“Glenn,” I called down to his family room lair in our split level bungalow. “Where do you keep the bird seed?” I felt guilty. The birds had been popping by only to be disappointed by empty feeders. Glenn hasn’t been up to his usual self and the feeders needed attention.
Male-like, he said in his why-are-you-disturbing-me voice, “Never mind. I’ll come and fill them later.” And so he did: nyger for the finches, a nice millet mix for the seed lovers and black sunflower seeds for everyone.
But it was the black sunflower seeds that drew the squirrel away from his perch in the fir tree behind my chair where he sits all day eating fir tree seeds and raining their hulls down upon our heads. I guess he’s getting ready for winter and his appetite is huge.
No sooner had Glenn turned his back than Mr. Squirrel was on the feeder – he’s so greedy; he leaves nothing for anyone else. I shooed him away, and he scurried off. But I think he was basically just laughing at me and the minute I turned around, he was back at it.
Now earlier this year, Glenn had rigged up a tinfoil foil which, for some reason, he had taken down. I decided to reinstall it, taking one of those aluminum pans and simply puncturing a hole in it and drawing the feeder hanger through the hole so that it has a kind of roof.
Mr. Squirrel was not amused. He must have remembered the previous one of these impediments because the last time, he just kept sliding off. This time, he didn’t even try to jump on it. Instead, he sat on the nearby bench, looking at it and clearly calculating his chances of clinging to the narrow metal bird perches on the bottom of the feeder. Apparently he calculated that this wouldn’t work, because next he climbed the tree and tried to approach it from the top, turning back before he ever hit the tin foil. He studied the thing from this angle and that and finally gave up – his disgust evident in the way he left the scene.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love that squirrel and his little red brethren. A couple of weeks ago, Glenn and I applauded as he took on a much bigger grey and chased him away, right over our feet. But we love the birds, too and fair is fair. Mr. Squirrel is quite fat and has piles of food in his territory while the birds need to start putting away fuel for their long autumn journey.
Two hours later, I feel that I am being punished by friend squirrel. He has not shown his cheery little face for the last several hours. I haven’t even had a single fir tree cone nut land on my head!
It’s a lovely time of year – those tiny cucumbers I showed you last week have grown! You can see them here. They grow very fast as long as I give them their gallon of water a day. They like rich, well-drained soil. I am growing my cucumber up a tall iron trellis. Another local gardener has created a ring of fencing wire around a tree where the sun shines all day and he has a lovely plant.
This week I can barely keep up with the ripening tomato crop. Lucky Ian, who has a long row of happy tomato plants, saw a hawkmoth in his garden last night. Of course, at first he thought it was a hummingbird because hawkmoths do resemble them so much. I told him to look for the caterpillars, which are huge – as big as a man’s finger. They are called tomato hornworms and we seldom see them here in Manitoba, so we treasure their appearance. But I am sure they are much cursed in areas where they are more common because they will defoliate your tomatoes and occasionally will even take a bite of the fruit.
Elsewhere in the garden, the apples are ripe, ready for Ian to come and pick some for his pies and other bakery wonders. I am happy to see someone use them.
The garden is still lovely, but you can feel autumn in the air at evening even though the days are still hot. The view from my kitchen window shows that the seeds on the Amur maples in the neighbour’s yard have ripened and turned red. Soon I expect I will see the Virginia creeper beginning to turn. The annuals that have bloomed their hearts out all summer long are starting to look a little spindly. They would benefit from a severe trimming and some fertilizer, but at some point we have to recognize the inevitability of the season’s change.