The pits

Coffee in hand, I surveyed our tiny garden from the back deck, in the shade of the burgeoning cherry tree. I didn’t expect a call to battle.

The peony I found it in a plastic grocery bag at the side of a busy highway four years ago is finally thriving. Shoved among the other perennials in the back garden in sub-optimal soil, it flowered for the first time and over-sized blossoms thick with crinoline-like petals tipped the stems over.

A foot away from this buxom dowager is a yellow iris, a starved waif with broadsword leaves and another foot beyond it is its skinnier purple Siberian cousin armed with rapier leaves that I wish would dispatch the gout weed that thrusts between the rhizomes. Occasionally I lop off the gout weeds’ heads to slow down their advance.

Behind the peony is a hefty, broad-leafed hosta, an overall-wearing gardener with a big bum and a low center of gravity. He’s been there for 22 years, long before the upstart peony invaded his space and eclipsed his plain August flowers, simple and soothing in the late summer heat. To the left are a trio of aggressive lilies that will soon blast us with laser beam blooms of yellow and orange.

Phlox, philosophical, leans against the fence, casually observing the monardas heads attracting bees, thinking about making a move into her turf but worried about being stung.

Languishing under the cherry tree are the astilbes, breaking my heart because they fail to thrive, never producing the foamy white flowers that remind me of crashing surf. Meanwhile, the gangster day lilies take over the patch with the most sun, opportunists in the crappy soil pushing aside the quiet bellflowers, like a chain gang.

As I considered the garden mayhem, I watched a baby bunny forage in the fallen cherries speckling the ground like drops of blood. Distracted by a spitting sound, I looked into the cherry tree and saw swaths of empty branches where yesterday loads of cherries gradually turning yellow and pink, soon to be red, hung. Then I saw him – the squirrel – staring down at me, a pink globe in his mitts, defiant. Bastard! He and his ilk have been eating the crop, emptying the tree.

I ran to the front, out the door and grabbed the nearest rock, raced back to the deck and hurled it at the thief. I wished him stomach cramps and diarrhea and a cherry pit blocking his anus.

He was unperturbed.

Despite the pilfering, enough cherries were salvaged to make treats and to freeze, and we left those at the top to the damn squirrels.

I’m told coyote piss is a good deterrent and it’s available at garden centers. I think a squirt gun loaded with it might work, too. Next year.

He’s not cute – he’s a thief!

43 thoughts on “The pits

  1. Bruce Goodman July 2, 2016 / 8:39 pm

    The coyote pee don’t shoot
    ‘Cos I think the squirrels are cute.

    Susanne, this captures each plant beautifully! You have a wonderful talent for language.


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 7:18 am

      HE’S NOT CUTE! They are the most heinous of garden pests. I have so many squirrel stories, I could write a book beginning with the squirrel that ate its way into our house. Truly, I think the whole depiction of the devil as a goat is completely misguided. The devil is a squirrel – no doubt about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bruce Goodman July 3, 2016 / 1:47 pm

        You’re so right about goats – the are so maligned. Personally I think (at least here in New Zealand) that the devil is an Australian possum of which there are millions, and they only come out at night.


      • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 2:11 pm

        Ah! The Australian possum must be what Pauline was referring to. I don`t believe we have possums in Canada. I think of them adorable creatures in the American south that hang upside down from trees and therefore understand the world perfectly.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. thecontentedcrafter July 2, 2016 / 8:50 pm

    I read my way through this post, every part of your garden springing into life before my eyes, feeling your heartache and pain for those that struggle and loving especially the glimpse of the overblown peonies. I felt the guffaw coming on though – for I know well how the gentle art of tending a garden brings out the territorial, murderous bo’swain in us 🙂 For me it is those damn Aussie illegal immigrants who snuck across the Tasman, raised their off-spring and diligently taught them to mow off anything that grows over 2 cm high and looks even mildly attractive.

    Despite it all however, that squirrel really does look rather cute!


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 7:20 am

      Oy! I’m definitely a foul mouthed, murderous bo’swain when it comes to squirrels. But you’ve piqued my interest with the reference to these Aussie critters who invaded your country – sheep? Please, enlighten me. And as I said to Bruce, HE’s NOT CUTE!


      • thecontentedcrafter July 3, 2016 / 4:22 pm

        Possums! [Boo, Hiss, Grrrr!] Sheep are cute, possums not at all. They not only mow down anything beautiful or edible they destroy native bird habitats and eat their eggs. Show me a possum and watch me morph into a foul mouthed, murderous bo’swain STAT!!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Cynthia Jobin July 2, 2016 / 9:13 pm

    “Unperturbed,” is a good word for the squirrel. It’s just a rat, but a cute one. Why? Is it the fluffy tail? The adorable way it holds an acorn in its little front “hands” and chomp, chomp,chomps on it? The spirited way it darts about? We had them in the attic, once, and their late night antics drove the dog crazy. I’m glad to hear you salvaged a goodly number of cherries, anyway, from the little Nutkin. Beatrix Potter has a lot to answer for.


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 7:24 am

      I loved reading Beatrix Potter to my kids and we have a complete collection. I loved the depiction of animals vs. humans particularly the way Peter and Mr. McGregor went head to head in the garden shed. But holy Hannah, I hate squirrels. We have evicted them from our back deck many times over the years and it is only since the arrival of our small but fierce Jack Russell-Malti-Poo mutt that they keep their distance.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. joey July 2, 2016 / 9:48 pm

    Fabulous description, I was with you each moment.
    Squirrels are my friend here. I feed them at the tree in the front of the house, around the bird feeder, and they stay out of my garden so long as I do. Around October, I stop caring so much about the garden and they seem to nibble it more. About that, I believe we have an understanding.
    Now, with the apple trees, I cannot convince them to only eat the ones at the top. I can’t reach them, so they may as well be eaten by squirrels. Alas, the squirrels don’t care. Unlike the garden, the apple trees were here long before us, and they dine at their convenience. I still get about 20 pies’ worth.
    What apples remain will fall down and get frozen and fermented, making for a happy, slightly drunken dog mid-winter.


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 7:28 am

      I admire your calm attitude toward your squirrely neighbours. As for the understanding, did you have a lawyer in a coyote costume draw up a contract? ie. You come near my garden and I’ll eat you?
      The cherry season is so short lived and they’re the perfect hand-sized snack for the squirrels, I understand their desire. So red, so juicy but we really do have to fight to get our share.
      Your dog likes apples? That’s wonderful! Mine likes carrots.

      Liked by 1 person

      • joey July 3, 2016 / 12:06 pm

        I’m unable to find a rodent legal team here in the city, but I’ll let you know if I hear of one. I do hope they come in coyote costumes…
        My dog only likes apples when they’re frozen and fermented. She doesn’t like carrots. First dog I’ve had that doesn’t like raw carrots OR sticks. She’s a weirdo, that’s how I know she’s mine. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 12:28 pm

        I think there may be a market for fermented apples for humans AND pooches.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lisa @ cheergerm July 2, 2016 / 11:54 pm

    Ha, some great garden verse here. That wee squirrelly bugger…how red are those cherries!


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 7:30 am

      I can imagine you whipping up something fabulous with the bounty – a cherry apple square with a shortbread base for instance. I confess I monkeyed with the colour on the photo with the intent of sharpening the image of the squirrel but it also brightened the cherries.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. dawnkinster July 3, 2016 / 8:17 am

    He’s a cute thief! Love your description of the garden. Mine is similar. Though the deer (also cute thieves) ate the lilies. More weeding on tap for today. Or a trip to the orchard to pick some cherries for pie. Hope you are having a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 12:26 pm

      I’m familiar with the deer thieves, too. On Vancouver Island, where I’m originally from, people have to fence their gardens to keep them out, even in town. Go to the orchard! Sounds more fun than weeding, Dawn!


  7. exiledprospero July 3, 2016 / 2:49 pm

    Sue, am I right in thinking that you pay taxes? Then call the National Guard and have them surround your tree with bayonet yielding reservists. They will trample your bedding flowers and delicate bulbs, indiscriminately decimate your vegetables patches, flatten lawn ornaments–all at no charge. Naturally the squirrel is battle-hardened. He’s a tough cookie and probably has rabies. And there will be collateral damage too (and excellent excuse for you to revise all your life insurance policies). After a few days, FEMA gets involved. Your house (your whole block, actually) will be designated as a disaster area in need of disaster mitigation, but fear not as they are all really nice folks (not too knowledgeable on the demonic nature of squirrels though).


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 6:07 pm

      As often happens when I read your comments I am snaggletoothed and porous, longing for a dentist to fill in the holes for me. Is FEMA that bakeable clay? What’s the National Guard? He must be a busy fellow if he’s on squirrel patrol. In my country, we sleep with our bedding plants and then change the laws so that it is no longer a crime and then the United Church marries us. We convert the squirrels and everyone is happy. Welcome to Canada.


      • exiledprospero July 4, 2016 / 7:54 am

        My apologies, Sue. It slipped my acorn-sized mind that you live in the United States of Canada.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Susanne July 4, 2016 / 4:55 pm

        We Canadians are as nice as cherry pie about almost everything except being confused with our American cousins.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Osyth July 3, 2016 / 4:01 pm

    What fabulous descriptions of each plant …. I particularly like the big bummed hosta! As for your squirrel … oddly I read another blog today from a friend in the Vendée flats in France and she has just lost all her cherries to brown birds. If its not fur its fowl 😉


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 6:10 pm

      Damn garden pests! When I was a kid, it was the starlings that would strip the trees of the fruit. Grrr.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth July 4, 2016 / 9:08 am

        I was scared of starlings as a child – they looked like those sinister men with oiled hair who did the dirty work in gangster films …. All beady eyes and fearless with the capacity to reek carnage before you could blink then shrug and retreat without a moment of remorse. These days I’m less afraid of them, in fact quite like their guile and nerve – the starlings, not the henchmen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Susanne July 4, 2016 / 4:57 pm

        What a great image that is! I’ll never look at starlings the same way again.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Luanne July 3, 2016 / 7:08 pm

    Aw, I hate to think of a squirrel as a pest. My son LOVES them. But you do feel robbed, so I sympathize. Coyote pee works great with bunnies! But that stuff reeks. I mean reeks.


    • Susanne July 3, 2016 / 7:59 pm

      That’s disappointing to hear coyote pee reeks, although I’m not sure why it should be otherwise given what they eat and drink!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. jbbluesman July 4, 2016 / 1:00 pm

    First bicycle rides and now picking cherries?? I have to wonder why these coincidences Sue? Audrey and I have just picked our neighbors cherries which he had plenty of on his large tree. It is not the squirrels so much as it is the birds and deer that feast on them. Audrey made me a cherry pie first time in years! She enjoyed reading about your garden that you so eloquently described, as did I. So glad you are posting your art again! : )


    • Susanne July 4, 2016 / 4:58 pm

      Fun coincidences! What kind of cherries, Jean? Chris did all the pitting today and I froze a couple of freezer bags full to save for another day.


      • jbbluesman July 5, 2016 / 12:59 am

        Audrey thinks they are bing cherries, large sweet ones anyway.


  11. wolfberryknits July 5, 2016 / 5:14 am

    Such amazing writing! I could see it so clearly! Hahaha the squirrel…cute only from the safety of another continent…


    • Susanne July 5, 2016 / 5:55 pm

      Thank you, Bianca. Maybe Australia needs a few squirrels? They’re very cute.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Ellen Morris Prewitt July 5, 2016 / 10:10 am

    I am flabbergasted that almost everything you mention in your garden is in mine in Memphis. But all of it—peonies, lilies, day lilies, iris, phlox—bloomed here back in May. And no cherry tree so no problem with squirrels. Raccoons we have swaying up the cottonwood trunks like Dracula climbing the castle wall. And no monads, which I had to look up. Now I will forever have a mental image of your lounging, observing garden—so very nice.


    • Susanne July 5, 2016 / 6:02 pm

      I like plants that take on a life of their own and fill up bald spots in the garden, like day lilies and monarda. I think monarda is native to this part of the world so it does well just about anywhere. How funny to think of your deep south garden growing the same plants as those in the Great White North! As for racoons, they are a bold crew, eh? When we were apartment dwellers I had a garden on the roof in coffin-like boxes in which I grew cucumbers and zucchinis and tomatoes and all kinds of flowers. I caught a family of raccoons one night digging in the boxes, nibbling on the best of the crop. How they got up there, I don’t know.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ellen Morris Prewitt July 5, 2016 / 8:47 pm

        The raccoons are fearless. They run across the low part of the roof and when spied, they pause, hissing at me. I have an ongoing relationship with the raccoons

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Andrea Stephenson July 6, 2016 / 3:44 pm

    Ah, poor maligned squirrel 🙂 The worst pests we have are snails, so forgive me for envying you your squirrel! Great description of garden warfare 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Eric Tonningsen July 6, 2016 / 10:20 pm

    From experience, coyote pee does not deter. At all. And I despise squirrels. BB or pellet guns work wonders. The cherries look delish!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Susanne July 7, 2016 / 4:32 pm

      We have something in common – squirrel antipathy and cherry love! Nice to meet you, Eric.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Manja Mexi Movie July 10, 2016 / 5:15 pm

    You’ve got a great photo though. Don’t let me near your cherries, or I’d help him (her?).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Susanne July 10, 2016 / 5:38 pm

      They’re at their peak right now – both for eating and reaching. We can’t get at them anymore so the squirrels are going nuts!

      Liked by 3 people

  16. J.B. Whitmore July 13, 2016 / 6:26 pm

    People piss, too, I hear. You and your beloved can draw straws. Good thing you grew enough to share. Cheers–

    Liked by 2 people

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