie

Coming out of my ten year lurkdom to say that this is my favorite entry you've ever written. Ever.

Leigh Ann

Gah! We had an almost identical story involving possums, but no garden because I can't keep even the hardest to kill plants alive. At least the possums play dead.

Cobwebs

Our house is surrounded by oak trees and there's no way we could trap the (literally) dozens of squirrels that inhabit them. My husband's solution was to put an electric fence around the garden. Where his beloved tomatoes are concerned, he does not fool around.

Rachael

We have had the exact same problem. My husband went to college for wildlife management and worked at a wildlife removal company for a few years.In order to relocate them so they will most likely not return, they need to be transported at least 15 miles away.Hopefully that little bugger won't return.

KristenSue

you were supposed to warn me when there was a velociraptor behind me!

I guess now I need to include squirrels that make velociraptor noises in my request.

Nice work. keep those strawberries

Lindsay

I SO thought you were gonna say that fucker got out in your car. OMAHGERD.

rachel

Oh I could tell you several stories about squirrels & traps, but I don't want to write a whole post long comment... one quick one:
My husband's grandma uses those traps to catch squirrels in her yard. Sometimes various relatives relocate them for her, but one day everyone else was busy so she tried to do it alone. Couldn't get the trap open, so gave up, came home & called the local police dept for help (no lie). Very small town in northern MN (population 2500) so the police man was very willing to come help out. Told her to call anytime. =)

Tamara Tedd

All I can say is- this is why I live in a townhouse that did NOT come with garden space. ohmagerd is right!!

And yes, entirely probable that that ladies groundhogs were FRAMED

Caitlin

I think I started crying from laughing so hard about five times while reading this post.

Caprese salad is damn worth it though.

Melissa

Where did you get the trap and more importantly will it work for rabbits. Errrr, asking for a friend.

Sue C

We had a very healthy squirrel population until 3 years ago. Then a family of red tail hawks moved in................. They come back every spring and stay until late fall.

paige

So- my neighbors with their lovely gardens hate us as we are the folk that feed the squirrels on demand. They come up and paw at our patio door to take bread from the hands of my kiddos. They have a daily feast of peanut butter crusts from my girls. It ticks our next door neighbor off as he refers to them as fluffy tailed rats. Tomato tomahto..

Jen R

I JUST got around to rabbit fencing our garden with completely not squirrel-proof fence (they climb!). Our garden was killed off by rabbits last year, and now you have me worried about the squirrels!

Stacy

Most garden demolishers (rabbits, squirrels, gophers, chipmunks) don't like marigolds. Marigolds planted every foot or so all around the garden have kept my plants safe for years. I'm in Wisconsin and luckily don't have to deal with deer where I live.

Candace

I'm doing that wheeze/cry/laugh thing now thanks to you. I'm also IM'ing half the people I know to read this. Best post ever.

nicole

god, I hate fucking squirrels! I don't have the sunlight for a garden but they clean out my bird feeders. Even the HOT PEPPER suet. I have spicy squirrels and I hate them. We're in need of an outdoor cat to take care of our situation.

Amy A

Oh my God--next time (and I really hope there's is no next time, but....) put the cage on something waterproof so the squirrel does not shit and piss in your car!!
I know this how?? Because I took a trapped feral cat in a Havahart to the shelter (who wouldn't take it bc it was feral--WTF) and it pissed all over the back of my Jeep. We're talking a smell that would cause you to lose all senses it was so vile.
End result--had to get ALL NEW carpet for my Jeep because that smell was there to stay!

Ann

My ex-boyfriend's brother had a pet squirrel. They found her as a tiny wee baby, so tiny and new that she was this naked pink little creature that they actually couldn't identify at first. They bottle fed her until she grew up and it turned out she was a squirrel.

They eventually released her into their back yard where she happily lived mostly wild but would still come when she was called and eat from your hand. Best part is that squirrels as very territorial so Squirrely's presence kept the other squirrels away and Squirrely knew better than to raid the garden. She learned pretty fast that she would be fed more than her fill so long as she didn't help herself.

Allison

i love you amalah.

Shannon

We have that very same trap and have caught at least a dozen squirrels. SO SATISFYING. Then my beloved husband takes them to a nearby field that happens to have a healthy population of hawks. Works out so well! Although I do think last year we might have trapped our neghibors almost domesticated squirrel. Life lesson: don't feed wild animals!

Dannielle

Marigolds!!!! I had a bad squirrel issue at the beginning of the season last year. They were digging up everything! I planted a perimeter of marigolds and they were never heard from again! I bet if you plant some around the patio, or even a few pots of them mixed in around your pots, they will leave your garden alone :)

Sydney

You have squirrels, I have rabbits. Eating all my fucking plants.

I just planted my tomatoes and snap peas (since Iowa is finally not a finally not a frozen tundra of coldness. I surrounded the small garden with smelly marigolds, and dowsed the plants in cayenne pepper and small animal spray.

I'm going to make those bunnies my bitch.

kelly

And you know what?? Squirrels don't even like tomatoes! That's why you find half-eaten ones! They just steal them, suck out the moisture, and discard. If you're going to steal my nice tomatoes, at least enjoy them, you little bastards.

We had good luck with garden mesh -- no traps needed yet -- but I hear you on not fucking around with my tomato harvest. Now I'm going to go buy some marigolds.

Beth

As weird as this sound. Buy Irish Spring bar soap, cut in half and tie 2 half on each tomato cages. It works....squirrels and deers can not stand the smell of Irish Spring or dial bar soap.

Arnebya

Fuck squirrels (and yes, I'm saying squirrel in my Veruca Salt voice. Because). Little fuckers take two bites out of a tomato and decide "not this one, maybe this one." Fuck you, sortofrats. We have a raccoon that ate the heads off the fish we had one summer in a tiny makeshift pond. We have a groundhog that likes strawberries. The deer eat the tomatoes and cucumbers. AND THEN I SAW A FUCKING FOX AND WHO KNEW SE DC WAS WILD KINGDOM?

JenVegas

Our luxuriously leafy and verdant co-op development has some of the nastiest squirrels I've ever come in contact with. They eat all of the halloween jack o' laterns, all of the flowers in the gardens and sometimes sneak into peoples' houses if they leave their doors open long enough. I want to grow an edible garden SO BAD but I know they'll ruin it for me. Sigh. Great post! I'm so glad you triumphed over these evil little stinkers!

Elf

I feel your pain. I have an enduring hatred of squirrels, because my last apartment had squirrels in the attic. This was more of a problem than you might think, because our apartment WAS the attic, and they were living in OUR CLOSET THAT WE USED AS A PANTRY. You would not believe the mess a squirrel can make with a box with a box of cocoa powder packets! my husband was mortally offended that they ate holes in Every. Single. Box. of matzoh, and didn't finish any of them.

Matters got worse when we found the squirrel babies, because it was January so the only humane solution was Die Squirrel Die. That was my job because my husband and I have a division of labor where he has to kill all the terrifying creepy crawly things and I have to kill all the evil cute fuzzy things. (Though, sidenote? Squirrel babies are neither cute nor fuzzy.) Squirrels are creatures of wanton destruction and abiding evil, and you should show them no mercy.

On a more cheerful topic, though, how do you manage strawberries in planter boxes? It is my understanding that they are perennials and don't produce well until they've been established for a few years. How did you make that happen in pots?

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