As day dawns, I am most often found curled in a chair on the porch with a cup of coffee waiting for my world to come to life. It begins softly and slowly, like the movement of the light growing from a dim glow, casting vague shadows across the lawn, to the promise of the rising sun. Out of the silence there comes an occasional chirp of a bird, then a little distant squirrel chatter and as the daylight grows, so do the elements of my morning symphony.
As the owl's ado echoes over the pond and the doves begin to coo under the Wisteria, the squirrels emerge with reckless abandon like kindergarten classes turned out to play. They chatter and squeal and chase each other around tree trunks. They run across the power line to my roof and leap from the roof to the Hickory at the corner of the porch.
Then they set about their business of burying bits of this and that and digging up things they buried before. They scurry and munch and seem to wink at me as they pass. If there were two or 10, I might be tempted to try to tame them, to teach them manners and feed them away from my plants. But I live in Oak and Maple and Hickory filled woods and am overwhelmingly outnumbered. I counted 13 in a single Maple tree one morning with no shortage of others on the ground and in other trees.
You would think that with so much land and so much vegetation that a potted plant on a wooden deck would have little appeal but every carefully tilled and tended square inch of soil seems to beckon them to assist in the gardening. They had no appreciation at all for my tidy rows of radishes sowed in last years big tomato pots. Before I could share the precision of seed by seed planted rows, the squirrels had completely rearranged them in the most disorderly fashion. I almost cried but opted for a hardware-cloth cover instead. Now that the radish plants have leaves enough to cover the soil, I will remove the wire soon.
The window boxes along the deck railing, which held last spring's lettuces, is planted with Cilantro this year. What a mess they made of those. So, on went coverings of hardware cloth and I think I will try to leave it in place if it looks like the stems of the Cilantro will grow through the spaces. Hardware cloth is available with wider spaces but this is what I had on hand (a $1 purchase at a yard sale. I knew it would come in handy some day).
The hardware cloth seems to be a good solution for the herb and vegetable starts but would sort of defeat the purpose of flowers, don't you think? So, I tried hot pepper flakes. Don't bother. They didn't help at all and I might even find peppers growing among my posies as a result. But CAYENNE PEPPER certainly seems to be doing the trick, so much so that today I bought a jar with a shaker lid just for use outdoors.
But it rained today and I'm curious to see if a week of Cayenne Pepper has been enough to deter the rowdy rodents for a while or if I will need to rush outdoors, shaker in hand, each time the rain subsides. I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'm thoroughly enjoying blooming Azaleas and Dogwood trees, squirrels and all, and the emergence of spring bulbs like these African Lilies and am looking forward to the abundance of color and the edibles that summer will bring.