In my last post, I made brief mention of my Mommie Dearest moment — a not-so-proud incident that clearly illustrated the ugly and, yes, comedic side of gardening. I had asked people to remind me to tell the story, and they have. So here it is.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a backyard not so far away, there lived a young gardener, me. Joe and I had recently purchased his parents’ home, and the yard presented us with a blank canvas. I had always enjoyed gardening as a kid, but that was usually relegated to the family’s vegetable plot. Now, I had a whole yard and a big vision and no money. The layout in the back was pretty basic. There was a large built-in pool with red and green patio blocks surrounding it. To the east, there was an area of pebbles and stones, and this led to a small lawn. The rocks were held in place by a low wall of cinder blocks, all placed on their sides.
I decided to start small one year, and I planted marigolds in each of the cinder block openings. They did quite well, thriving on neglect and heat. The following year, though, I saw on Martha Stewart’s early television show that she grew gigantic sunflowers and would harvest her own home-grown sunflower seeds. Then, in true Martha-style, she would even hang some of the flower heads in the trees to feed birds and squirrels. The whole idea sounded like an eco-friendly winner.
I planted sunflower seeds in each of the cinder block openings, and they grew, and grew, and GREW! I had a wall of green stalks and leaves and massive yellow flowers separating the pool from the lawn. No one could even notice the cinder blocks, and eventually, the flowers became so full that they couldn’t even hold up their faces to follow the sun.
One day, when I returned from work, I found one of the stalks on the ground, the flower head next to it, and a pile of sunflower seed debris. I was perplexed, since Martha had said nothing of this situation on her show.
Another day, another stalk down, another mound. In time, the squirrels became bolder — even taking down two stalks in one of my quick supermarket runs.
Clearly, I had a serial squirrel on my hands — or rather on my sunflowers. I told Joe as we left the house, “I think they’re watching us. I think they’re in the trees and they’re watching us leave. They know when we come and go.” And sure enough, when we returned, the gray gang had struck again, hogging up all of the sunflower seeds for themselves, and leaving none for Joe and me.
Finally, I was down to a few remaining stalks. Joe and I returned home again, and yet another stalk was down — and I lost it. Big. I became Joan Crawford and the squirrels were my Christina.
“That’s it!” I yelled. “I can’t take it anymore.” I went into the shed and returned with the garden clippers, and I finished what the squirrels had not. “If I can’t have sunflowers seeds, then neither can they. I would have gladly shared them, but they’re not . . . leaving . . . anything . . . for . . . mmmeeeeee! I swear, Joe, I think they’re laughing at us and they’re watching every move we make — and I hope they’re watching now!” I hacked and cut stalks. I shook out seeds — and I ate them in front of their hidden squirrel faces. “They’re not going to kill my sunflowers ever again,” I screamed to no one in particular, but I hoped the squirrels were listening.
Joe stood their. He said, “But you were going to hang the flowers in the trees, anyway.”
“I know,” I said as I caught my breath and looked at all that I had done. “But they ruined it. This was supposed to work like it did on Martha.” I felt beaten and exhausted and remorseful, because at my feet were the remains of my sunflower wall.
Like I said, this is not one of my better moments, although I believe it could have been Oscar-worthy.
Since then, the squirrels and I have lived in a very fragile truce. They are cute and I enjoy watching them chase each other up the tree trunks — although they really do get to me in the spring time when they nibble tulips from their stems. The difference, though, between me-then and me-now is that today I am armed with the knowledge that time and tide and squirrels wait for no one.