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Looking out my Backdoor: Gardening with Squirrel


Can you believe it? My third spring in Etzatlan? And, my third year fighting with a squirrel.

Truth to tell, there might be more than one, but the one I see seems to have the same face and the same cheeky attitude. My first year, when the surround of my casita was all dirt, she burrowed beneath the east corner to build a nest for birthing babies.

Squirrels are cute. Cute when they are “over there.” When underfoot, I tend to view her as a rodent with longer hair. Imagine a nest of rodents making comfort under MY house, making more tunnels, more nests, and, more rodents.

In the interest of rodent control, ant control, scorpion control and cock roach control, I paved a concrete patio surround. Mama Squirrel holds a grudge. She frequently stands outside my screen door and chitter-chatters an uncomplimentary attack on my character.

Last year, after attempting to burrow beneath my patio, she settled in at the neighbor’s.

This year, to further irritate me, Squirrel planted corn. She’s not lazy. She prefers my well-maintained pot farm for her plantings. By “pot farm,” I mean that on and about my wrap-around patio, I’ve filled a hundred flower pots, and counting, all sizes.

Grain is easy to come by. A huge facility for grinding and storing corn sits three or four blocks to the west; corn fields to the east and north. Squirrel fills her cheeks with kernels, high-tails it to my garden, digs a hole, and spits the seeds and covers them up.

I suspect my flower pots are “storage facilities.” In a normal dry season, when she needs food, Squirrel digs up the kernels and carries them to her family.

However, I thwart her carefully laid plots when, with hose and sprinklers, I make a year-round artificial rainy season. Kernels sprout and begin to grow. She might plant forty or fifty kernels in one hole. So the tender baby stalks create a miniature thicket.

By now, Squirrel has forgotten which pots she’s planted. And … that Mean Woman, who won’t let her nest under the house, digs the perfectly tender, juicy, lovely shoots of baby corn stalks out of the pots and, horrors, throws them in the garden trash.

If she’s paying attention, Squirrel will have noticed another rival for her corn stash. Yesterday while having a one-sided conversation with an iguana on the half wall, separating my patio from the yard on the south side, I noticed a disturbance in my basil pot. My basil grows like a miniature tree. But I’d recently pruned it. Otherwise, I might not have noticed the disturbance.

In digging out the squirrel’s stash of corn, the iguana had uprooted half the basil pot — dirt slung far and wide. It looked like a hound had been burying a bone. No wonder he looked so sheepish sitting on the wall eye-balling me while I blathered on. The corn shoots must be delicious to have diverted Iggy from his usual diet of my hibiscus, canna lilies and roses.

Everything must eat. The rabbits, a pair, thus far, prefer amaryllis. They like my yard. Perhaps I’m more tolerant of rabbits simply because they don’t dig holes. They also eat oxalis. Oxalis, whatever its virtues, is, in my garden, a noxious weed with a network of roots like a fishnet. I’ve surrendered to its abundance. I no longer attempt to weed it. Impossible. Rabbits, welcome to oxalis heaven.

Today I found another stash of corn, hidden in a patch of oxalis surrounding some of my amaryllis. I can either uproot the corn plot or leave it for the iguana, the rabbits or the squirrel. I give up.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email [email protected]


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