Move over, Cinderella. When I put a pumpkin in my backyard, real magic happens.
When a squirrel began to terrorize a yard, it was a well-placed pumpkin to the rescue.
Aseed-infused strip of paper disappeared from my garden one summer. Days later, when I heard some chattering in the cedar tree, I looked up. A crooktailed squirrel scolded me from its nest of tattered sticks, leaves and… seed paper. This was the year the critter officially claimed my yard for its playpen. Whenever I let the dogs into the yard, the squirrel teased them. The dogs would bark, the neighbors would complain, and I’d move the dogs back into the house. This wasn’t entirely bad. The dogs got more walks, and I lost some weight. But the next summer, the antics escalated. My flower beds were under constant attack. Perennials, bulbs, tubers—the pest dug them all up. It even tore the heads off my teddy bear sunflowers and scattered the pieces. I could be seen in the yard throwing pinecones into the cedar tree. My husband and the neighbors suspected insanity. It wasn’t until I put the gardens to bed for the winter that life settled down. I made a list of squirrel-proof plants to try the following spring. The third summer started out suspiciously quiet. For Father’s Day, our son surprised his dad with a cushy outdoor chaise lounge. A week later, I glanced out the window and saw our crook-tailed squirrel sitting on it. I was kind of happy to see the little creature—until I saw white fluff in its bulging mouth. I tore out of the house after it, but the squirrel took off, leaving only a hole in the back cushion as evidence. Up in the cedar tree, my destructive little “friend” busily poked his newfound cottony scraps into the nooks and crannies of its nest. My husband spent that summer moving cushions in and out of the garage each time he wanted to use the lounge. Once he forgot and left them outside, paying with a fresh hole. Suddenly, I wasn’t the only one hurling pinecones and yelling. The chaise lounge under constant guard now, the squirrel turned its attention elsewhere. It scattered tools and pots from my workbench across the yard. The decorative ceramic frogs from my flower beds turned up in new and unusual places. We played a bizarre game of hide-and-seek. When pumpkins appeared in the grocery stores, I got an idea. I bought one and placed it under the cedar tree. Not long after, I glimpsed a tail waving at me as the squirrel disappeared through a hole it had chewed in the side of the pumpkin. It ate the whole thing, although it took a month. Meanwhile, my flower beds were undisturbed and our backyard was peaceful. Our summers have been serene since. So each fall you can expect to see a pumpkin peace offering under that cedar tree.