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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – November 29

The score so far is Squirrels: 4, My Husband: 0.

And before I explain I should acknowledge that every gardener loves a challenge. We want to produce the first ripe tomato in our region, cultivate tropical plants in cold climates and successfully grow a stand of Himalayan blue poppies. Gardeners aren’t alone in taking satisfaction in beating the odds, of course.

This is the reason I haven’t put my foot down about the ongoing battle between my husband and the squirrels. It all started with the arrival of my BirdCam. Until this motion-activated camera hit Poison Ivy Acres, the functional, and dare I say amusing, birdfeeder I’d constructed was squirrel proof.

I’d put together a feeder using a tray/squirrel baffle from Droll Yankee put on a post with old lamp and lightening rod parts below. I thought it was whimsical and attractive, so it functioned as a bird feeder and garden ornament: two for one!

Then the BirdCam arrived, and by attaching it with the official Wingscapes arm to the feeder, we were able to get fantastic shots of the birds as they ate. The only problem was that the arm the camera was mounted on proved to be the perfect platform for the dreaded squirrels to swing themselves up over the baffle and onto the seed tray.

So my husband decided that this called for a separate pole to mount the camera on, and he installed a locust post about six feet away. Hmmm…suddenly we no longer had a garden ornament, but two upright elements and we all know how good twos look in a composition. Not.

The squirrels (aka Those Bastards!) just used the second pole and BirdCam for a launching pad. So my husband decided that a plastic baffle on the camera post would block their access and he added this to the composition. The next day I saw that The Enemy was back on the feeder.

“We have to see how they’re doing it,” my husband said. He got out the PlantCam, a time-lapse outdoor camera designed for recording pleasurable things such as gardens growing or outdoor parties. But this is war, and we all know that any technological tools must be used to fight the good fight. The PlantCam was installed on the grape arbor.

So at this stage the score is Squirrels: 3, My Husband: 0 and all hopes of an aesthetic view or good garden design have been trashed since the arrival of the second post.

The PlantCam shows how the squirrels are getting past the first barrier, so my husband puts up a sheet of plastic to block that route. It’s now Squirrels: 4, My Husband: 0 and another plastic barrier has just been installed.

Today this small section of the garden contains two posts, one domed baffle, two plastic shields, and two digital cameras. Does this part of the yard look like white trash geeks live here? My green thumb is up for that. When I take photos of garden structures that look beautiful under a light coat of snow you can be sure this area of the property will be conspicuously absent.

And yet I understand the pleasures of a challenge and I get that solving a puzzle using only the parts at hand is very satisfying. Remember that great scene from Apollo 13 where they had to solve the carbon dioxide problem using only what they had on board?

There is something so gratifying about resolving a dilemma with your own ingenuity…along with some duct tape and spare parts. Clearly garden design “doesn’t have a dog in this fight” as the former President was fond of saying. Remembering my father-in-law’s squirrel-foiling contraptions, I remarked to my husband that there must be something genetic going on. I suppose I should consider myself lucky. If my memory is correct, my father-in-law’s creations contained three or four trashcan lids, several yards of garden hose, and some barbed wire.

Stay tuned for the latest score.

The picture says it all.

This update, taken through the window with my cell phone, shows the current score as of the morning of 11/30. Squirrels: 5, My Husband: 0

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