I moved to a different neighborhood last April, and since then, numerous people have asked me if I have any complaints. Although I love my house and have had no issues with crime, I still have one major beef: the squirrel situation.
When I first moved in, I found it adorable and charming how these fluffy-tailed critters would actually sit on the deck railing and peer into my office window while I worked. But after living with them for almost a year, I have come to the conclusion that my dog was right: these nut nibblers are total a-holes.
Last summer, I planted a small garden. They ate everything they could get their freakishly-small hands on – even the jalapenos. So I re-planted in a pot with wire mesh around it. They knocked it over.
I filled two window boxes with impatiens and they jumped – a la Rocky the Flying Squirrel – from my front porch into the boxes and dug them up. I planted them one more time, like a dimwitted Bullwinkle, and guess what? My window boxes served again as all-you-can-eat petal buffets for bushy-tailed terrorists.
As the summer went on, the situation got worse. They chewed a hole in my garbage cart and started pulling out crap from inside. They bring the rotting food or stale bread chunks onto the deck and eat it outside my back door. They've also eaten my kids' sidewalk chalk and are slowly (but consistently) devouring our grill cover. It's insane. Now I'm worried they are going to chew through my new roof and squat squirrel-style in my attic.
The nuns living on my block are contributors to the predicament. Yeah, you heard me: problematic nuns. These well-intentioned sisters go out into the alley, once or twice a day, and pour bird seed and other grainy feeds up and down the alley, nourishing the birds, the raccoons, the squirrels and whomever else with four legs and the munchies.
I have lived in urban neighborhoods my entire adult life, but never once was the neighborhood "problem house" filled with nuns. I am yet to get the courage to talk to them about this. (What would St. Francis do?)
Instead, I decided to try to find a strategy for yard squirrel reduction, so I contacted Barbara Aho, a master gardener and landscaper I interviewed last year who owns Flora Landscape Design.
Aho suggested a product called Critter Ridder, which she says works, but is expensive. She also suggested I inject oil of thyme essence into some of their favorite foods on my property.
"That should get their attention. Mix it with some edible oil and use a syringe. And maybe set up a camera for your later entertainment," she says. "Then afterwards, spray the dilute smell all around the perimeter of your property. Use rubber gloves. That sh*t really stinks."
This sounds entertaining, but also like too much work. She also suggested I make vegetable cages sewn together out of green coated, half-inch wire mesh, with tops.
"And bury the edges. Make a gate in it. Little bastards love strawberries and peas and lettuce," she says.
This sounds more do-able to me. I know I didn't bury the edges of the cages I made last year, which was most likely why they could knock 'em over.
Because Aho's an expert and all, I asked her how and why squirrels became such weasely douchebags. She said they are extremely curious, creative and intelligent animals with great memories.
"We have concreted over more and more green places forcing squirrels to turn to us for food. They are being trained to develop better and better methods of exploiting us for food and shelter," says Aho. "And we are growing more and more delicious items in our urban gardens. Not since war time Victory Gardens have we done that."
Just when Aho almost got me to feel compassion for the furry folks, she took the conversation in a different direction.
"But they have chewed their way into my attic and most importantly THEY EAT MY PEACHES ON THE DAY THEY RIPEN ON THE TREE. So it's war here now. And they're ahead," she says.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.