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.

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