My father was a gardener. He loved to plant vegetables from seeds, cultivate grapevines, and tend to his fig tree, which grew the most sweet and delicious fruit. All summer long his crops would fill baskets on the kitchen counter and table in my parents home.
Often, after weeding and tending his garden he would sit on the patio and relax, satisfied at his plantings progress. One summer day, while sitting with him there, I noticed a fixated stare and followed it to the power cables that bordered the property.
I asked him what was so interesting about them and he said in Italian “Scoiattoli.” Squirrels. Still confused I looked up to see a couple of the bushy-tailed hoarders confidently traveling back and forth on the high wire.
“It’s like an autostrada (highway) for them,” my father would say. But he was not at all amused by this.
As it turns out, squirrels would take the exit for our garden, jump from wire to tree, cross the garden and scurry up the fig tree. The uninvited guests select a fruit from among the tasty offerings, examine said fruit and either remain in the tree to dine or choose another “table” al fresco. Sated, they simply discard whatever remains of the fig–skin, stem, what have you–around the garden.
Now, the fig tree had grown well beyond expectations, and there were plenty of figs to go around, even after sharing some with the scoiattoli. But my father believed that this was not a good precedent to set. It was the principle of the thing.
How to discourage the squirrels from feasting on the figs and solve this problem?
While my father was no fan of the squirrels’ pesky behavior, neither did he mean them any harm. He set out some humane traps that would simply catch the gluttonous offenders. Loading the full cages into his car he drove the squirrels to the park and set them free to forage among the vegetation there.
Back on the patio with a satisfied grin, my father proudly surveyed his flourishing garden and the absence of half-eaten figs on the ground. A job well done.
Well, yes . . . for a while.
Unfortunately, the park was a mere block away and our epicurean squirrels’ internal GPS soon led them back to the autostrada and to the exit at the garden.
My father was not pleased. But being a foodie himself, he understood the attraction to his garden and its fruits, so he couldn’t really blame the squirrels.
Last fall, while having breakfast at my parents’ house, movement my attention was caught by a small visitor on the patio outside the breakfast room . . .