The seeds of the war were planted back in the summer of ’13. We had moved to a new house, with a larger yard in 2012 and had lots of space. There was plenty of room for a vegetable garden, so we set up a raised bed garden space in our back yard. I planted tomato plants, peppers and herbs that did very well that first year. With that small success, I expanded our garden space and by the winter of ’15 we had three areas for vegetables.
The trouble grew during the winter of ’15 and ’16. An El Nino and the extra rain seemed like a savior for my plant plans, but the stage was also being set for the siege of ’16. In the spring, I bought tomato plants and another pepper plant with the naïve thought I might have tomatoes in the summer. Little did I know that plans were already forming for an attack on my garden.
At first, the plants did well, growing up a few inches and showing little flowers. After a few weeks, the squirrels fired the first shots of the siege. All of the leaves from the new pepper plant had been chewed off. I shook my head, I knew there were small animals around that liked to eat the plants, so the loss of one plant didn’t seem too bad. In the meantime, the tomato plants both had several tomatoes that were getting larger and plumper. I looked forward to tomatoes in a few weeks but decided to put some protection up with a fence around the area.
Before the fence was put in place, I started noticing the remnants of green tomatoes, with large bite marks, lying around the plants. Little did I realize that the siege had started and my tomato plants were the target. I only thought that I might lose a tomato or two, I had in the past, but I would soon have ripe, red tomatoes for my kitchen.
Alas, the next week or so I saw the results of my foolishness. Over the next few weeks, the tomatoes gradually disappeared, some left half-eaten, their unripe carcass a stark reminder that no tomatoes were allowed to become ripe. Most times, there was nothing left, perhaps a few marks in the dirt, or twisted branch where the squirrels had their way with my tomatoes. As if to rub it in, I could see signs that they had attempted to bury the tomatoes. Perhaps some slight remorse at their greed? Somehow, I doubted it.
In spite of these losses, it was still early summer and there were new flowers appearing on the tomato plants. I vowed to continue, so my husband helped and tightened the bottom of the fence around the raised flower bed. I also installed a small drip system for watering the tomatoes. The previous summer had been very dry and the drip system would make it easier to water the tomatoes. As a final loving gesture, I had placed shade over my tender plants so they could endure our hot summer days. After this care, there were more flowers and the plants continued to grow. I thought my little plants would be safe from the squirrels, rabbits and gophers that lurked about the yard. Alas, I was soon proven wrong.
Again, tomatoes started growing, smaller than the earlier ones, but still they grew. I put Miracle Gro around the plants and they continued to grow. Yet, I was denied my ripe tomatoes again. The squirrel’s greed inspired them to overcome my fence and each morning I would find half eaten tomatoes, scattered about my plants. After a week or two, I saw one of the squirrel devils, calmly sitting inside of the fence, munching away on one of the tiny tomatoes. His calm evaporated when he realized I witnessed his foul act and he tried to exit by going under the fence. I laughed as scurried on the bottom of the enclosure trying to find a way out. Unfortunately, my laughter ceased as he remembered he could climb and he sprang up the side and over the top of the fence. I last saw his bushy little tail, disappearing into the scrub brush below the area where my garden sat. I shook my fist at him, cursing him, while knowing his devils heart knew no remorse.
Another time I came out and heard rustling in the brush behind the garden. I walked over, and suddenly six furry bodies with bushy tails shot out of the brush, away from me towards their underground home. No longer looking like a cute little rodent, the squirrels looked like a pack of teenage boys, caught in the act of mischief. That time, my tomatoes were saved, but I could not stay on watch all of the time.
After a few weeks, the squirrels struck the final blow. When I turned on the water for my plants, I saw no more tomatoes where there had been a few left the day before. I lowered my head in defeat at this latest strike against my poor plants. I had failed them, again. There was not much time left in the summer of ’16 so I turned off the water and shed a few tears at my loss of tomatoes.
I then raised my head and pointed at the boulder below that marked the beginning of the squirrel’s territory and their lawless rule. I vowed to squirrel proof my tomatoes, somehow and while I might have lost this battle, I have not given up on the war. I will have tomatoes, from my garden, and I will delight in the drool the squirrels leave behind on my fence as they frantically try to grab ill-gotten gains. I will win this war.